Reddit Is Pitching Brands at Cannes on Why It’s Ripe for Advertisers

Could the site have saved Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad?

This is Reddit's second trip to Cannes.
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Among the normal group of digital players like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snapchat in Cannes this week is Reddit, which is pitching its still fairly nascent ad business as an anti-social network.

It’s the second year that co-founder and chairman Alexis Ohanian has attended the festival, and this year, he’s brought a small group of Reddit’s 240 staffers (up from 100 in 2016) to talk to agencies and brands about why his site with 300 million passionate monthly users is ripe for advertisers.

“There’s no other place on the internet where people all come together because of the conversation,” Ohanian said. “Because people aren’t worried about their perfect Instagram life, they’re just being honest and open. It’s a unique place because everyone is self-selected into communities.”

Convincing advertisers that Reddit is a safe place to advertise—especially in the wake of brand-safety concerns—remains to be a tough sell. Plus, the site’s open community is known for inviting trolling and harassment. The company argues though that advertisers need to be part of online conversations for better or worse. Just take Pepsi’s recent tone-deaf campaign with Kendall Jenner.

“I know it’s a trope that at this point [we’re] so comfortable with—we know after we work with a brand the first time, they never ask that question again,” said Zubair Jandali, vp of sales at Reddit. “Reddit could have been a leading indicator for Pepsi, United or for any company that has stepped into a tar pit because Redditors don’t hate advertising.”

So, Reddit is in Cannes to talk about its work (the company is up for an award for a FedEx campaign) and its revamped self-serve platform, which, “hadn’t been touched in about 8 years,” Ohanian said.

The platform lets brands manage campaigns, test creative and access analytics. WPP-owned Essence and Omnicom’s Resolution Media are working directly with Reddit to consult brands on how to set up campaigns and write copy for ads.

Writing pithy copy for ads that clearly identify posts as ads is indeed crucial to advertising. Netflix, for example, promoted its show Wet Hot American Summer with an ad that read, “We work on the marketing side of things at Netflix (yes, we’re in marketing….we know what you’re thinking).”

And for Toyota, the site asked readers to share stories about its Rav4 cars, resulting in brand favorability that is six times the category average, per Jandali.

“These aren’t things you would have heard from us a year and a half ago—we have a lot more confidence,” he said.

Reddit also recently began testing a feature called Profiles for publications like The Washington Post, which ironically, functions a lot like a social network though it doesn’t show an account’s number of followers. Reddit has long been a platform that publishers work around to drive web traffic, but Profiles will make that traffic consistent, per Ohanian.

“This feature now unlocks something people have been begging us for for 12 years—‘What’s our Reddit strategy?’ How do we be proactive on Reddit because up until recently, one could only be reactive,” Ohanian said.

“At a time when publishers are shutting off their comments, when on every other social platform they’re a thing to either be ignored or run from, on Reddit they’re helping create content and drive engagement.”

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.