Wogan says that BlogHer considered one other vendor for contextual targeting but quickly realized that Maxifier's solution was best suited for its needs, in part because the vendor made it so painless for them. "We have a small team at BlogHer," Wogan says, "and anytime we have a new vendor project we have to predetermine the workload to make sure we can manage it. Maxifier made it remarkably easy."
Colella says that the first step with BlogHer, as with any publisher that implements the automated keyword optimization module, is for the Maxifier team to spend a day or two with the publisher's operational team to understand its business case and its targeting structure. "We want to know how keywords map to the ad server," Colella explains. In the case of BlogHer, there were more than 500 keywords to account for.
Then it was up to Maxifier system analysts and members of the data team to map and fine-tune the algorithm. "Our algorithms are heuristic; they learn over time," Colella says. "So it takes two to three weeks to get it right before we bring it back to the client."
Wogan confirms that the Maxifier team had access to her company's ad server and taxonomy during the process. After that, she says, "It really was as easy as having our ad ops team flip a switch." In retrospect, Wogan says that she wishes she'd known it would be so easy to move to key value and keyword targeting, with a vendor partner that she says "did all the heavy lifting." But then again, "Maxifier didn't have the solution for targeting optimization before this, and no one else did either," she says.
In the first month after BlogHer rolled out the enhanced keyword optimization module from Maxifier at the end of 2012, it was used to optimize 106 campaigns, achieving an average increase in click-through rate (CTR) of 22.7%. According to David Rowley, vice president of operations at BlogHer, "We were thrilled to see some CTRs achieving performance improvements of more than 110%." Wogan affirms that 6 months after moving to the new targeting technology, advertisers are continuing to see lifts in their CTRs.
Wogan estimates that the company is now saving 20% of the time that ad traffickers used to spend doing manual optimization. "Now Maxifier makes recommendations to our ad trafficking team and they just have to say yes or no," she says. This frees up time on the part of the team to focus on higher-value activities on behalf of BlogHer advertisers.
Looking to the future, BlogHer and Maxifier continue to be in sync with their thoughts on the next big thing for ad optimization, both citing "viewability" as a key focus. "The industry is abuzz about viewability, and so are we," Wogan says. "We want to be able to optimize based on user engagement and who has the heaviest likelihood to interact with content."
Colella agrees that brands want to use performance measures that target viewability, such as interactions, whether a viewer mouses over an advertisement, and user engagement levels. "Historically, most advertisers were looking at performance related metrics, like clicks and signups. But as more brand dollars come online," she says, "we find ourselves selling against viewability metrics." The company works with the brand intelligence company Moat to integrate and optimize engagement metrics for its publisher clients.
Mobile also remains a key consideration for BlogHer, which launched BlogHerTV, a video distribution network and platform, in 2012. It's the type of opportunity that Maxifier has been preparing for. "We've been doing video for years, integrating it into core ad services," Colella says. "A lot of new business opportunities are in mobile and video, and as ad servers evolve, so will we."