How we’re scaling our sales efforts to deliver the most revenue today and protect your business when third-party cookies go away

Advertisers have choices about where to invest their budgets and increasingly want to work with fewer, larger partners. Publishers must first show they have the collective reach into advertisers' key audiences. CafeMedia/AdThrive's publishers are the seventh largest digital property on...

By Rachel Parkin

Advertisers have choices about where to invest their budgets and increasingly want to work with fewer, larger partners. Publishers must first show they have the collective reach into advertisers’ key audiences. CafeMedia/AdThrive’s publishers are the seventh largest digital property on the internet. Advertisers also want to know their ads will run on high-quality, brand-safe content. Scale and brand safety are the essential components that makes CafeMedia/AdThrive publishers a great buy.

But that’s only the beginning. Today, publishers must have a direct advertiser sales strategy showcasing elements like custom targeting and formats because it creates more value for advertisers. And most campaigns sold directly to an advertiser pay publishers 2-3+ times more than a typical open exchange ad. 

Many ad management providers can help publishers make their inventory available on the open market, but far fewer have the strength, scale, and expertise to execute a direct-sold strategy. 

The good news is we’ve been building these advertiser relationships for years, and our sales campaigns are already a significant part of our publishers’ RPMs today.

Now, we’re bringing in even more direct sales programs that deliver winning results for advertisers and publishers alike by investing in three key areas:

  • Expanding our direct sales team
  • Innovating with unique ad formats
  • Doubling down on data

Expanding our direct sales team 

By direct sales, we mean any time we’re working directly in partnership with an advertiser. There are many different ways to work with advertisers–and we do them all! The common thread is building relationships, which is a long-term endeavor. We’re focused on proving our value, so advertisers come back repeatedly.

Successful selling is a mix of relationships and capabilities. When we work with advertisers, we start by sharing the story of what makes our publishers unique and valuable. Then, we focus on what we can do to help advertisers reach their goals.

Knocking on doors, crafting campaign ideas, winning proposals, optimizing campaign performance, and sharing great campaign insights takes a village. To get these deals done and deliver great performance that brings back repeat customers requires a large, experienced sales team.

CafeMedia/AdThrive publishers have a best-in-the-business sales squad on their team. Our sellers have worked for the most prominent properties in the business like Food52, HGTV,, Well + Good, and Allrecipes and are in-market calling on advertisers across the country. Our strategists and advertiser account managers go above and beyond to deliver outstanding service, make us easy to work with and achieve results that exceed expectations.

We’re turning up the dial and doubling the size of our sales team to capture more direct dollars and grow our advertiser partnerships.

Rachel Parkin, EVP, Sales

With a larger team, we can call on more advertisers and all the different groups in the advertising ecosystem, from programmatic to strategy to investment to shopper. Yes, there are a lot!

These direct relationships matter even more in the context of cookies going away. We expect advertisers will shift their budgets to work directly with publishers since they will have fewer audience data sources.

Rachel Parkin, EVP, Sales

First-party data from publishers is a great way to ensure advertisers can still reach the right audience.

So the work our sales team does and the expansion of our team means we can maximize opportunities for publishers today and into the future. Though cultivating new advertiser relationships takes time, our team is in the best position to increase the sales component of our publishers’ RPMs.

Innovating with unique ad formats

Advertisers want to connect with consumers, but that isn’t always easy. High impact and unique formats are one way to break through the clutter. These units get better engagement from users, which means advertisers get better returns on their media investments. They also tend to have a great design aesthetic, so they elevate the ad quality on publishers’ sites.

Advertisers are always on the hunt for the new shiny object – or “never been done before” opportunity. Our sales innovation lead used to be a seller and knows first-hand what will interest advertisers. So, we’re constantly listening to what advertisers want and thinking about how we can best deliver that across the different verticals in our family of publishers. 

Over the last year and into 2023, we are focused on rolling out new high-impact ad formats that make us a must-buy with advertisers. These units go beyond the traditional banner, from large format ads that grab users’ attention to native-style ads that push consumers down the funnel. They also match advertisers’ messages with the content of the page — such as dynamic messaging pairing relevant targeting channels with the creative design and our proprietary product recommendation unit that pulls data from grocers and promotes ingredients on sale at a nearby store. 

These new units aren’t just bells and whistles. They are an out-of-the-box way to deliver more engagement to advertisers, making them want to work with us even more. Since launching these custom formats requires collaboration between advertisers and publishers, they usually come with a dedicated budget, which means publishers are guaranteed to take home more dollars. Ad innovation is yet another way we’re working to accelerate RPM growth.

Doubling down on data

Publisher data is key to helping advertisers find their audiences in the future. We’ve been deeply involved in shaping and testing alternative solutions to third-party cookies to ensure wherever we land works well for both publishers and advertisers. Advertisers will find even more value in working directly with publishers once third-party cookies go away. By going direct, advertisers can achieve the same results with access to better targeting capabilities and insights into campaign performance. 

Context is cool again. And that’s where we’ve focused our efforts from day one. 

Contextual targeting serves advertising based on the content on a particular site or page. Since this is about the page (not the user), it does not rely on third-party cookies and won’t have any impact when they go away. 

Many major publishers and ad providers started to build contextual targeting systems over the last year or two. We built our artificial intelligence platform, Marmalade, back in 2017. Marmalade helps advertisers reach the right audience on our publishers’ content by understanding the topic of posts–from organizing tips and holiday shopping, to healthy recipes.

Being able to precisely connect a publisher’s content to the audience an advertiser is looking for yields more high-value, high-paying campaigns. When third-party cookies disappear, data is another reason advertisers will work directly with publishers and earmark more budget to them.

Our expert insights team also adds more value by helping advertisers (and publishers) better understand readers and what that means for advertising messaging and strategy. In fact, we’ve already been using contextual trends to strengthen relationships with advertisers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by providing brands with insights on ever-shifting consumer behavior and sentiment — all in a privacy-conscious way.

But we’re not stopping at context. We’re enhancing our data systems so we can take our targeting and insights capabilities to the next level by adding audience targeting capabilities that count the number of actions a user takes (using first-party cookies) and marrying advertiser data with publisher data to create scaled, privacy-friendly contextual channels built on those insights. That data will help advertisers reach relevant consumers, maximizing the value of working directly with us.

Together, our team, ad formats, and first-party data are the trifecta to take our advertising sales to the next level.

Our efforts to expand direct sales and bring in unique demand partners make it impossible for other ad providers to put more dollars in publishers’ pockets.

Rachel Parkin, EVP, Sales

As digital advertising shifts towards privacy-first, our direct sales strategy is a huge part of what makes CafeMedia/AdThrive the best place to be today and into the future.