Prometheus Finds the Right Formula for Growing Audiences and Filling Ads
According to Greek mythology, the titan Prometheus was given the task of creating mankind. So it’s no wonder a company like Prometheus Global Media would want to channel some of that colossal achievement by naming itself after the Greek god.
In the entertainment space, Prometheus Global Media is a titan of the digital publishing world. The company owns and operates a handful of entertainment and trade publications, including Billboard, Backstage, SPIN, and The Hollywood Reporter, among many others. For each asset, the company owns brand-specific digital channels across several platforms. Take, for example, Billboard. Not only is the brand visible via print and web, but it also reaches audiences via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. By casting a wide net across as many distribution points as possible, Billboard increases its chances of reaching both existing fans and curious onlookers.
Across all brands, Prometheus sees some impressive traffic: 43 million monthly unique visitors, 26 million social media followers, and 201 million monthly video views. But despite those notable numbers, Prometheus is constantly faced with the challenge of capturing new viewers while simultaneously offering unique, eye-catching content. Earlier this year, Prometheus’s Gina Perino stopped by Brightcove’s PLAY conference to further address this challenge that faces so many digital publishers today.
As Prometheus’s Vice President of Digital Revenue Operations, Perino talked about how at one point, the company struggled to achieve an acceptable ad fill rate on its digital pages. For an organization boasting a massive collection of followers, one would assume that advertisers would be clamoring for a chance to partner with them. But for Perino, it became clear the issue didn’t stem from a lack of digital content; rather, it was a lack of content diversity. She realized Prometheus’s brands needed something new, innovative, and out-of-the-box to hold the attention of viewers and persuade advertisers to buy inventory.
In an effort to attract advertisers as well as audiences, Prometheus branched off beyond traditional publishing and launched a consumer-facing ad business driven entirely by digital video. The company crafted brand-sponsored video content, which was then shared via social channels to its vast contingency of social fans. Among Prometheus’s business properties, Billboard was a big adopter of the branded content.
Billboard published a series of videos within its own distribution network, highlighting some of today’s hottest music stars and advertising partners. Rock the Look and Back to the Block were two such features. The latter, sponsored by 1800 Tequila, follows rapper and producer G-Eazy as he returns home to Oakland, California and surprises fans with a free show. The former features vocalists like Bebe Rexha testing MAC cosmetics and Frank Ocean sporting a tee from Green Box Shop.
The videos were great—well produced and easy on the eyes. Plus, they were shared across all the brand’s social platforms which drove revenues and advertised its video chops. Meanwhile, however, on Prometheus' owned and operated properties, the company was only achieving a mere 34 percent ad fill rate in Q4 2016. Perino was targeting 85.
So what was the problem? Perino narrowed it down to several distinct technical challenges and potential points of failure. Ad blocker software was obviously a huge issue, since it prevents audiences from viewing ad content altogether. And with Prometheus using Google’s DFP service, which doesn’t keep track of fill rate, Perino wasn’t able to record accurate data. But the major cause of concern was overall page performance and viewability. Generally speaking, videos play better on pages with code that’s less than two years old. Contrastly, video performance is affected when it’s hosted on a page built with old code. Without the proper player and technology to alleviate that problem, Prometheus risked losing viewers and valuable ad partnerships.
To fix this, Perino set forth on a trial-and-error process, setting up multiple support tickets to track total code served, unfilled inventory, and error reports. She figured by comparing and analyzing each ticket, and subsequently tweaking variations of the technology, she could uncover the exact formula necessary to bring peak ad viewability and detailed data tracking back to Prometheus.
After running various tests, Perino discovered the combination of both DFP impressions and Brightcove analytics provided the best possible solution to measure optimal performance. Just to be sure, she ran several weeks of testing. But in the end, Perino determined that this was the exact solution she was looking for all along.
Since implementing the updated technology, Prometheus has been able to increase its pre-roll revenue by leaps and bounds. Today, the company boasts an ad fill rate of 75 percent, which is a 100 percent year-over-year improvement. And instead of outsourcing ad sales to third party sellers, Prometheus is now able to sell more direct ad campaigns themselves. And they don’t have to bother with syndication for delivery. Most importantly, the company has seen a 106 percent positive growth in video views across all brand offerings.