How Brazilian publisher Grupo Abril achieved revenue increases by decluttering ad inventory

Both the Brazilian and wider LatAm media markets remain dominated by television, and as we have seen right across the globe in recent years, the rise of digital has squeezed print revenues further still from the other side. In Brazil, as in other territories, Facebook and Google now dominate the digital landscape, with an estimated 48.5 per cent of total digital revenues coming from search, 32.5 per cent from display and social, and the remaining 19 per cent from video. 


Grupo Abril sites ()


At the same time advertisers appear to be growing wary of these increasingly mass scale/low quality environments. For Grupo Abril, a 35 per cent reduction in online advertising inventory has actually produced a 46 per cent upturn in overall programmatic revenue. There remains a place for quality. 

***Walter Longo, president of Abril, will be at the FIPP World Congress from 9-11 October, where he will speak about the transformation of the group. See the agenda here. Register to attend here*** 

In addition, brands are themselves now beginning to make further demands on the capabilities of digital, looking to new formats such as outstream videos, native ads and branded content, and beyond to more robust and sustainable selling funnels and conversion models that do not end at the last click. 

Here, Edson Ferrão, head of digital for Grupo Abril, talks us through the changes that the media owner has put in place to take advantage of these digital opportunities. 


Edson Ferrão Abril ()


“The nature of the advertiser changes all the time, said Ferrão. “It changed when the market thought the big deal was to pay cheap no matter what the context was and where the brand message was seen. Now, that attitude has changed again as some of the first digital advertisers have seen their brands lose value, sales or credibility. For us, the main focus is to understand what our real core offering is. Grupo Abril doesn’t have the infinite inventory of a Google or Facebook, but on the other hand we are premium quality content producers. We have to assure we own the best context and the best content, and play to those strengths. 

“It’s also accurate to say that Abril is not only a media company anymore. We have lot of other product operations such as ecommerce, licensing and product subscription boxes, so in the end, we can evaluate if it is better to sell our advertising inventory or optimize it to offer our own products. For example, the RPM we get from offering our subscription boxes is higher than the average CPM the Brazilian market have for open auctions, and as a consequence, Abril open auction CPM is close to four times the market average. 


Abril boxes ()


“In Abril we have two partners for third party DMP and data monetisation and we are looking at a new partner for header bidding and yield management. Also, we are improving the integration of our first party data (from our big data division) to the sites inventory what will create exclusive Abril solutions to the market.” 

“We can exceed expectations and the competition when the deal turns to awareness, branding or business based in revenue share where we can apply sophisticated data science to leverage product sales – as we did for a real estate company last year. It is really a matter of understanding the core. Our environment allows us to diversify into new business models and we need to try them in order to increase revenue and mitigate what we lost from the print media decrease and from digital media domination by the sheer scale of Facebook and Google.” 

When it comes to the company’s more traditional advertising offering, Abril has taken the quality of its online spaces particularly seriously, examining every detail of ad delivery from eliminating clutter to enhancing the publishing process. Here, Ferrão gives a step by step overview of how improvements have been put in place to optimise ad inventory. 

“This was a complex product enhancement that included the diverse skills from teams across the company including editorial, IT, design, BI, SEO, SMO, advertising and marketing. The first priority that we looked at was technology migration. It was critical to standardise the CMS technology used for all the websites intending to facilitate product development and optimisation. We had 13 different CMS platforms working for 23 websites, and that made it quite impossible for any form of integrated improvement and learning. We migrated all of the 23 websites to WordPress VIP in only one year – a massive work in an impressively short timeframe that we couldn’t find similar in any other benchmark we looked at. 

“This work was followed by a complete review of product design and mobile first user experience, and driven by the analysis of several sources of data including those from advertising such as viewability and attention quality – a new metric exploited by Moat analytics. 

“From there you have to look at audience acquisition. We improved – and we continue improving – the quality of audience sources, guaranteeing better SEO and newsletter works. This process helped us to reduce the impact of such huge platform migration, not only mitigating the 10 per cent to 15 per cent decrease in audience that was expected, but achieving a 143 per cent increase in audience four months after the migration was concluded. At the same time, this work qualified the audience profile we acquired and by consequence we got better rates in page engagement as interactions, clicks and time spent, which by extension also improved advertising KPIs such as viewability. 

“Furthermore, design became driven by data. Product design was not only based on benchmarks, but several data and A/B tests. For example, Abril was the first Brazilian publisher to acquire Moat analytics to measure human traffic, viewability and attention quality for both advertising formats and content page. Based on these metrics we tested and adjusted continually the webpage design and advertisement placements to improve our rates.  

“As part of product enhancement we then qualified our inventory by qualifying the advertising positioning, enhancing the technology (faster and optimised) and eliminating all positions below the quality standards we understood was mandatory. This ended up reducing our inventory, but at the same time leveraging consistently the metrics and surpassing by far our competitors which in programmatic is rewarded with higher CPM deals. This huge project was only possible because we had straight goals given by the leadership. This support was essential to get over all the inevitable reluctance we faced from different teams.” 

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While all of this required major cultural and strategic shifts within the company, and ultimately resulted in a decrease in the overall advertising inventory pool, in favour of a quality over quantity approach, it did not necessarily mean stripping back the level of technology or automation in place.  

“Programmatic accounts for 16.5 per cent of Brazilian digital spend, but it is still to a large extent taken as synonym for cheap media. However, attitudes are changing, and it is possible to find some advertisers and media companies who finally understand that programmatic is just a kind of commercial model. It isn’t only real time, optimised and more intelligent, but also able to provide profitable exchanges for the publishers through premium solutions. It is not so rare anymore to find offers for private deals, video inventory, rich media and programmatic guaranteed. 

“In fact the real challenge for Brazilian publishers now across the board is to leverage technical expertise and technological structure to manage the inventory yield while dealing with so many formats and DSPs, connecting with so many marketplaces, practicing and learning new models for data monetization, and managing header bidding solutions.” 


Abril subs ()


The results have been impressive, with gains in viewability and advertising interactions leading to significant revenue increases. 

“We improved by 22 per cent our viewability rate and by 15 per cent our CTR surpassing the competitors by 40 per cent and achieving a viewability average of more than 65 per cent on all of our 23 sites. By consequence, we were able to increase our eCPM in programmatic by 120 per cent. In the end, despite reducing our inventory by 35 per cent while qualifying it, the increase in CPM guaranteed us to grow 46 per cent in programmatic revenue. We also improved some metrics that were important to stimulate brand content: 20 per cent above the market average in advertising interactions, 14 per cent above the market average in scrolling quality, which means that the user tends to pay more attention and scroll the content more slowly on our pages than our competitors. 

“Besides this we maintain high standards in several metrics consistently and we don’t guarantee specific viewability rates for example. We prefer to focus our market objectives and solutions in the real goals of the advertiser such as brand lift, interactions, engagement or conversions.” 

It’s a hugely encouraging set of results from the Brazilian publishing group and highlights how a carefully thought through, multifaceted approach to change can often work best. Reducing clutter, improving viewability, and embracing new cross-funnel models has all been put in place, while emphasising the importance of embracing programmatic and other technologies in an increasingly digital-led publishing world.

***Walter Longo, president of Abril, will be at the FIPP World Congress from 9-11 October, where he will speak about the transformation of the group. See the agenda here. Register to attend here*** 

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