Ashleigh Rankin dishes on which ads work for Reddit's audience

September 24, 2019

From cooking to sports to cats standing on their hind legs, Reddit has something for everyone. Subreddit topics let users take deep dives into whatever peaks their interest, letting them self-select into highly-targeted groups that should be a marketer’s dream. But not everyone has mastered this evolving advertising platform. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Ashleigh Rankin, Brand Partnerships - Performance, Reddit, who has over eight years experience as a mobile growth specialist. Ashleigh delves into ad formats and dishes on what works best with Reddit users.

 

 

 

Peggy: Hello and welcome to "Mobile Growth", the podcast series where frontline growth marketing experts share their insights and experiences so you can become a better mobile marketer. That's what it's all about here. 

I'm your host, Peggy Anne Salz, from MobileGroove and, on my watch, this series will introduce you to the people who know how to drive growth. It's either because they have an app and they're an app marketer, they're telling us how, or it may be that they're a vendor or, in this case, a partnership, a platform that you can look at and use to drive growth. 

So, we're going to hear a bit about the crash course in the latter with Ashleigh Rankin. She's responsible for Brand Partnerships' performance on the East Coast for Reddit. Ashleigh, first of all, great to have you here on "Mobile Growth". Thanks for joining me, I think, today from New York. Is that correct?

Ashleigh: That's right. I'm very excited to be here.

Peggy: Well, I'm very excited to have you on this show because, full disclosure, I go out there, I shoot all of the events, and I'm on webinars, and I'm out there in the industry and talking to people and saying, "Okay, so what's the platform you're going to be looking at or what do you think we should be looking at? Where's the low-hanging fruit?" And I would say 90% of the time I hear Reddit. It's like, "Yes, we've got to get our head around Reddit. We have to figure out Reddit." 

I know what Reddit is. Let's just start off at a high level. For our listeners, if they don't know already…and if you don't, you're like living under a rock. I don't know. But, what is Reddit? And then we'll talk about why it's so special, why all the app marketers I'm talking to are talking about Reddit. So, first of all, Reddit, what is it? 

Ashleigh: So, Reddit is a community network. So it's a place for everyone with topics for everyone. I think the best way to describe it is that people join for specific topics that they're interested in and 80% of them stay for that topic and then find additional topics. So, there are communities from cooking to sports to cats standing up. There's really a community for everyone, and I think that's what makes it really unique, you know? People come because they look for something that's relevant to them. So, instead of, you know, I follow my friends and my family on Facebook and I follow celebrities on Twitter, for Reddit, I follow things that I'm interested in and I think that's what makes it really unique and a really exciting space for advertisers. 

Peggy: So, to understand how I can advertise on there, I mean what are currently the opportunities for marketers there? I mean I wouldn't say it's nascent. I would say it's evolving is my thought, you know? There's targeting capabilities. There's other capabilities. But of course it's a tight-knit community so you have to watch it, you know? This is not Facebook advertising. This is not Google AdWords. This is a little bit more subtle. So how would I advertise to a community on Reddit? What's currently available?

Ashleigh: Yes. So, I guess I'm going to step back a little bit and tell you about the different teams that run sales and management at Reddit and then talk a little bit about what each of them can kind of offer and then what's available on Reddit. 

So, we have brand team and they're responsible for looking after clients who want to do the big, splashy homepage takeover, subreddit takeover, AMAs with their CEOs, and that's really for advertisers who want maximum impact to maximum reach. And then there's the self-serve team. So, that team looks after advertisers. They kind of want to dip their toes in the water. They want to log into their self-serve platform, test a little bit of budget, and see what works for them. And then my team, which is the performance team here, is responsible for very DR-focused, very savvy majority app install marketers. My team really runs through the exact process of the entire flow of advertising. So, we typically look after DR advertisers. We run the campaigns from auditing to setup or actually even doing the setup on the platform, and we recommend the best structure for optimization. 

And I think what's important here is, you know, Reddit has been around for about 13 years but, for advertising, it's only a three-year-old platform. And so performance advertising, most of the features that worked for performance advertisers only really got introduced this year, so PPC advertising, our app install product, our integration with the MMPs. They all happened really after our team was formed, so the performance team was only formed in December 2018. 

