As marketers turn to first-party data, B2B media company ALM is developing a suite of new advertising products to meet their needs and stand out among competitors. The latest, an ad tech platform called Audience First, uses first-party behavioral and self-reported demographic data to target audience segments across ALM’s markets of expertise, including legal and financial services.
The platform currently offers job-function and topic-based contextual targeting, and will later incorporate geographic data and third-party firmographics for lookalike audience targeting. Joann Kropp, ALM’s new vice president of product & data strategy, says Audience First’s technology drives better campaign performance for advertising clients by sending relevant messages to consumers in brand-safe environments.
“We have a proprietary database with self-reported, first-party data, and it’s all permission-based,” says Kropp, who comes to ALM from Informa and has a background in building audience data products. “These people have given us this information because we talk to them all the time. We send them newsletters; we know what they want to read; we know their job titles and functions. We’ve got a lot of information available to us so that we can send smarter marketing to them.”
Audience First is the second product in the data-driven suite that Kropp is now overseeing at ALM. The first product, Fusion, is a content marketing solution designed to nurture leads.
Matt Weiner, president of marketing services at ALM, says Fusion has performed well for customers, but has a higher cost and longer selling cycle due to the content creation involved. In contrast, Audience First pushes ALM into the programmatic space, lowers the barrier for clients, and shortens the selling cycle.
Weiner points out that B2B media has traditionally lagged behind consumer media in ad technology, but can’t afford to do so anymore.
“We’ve always said, we don’t need ad tech because we’ve already got the community. That just isn’t enough anymore,” he says. “Yes, we have the community, but we also have to use first-party data to tell you who is in the community.”
ALM’s move into ad tech is also a strategic shift away from the lead generation business that B2B media companies have relied on for decades. Not only do many clients cut off their spend after they’ve generated enough leads, but without enough data, they also struggle to convert leads, notes Kropp. Audience First aims to equip marketers with behavioral data that they can use to analyze the conversion funnel process from top to bottom.
“It’s not just click-throughs or how well we perform,” says Weiner. “Why are people clicking on content, why are people reading the content, and which content is converting? They’re using all of that data now – at least the savvy marketers are.”
While about half of ALM’s advertisers prefer to target their audiences contextually, Weiner says the other half “wants to own those people wherever they are.” These client insights informed ALM’s creation of a product suite that serves both camps.
But Weiner believes the worth of quality content is becoming clearer to advertisers amid tightening data privacy regulations.
“The market was starting to believe that we don’t need content, we need ad tech. I think that pendulum has swung back,” Weiner says. “Now having both is a much stronger value proposition. We’ve got ad tech and we’ve got high-quality environments built from the ground up with quality content.”
Leah Wynalek is editor-in-chief of BRAND United. She is passionate about creating content that engages audiences across channels – and delivering insights that help others do the same.