Getting Glam

Famous for its female-centric sites, Glam now has bigger dreams—maybe even an IPO

As Arora sees it, Glam sells audiences and context. While audience and context filtering are common to any niche site, Glam has been especially stringent in controlling the ads that appear across its network. It recently migrated its entire network to the GlamAdapt ad platform, which provides advertisers with campaign management, automation, delivery, data and analytics. Also through the platform, advertisers can target audiences by behavior, context, geolocation and even UV/pollen count. And since all of Glam’s sites are on the network (all that’s required is adding a couple lines of Javascript to a site’s code), Glam is able to run premium ad units across the network without concern about whether an ad will render properly.

Art Schram, Glam’s vp of ad platform, says GlamAdapt aims to make the buying of premium ads as seamless as that of nonpremium inventory, bringing the efficiency and scale of programmatic buying to the world of brand advertising. For example, Nike can run a reskinned takeover ad on and on Glam network site, but rather than work with a Glam salesperson, the brand or its agency can create the campaign through the self-serve GlamAdapt platform, which resembles those of DSPs that traditionally serve nonpremium 300 x 250 units.

James Kreckler, vp of ad sales at iVillage—which can deliver any unit from the IAB’s standard ad portfolio—counters that premium advertising at scale is something he is “pretty sure everyone can deliver at this stage of the game.” While that assessment may be somewhat generous, media companies are certainly ramping up efforts to control how ads are run on their sites. A notable example is magazine publisher Condé Nast, which last year launched a private exchange for its ad inventory. That push aligns with a trend toward advertisers viewing their display campaigns as advertising efforts as much as research initiatives.

“From our perspective, a lot of the display business is moving toward more gathering data and insights from your campaigns,” says GroupM’s Kathuria.

Matts says that’s precisely her goal at Glam.

“Glam is sitting on an incredible amount [of] very compelling data, and so the ability for us to mine that data for consumer insights, for publisher insights, for industry insights, given the position of where we are in the marketplace, is incredibly exciting because Glam hasn’t done that in a big, kind of scalable way,” she says. “It was sort of done more on an ad hoc, client-by-client basis.”

Its data-based dreams are just the latest example of the freedom Glam has had experimenting with various initiatives as it grows its business—without having to answer to the whims of Wall Street. That could change, as rumors heat up that Glam will file to go public sometime during the second quarter. (When Glam acquired Ning last fall, Reuters estimated Glam’s value at $950 million.)

Arora’s ambitions for his already-ambitious-with-a-capital-A company? Arora sees Glam becoming like major media companies operating across multiple verticals—think Condé Nast or Viacom, except with inherent tech prowess. But as Brash bears out, building a new vertical doesn’t necessarily have the same results as building the field of dreams—which is why Glam is taking its “build it and they will come” cues from advertisers.

Arora says he hasn’t yet settled on the next vertical he’ll tackle, but points out that of late, auto advertisers have flocked to its sites.

Time will tell whether the company roars past its competition or is merely spinning its wheels.