And so we're really kind of driving the car along the road and building it at the same time. I think that's what's really exciting. So, at the minute, in terms of performance, we run typically PPC campaigns. We've got, like I said, our app install product and again, my team will help advertisers and act as an extension of their team to run campaigns on Reddit, and optimize, and set up. And we kind of have a little internal joke; I think we're going to make t-shirts. But basically, my team is the algorithm that makes Reddit work for performance advertisers. 

Peggy: I like that—an algorithm type of t-shirt. I can see that, I can see that. And it's good that I know this little mini-history as well because I was thinking, "Why have I only been hearing about this last year?" and I thought, "It was me." "No, it's because this performance, this opportunity for app marketers...which is the reason we're talking because, at MobileGrowth Summit, we're all about having events and education for app marketers and this is what they want to hear about. That's what we're giving them here," but can you be a bit more specific about the types of advertising or the types of targeting? I mean is this a place where I'm going to do…? Because it sounds like it; it's about their interest, so it sounds like display may need to be something more subtle. Maybe it's even, I don't know, content-marketing, native advertising. What do you have there? Because I'm not an app marketer; I'm just very, very passionate about the space so I don't do this daily. 

Ashleigh: Mm-hmm. Yes, so within our app and within our desktop site, we have one type of ad, and it is a promoted post, and it's very native. So it's your regular 1,200 by 628. You can run videos, you can run static. And it's a headline and a promoted post. Basically, it looks like any other post on Reddit except that it's got a little promoted sign on top. 

I think what Redditers really like, our COO said this, "Rather than don't hate ads, they hate that ad." So people are aware that they're being advertised, too, in Reddit, but it's about how you approach that. And I think we find the most success with advertisers who really speak to Reddit and understand the Reddit community. They're not too corporate but they're also not trying too hard like they really, really get the platform. And so there's some really easy kind of vernacular that you can use whenever you're talking to the community and that's, you know, "Hey, Reddit, do you want to download this app for fantasy football?" Like, that kind of thing will work because they're speaking to the community but they do know that it's an ad. I think that's the main thing that we find to be really interesting. 

And in terms of performance, when people get Reddit and when people speak to Reddit, performance goes through the roof. So, there are some advertisers who use memes for their ads, and those go down really, really well. There are some people who put pictures of dogs in their ads, and for some reason, the click-through rate on that is way higher than any other ad. 

And I think it's just about really realizing how to speak to these people and doing it in an authentic way. I think the main point of Reddit is authenticity and being able to speak to Redditers in a way that they feel like they are being heard and they are being brought into a conversation versus being talked at in the way that they don't care about. And I think that's where we see the difference between advertisers who do a really good job and advertisers who have somewhat not ideal performance. 

In terms of what's available for targeting, so, if you were to go into the self-serve platform right now, there's a few different ways to buy. But essentially it's either CPC for performance, CPM for brand, and CPV for video. And once you get past that kind of initial objective, there are few different ways to target. So obviously you've got your regular targeting options—desktop, mobile, iOS, Android, geo. We go down to the DMA. But then I think what's interesting about Reddit is that we have then got interest scripts. And the interest scripts are collections of subreddits where they're relevant to that specific interest, so I think we've got about 16 interest groups and about 60 child interests. So, say, food and dining, it's something that you're wanting to target, we would have seven dining interest scripts and then there would be maybe four child interest scripts under that. Maybe it's healthy eating, maybe it's eating out and then you can target, from there, what people have really self-selected into. 

That's what makes Reddit really interesting is, instead of trying to find, you know, a 35-year-old woman who is looking for engagement rings, you can find someone who has self-selected into an interest script that is about to get married, and I think that is the real opportunity for advertisers to get to the people that they want without necessarily choosing a demographic but really honing in on their interests. And I also think that's why users appreciate it because they're not being targeted for the specific person that they are but for the things that they like and the things that they're interested in. And that's what really kind of excited me about the role and excites me about Reddit as a platform. 

