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Verso Advertising — Fall 2015 Newsletter



•  Featured Campaigns: Purity, Robo-sauce, Depraved Heart

•  Featured Media Partner: Turn

•  Featured Unit: New Yorker Emails

•  Farewell to Flash

•  Next to Now: Links to Recent News in the Advertising Industry

Featured Campaigns

PURITY by Jonathan Franzen

Purity - Jonathan Franzen - NYTBR spread

Jonathan Franzen is one of the world’s most celebrated authors—with each new novel inspiring ever-greater praise. To put that word-of-mouth to work and build anticipation for his new book, Purity, Farrar, Straus and Giroux developed a three phase ad campaign. First, we promoted a transcript from Franzen’s much buzzed-about BEA interview with author and critic Laura Miller—running ads that promoted the transcript on top literary websites, as well as through the inaugural three weeks of the New Yorker’s highly engaging new daily email. We launched phase two with prominent print, tablet, and mobile on-sale ads in the New Yorker and the New York Times. For the third phase, we responded to the outpouring of rapturous reviews with a bold two-page opening spread in the NYTBR. The result? Purity opened huge on the bestseller list, securing Franzen’s status as one of the must-read novelists of our time.

Robo-sauce - PureWowROBO-SAUCE
by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

To the question, “Is there anything better than dragons who love tacos?,” there’s only one possible answer: Robo-sauce. To promote the brand-new book from the bestselling team behind Dragons Love Tacos, we devised a powerful partnership with the website, PureWow. In addition to indexing extremely high with the moms in our target demographic, PureWow also offers a very efficient buy across all their platforms: including sponsored content, desktop and mobile banner ads, Facebook posts, promoted giveaways and more. In the last year, PureWow campaigns have been performing extremely well against our in-house benchmarks. We were happy to see Robo-sauce continue the run of strong ad performance on the site, as the book rocketed up the bestseller list.

Depraved Heart - Patricia Cornwell


by Patricia Cornwell

This fall marks the second Patricia Cornwell title published with William Morrow, and they launched it in high style with a blockbuster print ad in the New York Times, billboards and outdoor kiosks in New York and LA, and a highly targeted programmatic campaign. The result? Cornwell delivers an all-new instant bestseller, satisfying her eager readership, and growing her legions of fans as the holiday buying season gets into full swing.

TurnTurn is a programmatic network that allows us pinpoint targeting of readers using display, mobile, video and Facebook ads. To identify the people most likely to be interested in a book, Turn uses behavioral and contextual identifiers as well as first party data (such as advertiser-supplied site cookies and opt-in email addresses) for retargeting. While retargeting doesn’t work for every book, it’s a fantastic marketing tool for authors who either have a lot of traffic on their site or a large email list of engaged fans (or, better yet, both!). Perhaps even more powerfully, this same data allows us to go one step further and target “look-alikes,” people who are similar to existing fans in behavior and background but who might not yet have heard about the author or the book.
New Yorker Email - Purity - Jonathan Franzen

Sometimes it can feel like a lot of marketing comes down to guesswork, but there are a few things we do know. One is that the New Yorker has one of the best book buying audiences anywhere. Another is that email campaigns are among the highest performing digital campaigns we run. Put these two facts together—as we can now do with the New Yorker email program—and you have a tremendous marketing channel to reach book buying audiences affordably. Since the email launched in late July, Verso clients have been at the forefront of the New Yorker program. Because the ads are native—that is, built by the magazine to complement the look and feel of the editorial product—and because the nature of what we’ve been advertising works for the New Yorker reader, we’ve had very high reader engagement for both fiction and non-fiction titles. Even now, three months in, New Yorker readers continue to open the emails daily and engage with the content at a stunning rate.
RIP FlashThe one constant with digital advertising is the pace of technological change. For many years, Verso has had success producing digital ads in Flash—a format that allows us crisp images, stable flow, and more room to include copy. As much as Flash fitted our clients’ creative needs, this fall marks its end as a viable format. When Chrome recently announced that its latest updates will no longer support Flash, it was the final nail in a coffin that Steve Jobs had been hammering at for years (he famously never allowed Flash to work on iPhones or iPads). We have found HTML5 to be a great substitute where it’s supported. HTML5 is a format that works much like Flash, but is able to run on Safari, Chrome, and mobile devices. One downside with HTML5 is that most media platforms (including the New York Times and the New Yorker) cannot yet site-serve ads in HTML5. In those cases, the ads have to be served through a third party server such as DoubleClick. Where a third party server is not an option, we recommend working with animated GIFs. We have been pleased to find no fall-off in ad-engagement running animated GIFs instead of Flash. Indeed, our average click-through rates this fall have been going up. 


