Industry Insights
An Epicurean Adventure: Gourmet Ads on the Future of Food Advertising

Benjamin Christie Profile Head Shot - Gourmet AdsBenjamin Christie
Founder & President
Gourmet Ads

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For those of us that aren’t familiar with Gourmet Ads, please tell us a little more about your company and offering.

Gourmet Ads is the world’s largest food advertising network. We provide quality advertising across thousands of food, cooking and recipe sites and blogs, and in turn, offer superior audiences for advertisers of food, home, travel and lifestyle products, allowing them to reach the grocery buyer online.

 

How has owning RecipeBridge.com made Gourmet Ads a more viable platform in the advertising landscape?

RecipeBridge was one of Gourmet Ads first publishers in 2008 and we acquired the site in 2011. After the acquisition we spent several months creating a brand new look and feel for the brand. Having RecipeBridge has helped significantly when it comes to media sales, particularly because it allowed us the ability to guarantee the inventory. In our early years, the site anchored several of our major agency campaigns, but as our company grew, we began to rely less on the RecipeBridge for audience.

Over the last few years, RecipeBridge has also been a fantastic test bed for new products such as High Impact Units and native advertising units like Outstream Video. This year we’ll be devoting additional resources to integrating more of our publisher’s recipes into RecipeBridge – giving them even more exposure and increasing our overall audience for advertisers. All in all it has been a great investment.

 

From the collateral on your website, it seems like you guys are partial towards High-Impact creative units rather than just regular banners. Why is this the case, and what are some of your best performing ad units?

We’ve been selling high-impact placements (particularly skins) for a number of years, and two years ago partnered with ReactX to enable programmatic rich media across our entire inventory. This partnership enabled us to sell the inventory on both a programmatic and direct basis.

We typically see background skins and interstitials as the most requested and best performing placements. One of the challenges with high-impact is that not all publishers accept high-impact units, and we typically see more demand from advertisers and agencies than we can deliver as a result. I’m hoping that this changes in 2016.

 

From your internal data, what targeting parameters give the best signals for reaching grocery buyers with the strongest intent?

Overwhelmingly recipes and content. Let’s start with recipes: Recipes are a fantastic indicator of intent. If you’re looking at a recipe, it’s likely you are going to cook that item. The only question is if you have the ingredients already in your kitchen. That’s where content comes in. We have over 170 content-targeting options across recipes, cuisines and ingredients. We find that not only does this type of targeting give advertisers relevancy, we also see consistent performance. A good example is a campaign we ran for Californian Avocados where we ran their campaign either beside avocado recipes and targeted people that had looked at least 3 recipes which included avocado in the last 30 days. We saw overwhelming success from that campaign and use that formula frequently. 

 

You have a deep integration with the Appnexus Exchange (Member ID: 1792) for your Private Exchange Inventory. What has been your experience so far working with buyers on private exchange / programmatic direct deals?

Programmatic Deals have been a central focus of the sales team since I helped launch the Appnexus Deals product at the Appnexus Summit in June 2014 (Watch the video here: http://www.gourmetads.com/blog/appnexus-packages-lets-make-a-deal). Now, nearly 60% of our business is deals-based – it’s really transformed Gourmet Ads in a positive way.

I always tell the sales team that every buyer is different. They have different objectives, different strategies and different audiences. What works for one buyer might not necessarily work for another. The same can be said for deals. Some buyers are seeking nothing but reserved inventory, some are looking for short-term, campaign-focused deals, while others want to just see a specific slither of inventory all day. It’s the old story: you need to work closely with each programmatic media buyer to understand their goals and develop deal solutions to solve them.

I think one of the biggest issues with deals across the industry right now is the general lack of knowledge around deal setup, and the associated debugging of deals. We’ve spent a great deal of time with our sales team teaching them to do basic debugging of deals before running to ad operations. This solves 90% of deal issues. We don’t really see this on the buy side. I think media buyers need more education from their DSP of choice on what could go wrong and how to solve it. Most of the time its simple things like not bidding high enough, sites not whitelisted, or brand blocking.

 

To the extent that you can reveal, what do you think is the revenue breakout for most verticalized ad networks between direct sales, open exchange inventory bids, and private exchange / programmatic direct deals? 

