Commentary

Conde Nast's Alanna Gombert: Pioneer In Premium RTB (Real-Time Branding)

Alanna Gombert may not think she’s a pioneer, but she kind of is. Look at her job title: “Senior Director, Programmatic and Trading  -- Condé Nast.” How many premium publishing companies have entire teams dedicated to premium programmatic? How many people in this industry have a director-level title within those departments?

Condé Nast launched a private exchange nearly two years ago, and was among the first publishers to do so -- certainly among the first premium publishers.

Gombert takes the term “premium” particularly seriously with respect to her company. “Our inventory is premium and special because it is first-party content we’ve created with loving care and with editorial acumen. Our inventory is curated for buyers, as well as for users to consume,” she says.  Premium also refers to the audience. “We truly believe the user is most important. Our audience is key: it’s comprised of influencers who read our content. Whether it’s Bon Appétit or Wired, they influence the world and our society in positive ways!”

So how is Condé Nast engaging in premium RTB, exactly? Gombert says, “For us, it means placing inventory into the exchange marketplace -- and now into a private exchange. We really see it as an extension of direct.” Is she concerned about cannibalizing direct sales with RTB? Not really. “Our rates don’t really differ from our rate card in the direct world. We have different offerings and they are priced accordingly.” That transparency in pricing is important for Condé Nast, particularly since it has such a large and diverse sales organization, selling a huge variety of advertising products from custom straight through to standard ads.

Not every company can achieve harmony when selling both directly and programmatically, but Gombert is really impressed with the way Condé Nast’s many sales teams are collaborating. “It’s been interesting trying to figure out how everyone works together and maintains a great supply chain, because the supply chain at the moment in the exchange world, even in the programmatic direct world, is very confusing,” Gombert says. “Our corporate sales team has assigned accounts, so the buyers know to come to them for everything: print, digital and now programmatic, as well..” This means the teams are working closely together to drive more sales that benefit everyone.

To publishers who are afraid to work with RTB, Gombert empathizes, but encourages exploration.  She fully recognizes that the sate of low-price is scary. But Gombert notes that there are great tools available to publishers, and beyond that, there are healthy conversations to be had with a publisher’s current advertisers about pricing and expectations.

It was in the spirit of those conversations that Gombert helped found the IAB’s new programmatic group with Jeremy Randol from NBC Universal and Jeffrey Goldstein from Yahoo. “ We were just a group of publishers talking about process, and other operational topics,” she says.  “Everyone is figuring out what works for them, and open to adapting a process that may support sales. At the end of the day, if the sales team is an integral part of the process, the fear goes away, as the notion of programmatic as a non-human interaction is totally false.”

Gombert views programmatic as beneficial to everyone – not just advertisers and publishers, but ultimately, consumers.  It’s about telling stories in new ways that engage, entertain and even delight consumers. ”Everyone talks about technology in terms of math and data, and that’s great, but it’s also creative,” Gombert says. “We’re showing users something that’s going to appeal to them, and they’re going to interact with it in some way, so its needs to be sexy, cool or engaging. Programmatic opens the door to a new world on the creative front, as well.”

Gombert’s enthusiasm for premium RTB for publishers is inspiring and infectious, Hopefully, other publishers will follow her lead. Finally, someone who knows that RTB stands for real-time branding!

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