Index Talks to Conde Nast About Header, “Moments,” and More

Last week, a cohort of Indexers traveled to New Orleans for Digiday’s Programmatic Summit. Conference fun aside, we were there to talk to Evan Adlman, Conde Nast’s (somewhat) new Head of Programmatic on stage.

Adlman joined the legendary magazine publisher after decades in the ad/marketing tech space and approached the new role having heard some interesting murmurs regarding Conde’s position on ad tech and programmatic. First, he heard that Conde doesn’t do programmatic. Next, he heard that Conde inventory is perpetually sold out, and finally, that it’s really, really expensive. As the new Head of Programmatic, it’s pretty obvious why he needed to dispel those perceptions.

So, during his first six months on the job he made sure the programmatic market (of buyers and tech providers) knew Conde was absolutely “open for business”, “not too expensive,” and that there is a wealth of inventory to take advantage of.

As we’ve seen with many traditional media companies who have historically used direct sales to meet revenue goals, Conde approached programmatic through the header. During our conversation with Adlman in New Orleans, we learned exactly why.

The publisher wanted to bring the programmatic buyer closer to premium inventory and in a heavily tag-based environment, the programmatic buyer had a really hard time getting there, if any chance at all. Plus, he noted a desire from the direct-deal advertisers to “transact through technology, not paper.” So, through the header the company is able to create a premium channel for programmatic buyers and give direct buyers the ability to leverage the benefits of automated media buying.

Seizing the Moments

A really riveting theme of the conversation was Adlman and Conde’s approach to “moments” and how “moments” make programmatic real-time buyers access to high quality inventory so important. This idea of moments, or major cultural events during which audiences surge, is critical to most digital publishers today. While certain publishers try to forge these moments (ew, clickbait), for the honest ones that we all know and love, they are unexpected.  When moments like this happen there is a surge of inventory and without good connectivity to the real-time buying channel, it’s hard for advertisers to capitalize on them.

These moments are a big part of the motivation behind header-based selling for Adlman. Header allows the direct channel to compete alongside the real-time, programmatic channel, a reality that makes the programmatic packaging of these moments possible. The publisher uses signals from social platforms in real time to flag a potential moment. Conde then creates deal IDs in real time based on the moments and surfaces them to its programmatic pool. Through header, private buyers can secure premium inventory in real-time, or as much inventory on the page of a moment, as they see fit.

The Race is On

The most important takeaway from the conversation is the obvious importance of programmatic pipes to Conde Nast. Adlman oversees all 21 Conde brands in the portfolio and they’ve embraced a header-enabled ad sales strategy. The “race to the top” is truly afoot and right now it’s between private buyers in the header.

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