Great question, and one I’ll answer generically, as I’m not privy to what other ad networks do.  We’ve seen a sliding reduction in the number of direct advertising campaigns being booked over the last few years, and I think, as more and more agencies become skilled in programmatic, we’ll see the number of direct campaigns dwindle even further. Since late 2012 when we first dabbled selling media programmatically, we’ve embraced the change and pivoted. We would be considered by many as early pioneers in programmatic, and, as a result have a strong programmatic business both on the deals side and the open exchange.

On any given day our breakdown could be 75%-85% programmatic, (of that 60% are deals and 40% open exchange) and then 15%-25% direct.

 

Any thoughts on native ad units, and real-world applications of these formats with the publishers you work with? 

While I think that features like sponsored posts and branded content are great, when you manage advertising across thousands of websites, you have to have some sort of standard placements, otherwise it’s too difficult to manage and scale. Despite our ad server allowing native placements and the ability to create custom sizes, to date I’ve yet to see a set of standards across media buyers that allow us to scale across the majority of the sites we work with. A good example here is where we partnered with Reactx to give publishers high-impact placements.

High impact aside, our first nonstandard native unit that we’ve begun pushing out to publishers is an Outstream Video unit which allows publishers with no video assets or content to access the higher CPMs that video attracts. We are certainly just getting started, but the early results are extremely positive from a performance for advertisers and a revenue perspective for publishers. We are making this available both programmatically and on a direct basis. We’ll continue to either develop products internally or partner with companies to deliver innovative solutions to both media buyers and publishers.

 

How has Ad Blocking affected your business?

While ad blocking is a reality for the industry as a whole, I’ve yet to be able to see real and concrete user numbers when it comes to ad blocking across our Gourmet Ads publishers. Whilst I don’t think we are immune to ad blocking whatsoever, I’d probably have a greater concern if we had an audience that was typically male aged 25-40 years old, which is the key demographic implementing ad blockers. Recently we have been working with our current partners to understand what could potentially the numbers of users that have Ad Blockers installed in their browser be and we believe it’s as low as 8%. But this is just a calculated estimate and I think ad servers need to spend time looking at this deeper and providing this in reporting.

 

Seeing as to how Gourmet Ads specializes in targeting Food and Grocery Buyers, has the company had any interesting partnerships with Grocery Retailers or Mobile Beaconing companies to measure brand lift and campaign ad interactions for clients?

Globally, we work with a great deal of supermarkets and food brands, however we don’t really play in the measurement ecosystem. One of the challenges for supermarkets is to increase basket size, and for food brands, its moving products off the shelves, both of which have sophisticated monitoring and analytics programs in place. In cases where we’re provided the shopper data, we use this to optimize campaigns accordingly. In most cases it’s about tweaking the audience demographic to ensure the target demo is correct.

 

Content consumption on mobile devices has risen dramatically over the years, and the majority of content consumption now takes place in mobile apps, according to comScore. Does this correlate with the data you are seeing internally, and, how has this affected the desktop / mobile ad spend allocation of your clients with Gourmet Ads?

Yes, over the last two years we have seen a consumer move to mobile devices for sure. I’ve always said that I think there is nothing better than a handheld device at point of sale, allowing consumers to look up the ingredients for a recipe, price check a product, or grab a coupon.

I think one of the challenges for publishers is keeping up with this ever-changing trend. We’re constantly helping publishers navigate this trend. Do they create responsive sites, do they create an app, do they create a mobile site? Do they create a tablet only site? Many are confused. I think this challenge is the same for larger sites as well as smaller sites.

On the flip side, we have yet to see mobile become a standard from media buyers. We’ll often receive all IAB-sized creatives and the agency has them done in Flash, or they may not include mobile sizes at all. I think it’s slowly getting better but advertisers are still lagging behind. I can see why many publishers haven’t “embraced” and gone all in on mobile just yet.

 

Lastly, what do you see as the future of Food and Grocery Buyer Advertising?

Great question, and hard one to answer. Gourmet Ads manages the advertising across websites today, I think the future would be managing the advertising on a device within the kitchen, either a smart device, scales or even a fridge. I think we are going to see shopping list technologies increase in popularity and with that there will be other opportunities to reach the grocer buyer.

Whatever happens, Gourmet Ads will be there to help advertisers and device owners monetize their advertising inventory.

 


 

Gourmet Ads is a global vertical advertising network reaching household Grocery Buyers with offices in North America, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Our network only represents quality food and wine websites throughout the world, aggregating and managing advertising across these highly relevant websites and blogs. Food Advertising is our specialty and we focus on delivering branding campaigns which drive sales and customer acquisition.

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