Greening of Ad Networks

An interview with C.J. Kettler, Founder and CEO, LIME 

Green marketers are challenged to efficiently and effectively target consumers that are receptive to their message.  Green marketers are not alone in their quest: According to a Jupiter Research report regarding the European market, “targeting audiences better” is the primary challenge faced by more than two-thirds of advertisers when planning and buying online media.

Moreover, targeting green consumers presents an extra challenge for marketers, as green consumers (or simply, consumers receptive to green messages) may transcend demographic groups while demonstrating inconsistent purchase behavior within and across product categories. 

Many consumers do self-identify by searching under related terms or by landing on relevant green sites.  In order to expand advertising reach, however, marketers must find ways to either target consumers higher up in the purchase funnel in order to impact awareness or intercept those already receptive to the message lower in the funnel in order to impact consideration and purchase. 

Yet, the reality is that there is only a small, albeit growing, list of green sites where marketers can directly reach consumers today.  Of these sites, some cater to “committed greens”, while others reach those that are more “curious” – representing a larger, more mainstream audience today – than committed. 

Marketers and media planners trying to reach either the “committed” or the “curious” have a few options:  

Portals: Portals tend to provide broad access to mainstream consumers interested in general content.  Some portals have created green content areas on their portal – including Yahoo! Green, which provides users with green news, consumer tips and content related to environmental issues and activism, and MSN’s Live Earth, a microsite that will broadcast global concerts on July 7th to build awareness about climate change.

Such green content allows portals to tag visitors with cookies that identify them as having a green affinity.  By doing so, portals such as Yahoo could then target these consumers with eco-friendly messages when they visit other pages on the portal, and perhaps charge a premium to advertisers in order to do so. 

Ad Networks.  Ad networks – including traditional players such as Advertising.com, ValueClick and 24/7 Real Media (recently acquired by WPP) – bundle and sell ads across a variety of publisher sites within their network.

 

Such networks typically offer either “run of network” or more “targeted” ad serving opportunities.  Run of network typically reaches a broader audience across a wider range of sites, while a more targeted buy enables more precision in terms of who, where and when the message is delivered.  While these sites offer access to mainstream consumers, they may have limited ways to identify green consumers (ie, specific sites in the network, content on a page).

Increasingly, green networks are being created to aggregate access to green sites.  Three networks exist today:   

GreenAds offers access to sites and blogs across five socially-conscious themes including “Sustainability and Environment” and “Green Business” (B2B).  Network sites include publishers Grist Magazine and E Magazine.com, as well as blogging site TreeHugger.  Advertisers can place ads on this green network on either a CPM or Cost per Click (CPC) basis.

BlogAds offers a “network” of 50+ environmentally friendly blogs under its “Environment and Sustainability” category. Ads can be purchased on individual blogs or across the network. Unlike on more traditional ad networks, BlogAds allows advertisers to purchase ads on individual sites for a flat fee that is set by each owner.  Blogs in the network include Inhabitat, Green Options and WorldChanging (as well as blogs like TreeHugger which is also listed with GreenAds as many of these deals are not exclusive).

New entrant LIME recently launched a green ad network that currently includes six sites: Mongabay, EcoGeek, EcoSherpa, TheBeautyBrains, SavvyVegetarian and Eco-Chick.  With a mix of green blogs and content sites, LIME’s ad network provides marketers the potential to purchase ads either on a CPM or run-of-network basis.  LIME – an umbrella brand that appeals to those interested in living a balanced lifestyle – has the potential to be a formidable player in this space: LIME has plans (and the backing of Steve Case’s Revolution Living) to scale its green network significantly over time. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with C.J. Kettler, Founder and CEO of LIME.  We spoke about the growing consumer interest in a “green, healthy lifestyle”, the launch of LIME’s green ad network, and the evolution of LIME as a digital lifestyle vertical and media company.  Here is what she had to say:

 

MG: What was the impetus for LIME’s green ad network?  How did it evolve form your current offering?  Where would you like to see it go? 

CJK: From the get go, LIME was conceived as an umbrella brand.  We wanted to build a company at the intersection of Web 2.0 and media.  As an umbrella brand, we can be home to the grassroots and community that is building this green lifestyle, as well as provide content of our own and establish LIME as a brand. 

