Reddit hires ex-Twitter ad exec to ramp up its performance advertising offerings

Reddit hires Shariq Rizvi as it builds out performance ad offerings

Reddit’s sprawling website is home to more than 330m monthly visitors, yet performance marketers haven’t quite found a home on the site.

The self-described “front page of the Internet” has been steadily investing in its performance advertising business over the past year to reel in more advertisers, and now it’s ramping up its ads business with a new hire.

Reddit announced today (9 January) it has named Shariq Rizvi vice president of ads products and engineering. Rizvi was director of engineering and cofounder of Twitter’s performance ads business from 2012 to 2016, through the company’s initial public offering.

Reddit already has an expansive suite for brand marketers, but Rizvi told The Drum that one of his two key pillars is to expand the appeal of the company’s ads business beyond just serving brands looking to drive awareness and engagement so as to better position the social site against its competitors.

“The second key pillar is how do we make our ads more engaging for our users,” Rizvi said. “That is our North Star. How can we make our ads more relevant, more engaging for our users? How do we make sure they add to the conversation?

That conversation started in April 2018 with a website redesign, which Reddit chief operating officer Jen Wong said fundamentally changed engagement on desktop.

“[The redesign] was probably one of the biggest efforts in Reddit history just because the way we grow our products is through a long dialogue with our users,” said Wong, who added that the redesign allowed Reddit to offer video ads which have seen a 50% spike in engagement compared to non-video units.

When Reddit launched video ads, it also launched specific ways of bidding and measuring. Rizvi said the bidding model is now by cost-per-view, and brand advertisers receive a holistic suite of measurement tools when they run video ads.

It’s those measurement tools that Reddit is keen to bring over to the performance ads side. In September, Reddit poached former Spotify executive Jack Koch and named him senior director, head of insights and measurements.

In December, Reddit updated its conversion pixel to improve attribution types. Among other features, it now can track conversion data and capture a range of standard events such as page visits, search, sign-ups, and purchases.

Brand and engagement campaigns have been Reddit’s main focus, and as it has continued to quash brand safety concerns, companies such as McDonald's, Netflix, Xbox, Google, and Amazon have run campaigns on the site. Reddit isn’t moving away from these relationships, but is instead looking to build a complementary performance ads unit.

AccuWeather recently ran a performance campaign on iOS and Android devices looking to drive installs of its mobile app. According to a Reddit spokesperson, the campaign saw conversion rates increase three-fold and cost-per-install dip by 67% compared to previous app install campaigns.

Rizvi said Reddit is looking to capitalize on its momentum by launching new products in early 2019.

“That's our long-term mission. As the platform itself keeps growing and evolving, the ads team will have to evolve with that. That's part of the excitement of joining a vibrant company at this stage,” said Rizvi.

Wong, who joined in April, said Reddit has been building out its ad team over the past several years, and the ad business has increased by five times over the past three years. She added that Rizvi’s experience going through the cycle of building a marketplace will be of tremendous value.

Rizvi left Google as a software engineer in 2008 to cofound web-based malware detector Dasient in 2008, which Twitter bought in 2012. He then served as cofounder and COO of Netsil until April 2018.

“We brought him on to take us to the next level. You're going to see early next year, we'll have a number of performance offerings that we're going to be bringing to market that just represents the start of more complementary offerings to our brand proposition in the marketplace. There's a lot of investment that we made in this area, both in terms of talent and technology,” Wong said.

According to research from Amazon, Reddit is the fifth-largest website in America, three spots ahead of Twitter, and desktop visitors spend nearly 12 minutes on the site daily, the longest amount of time of any top-40 website.

Reddit also presents a high level of unduplicated reach for advertisers. According to ComScore, 17% of Redditors don’t use Facebook, 28% don’t use Twitter, 33% don’t use Instagram, 43% don’t use Snapchat, and 65% don't use Pinterest.

Over the past year Reddit has grown from 280 employees to roughly 450 employees.

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