Advertising Digital Publishing
4 mins read

“Moving from keywords to an audience-led, first-party solution”: How Bauer is disrupting the way its media is bought and sold

As the era of third-party data ends, Bauer Media is changing the way its media is sold.

For the last 10 years, it has sold keyword campaigns based on page context, but found it difficult to break out from intent-based targeting into awareness and engagement. The publisher needed to move from that niche and service the whole funnel across its portfolio of titles.

At The Publishing Show, Digital Revenue Operations Director at Bauer Media Group-UK, Nat Francis, and Morika Georgieva, Customer Success Manager EMEA at Permutive, discussed the strategy, technology and challenges Bauer Media faced when moving from keywords to an audience-led, first-party solution for its car valuation title

The importance of company-wide stakeholder support

Efficiency was key for Bauer, with its first-party data strategy up and running in just three months. The first-party audience project – named Bauer Illuminate – launched in June 2021 to allow Bauer Media to access accurate data at scale and in real-time.

Identifying stakeholders and getting them on board with the plan was “one of the biggest and most challenging parts of what we did with the project”, explained Francis. Proving the value of the project was key to developing it within the company. Francis started from the top, encouraging the CEO to present alongside the project team.

Bauer Media is a sprawling publisher and broadcast media business, with a portfolio comprising radio, publishing, and digital properties, which meant there were multiple stakeholders in the business to be brought in on the project. However, the pandemic allowed access to key stakeholders in one (virtual) room to explain the importance of the data strategy; the project subsequently became one of its core projects in 2021.

With an audience-led approach now in place, Bauer Media is able to create cohorts of users based on different interests and behavioral signals. This gives advertisers the ability to achieve relevance by accessing these specific user groups, while being privacy compliant by not identifying them as individuals. After starting with four cohorts, Bauer has created between 50 to 60, significantly expanding the granularity of its campaigns. “Each of them is carefully curated to make sure it reaches a certain market and target,” said Francis.  

Evolving during a challenging time in automotive

The automotive industry has taken many hits over the past year, from the global microchip shortage to a lack of vehicles and parts due to the Suez Canal blockage. The difficulties the industry is experiencing has resulted in a lack of money for advertising in the automotive space. Francis described this as the perfect opportunity for Bauer Media to take action.

We could wait for the market to come back or look to do something disruptive.

Nat Francis, Digital Revenue Operations Director, Bauer Media – UK

To optimize, Bauer Media worked with its Audience Platform, Permutive, to access data and view the entire lifecycle of a user. As is a review site, it provides inferred data as well as tracking the content users are viewing. The valuations tool also obtains data on when users are looking to sell a vehicle or value a car they’re looking to buy. This provides valuable insights to advertisers.

The introduction of an Audience Platform across all of its sites enables the publisher to reach users across the Bauer portfolio in one place. Using this insight into the key stages of the car-buying journey, Bauer Media built audiences at three stages – awareness, engagement and intent. This means the publisher can be more flexible in the solutions it offers advertisers, reaching a larger audience of potential customers at awareness, to a more qualified audience imminently buying a car with intent.

Georgieva at Permutive commented that it is “exciting to see [Bauer Media] put to work the incredible data it has been collecting,” and in a Q&A asked Francis what success looks like for Bauer Media in the future. Ultimately, he explained, the publisher looks to the major auto manufacturers such as Audi and BMW to advertise with Bauer Media, and hopefully target in this new and dynamic way because they see the benefits. “We have to prove that and we’re doing the testing now,” he said.

Finding the right partner

During the discussion, Francis emphasised how vital it is to have the best possible technology to be able to achieve business goals and to have a detailed understanding of what works best to be able to obtain the right partnership.

As consent can be difficult to obtain, Bauer Media worked closely with a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to ensure they had permission to integrate user data into Permutive. This demonstrated the need to work with partners that understand not only the technicalities but also the possibilities within a legal framework.

Have the best technology, understand what you want to get out of the partnership, invest and find what works for you.

Nat Francis, Digital Revenue Operations Director, Bauer Media – UK