Supply-Side Insider: With the rise of programmatic, advertisers may be able to reach many of the same members of the target audience via other, cheaper sites. In this context, how do you make the case for the value of niche sites?
Scott Gatz: Ultimately the environment that your ads run in, and where you are talking to your target audience, matters as much as reaching the target. Being in an environment that is of quality — and that pairs well with your brand — is always incredibly important.
That’s not unique to our segment, that’s true everywhere. Working with premium publishers always gives you brand a lift.
But specifically with the LGBTQ segment, we know that LGBTQ consumers are very brand-loyal, and willing to pay a premium for a product or service that supports our community.
But if you’re just hitting them in random, unexpected ways as they’re hopping around the Web, are you really furthering that brand loyalty with the community? Directly connecting with this audience has much greater benefits for brands, because you’re making the alignment explicit.
SSI: As LGBTQ lifestyles go mainstream in the long term, are you at all concerned that it will lower demand for media specifically targeted to this subculture?
SG: From a consumer perspective, we have constantly evolved and sharpened our products based on the audience and where they’re at, which is something all publishers do.
I think about what LGBTQ media used to write about in a print magazine in the ’90s versus what we write about today in the digital properties. It’s very different, but the audience still has a need to connect to their broader community. The reasons may have changed, but there’s still a need to come together and speak with a voice that resonates with this community.
This is true of our competitors, too. It’s not just digital: we’ve all been growing more quickly than ever, and the opportunity has only increased.
SSI:Any time advertisers try to pitch their product to a minority audience with messages explicitly related to identity, they run the risk of seeming inauthentic. How can they avoid this pitfall?
SG:Authenticity is critical to succeeding with this market or really any target market, but it’s not as elusive as people fear. Like any segment, it’s about understanding the segment, trying to be genuine, and really learning about the market. If you do that, it’s half the battle.
But don’t forget to find partners. Most publishers these days are really working to be partners for their advertising clients, and of course there are big shops that are focused on this market, too. The agencies are experts, and they’ll help you well.
Of course all these thing depend on your budget. But if you can’t do any of these, say [you’re a] a smaller local advertiser, there are still LGBTQ resources in almost every organization who you can tap to help find the right voice.
SSI: It seems like that risk of inauthenticity would be even greater with native advertising or branded content, which tends to be long form or in depth, presenting even more opportunities to screw up. Do you have any advice for crafting native ads in particular?
SG: It’s true, good execution of native content really does need more effort. That’s a place where I think you really do need to partner, and there I think the publishers are the best-positioned to do that. They know how to speak to this market in a credible and trusted way. We’ve developed our voice over years and we know what the hot-button issues are, and are able to creative native content that’s fun and exciting, but also know what pitfalls to avoid, too. When it comes to native, that’s one thing you might not want to do in house.
SSI: Marketers seem to have an endless demand for consumer data, but this presents some obvious privacy issues for a publisher in this space. How do you negotiate those demands?
SG: Actually lot of programmatic and ad-tech vendors have signed on to not allow targeting based on sexual orientation. A big part of that is that you don’t want to accidentally out an employee who works in an unsafe work environment. There are still dozens of states where you can be fired for being gay.
So if you think about that — for example someone gets cookied on a work computer, and their boss sees something over their shoulder, or worse, an LGBT teenager in Iran — that would not be a good thing. There are real risks for real people.
The answer is about context: showing an LGBTQ-targeted ad in a context where they expect that to happen, and they won’t go there if they know they’re not in a safe environment. There’s also the potential of integrating LGBTQ into your mainstream campaigns.
SSI: Moving on to more general issues, you’ve been pretty vocal about the current obsession among marketers with viewability. Can you outline your concerns here?
SG: The spirit of it is great. No one wants to pay for ads that aren’t seen, and if our technology can help us do that, we should.
But I fear that the folks at the agencies and the marketers don’t fully understand the technology, and that it’s not a complete “yes or no” answer.
If you’re transacting only on viewability on mobile, I may put a small 320 by 50 in the middle of the screen, and it may be entirely visible, but are you really getting the best brand message across in that space?
Alternatively, what if you have a much larger unit that isn’t counted as a viewable impression, even though most of it is visible as [users] scroll past, and is very high-impact?
If you’re just chasing the spreadsheet number, are you really getting what you want? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, is what I’m saying.