How TheStreet Blends Custom And Programmatic Sales

TheStreetFinancial advertisers tend to focus on performance advertising. They want people to fund a brokerage account or sign up for a new credit card.

But TheStreet, which attracts 40 to 50 million visitors a month at its sites, which include a namesake website, plus Stockpickr, The Deal and MainStreet, has noticed more interest in brand advertising.

“Ever since the trust broke down in [the financial crisis of] 2008, we’ve seen a shift towards branding,” said Patrick Dignan, VP of advertising sales for TheStreet. “There’s a re-education that’s going on, and they’re interested in using video and native to do this.”

To accommodate this shift, TheStreet has upped its investment in native and video. It just launched a sponsored-content program, BrandView, bringing in native technology provider Polar. Meanwhile, a video studio will produce more high-quality content aimed at educating investors – creating more video supply in the process. In one program for Oppenheimer, subject-matter experts from the investment firm created videos speaking to three themes, including how advisers work with affluent people. Efforts such as these have helped drive video revenue up 100% in the past year. 

Even as it adds upper-funnel offerings, TheStreet continues to respond to changes across the advertising ecosystem.


For instance, its programmatic revenue increased 80% over the past year. One brokerage company runs 100% programmatic with TheStreet. That allows the advertiser to target consumers using its data and enhances its attribution abilities, Dignan said.

Often, brand and programmatic will sit side by side on plans, something TheStreet facilitates by letting salespeople sell native and custom ad units and programmatic. “We have no channel conflict. I have sales team sell everything,” Dignan said.

Selling digital advertising requires more consultative selling skills than it once did. Buyers dip their feet in before fully committing, so salespeople need to understand an advertiser’s goals and tailor a program to those key performance indicators. “What is different now versus the old days is people test into the program and leverage the metrics from testing into the program to scale it,” Dignan said. “That’s more widespread now.”

He also sees the need for salespeople to be involved in programmatic deals, especially private exchanges or programmatic direct deals. “It still requires them to talk to the client, the agency trading desk, the [demand-side platform],” Dignan said. “There’s all this customer service – if anything stops, there’s a person they can come to and talk to.”

TheStreet, which primarily uses Google AdX, is experimenting with iSocket’s programmatic direct pipes. In financial terms, “it’s like a futures market over time,” Dignan explained, which allows the company “to expose more inventory.”

While TheStreet embraces programmatic, Dignan limits what kinds of inventory are available programmatically. Only 300×250 and 728×90-size units transact through exchanges. Rising stars or billboards must be purchased directly.

Format Innovation

Dignan sees opportunities with custom and high-impact units.

IAB Rising Star units allow the advertiser to address the mid-funnel, combining a brand voice with the efficiencies of banner ads.

And TheStreet uses Flite to create custom ad units for brands, which can present dynamic information like recent tweets or the output from RSS feeds to provide custom ads. “It provides more of a storytelling opportunity with the ad unit,” Dignan said.

TheStreet further targets these ads to individuals using IXI information held in its data-management platform. The division of Equifax has details about household income and total assets, which are valuable indicators for advertisers looking for people with funds to invest.

Direct sales teams incorporate this data into the programs they create for clients. An advertiser looking for affluent individuals, for example, can be served a specific Flite unit with video tailored to that segment’s needs.

On the video side, Dignan sees potential in Jivox, which allows advertisers to add intent information to pre-roll. When users mouse over the video, they’re presented with action options, like buying the item or finding out more. The dynamic creative serves both ends of the funnel.

“Technology is an enabler, but you still need people to think how to enable it,” Dignan said. “That means finding smart people and an educated sales team that can understand the benefits of a private marketplace or a sponsorship or a native campaign.”

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