MG: Why is this the time to launch a green ad network?   

I think it is pretty clear.  We have been talking about a green, healthy lifestyle since we started this company two years ago.  People start to look at me inquisitively, tip their heads and say: “Yea, it does feel like this is happening now.”  I would say, literally, two weeks ago is when the tippng point tipped. 

MG: Well I guess I had the right timing for this conversation! 

CJK: It felt like it must have just hit.  There were nine magazines covers about being green. All of a sudden the world woke up.   

And it is okay to say “green”.  Two years ago there was a lot if trepidation in terms of what green really meant.  But now, it is very much accepted as a word that is okay to use; it has positive implications. 

It is also a lifestyle that touches on more than just global warming including the food that we eat, what we buy, how we live, what inspires us.  So, it is much more a pervasive lifestyle idea or way of life. 

MG: Do you think that this interest in green is “sustainable”? 

CJK: [Laughs] I think it will.  It is coming from a real cultural shift.  It is not just a fad.   

Most of the talking has been about ways to save electricity with compact fluorescent light bulbs.  Now, you look at people who are beginning to talk about the difference between local and organic food.  You look at people who are worried about the price of gas and its impact on their summer vacations.  Carbon offsets are now something people are talking about.  All of those cultural factors speak to this shift in lifestyle. 

MG: What is your offering to advertisers?  How are you unique in the market? 

CJK: Well, we just launched so we announced with just six sites.  And already in the next coming weeks we will have quite a few more [sites] to announce as part of the network.  Our goal is for it to be quite large and aggregate the voice and following in the market place.  What is different about our network is that we are building it from the bottom up with grassroots sites that already have a voice and a following. 

Clearly, the advertisers are looking to reach this audience because we see new products being launched in this category – whether that may be new products, product extensions or large multinationals buying more endemic companies to create brand extensions.  Kashi was bought by Kellogg, General Mills bought Cascadian Farms, and Colgate bought Tom’s of
Maine.  What we are beginning to see is that the major marketers are also recognizing [green] as a market segment that is important to them.

MG: Do you have a sense as to the demographics that you are able to target through the network and/or the purchasing power that they have? 

CJK: We do not have our own specifics yet; we rely on market-based data.  On our own site we know that we have a pretty even split 60:40 female.  The sweet spot for age is 25-39, though we sell to advertisers 25-54. 

MG: How about household income?  

CJK: We know that the audience is more affluent.  It costs more to buy organics.  It costs more to remodel your home in a more energy efficient way.  In automotives, the price differential for hybrids is worth it because people often want to make a statement. 

For the advertiser, it’s almost as much about brand alignment as it is about targeting a market segment.  Again, while that are looking to introduce new products in this overall lifestyle category, they look to do it with a brand that speak to this marketplace, in a way that is a “curated” experience, if you will. 

MG: Do you think these people are early adopters or mainstream consumers? 

CJK: I think they are somewhere in between.  I think we have seen the early adopters and that is probably who we have been speaking with in our first year of service.  And we are very clearly seeing that [LIME] is very much a mainstream brand and [green] very much a mainstream lifestyle.   

MG: How do you differentiate yourself against other ad networks like 24/7 Real Media, portals like Yahoo which can tag your affinity when you visit their green content pages, or behavioral targeting companies like Tacoda? 

CJK: I would describe it as the difference between being broad and only an inch deep versus being narrow and very deep.  When I look at a company like Tacoda, they have a wide variety of audience segments, they are aggregated segments across an entire network of sites.  What we are doing is focusing on one segment alone but going very deep with that segment. 

MG: What is your long term vision for your green ad network and how does it fit within your overall strategy for LIME? 

CJK: We think that the world is moving to this idea of more digital verticals.  When we first came onto the web, we used giant aggregators like Yahoo and AOL.  And now, we are seeing the world divvied up, to some extent through these curated communities where one can not only read text, be entertained by video, and view podcasts, but also connect with community and shop for products that are relevant to your lifestyle.   

We have really built one at LIME – as a media company and as this digital lifestyle vertical that aggregates the voice of this green living movement.  It is really a kind of a destination if you will.  Our vision statement says it all: we want to be where the new green lives.

4 Responses to Greening of Ad Networks

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