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    ‘An awkward space’: Reddit’s ad sales efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, but there’s still work to be done

    New year, same problems for Reddit: in the eyes of advertisers, it’s still an outlier. 

    To be clear, the social news site has definitely made strides to curry favor with advertisers since the last time Digiday checked in a year ago. A clearer understanding of what it is and isn’t among marketers is a testament to that.

    Even so, it’s arguable that Reddit must do more to turn that sentiment into ad dollars. No mean feat for a platform that’s still trying to find a permanent space for itself on media plans. 

    “Reddit straddles an awkward space between social media, blog, forum and community interest site,” said Elliott Millard, head of planning at Wavemaker U.K. “While user numbers are pretty good, it’s always lacked the scale of Facebook, the media cachet of TikTok or the singular focus of something like Pinterest. The breadth is an issue because clients can’t put it in a neat box.”

    Take the U.K., for example. While Reddit has certainly evolved since its U.K. expansion back in 2020, and marketers appear to be happy with the moves it’s making, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

    Pitching to marketers

    According to Steve Riad, vp, global mid-market & smb sales at Reddit, the platform has some strong relationships, and in most instances, official partnerships with all the major holding companies, globally.

    “In 2022, we announced a global enterprise partnership with IPG, and our global commerce advertising advisory partnership with WPP, the latter being led specifically out of London,” he explained. “Additionally, our internal deal labs team is responsible for structuring our annual partnership agreements with our agencies, or we can do that with client direct programs through our Reddit Partnership Program (RPP), which continues to expand in the U.K. with the likes of Samsung U.K., and Huel.”

    While these partnerships seem impressive, what exactly do they mean?

    In certain circumstances, Reddit has offered some of Dentsu’s clients introductory ad credits for new brands keen to ease their way into advertising on the platform. 

    Similarly, Paul Kasamias, managing partner (performance) at Starcom noted that Reddit provides the agency’s highest spending clients on the platform first refusal for new ad formats.

    “They’re definitely proactive in bringing the alphas and betas to clients, which is a nice sell because clients love being at the forefront of innovation,” he added.

    Reddit has also helped Starcom through its creative services arm called Karma Lab. 

    “Reddit runs workshops, provides insights and trends, as well as access to measurement studies, for us and our clients about how best to use creative and ad formats on the platform, to ensure they are specifically fit for Reddit and that user base,” Kasamias added. “It’s definitely incentivizing clients in the right way, not just discounting ad spend but actually giving clients a deeper, more meaningful, experience of using the platform, which is smart.”

    What do marketers want from Reddit?

    When Reddit launched in the U.K., the consensus among advertisers at the time was that it was more a test and learn platform, according to Reddit’s Riad. Since then, Reddit has shifted the narrative and become a key part of media plans for marketers, he continued. 

    Granted, those gains tend to be among a specific sub set of advertisers — namely those keen on Reddit’s strong, yet niche verticals such as consumer, gaming and tech. For other advertisers there are still some lingering issues they need Reddit to address. 

    Catherine Chappell, head of biddable media at Mediahub believes some of the platform’s creative capabilities have been slower than other platforms and need to catch up with the market. An example being, Reddit was one of the last to launch video. “That only came into fruition about 18 months ago, where it was static previously,” she said.

    Similarly, Nick Weaver, paid social partner at Dentsu, highlighted that Reddit should focus on innovation if it wants to solidify its market share of dollars.

    “A drawback of Reddit is the visual feel of the platform,” he said. “For example, there’s certain verticals where Reddit won’t appeal, such as fashion, because there are far more visual platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. Reddit would do well to lean on its strengths rather than trying to appeal to the masses.”

    Additionally, Chappell noted that as far as commercial opportunities are concerned, Mediahub hasn’t seen much from Reddit. That said, she is hopeful that will kickstart this year and a healthy relationship with the platform can ensue.

    Bigger picture

    Reddit’s attempts to grow its ads business come at a time when marketers are understandably scrutinizing which platforms to use and how many dollars to spend. 

    From Facebook to Snapchat, Google to Twitter, the big media platforms that dominate online advertising are dealing with a cacophony of forces, some structural, others economical, that are threatening that dominance. Which is to say that advertisers are weighing up where they push and pull money across these platforms. Now is as good a time as any for any platform with designs on being an alternative to these stalwarts to make a move — a thought not lost on the ad execs at Reddit it seems. 

    While other platforms each have their own problems to contend with, Chappell pointed out that Reddit’s offering, which marketers are seemingly impressed by, continues to fly under the radar.

    Reddit is very eager to help compared to other media owners, in terms of providing insights and responses to briefs that are actually detailed and workable, she explained. “That helps in positioning it with both planners and brands, because there’s homework behind the rationale.”

    Given the platform’s willingness to have a two-way dialogue to support its advertiser clients, perhaps this isn’t something to overlook, and might be the USP that sets Reddit apart from the pack. 

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