Answers Served: Evolve Talks Crowd Ignite Acquisition

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ADOTAS – Evolve Media Corp. — which houses ad sales rep Gorilla Nation, digital publishing house AtomicOnline, creative specialist DoubleHelix and branded video developer Springboard Video — has been on a bit of a shopping spree lately. It’s latest purchase is Crowd Ignite, a content exchange platform that enables publishers to share relevant content across a network of 300 publishers segmented by vertical (fashion, parenting, gaming, etc.).

Evolve CEO Aaron Broder took a sec to explain how Crowd Ignite’s widget will be incorporated into the company’s offerings and how Evolve is morphing alongside the always-in-flux display space.

ADOTAS: What attracted Evolve to Crowd Ignite? Was it founder Jake Moilanen’s gorgeous scent?

BRODER: Ha! Crowd Ignite made perfect sense for Evolve in every conceivable way.  Our AtomicOnline publishing division features vertically aligned websites that cater to a specific demographic audience and are then organized under a single media property and sold to advertisers (CraveOnline (Men), SheKnows (Women), GameRevolution (Gaming), etc).

Similarly, our third-party rep business, Gorilla Nation, features a series of vertically aligned branded sales companies (totallyher, Globetrotting,Youthology, etc) that organize third party websites based on their demographic and brings creative-led packages built around those demographics to market.

Since both of our primary divisions cater to vertically aligned audiences, what better way to pool those audiences together than to deploy the Crowd Ignite technology across the web and bucket the audiences that engage with the technology into common demographics?  Crowd Ignite serves as the engine that pools together a fragmented internet and enables users to discover content through our Crowd Ignite widget that they otherwise may not have been exposed to.

How will Crowd Ignite’s technology be integrated into Evolve’s offerings and used by advertisers?

Other than pooling highly engaged and focused audiences together as mentioned above, having the Crowd Ignite widget on billions of pages across the web each month creates a massive opportunity for Evolve. The widget will give us insight into the behaviors of web users in niche categories and will allow us to better cater our best-in-class marketing packages to those audiences.

The widget also provides a potentially massive source of targeted advertisement inventory that can be seamlessly segmented and served against with ease. Advertisers will be able to tap into microcommunities of like minded audiences by advertising to the exact segment of Crowd Ignite audiences that they desire.  Crowd Ignite immediately “socializes” our offering to advertisers and gives us yet another tool to push audiences to consume the messages and content that advertisers are seeking to deliver.

Evolve has been making a lot of acquisitions lately — is some executive going nuts with the corporate credit card?

Funny!  Running a diverse business means that we have a lot of corporate needs, and we often turn to acquisitions to meet these needs. Aside from publisher acquisitions, Evolve is continually investing into technologies and services that benefit publisher partners and this has truly been the recipe for success in the 10+ years that the company has been in existence.

By acquiring technologies like Crowd Ignite (publisher benefit = more traffic to their site) and developing technologies like Springboard Video (publisher benefit = video platform to power their video publishing efforts) we are able to help our partners grow and participate in their overall success.

How do the purchases of TeenSpot.com by Gorilla Media division Youthology and WholesomeBabyFood.com for Momtastic fit into Evolve’s grander plan?

TeenSpot gives Youthology another anchor to build creative packages around.  As one of the largest teen websites online, when the opportunity arose Evolve’s management felt that it was a must buy.  Acquiring the site guaranteed that the Youthology sales team would forever be able to rely on the site as a key partner when building sales and marketing packages for kids/teens/tweens marketers to take advantage of.

WholesomeBabyFood.com was similarly a category leader in a space that our Momtastic division is highly committed to (parenting, food, organic lifestyle, etc).  The website is the #1 site for the term “baby food” (and many other high value terms), ahead of even Gerber.com, and the quality of the audience that visits that site was something we jumped at acquiring when the opportunity presented itself.

Evolve has also forayed into the travel vertical with Globetrotting Digital Media — how does this new service build on prior offerings and stand out from competitors?

Globetrotting Digital Media is a travel and leisure-focused digital advertising sales division that exclusively represents premium travel publishers across a multitude of both general and niche travel categories. When looking at entering the travel vertical, we were perplexed as to how rudimentary the advertising solutions were in the category. Travel marketers were not yet benefit from the cutting edge creative solutions that are currently being harnessed by other sets of advertisers

Globetrotting, serves to fill that prior void by leveraging Evolve’s publisher portfolio and technologies to offer high-impact integrated creative packages and deliver them with scale. A one-stop-shop with the ability to concept, create and distribute customized campaigns that meet the specific needs of Fortune 500 brands does not exist elsewhere in the space and is a valuable service Globetrotting offers.

At the E3 conference in Los Angeles, did staff from Evolve’s CraveOnline break the world record for “longest video games marathon playing a fighting game” by playing the latest version of Mortal Kombat for 32 hours straight? They were allowed to take bathroom breaks, right? Or did you make them wear diapers?

Our team of CraveOnline gamers were officially announced Guinness World Record holders on Wednesday, June 8, for playing 32 hours straight! They accrued 10 minute breaks every 50 minutes but they rarely took them — they just powered through it with the help of NOS Energy Drink.

This event was sponsored by Coca-Cola’s NOS energy drink — in what ways did Evolve/CraveOnline hook them up online and offline, and how were these efforts coordinated?

NOS came to the CraveOnline sales team wanting to put together a campaign centered around E3 that would have a unique presence on the ground but also allow people who couldn’t go to E3 the capabilities of interacting online and feeling like they were a part of the action. The Crave creative team wanted to produce on offline event that would align with the NOS brand which is all about high performance and staying fueled and what better way to demonstrate that then to have four gamers attempt to break a world record for the longest video games marathon playing a fighting game!

At the CraveOnline Non-Stop NOS Gaming Lounge, E3 goers stopped by to listen to renowned local DJ’s, sip on NOS, watch the four Crave gamers and play Mortal Kombat on four separate screens set up in the lounge. In addition to the Non-Stop Gaming Lounge, an online hub that provided a live stream of the gamers attempting to set the world record, photos, video game news, a sweepstakes and a live ticker of encouraging tweets geared towards the gamers.

What are your thoughts on the increase of private ad exchanges? Just a fad or a real movement? What effect will such tools have on the midtail pubs that Evolve serves?

It’s a real movement and is another indication as to how publishers are regaining control over their inventory from traditional ad networks and broad ad exchanges.  Marketers should feel a lot more comfortable being able to buy media directly from private exchanges without having to worry about what type of content their ads are appearing on and whether or not that content is safe.

These forms of exchanges should also ultimately benefit premium mid-tail sites, provided that their content is premium, in demand from marketers, and their inventory is being pooled together with other similar sites.

The online display and video space is constantly morphing (as evidenced by LUMA Partner exec Terence Kawaja’s constantly updated map), but where does Evolve put itself in the current ecosystem? Where is the company heading?

At Evolve, we consider ourselves a leader in the vertical publishing and marketing services space.  We own and operate more than 30 affinity sites that reach more than 50 million users per month. Many of our sites are leaders in their respective categories, including SheKnows.com for women, CraveOnline.com for young men, and Thefashionspot.com for fashionistas. We plan on continuing to acquire new sites in lifestyle categories and to reinvest in our existing ones.

While there is always talk about the latest and greatest technology which enables advertisers to more effectively reach their audience, we do not believe that this is where most of brand display will be allocated by marketers and their agencies. Ultimately, the bulk of online brand advertising will flow to those companies that own and operate the leading web media properties and those that possess strong creative capabilities so that they are able to work collaboratively with marketers to run immersive, beyond the banner advertising program in premium content web environments.

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