Give The People What They Want—How Complex Networks Taps Into Audiences To Increase Value

Cookie blocking, privacy regulations and more have turned publisher’s reliance on third-party data to target audiences into a nightmare. But there’s definitely a life beyond cookies —you just have to be creative.

One path forward is better leveraging your first-party data and focusing on contextual targeting.

Another route is to buddy up with an identity resolution partner to scale your audience by matching your identifiers with their identity graph.

But Complex Networks has another solution. They created Complex Collective—something akin to a research panel—including 30,000 brand enthusiasts who provide the company direct dialogue and feedback on editorial content, trends, consumer attitudes, and new products.

I had a chat with Aaron Braxton, Senior Director, Business Intelligence/SEO at Complex Networks, about how this new tool will help them provide more value to both audiences and advertisers.

Lynne d Johnson: How will Complex Collective help you to reach your audiences better?

Aaron Braxton: We do a really good job of listening to our audiences, using all of the tools that the platforms provide—everything from social, to our sites, to video and the distributed platforms. We scrape comments and we build sentiment, but the one thing that’s often missing, not just for us, but in the market, is that first-party voice direct from the fan.

This platform we’re building where we’ve invited people to share their opinions, their behaviors and their attitude directly will build a bridge from all of the quantitive data that we look at on a regular basis to the qualitative behavioral aspects that we get directly from our fans. It will help us build better IP for ourselves and our brand partners that we work with on a regular basis.

LdJ: Do you see this as a sales tool, or is it more than that? And how about helping to inform brands on product design?

AB: There are opportunities to segment audiences based on behavior. And we will have very robust data right down to individual audience profiling. That becomes a very powerful thing when we’re talking about providing content to very specific targeted audiences on very specific platforms based on how they’re engaging with the platforms.

It will also help us build content types, like superfans of comedy on YouTube vs superfans of comedy on Facebook, because those are very different populations. It will offer very specific avenues of execution for our brand partners on things they’re building for themselves or in conjunction with us. To maintain high engagement we are working closely with them not only through passive signals, but we are looking at them as individuals. It’s less about labels and buckets. It’s much more diverse and less easily defined.

We pride ourselves on incredibly high engagement from all of our fan bases, and what we’re trying to do is offer that level of engagement to our brand partners as well. We’ve also been discussing being able to offer a brand validation service through Complex Collective.

We’re using this across all verticals and built this initially to apply to e-commerce but we see its utility across all monetizable channels.

As well as it’s an offering for brands, it’s also for our fans. We want to reward them for their high engagement and loyalty.

LdJ: Would you say context has become more important for you guys?

AB: We’ve seen the signals that context provides to understanding a really robust profile and being able to track over time and across platforms both within our networks and outside.

I see a lot of publishers moving in this direction but what makes us distinct is the fact we already have such a loyal fan base that we have the ability to invite then in to experience what it is to contribute to Complex.

We’re not just using them for the information they’re sharing with us, but we’re also offering them back the insight they provide us. They get a view into how they’re helping us shape our IP.

LdJ: What about other publishers, do you see them using your platform?

AB: Yes, I do. You know, we don’t work exclusively with just brands. We also work with other publishers in some respects. And so we would approach those relationships with the same sort of understanding of need and requirement as we would a brand. We’re not a walled garden where we don’t work with other publishers.