How the DTC model is inspiring Meredith’s data-driven marketing

Meredith is taking a page out of the DTC playbook to better reach consumers

Alysia Borsa was named chief marketing officer of Meredith Corporation in October 2017, just a month before the legacy publisher announced it was buying Time Inc.

“When the acquisition happened I was like, ‘Oh god,’” Borsa told The Drum, recalling the daunting task of integrating two established media brands.

Borsa comes from a technology background. She was named chief data officer of Meredith Corporation in 2014 and now, in a dual role, she’s learning the “softer side” of the business as chief marketing officer.

“On the marketing side," Borsa said, "the big pressure right now is as the combined organization, we need to increase our awareness and shift the perception in the marketplace to showcase [our] assets.

"That doesn't happen fast, and I'm not a patient person. So I think the thing I'm frustrated most about is as we come together, I want things to happen faster."

One thing pushing the pace internally is the current buzz around direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. Borsa said that the DTC model of prioritizing consumer acquisition cost to drive lifetime value is forcing traditional publisher brands to bring much of their data in-house.

“I do think in the last 12 to 24 months there's just a shift in the marketplace – a shift in the KPIs we're working toward, a shift in which of the ad formats and experiences are important, and just how we're going to market," she said. "You're seeing that in terms of the whole media landscape and how everyone in the media landscape is sort of shifting their focus."

One of those shifts includes a return to contextual advertising, something Borsa said publishers – Meredith included – haven’t made easy to buy at scale programmatically.

The DTC model has also pushed Meredith to rely less on platforms such as Facebook. Borsa said the media company is extremely search-focused, seeing 60-70% of its traffic arriving via search.

“Marketing from a DTC perspective means that if we understand our consumers, then we should be able to offer our consumers better products, better experiences," said Borsa. "From a B2B perspective, I'm bringing the data, the insights and the knowledge of our consumers to the forefront when we have B2B conversations."

Borsa added that she believes all chief marketers should be data-driven, even if they may not also hold the title of chief data officer.

Blending marketing and data

Almost 18 months after being named Meredith’s top marketer, Borsa is leveraging her cross-function insights to drive a well-informed campaign strategy.

On the operational side, as chief data officer, Borsa said her role involves building out new organizational capabilities such as driving ad sales and guiding consumers to an action with features – such as click-to-cart – that boost interactivity.

“That's the data side for me, but think about the power of understanding that from a marketing perspective," she said. "That's why I think the two roles really tie together.

"I'm understanding [consumers’] interests, their passions, down to their intents, and that's great for advertisers, but it's also great for the content team and the product team [to] help them understand what new features and content they should be rolling out in order to keep driving that."

Meredith is using this data-centric approach to role out a new B2B campaign within the next couple of months as part of a post-acquisition repositioning plan, according to Borsa.

“The way that we have set up marketing, which I think makes sense, is we have marketers within each of the brands ... on the B2C side, people don't know Meredith, and we don't care," Borsa said. "We don't want them to know Meredith. We want them to be brand-focused.

"But on the B2B side, they need to know Meredith and who Meredith is across all of those [brands]."

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