The “front page of the internet” is about to get a little more corporate.
On Monday, Reddit introduced its latest ad product, called Trending Takeovers, where brands can buy 24 hours of prominent placement on the social platform’s Popular feed and within its search tab. According to Reddit, these are opportunities for brands to align with existing conversations or drive new discussions on the platform.
“With millions of searches taking place every day and over one-third of users coming to Reddit’s Popular feed daily, brands can now be part of where cultural trends are born online—Reddit,” said Shariq Rizvi, vp of ad products and engineering at Reddit, in a statement. “For Reddit, a large focus for 2020 is about maximizing new and premium opportunities for brands to authentically engage with Reddit users.”
Users who click on a promoted trend will be taken to a landing page with content from the advertiser atop organic, related discourse from various subreddits. On Friday, for example, Samsung sponsored a trend called Found on Galaxy, promoting the company’s new phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
The full rollout comes after six months of beta testing with 15 companies, including music streamer Spotify, software company Adobe and Method, maker of eco-friendly cleaning products.
Reddit has long tried to court advertisers to the platform, first introducing programmatic advertising and a search-based targeting tool for marketers in 2016. Last January, it started offering cost-per-click ads to initially mixed reviews from marketers. And in June, the company also partnered with Oracle for a brand safety initiative, aimed at assuring brands their content wouldn’t appear in unsavory subreddits.
In beta tests, participating advertisers saw a clickthrough rate around 5% from the Trending Takeovers landing page to the advertisers’ site, about two times the industry average, according to a Reddit spokesperson. Though Reddit declined to provide a price range to Adweek, a media buyer estimated Trending Takeovers could be going for six figures.
For “really engaged audience segments,” regular ads in trending categories have commanded $25,000 for a week, according to the buyer. “For something in the Trending area, you’re working off of much larger reach, albeit a shorter time frame,” they added. Promoted trends on Twitter can command $250,000 a day, “though the pricing is always pretty customized. We’re probably not talking that kind of money, but I’d expect minimums around $100,000 [for Trending Takeovers].”
Adobe, the first brand to experiment with this new ad format, was offered the opportunity in September toward the end of a weeklong partnership with Reddit called Layers, an activation based on the popular Photoshop feature of the same name. Users created layers of images atop one another like a giant collage.
Ellen Vanderwilt, a global campaign marketing lead at Adobe, said in an interview that while the Layers activation was already trending organically on Reddit, the paid element boosted it to the next level. “We were buying ads in the core Adobe creative subreddits, and this gave us the chance to go way broader and reach a lot more folks,” Vanderwilt said.
For Adobe, whose goal was to “make the act of creativity feel inclusive and accessible,” the company found that the results of the campaign exceeded their expectations.
“We had over 150,000 people contribute layers to the effort,” Vanderwilt said. “I think 120,000 of them were unique, and 11 million people visited the page. And those numbers were just a lot higher than we expected.”
Much of Reddit’s appeal for users and advertisers is that it is largely organized by niche communities, known as subreddits, where the website’s 430 million unique monthly visitors organize around common interests. Trending Takeovers, meanwhile, are an advertiser-led effort in which a click can take you deeper and deeper down the Reddit rabbit hole. The new ad format will be available through direct buys only, not programmatic auctions.
“There’s no brand that doesn’t have relevant communities on Reddit already talking about either their actual product or specific things that the brand is most focused on,” Neal Hubman, Reddit’s head of growth partnerships, told Adweek’s Sara Jerde at the Challenger Brands Summit in New York on Wednesday.
It’d be a stretch to say that most subreddits roll out the welcome wagon for brands looking to engage online. Vanderwilt said that building organic trust with users is paramount before launching a paid campaign.
“Reddit can be an intimidating place for brands,” Vanderwilt said, “so it made sense for us to do something to build a lot of goodwill, to really celebrate creativity and establish us as a brand that gets the Reddit community and Redditors—and then run ads that we partnered with Reddit to create.”
However, Reddit’s Rizvi told Adweek that, according to surveys they’ve administered, “more than 70% of our users welcome brands to partake in conversations on Reddit.”
While an advertiser can get prime placement on the homepage and the top of their landing page, they cannot control the organic chatter on Reddit—often about their company or product.
Reddit is a place for authentic conversations, Rizvi said. “The brands who are seen on Reddit’s platform, they also want that [authenticity].”