Every Friday we post links to the latest news on what’s next in advertising, especially as it relates to marketing books. Here is a selection of links from throughout the fall:

Michael Wolf’s “Tech and Media Outlook 2016” presentation from a WSJ conference is filled with good intel on the state of digital in the near future. For instance:

  • Insight into how many are using which music platforms (slide 42)
  • Why YouTube is in a good position with “Red” to take on Apple Music and Spotify (slides 42-47)
  • Evidence that AM/FM radio still has more listeners than streaming (slide 40)
  • Data about what makes podcasts an upwardly mobile platform (slides 54-57)

Once predominantly the province of Millennials, online video watching has now stretched to include Gen X as well. From the Adweek article: 

“The average consumer between the ages of 16 and 45 watches 204 minutes of video a day, split equally between TV and online. Forty-five minutes of the average online viewing time is done on a smartphone, while desktop accounts for 37 minutes and tablet for 20 minutes.”

This article in Digiday argues that the Atlantic’s recent redesign has upped ad performance by lessening the amount of content (including ads) on the homepage. It’s certainly worth paying more to be the only ad on a relevant page. If that’s the future of the ad-supported Web, we’re all for it.

Emails have remained a secret weapon for marketing departments for years. As this ClickZ article puts it,
“While only 20 percent of the people (and email marketing’s audience is overwhelmingly people, not bots) open the email you send them, that 20 percent does so happily. They click and convert enough to make your tiny and underfunded email marketing department punch way above its weight.”
But now Google’s Custom Match, Facebook’s Custom Audiences, and Twitter’s Tailored Audiences allows you to upload email addresses to their systems and use them to target ads specifically to opt-in audiences you know will be interested in your book. This kind of targeting is also available through campaigns with Verso programmatic and retargeting partners such as AdRoll and Turn.

Highlights include:
  • All forms of usage are growing: desktop (+16%), mobile app (+90%), and mobile Web (+53%)
  • Mobile now represents 62% of all digital time spent
  • App usage time skews toward smartphones for Millennials and tablets for older demos
  • Mobile audience growth is being driven by mobile Web properties which are bigger and growing faster than apps
  • Millennials mobile usage time is devoted to social, video, music, and communications
  • Mobile ads work: they drive brand lift 2-3x greater than that of desktop ads

This 16z podcast features a fascinating conversation between Chris Dixon and Ben Evans about the advertising ecosystem. They touch on payment systems, first-rate journalism bundled with 3rd-rate ad products, user identity, and native advertising (“ads that people actually like”), and how ads have increasingly become unbundled from content.

We are often asked what average click-through rates are, and the truth is the number changes constantly—depending on year, format, and category. That said, Verso display ad campaign averages are nearly twice as high as the general numbers indicated in an April 2015 report from Google.

CJR on The Skimm, Broadly, and Refinery29:
“They’re paying more attention to news and politics, especially on women’s and social issues, but packaged with the right amount of edge (Broadly), twee (Refinery29), and Sex and the City references (The Skimm) to be taken seriously by the savvy millennial woman.”

The opportunities mentioned here are just a few of the new advertising tools and tactics we come across every day. To find out more about any of the ideas in this newsletter—or to get a plan crafted from the latest, most relevant, and most actionable information available—contact your Verso account manager today.

Verso Advertising
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