How Hanley Wood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ad Sales Data Bomb

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The traditional media approach: content draws an audience to a destination and the publisher sells advertisers access to that audience.Today, that formula is being blown up. "Now advertisers can buy audience separate from destination locations," said Andy Reid, president of digital and head of strategic development  at Hanley Wood. Translation: Tech and data-savvy advertisers can now access your readers without ever appearing on your websites (or other digital platforms). 

It's what Prescott Shibles warned us about last year at the 2015 Connectiv Executive Summit when he said, "Targeting data will soon be worth more than advertising inventory." But for Hanley Wood, accepting and adapting to this change in buyer behavior became an opportunity to reverse engineer the formula to provide unique data points to advertisers, charge a premium for it and even boost performance on its own properties. 

Speaking on the recent Connectiv/Kantar webcast, "Programmatic Boot Camp Part II," Reid showed how Hanley Wood applied its data-first approach to advertising sales."What we see in the marketplace is a collision of four major trends: An increase in audience sophistication; huge amounts of data coming in; a vastly evolving media consumption landscape; and disruptive marketing technologies, which certainly to a publisher like ourselves has big ramifications," said Reid. "This forced us to re-assess our product and value proposition." 

According to Reid, technology is enabling the bifurcation of the B2B value proposition into two distinct segments that historically were co-mingled together. The first is audience insights (which is code for "data"--the who, what, where, and interests, and the second is audience engagement. "Technology drove the separation of those two value propositions," said Reid. "Previously, data and delivery were co-mingled. That forced us to review the value of our proposition against each of these distinct services and have honest assessments of the value of what we're delivering--the uniqueness and proprietary element of our ability to engage an audience and the uniqueness of the data points that we can deliver." 

Hanley Wood took a step back and thought about how marketers would reach its readers without the publisher. "That allowed us to frame our competitive proposition, what makes us unique, and lets us price accordingly," said Reid."It was an awakening on our part that we needed to re-position our business and value proposition for our clients. Freeing that data up and allowing them to use it to reach audiences through our network or distinct from our network was an evolution in our thinking. That is how we approach every client conversation today." 

The first thing Hanley Wood needed to do was get its data in order. "We needed to describe that data in a way that yielded the most value," said Reid. "The challenge was we had all these insights into our audience that were siloed but not connected. We had to organize it so we could expose it to advertisers and get premium rates. We consolidated these insights and put them into an organized fashion that gives them derived insights into buyer preferences." 

That allowed Hanley Wood to offer data insights separate from destinations and websites and charge accordingly."Historically, the engagement component was what publishers were priced on and the data was secondary," said Reid. "We've had to flip that on its head and make sure we are pricing appropriately relative to alternatives. If people can get similar rates on other sites for a much lower value, ultimately you have exposure in the marketplace. But if you can offer audience insights and engagement, you can be rewarded." 

Reid said that when you think about the evolving b2b marketplace, it squarely points to why programmatic was not only a necessity to embrace but how it allows Hanley Wood to fully realize the value of its content in the marketplace. Publishers often perceive programmatic buying as just auctions (which are just one form of programmatic buying) that drive down price. However, in an era of data-driven selling, programmatic really is a better way for clients to buy and for publishers to sell, according to Reid. "The automation alone is great but what it offers is flexibility and when you think about what flexibility and targeting means for a buyer when done correctly, we should be able to get a premium in the marketplace. When we talk about data today, we're not talking broadly, but specific people building homes in specific areas as well as someone who's touched four or five pieces of content relative to our value proposition. That type of data exposed in programmatic allows us to drive super premium rates compared to what some others may offer. If you're not differentiated in data in your marketplace, you won't be rewarded. That's not the result of programmatic but the result of your own value proposition."

Connectiv members can see the archives for Part 1 and Part II of the Programmatic Boot Camp here (an SIIA username and password is required) and catch Andy Reid at the Business Information & Media Summit next month on a panel called 'Tools of the Trade: How Technology Is Driving Ad Sales."      

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.