Here’s A New Kind Of Sales Guarantee From Dotdash Meredith

May 23, 2023

In the fast-changing and uncertain world of digital advertising, one thing is certain: The ability to track internet users using cookies is coming to an end.

For any publisher, large or small, that has an advertising-driven website, that means a pivot to something else. Generally that move has been to first-party data—that is, the information collected by the publisher directly from the user.

But suppose there was another way?

The largest media company in the country, Dotdash Meredith, thinks it has found a way. And it might just be something all publishers could emulate.

Meredith Corp., even before its merger with the digital-media company Dotdash in 2021, was an innovator in advertising measurement.  As far back as 2011, Meredith announced a sales guarantee—if marketers would spend their money with Meredith brands, the company promised their sales would increase.

It was a bold promise. Since its inception, magazine advertising and related media spending has been challenging to measure. Brands knew they might have an uptick in sales, but pegging it to a particular campaign or a specific media buy was virtually impossible. And media companies eschewed that kind of promise anyway—we provide the reach, the platform, the brand halo, the context, they would say. But here was a blue-chip legacy media company, one of the largest in the old magazine industry, telling advertisers that it guaranteed measurable results.

Called the “Meredith Engagement Dividend,” it used Nielsen Homescan analytics and matched them against Meredith’s 85-million contact database to measure how advertisers in categories including beauty, household goods, OTC drugs and food were able to increase product sales by an average of 10%.

“This is truly groundbreaking within the magazine media industry,” Tom Harty, president of Meredith National Media Group, said in a press release in 2011. “Meredith magazines are delivering sales increases and improved ROI across the board. We believe The Meredith Engagement Dividend will significantly change how marketers measure and evaluate performance among magazine brands.”

Meredith hasn’t stopped since then. In 2020, shortly after the economic shutdown from the COVID pandemic, it launched a product called the Meredith Audience Action Guarantee. (At the same time, it said the original 2011 guarantee had produced more than 200 successful campaigns in the intervening years.)

MAAG was designed to ensure marketers that even in the unprecedented crisis, advertising in Meredith brands would produce results.

In this instance, it defined its pledge as some kind of reader “action,” including “clipping an ad, pursuing more information, visiting a website, gaining a more favorable opinion of a product, considering purchase of a product or recommending a product to someone else,” the company said. MAAG would rely on insights from MRI-SIMMONS’s Starch AdMeasure study.

Now in a move suited to the times, Dotdash Meredith—with iconic brands like People and Better Homes & Gardens side-by-side with digital brands like Daily Paws, Lifewire and Treehugger—announced this month that it’s rolling out a new ad-targeting tool called D/Cipher that doesn’t rely on cookies or first-party data.

Instead, it uses anonymized data based on search topics and presumably prior activity from a given IP address to establish intent. From that, it can make recommendations to marketers, with the results guaranteed, according to CEO Neil Vogel. For example, if someone visited a Meredith site based on a search for home décor, D/Cipher would recommend to marketers that they target that visitor with related messaging.

This is clearly a new innovation from Meredith, with or without the sales guarantee. Is it something for you to consider too?