Peggy: That is really cool because it reminds me of the argument we had, you know, way back in the early days of really even mobile marketing for that matter because, yes, I've been around since the smartphones have, but there was this whole idea about demographics. What does that say? Because there was a friend of mine at the time...he's still out there. Hey there, Tomi Ahonen, who was one of the godfathers of mobile at the time and he said, you know, "What does this have to do with anything?" You'd look at me and you say I'm a white guy from Finland and you'd say, you know, whatever, but there he is. You know, he's super cool and into completely off the wall urban  and whatever, but you wouldn't put that together with a guy from Finland. That was the whole point, and that's the whole point of Reddit. It's because you're going to say, "It doesn't matter how old you are, where you're located, and the way we would pigeonhole you when we try to do mass marketing and mass advertising. We're looking at the interests." So it makes a lot of sense there. 

I want to get to the numbers. I want to talk about who's doing it well, what kind of uplift is out there, all the reasons why app marketers need to consider Reddit among the platforms they need to look at and explore, but right now we do have to go to break. So, listeners, don't go away. We'll come right back with all of those answers, so stay where you are.

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Peggy: And we are back at "Mobile Growth". I'm Peggy Anne Salz welcoming Ashleigh Rankin, responsible for Brand Partnerships' performance on the East Coast at Reddit. Ashleigh, I'm really enjoying this because, as I said, I've been hearing so much about Reddit and this gives me the opportunity to get the inside track and really understand this because this is something we're going to hear about for quite a while. I'm hearing about who gets it on Reddit, and how they get it on Reddit, and what they can get as a result of getting it right on Reddit. So let's just do exactly that, success stories. Give me an example of an app marketer or an app company that has understood this opportunity and really run with it.

Ashleigh: Yes. I think the people that really work the best with Reddit are people who are definitely willing to invest time and spend time trying to set things up in a way that makes sense. We need a bunch of creatives. We need a bunch of A/B testing of headlines. And I think inherently the people that do that really well are the gaming companies, right? The large gaming companies who are focused not just on CPI but definitely on the LTV. 

And when they give us enough creative and enough leverage to test with, we would run a site campaign. We'd run a gaming interest campaign. We'd maybe run subreddit-targeted. We'd have five creatives. We'd have seriously different headlines per creative. We can spend three to four weeks optimizing, and figuring out what works, and really kind of honing in on the audience that makes sense for them. We've had gaming companies come to us and say, "You know, our CPIs are maybe a little higher than the other platforms but your LTV of your users on Reddit is four times what we see on any other social platform."

So I think, whenever we get it right and whenever we have time to kind of look at the right communities, look at the right targeting, figure out the creatives, we are a really, really valuable player and people who have that kind of inherent niche, which obviously comes from the gaming vertical. They really will find success on Reddit and especially people who work really closely with the team as well. When they listen to our advice and whenever they work closely with us to get to the point where they're really in a good place and they are seeing LTV and have everything set up correctly, then we definitely see performance work really well. And, in terms of creatives and content, I think again we mentioned a little bit before but people who really speak to the Reddit audience, we've had companies that, you know, run memes and…

Peggy: And the dogs. Remember the dogs. 

Ashleigh: The memes and the dogs. And, you know, Reddit vernacular, "explain like I'm five" or "today I learned" or any of that stuff, I think Redditers really appreciate that whenever advertisers know the platform that they're targeting them on, and they feel like they can get something out of it, right? And we've seen a bunch of success stories there. 

I think what's really interesting though is that, because there's a place for everyone on Reddit, there isn't a specific vertical that just shows it straight out of the door. We've seen success from insurance to entertainment to dog walking to keto supplements to every different kind of thing, and I think that's what the beauty of Reddit is. We don't just have a specific vertical that works really well because there is something for everyone. We see success a bunch of different verticals whenever people really take the time to find their community, and target their community, and speak to their community in the right way, and I think again that's another thing that's really exciting for advertisers that they can find that audience if they spent time on Reddit to find out.

