CondéNet Bucks Ad Network System, Revamps Sales Strategy

As it shifts its online ad sales team setup, CondéNet is bucking the ad network system. The publisher of Style.com, Epicurious.com, and others has reorganized its sales force to focus on verticals rather than specific titles. And as its fellow brand publishers gravitate more and more towards selling ad inventory through networks and offering performance-based ads, CondèNet is sticking to the classic direct-sales, CPM model.

“The brands that we do business with are used to buying content,” said Dee Salomon, SVP sales and marketing at CondéNet, naming high-end luxury ad clients such as Bulgari and Gucci. “They value the context and they understand the price; you have to pay for that.”

In lieu of selling individual magazine sites, the company’s new sales approach pairs sales execs with particular content and advertiser verticals including food, travel, fashion and lifestyle, and teen. In the past, one sales group sold Style.com, Men.Style.com, and teen photo site flip.com, while another hawked Epicurious.com, Concierge.com, NutritionData.com, as well as travel blogs HotelChatter.com and Jaunted.com.

The new model pushes content niches, packaging content sections from multiple sites. For example, someone selling “beauty” will offer it on Style.com, Glamour.com and Allure.com. One brand bought what Salomon called “the healthy footprint,” advertising on Self.com, food and recipe site Epicurious.com and nutrition information and tool site NutritionData.com.

“They’d probably never think of buying on Epicurious [otherwise],” said Salomon.

To tell “a beauty story” a luxury advertiser targeted ads to a fashion show featuring its brand on Style.com. Among that audience, said Salomon, “There’s already a predilection for the brand.”

Advertisers are “really being able to target in a much more nuanced way,” she continued. The company sells only CPM-based display advertising, and only through its sales force of around 50 people, based in major U.S. markets.

Early on, the publisher — the Internet division of Condé Nast — saw the need to establish its media brands in the minds of consumers and advertisers. “In the beginning, when we launched them, we really had to position them as brands in the marketplace,” said Salomon. Now, “These brands are household names…and are well known by people who buy media as well.”

In conjunction with its change in strategy, CondéNet promoted Christine DeMaio, formerly VP and publisher of Epicurious.com and Concierge.com, to head up the sales operation. She’ll now report to Salomon as VP and group publisher. Other staff also will move to new positions. Epicurious.com and Concierge.com Associate Publisher Eileen Mulloy is now publisher of Epicurious.com; while previous Director of Sales Strategy and Development Devrie DeMarco will fill the Concierge.com associate publisher spot.

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