Vox Media is giving in to programmatic ads

Vox Media is giving in to programmatic ads

  • Ryan Pauley_Headshot


    Vox Media executive Ryan Pauley

    Advertisers can now buy ads on Vox Media properties 'programmatically.'
  • The digital publisher is the latest company to bend to the wave of using technology to sell ads rather than relying primarly on people-driven sales teams.
  • Vox, along with partner NBC Universal, is aiming to blend premium brand-safe advertising with technology and data driven ad selling.

Vox Media is finally going programmatic.

The digital media company, which owns publications such as Vox.com, SB Nation and Recode, says it will now start selling ads using automated software and data.

This process, known across the ad industry as "programmatic ads" - is typified by machines buying and selling ads using reams of data in milliseconds via ad technology.

To date, Vox has focused on building-hand crafted content for marketers, as well as selling its own custom version banner ads.

Vox calls its suite of ad technology and products Concert. And besides Vox properties, Concert ads also run on NBC Universal websites and its various distribution outlets such as Apple News and Facebook's Instant articles. NBCU has invested $200 million into Vox Media. Concert is billed as a vehicle for traditional marketers to buy "Big, Bold, Beautiful Ads," according to Vox.

As Vox has moved to expand Concert, the company has heard from advertisers pushing for more tech-driven buying options. "We've always believed in automation," said Ryan Pauley, general manager of Concert. "That's less about putting remnant ads on open exchanges and getting belly fat ads."

"We think now, we're not limiting a programmatic buyer to bad creative," Pauley added. "I think the ecosystem has solved for direct response advertising. Now this will allow for brand building."

vox ads

SB Nation

Vox believes programmatic ads can be pretty

To that end, Vox wants to provide advertisers with as much assurance as possible that their ads will be delivered to safe places while providing them with lots of control. To help, the company has partnered with the ad tech firm Index Exchange, which has a solid reputation in terms of operating with transparency.

"Every day we're talking to ad buyers, and their biggest question is always trust," said Zach Rosen, Index Exchange's vice president, publisher development. "Everyone wants to know where the money's going. So we see this as a marriage of high quality scale and automation."

Vox's move follows a recent pivot by BuzzFeed - a long holdout - to embrace banner ads and programmatic selling.

Both Vox and BuzzFeed have been among a newer breed of digital-born publishers that for a time thumbed their nose at traditional display advertising and saw themselves as tech companies at heart - not in the need of ad tech help.

But that's changing rapidly. In April eMarketer predicted that by the end of next year 84.0% of display ads will be sold programmatically. It's become a lot tougher to hold out against that trend, even for big publishers.