Peggy: And we talked about the LTV…I mean 4X, that's amazing. Now, that's for some gaming companies. I'd like to drill a little deeper because there are subcategories in gaming. I was just reading a gaming app report from Liftoff talking about casual, and hyper-casual, and mid-core. Can you tell us a little bit more about the types of companies that…? You never know exactly who's going to make it and who's going to actually be successful in Reddit, but maybe there are certain app categories or even subcategories, as I mentioned, who are more likely or the possibility is greater that they're going to really resonate with the audience. Would that still be on the gaming or is it some retail? I mean what kinds of apps strike a chord with the Reddit audience?

Ashleigh: Yeah, I think in terms of gaming specifically, whenever a game has a really specific IP and when there's a really specific brand associated, we've had some Marvel games not necessarily by Marvel Comics, but, like, we have…if they have a strong IP, they do really well. In terms of strong IP, maybe Game of Thrones is a really good example of one…any kind of game like that would have worked really well around the time. Sunday nights, whenever Game of Thrones was coming on TV, if people really targeted communities around that time, they were getting a ton of success. 

I think we do well whenever…you know, for entertainment, whenever they really focused on specific releases and specific release dates of shows, that's whenever we see peak performance. Yeah, but I think also it's not necessarily what you think is going to work is going to work. I would have never said that a hyper-casual game would work really well on Reddit because you think…Reddit is the mid to hardcore gamers and they're going to be the ones that go in there and that's going to be the people that are going to drive the really high LTV games. 

We have a pretty casual sports app that we're running, and that's actually the one that had the really high LTV. And I could have bet you money that it wasn't going to work on Reddit because of the audience that I assumed has Reddit but it actually worked really well and it's one of our big clients at the minute. 

We're still figuring out ourselves, to be honest, what works. I think it's a hard goal to figure out who the best advertisers are for Reddit and what the best vertical is because we're surprised all the time. We're even surprised by the different audiences that resonate with different verticals because, if you're with a games company, you're going to use the gaming interest group. We actually encourage our clients to also try other interest scripts and some of the things that we find that works really well is super interesting. 

So, parenting is something that worked really well for a games advertiser, and I think it's making sure, like I said, with these specific companies, that they really test and learn and really spend time trying to figure out the platform. It's not kind of giving in to the self-fulfilling prophecy of, "I'm a game. I should use gaming targeting. I should go to the gaming subreddit." There are other things that are going to work there, and it's about that kind of A/B testing. Those are the clients that are going to work best with us, the people who really lean into the testing and trying to figure it out with us.

Peggy: And you talked about releases earlier and how that can also work. I would imagine for…I don't know. Would you soft launch? Would you say "I've got a new something or other" and do it on Reddit? Or, do you think it would be more for…I don't want to say more for extending your audience. I don't know. Would you acquire and acquire the new audience or would you deepen your existing audience? What's the best stage to take this to for your app?

Ashleigh: Yeah. I mean I think, for us, our capabilities are still really focused on acquiring new audiences. We don't really have capabilities for retargeting or anything like that yet, but it's on the roadmap for 2020. There are things that are coming that we're excited about. But I think acquiring new users and I think what's exciting is, if you buy on any of the other social platforms, I think Reddit is about 20% unduplicated audience with Facebook, and Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest. So you're going to reach about 20% more people if you buy inside of those platforms and, again, that was something that excited me by coming here is a new platform. There are people on here that you can't get anywhere else, so it is acquiring that additional set of users. 

I think, in terms of soft launching, we've launched some seasons of TV and podcasts and stuff, and there are a few different ways to do that. We've had AMAs with writers which have led up to the launch of a potential book or an audiobook or a TV series, and that's a really nice way to get people engaged before something comes out and then get it on their radar. And I think that's also what's pretty cool is that there are a bunch of different things that you can do like this to really engage your audience and then acquire them whenever something is available.

Peggy: Mm-hmm. And, you said it yourself—things are coming in the pipeline. What can you tell us about 2020? I mean it's always a little bit of a…you can't really maybe tell me but you can give me an implication because I think that one thing…the app marketers I'm talking to would welcome some more granular targeting. You said it yourself. You can't really retarget at this point, but there are some great ways to go even deeper and narrow down your audience. Again, what can we expect?

