Yummly Builds Industry-Best Sponsored Recipes Ad Server

Jane O'Hara

Yummly, an innovative recipe search engine (and a top 2,000 most trafficked US site), was looking to drive incremental revenue by displaying ads. While they already monetized from their Pro subscription, they knew that with over 5 million monthly website visitors, they were leaving money on the table by not monetizing their browsing traffic.

The only issue: the most important asset to Yummly was their users. The last thing they wanted was to add page-slowing, obtrusive banner ads to their site and app.

So Yummly built their own Sponsored Recipes ad server using Adzerk's APIs - leading to a new revenue stream that involved no changes to the user experience (thereby keeping users happy).

"We built sponsored recipes on top of Adzerk. It took only a few weeks and was a huge revenue driver for us."
Winnie Lee, Sr. Product Manager

What Yummly Wanted

Yummly is a search engine for recipes, with a clean layout, thousands of recipes, and many filtering options. The recipes are supplied either internally or by approved, independent third-parties, like Handle the Heat or Betty Crocker.

There was no room on the website or app to throw in programmatic banners without severely changing the user experience. So they internally came up with the goal of building a Sponsored Recipes ad product, similar to that already offered by their competitor, AllRecipes.

That AllRecipes ad product enabled advertisers to:

  1. Sponsor a recipe and have their logo attached to it
  2. Incorporate their branded food item in place of a generic ingredient. For instance, instead of the recipe saying "5 eggs", it would say, "5 Everyday Value Eggs"

Such an innovative ad unit changes very little about the user's browsing experience, as well as very little about the page itself. But by just throwing in a relevant brand name here or there, Yummly had a huge opportunity to drive revenue that was nearly 100% margin.

What Yummly Built

Yummly fulfilled their vision by building an ad server where brands could pay to have their logo attached to specific recipes. To do this, advertisers were set up as third-party recipe providers, like their standard posters. The difference, though, is that paying advertisers:

  1. Would get their logo placed directly onto the recipe image
  2. Could pay to have their listing appear high-up for relevant searches. For instance, if Land O'Lakes was sponsoring a brownie recipe (that used their butter), they could pay to appear in a top spot for anybody doing a search for "brownies".

The Sponsored Recipes ad product was a hit. Consumer food brands were willing to pay 20x-30x what Yummly would have received using an ad exchange.

Plus, finding advertisers wasn't particularly difficult - brands were more than happy to flock to these high-value, intent-based ad units.

An additional benefit of this ad platform is it's 100% compliant with international privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA. In fact, it doesn't require any PII or cookies to still be valuable to advertisers. Instead, it relies on intent info - such as what type of food the person is searching to make (and the ingredients needed to make it). Given that, there's little risk to Yummly or their advertisers that they are running afoul of a privacy law.

How Adzerk Helped

Yummly saw the value of a Promoted Recipes ad platform - but didn't have the resources internally to spend a year plus building it. Additionally, every month the product wasn't ready was a month of lost revenue.

So Yummly integrated with Adzerk's APIs to launch the product in just weeks. This included:

  1. Using Adzerk's Decision API to place server-side ads that could get around ad blocking and wouldn't slow down the page
  2. Using Search Targeting so that advertisers could appear just for recipe searches they wanted
  3. Seamlessly appending the advertiser's logo to the recipe image without changing the user experience
  4. Tools to track impressions, clicks, and custom events like "Yums"

By using Adzerk to launch in weeks instead of years, Yummly quickly added a revenue stream that was high-margin and user-friendly.

Interested in learning more?

If you're interested in learning more about how Sponsored Recipes, feel free to reach out!

Join the Ad.Product community

Sign up for our upcoming newsletter and to be notified of our Ad.Product Slack channel and conference.

Ad.Product is the first community for product managers, engineers, and others to discover and discuss how to build innovative, user-first ad platforms.

Jane O'Hara

Recommended Articles

best practices
The Hidden Costs of Building Your Own Ad Server
What is an Ad Server? The Definitive Guide for 2020
Adzerk Proves Not All Ad Servers Are Struggling in 2019