A joint study released Tuesday by BabyCenter and the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that moms aged 18 to 34 from the US, Canada, China, Brazil and the UK said they were likely to spend more time on their mobile devices than watching television every day.
That means BabyCenter has to be mobile-first or bust. Mobile web and apps work in tandem as traffic and awareness drivers, the apps serving as a springboard into the deeper content experience available on the mobile site or even the desktop.
“We think about mobile first and then we think about how to go back and rework it for the desktop,” Michaelson said.
BabyCenter runs a suite of apps: My Pregnancy Today and My Baby Today, both calendar-style iPhone apps that provide daily informational nuggets and baby-related advice, and BabyCenter Birth Class for iPad, which includes guidance from childbirth experts, lactation consultants and OB/GYNs on labor, pain management and other birthing tips.
Michaelson claimed that the vast majority of its traffic is organic and that the lion’s share of its app downloads happen organically through the various app stores. [Search “I’m pregnant” in Google and BabyCenter is the first hit. Search “pregnancy apps” in the Apple App Store and BabyCenter’s My Pregnancy Today is No. 2.]
When a mom downloads one of these apps, she’s only asked for her email address and due date.
“From that point starts a very personalized experience and relationship with the BabyCenter brand,” Michaelson said.
For example, simply by knowing when expectant mothers are due, advertisers can produce targeted native content relevant to the exact week or even day of development within the My Pregnancy Today app.
“One day, a mom might see a message that says, ‘This week you’ll start to feel your baby kick’ or ‘Here are some things to think about when you go to your week 27 doctor appointment,’” Michaelson said. “The day after that, the message might be around nutrition or special foods. Marketers use that as an opportunity to reach moms when it makes sense with retail opportunities or information about baby carriages or prenatal vitamins.”
When users tap on an in-app ad, they’re kept within the app experience itself rather than be sent to a marketer’s website. Users are taken to another screen within the app that’s completely owned by BabyCenter’s marketing partner, whoever it might be. BabyCenter has non-exclusive relationships with a slew of advertisers, including Babies"R”Us, Target, Walmart, diapers.com and Pottery Barn Kids, as well as a number of other large retailers and CPG companies.
PII Mother Lode
Although BabyCenter has ready access to mountains of highly sensitive PII from the free online tools it provides – growth calculators, ovulation predictors, childhood illness symptom trackers and the like – the company is taking a page out of the Apple and Google respective playbooks and leaving health data alone. For the moment, at least.
As a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson – the umbrella for more than 275 independently operated entities, including Aveeno, Neutrogena and Tylenol manufacturer McNeil Consumer Products – one would be forgiven in making the assumption that BabyCenter serves as a data nerve center for its parent company. After all, Kraft uses Kraftrecipes.com to collect more than 22,000 visitor attributes, including favorite products and flavors.
Kraft gathers that data to inform ad campaigns – but that’s not BabyCenter’s bag.
“The relationship is not as close as you might expect at all,” Michaelson said. “Johnson & Johnson is one of our largest advertisers and media partners, but it ends there. We have dedicated sales teams for Johnson & Johnson in the US and around the world, but there’s no other overlap in terms of data sharing. We report up through their consumer group, but they give us a lot of autonomy and we operate completely independently.”
BabyCenter doesn’t publicize its relationship with Johnson & Johnson, and for good reason.
“We have a close relationship with moms that J & J could never have because they’re a manufacturer of products,” Michaelson said. “We have an intimate relationship with this audience and we do a lot of research work for Johnson & Johnson, as well as all of our other media partners.”
Keeping Johnson & Johnson on the DL also makes sense when you think about BabyCenter’s blue-chip client directory.
“We work with advertisers like P&G and Kimberly-Clark – they wouldn’t want to advertise with us if they thought that one of their competitors was getting special privileges,” Michaelson said, adding BabyCenter is 99% funded by its media and advertising revenue. “Johnson & Johnson lets us operate independently for that exact reason – so we can work with all the major brands.”