Ashleigh: Yeah, I think there's a bunch of different things on the horizon for 2020. I mean, at the minute, we have custom audiences and data, so uploading suppression lists or targeting lists. We have just released data for third-party audience segments, which is really exciting for a lot of people, and we're improving our tracking. We've got our first-party tracking pixel coming out. We have audience expansion features. We don't say lookalikes here. That's not really something that we do or will do but we can expand your audience with features like that, which is something that the eng team is working on.

I think the thing that I'm most excited about is the mobile-first marketer and, from years of buying media, is postback. They are coming at the end of Q4. So, we have integration with all of the MMPs at the minute but we are working on getting postbacks, which I think will be a gamechanger in terms of improving our auto-optimization features and bidding improvements. So, all of those things are on the horizon. I think the main thing that we want to make sure is that we prioritize our users still and make sure that everything that we do is right for the users. 

We have a couple of just really cool, new Reddit features. I'm not sure if you noticed that RPAN launched a couple of weeks ago, which is the Reddit Public Access Network. It was our live video streaming or Reddit's version of live video streaming so Redditers have the opportunity to broadcast what's happening in their world and see what's going on with other Redditers. And, it was something that we weren't sure necessarily how users were going to respond to it but it's been overwhelmingly super positive. So, tbd what happens with that. It was just an experiment, but I think we're really trying to do things that keep people coming back and keep the users happy. And really that is the main goal of all of our teams is to keep users happy and to keep them coming back to Reddit.

Peggy: So we have the video, the broadcast, the media ability of what we know from other networks that are far less, I wouldn't say, tribal but there's something about being connected by your interests and not just because…I won't say it but, on something like Facebook, it gets very general after a while. At least that's what I think because I have such a broad range of friends and colleagues. I'm getting all sorts of stuff. And, here, I have specifically chosen my interest and that's more…I've helped you target me is what's going on for us here. 

That is exciting indeed. So, I have to have you back, Ashleigh. We'll have to talk about that, how that experiment goes, and how you sort of mix up and mash up all these different components. In the meantime, we have run out of time. So, how do our listeners stay in touch with you? I mean I love the idea that you also really take out marketers by the hand and say, "Hey, let's experiment together. Let's try out creatives together. Let's work on this together." So it sounds almost like a consultative approach as well. Is that what it's like and is that what you're willing to offer?

Ashleigh: Yeah, definitely. That's the main goal of my team is to help advertisers, to walk them through it, to give advice, to audit campaigns, to make it work and kind of build those relationships with advertisers. So, very much happy to do that and happy to give any help and advice where we can. And there's multiple different ways to work with Reddit and we can kind of figure out what's the best way for any team is and get you the right person to talk to. 

Peggy: And the best way to reach you, would it be just connect with you on LinkedIn or do you have a preference? Maybe even email.

Ashleigh: Yeah, LinkedIn is a great way to connect with me. I'm also at ashleigh@reddit.com with a very strange spelling of Ashleigh, A-S-H-L-E-I-G-H. But, yeah, I'm always happy to respond to people. I'm super available on LinkedIn. You know, I love working for Reddit and I love representing Reddit, so happy to answer any questions and help anyone else get super invested in Reddit as well.

Peggy: Well, I can tell you I enjoy it and that's why I'm so excited, first of all, to have you here in the show. It's been great. Time has just flown by. I want to have you back because I'm enjoying this and I can hear that you are indeed genuine. So it's like Reddit is about being genuine. You've been very genuine. I can't wait to have you back. 

In the meantime, listeners, thanks for listening in to "Mobile Growth" podcast and a quick reminder to visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete list of our upcoming events and don't forget to use that very special promo code MGSPODCAST30 for 30% off your offer. We hope to see you there at many of the events around the world. In the meantime, we encourage you, of course, to check out this and every other episode in our series all posted for you over at mobilegrowthsummit.com and on SoundCloud and coming to many more channels providing you many more ways to listen in. So watch for that, and we'll watch for you and we'll see you soon.



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