Imgur builds native promoted posts with Adzerk's APIs


Imgur is an online image sharing community, with hundreds of millions of users. They are in the top 100 most-visited sites in the world, see over 300MM monthly pageviews, and have tens of millions of app downloads.

imgur native ads
imgur native ads

As Imgur grew and built a sizable user base, they saw the potential to monetize their site with ads. However, they worried that loading their app/site with programmatic banner ads would turn-off their engaged users.

So Imgur decided to build their own native ad platform, an approach taken by other large social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and more.

To speed up the build process, Imgur incorporated Adzerk's ad serving APIs to power the delivery and optimization of this new ad product.

"Integration with Adzerk's APIs was fast - and their flexible tools allow us to continually test and improve our native ad units."
Bryn Mosher, Senior DevOps Engineer

What Imgur Wanted

In designing their platform, Imgur had a few key goals:

  1. To have innovative native ads that looked and behaved like organic posts - including the ability to comment, like it, etc
  2. To ensure only relevant ads appeared using frequency capping, device/geo targeting, and more
  3. To have fast ad response times. They wanted to provide the best user experience and couldn't afford to see the 1s+ response times of standard programmatic ads
  4. To drive more revenue through these high-margin, highly-targeted native ad units
  5. To release the product in weeks, not years

Imgur knew that no standard ad server would enable them to create these native promoted posts; however, trying to build it from scratch could take years and would require hiring new engineers.

So Imgur reached out to Adzerk, whose APIs could allow them to build the exact native ads product they wanted in just weeks.

What Imgur built with Adzerk

After integrating Adzerk's APIs into their mobile and web applications, Imgur quickly built a Promoted Post native ad platform.

With this product, as someone is scrolling through posts they'll occasionally see one marked "Promoted". These sponsored posts look and behave exactly like standard posts, in that they are:

  1. Visual, not wordy
  2. Have playful and cheeky content
  3. Can be up/down voted, shared on Twitter, etc
  4. Can be commented on

For instance, in the below example, Nintendo is promoting their Animal Crossing™ New Horizons game. This 300-word, long-form post is filled with screenshots/videos and fun facts about the game. It reads more like a user reviewing the game than an overtly promotional ad.

imgur promoted posts
imgur promoted posts

To advertise with Imgur, brands have to work directly with Imgur's ads team, and the two companies work together to create and write high-quality, Imgur-safe Promoted Posts.

Imgur's advertisers tend to be household names looking to reach engaged, social Millennials - including Netflix, Disney, Old Spice, Nintendo, and more.

Their "Advertise with Us" page details some additional benefits. imgur promoted posts imgur promoted posts

Targeting-wise, Imgur employs frequency capping so that users aren't bombarded with the same ad - helping to improve the ad experience. Imgur also tailors content based on the user's geolocation, device, and other user attributes.

With Adzerk, Imgur now has:

  1. A new revenue-driving ad product that barely changes the user experience
  2. High-value ad units that load just as quickly as organic content did
  3. A way to track how users interact with each promoted post (i.e. how many people commented, how many people liked it, etc)
  4. Targeting options to ensure users see only relevant ads

By using Adzerk's APIs, Imgur built this Promoted Post platform in just weeks - enabling them to start monetizing the ad unit much faster than expected.

The results

Imgur saw positive results immediately upon launching:

Revenue growth The CPMs they charge for their native ads are 20x+ higher than standard programmatic ads - while also being better received by their users
Fast response times With Adzerk's average response time of < 200ms (and which can go as low as 50ms), Imgur doesn't have to worry that these ad units will slow down their site or crash their mobile apps
Launch date Using Adzerk they released this product in just weeks - letting them launch 9x faster than if they had tried to do it entirely by themselves

Additionally, the ad units are well-received by Imgur's user community. Given that the promoted posts provide value and are interesting, commenters tend to treat them like organic posts versus making negative comments about having to see an ad.

imgur promoted posts
imgur promoted posts

How Adzerk Helped

As the market leader in ad serving APIs, Adzerk's tools made it easy for Imgur to build the exact promoted posts platform they wanted. Imgur took advantage of these specific Adzerk features and benefits to design the product:

  1. Adzerk's Decision API - this API enables Imgur to request ads server-side and then get a response in JSON containing details about the promoted post to display. Imgur then takes this information and inserts it directly into their backend mobile/web applications, ensuring that the ad uses the same CSS/formatting as standard organic posts.
  2. Fast responses - Since ads are requested server-side - not through page-slowing JavaScript tags - Imgur can place this content without any delays. Adzerk's tools can respond in as quickly as 50ms - an order of magnitude faster than most tags.
  3. Malware-free and privacy-law-compliant tools - By not using client-side (on-page/in-app) code, Imgur ensured Adzerk couldn't insert malware or drop cookies that could leak user PII. Plus, as Adzerk is GDPR-, CCPA-, and LGPD-compliant (as well as other laws) by default, they didn't have to worry about building their own compliance software.
  4. No ad blocking - Ad blockers would have blocked any content displayed by a standard ad serving tag - even internal promotions and direct-sold content. With Adzerk, customers do everything server-side and can proxy impressions/clicks, so that Adzerk's name never appears on the page, making it possible to monetize ad block users.
  5. Revenue optimization algorithm - Using Adzerk's revenue optimization tools, if there are multiple promoted posts eligible to be served, then the algorithm will select the one that'll drive the most revenue for Imgur.

By using Adzerk to launch in weeks instead of years, Imgur quickly built a native ad platform that both advertisers and users love.

Interested in learning more?

If you're interested in building your own native ad platform, please feel free to reach out, and we'll set up a free demo.

"Adzerk is a great partner, and we recommend them to anyone building a custom ad server."
Chief Digital Officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

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