Hearst Is Building A Self-Serve Platform That Enables Facebook-Style Ad Buying

Hearst is building a self-serve ad platform so advertisers can overlay their audience data against Hearst’s to reach readers across sites like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Elle and Car and Driver.

Designed for smaller advertisers, the platform – dubbed Hearst Audience Select – is slated to launch in time for Q4 ad campaigns. Audience Select will also feature a dashboard that details the content and product preferences of Hearst’s audience, and all ads will run next to magazine-quality content.

Hearst’s ad tech unit, Data Studio, is building the platform because of the success larger marketers have had onboarding their data for activation and getting insights back.

“Increasingly, the advertising campaigns we develop with clients include their first-party data. And they want our data science team to merge the data to produce insights to run the campaign more effectively,” said Chief Data Officer Mike Smith. “We want to empower a media buyer to perform this process in a self-serve manner.”

In automating the once manual ad buying process, Hearst hopes to attract smaller and niche brands and direct-to-consumer startups. Hearst already gets inbound leads from companies too small to take on, or small advertisers that want a way to appear within Hearst’s enthusiast titles, like Bicycling magazine.

Automation will enable low minimum spending limits. When brands book a campaign, the details of the campaign will go directly into Hearst’s ad server, automating the IO process.

“With this one tool, the advertiser can log in, book the campaign, put in their credit card payment information, and get the campaign live in a short period of time,” said Charles Wolrich, GM of Hearst Data Studio and digital ad tech.

There will be a standard rate card to buy ad inventory on the platform, which will support display and pre-roll inventory.

Hearst is building the platform using the services and tech of two outside partners, which it declined to name. It’s building a Hearst-specific platform because there aren’t strong enough options right now for self-serve buying outside of Facebook and Google.

“We looked at the marketplace, and we didn’t see a simple enough solution,” Wolrich said.

The platform could allow Hearst to compete for the budgets of small advertisers. On a platform like Facebook, the vast majority of spend comes from small advertisers, but media brands have largely been unable to crack that market. Smith points to Hearst’s sales team as a potential advocate for the new platform.

“This is a leap forward for our advertisers,” Smith said. “This product will be socialized through our sales team, because our sales team always tries to make it easier for our clients to do business with Hearst.”

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