NBCU's iVillage Puts Sugar Publishing in its Ad Sales Cupboard

  |  June 28, 2007   |  Comments

NBC Universal will represent ads on PopSugar and nine other female-centered Sugar Network sites.

A new strategic alliance between NBC Universal Digital Media and Sugar Publishing makes Universal's digital media sales team the exclusive sales agent for Sugar's media inventory and gives advertisers an increased opportunity to reach women, say those involved.

Sugar, started about 15 months ago, publishes PopSugar and the nine other female-centered Sugar Network sites. The alliance means Sugar will become aligned with NBC Universal's similarly female-oriented iVillage Properties as Sugar and iVillage will share content.

"Our audiences are a little different, but not so different that they don't make good sense to sell together," said Peter Naylor, SVP of NBC Universal Digital Media Sales. He said the median age for iVillage readers is 37, about 10 years older than most of those who visit Sugar's sites. "But psychographically, we both appeal to a very modern consumer who lives her life online in a big way and is aspirational, educated, largely employed. So that's why they're complementary."

The alignment with iVillage will allow Sugar Publishing to focus on content creation, said founder Brian Sugar. "We raised our first round of capital during the early fall of last year and we used it to expand our network," said Sugar. "During the first half of the year we started to build out a sales force and we realized it takes a large, experienced team to really execute on that. We, as a small company, had to make some decisions early on."

He said the decision was to focus on content and let somebody else handle the ad sales. "In partnering with iVillage, we get the best sales force there is for selling stuff online," said Sugar.
Naylor said iVillage has a "mature and well-established sales force" known to marketers and agencies "on Madison Avenue."

According to ComScore, iVillage.com and other properties in the iVillage network garnered slightly more than 17 million uniques page views in May. Other top women's sites cited by the researchers included Glam Media, with about 17.3 million uniques, Everyday Health, The CondeNet Network and Womensforum sites.

Naylor and Sugar noted the deal is not an acquisition and, while the deal includes an equity investment that will give NBC Universal Digital Media a minority stake in Sugar Publishing, Sugar will remain independent. That means iVillage -- in a fashion similar to that used by Glam --will be selling ads for sites it doesn't own.

Naylor noted that iVillage already does this "a couple of sites" it doesn't wholly own and operate. But he said iVillage's focus on the "very specific audience" of women differentiates it from other online ad networks.

Neither he nor Sugar would predict what types of ads the deal is likely to bring to the Sugar Network. Naylor said iVillage and Sugar have "a virtual Swiss army knife" of online advertising solutions at their disposal.

"Our approach is to be very consultative in our sale," he said. "We like to talk with marketers and understand what their marketing problems are ... We can do all sorts of things to get people engaged: rich media, micro-sites, advertorials, video. Depending on the product or service and the marketing problem we have a wide variety of marketing solutions we can roll out."

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