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Reddit's Ad Changes Reduce Your ROI
376 points by bold_panda on Sept 12, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 87 comments
I'm a long time Reddit advertiser. I've also written the top ranked post on Google for "Reddit Ads." Reddit liked the post so much that they feature on a case study on their site.

I used to be able to drive $10 CPAs from Reddit ads.

It was a simple process. You pick a subreddit that fits well w/ your product and run an ad in that subreddit. It would only appear in that subreddit.

For example, I run a jerky club, so I would advertise in the r/jerky subreddit and people would see my ad in r/jerky and sign up for a subscription. My ad would only appear in the r/jerky subreddit.

It was perfect contextual advertising. Redditors see relevant ads, Reddit gets ad revenue, and the advertiser gets ROI.

Now, Reddit has changed their system secretly so they can boost their ad revenue and reduce advertiser ROI. CPAs now cost me $100+ on their platform.

Here's what they've done.

Now when I tell Reddit that I want to run an ad in r/jerky, instead of ONLY running the ad in the r/jerky subreddit, they run the ad to any user who's ever visited r/jerky or subscribed to it. Of note, they don't tell the advertiser about this change anywhere on their new platform.

So now my jerky club ad can appear on the front page for ANY Reddit user who's ever visited r/ jerky or subscribed to the subreddit. The ad can appear any place on Reddit totally out of context.

This drastically reduces the ROI for the advertiser and it gives Reddit the ability to sell many more impressions.

Total deception on the part of Reddit.


Maybe someone from Reddit can chime in on this because it's very frustrating.

Hey bold_panda, I'm the Group PM for Monetization and Growth @ Reddit. I'm really sorry to hear you're experiencing worse CPMs from this targeting change. We definitely did not make this change to intentionally deceive you. You, the advertiser, are our the customer of our ads product. We certainly don't intend to reduce advertiser ROI, because at the end of the day if you are unhappy with your ad performance and leave that doesn't boost our ad revenue at all.

To clarify what happened here, around the time we released our new ads platform - 6 months ago - we made some changes to targeting. Specifically, we modified subreddit targeting so that recent visitors to a subreddit or a post from a subreddit could also qualify to see ads targeted to that subreddit. We did not make any changes to how users who subscribe to a subreddit see ads (subreddit subscribers have been eligible to see ads targeted to a subreddit as long as they are visiting safe for work content since this commit ~2 years ago: https://github.com/reddit/reddit/commit/f6a37b64c17579b82e22...)

The release of our new ads platform also coincided with a re-release of our help center docs, which detail how subreddit targeting works. You can see the specific page here: https://www.reddithelp.com/en/categories/advertising/targeti...

As noted there: "Targeting a subreddit means you are targeting the subscribers and recent visitors of that subreddit. Subscribers can see your ad while visiting the targeted subreddit and on other subreddits if they recently visited that targeted subreddit."

We made this change in response to advertiser feedback that they would like to see an increase in targeted inventory, the idea being that if you're interested in jerky when you're on /r/jerky you're also interested in jerky when you're not on /r/jerky. This change has helped a good number of our advertisers successfully expand budgets while still meeting their return on ad spend goals, specifically for advertisers that target smaller subreddits regularly. We of course also limit the subreddits your ads can show on outside of the targeted subreddit to ones that are similarly "brand safe" to the ones you are targeting. (e.g. if you are explicitly targeting only NSFW subs your ad will show up on other NSFW subs, but if you're not targeting NSFW subs your ad will never show up on a NSFW sub)

While we haven't done any sort of official analysis of CPM changes here, the expected effect of this change was that advertisers would be able to spend significantly more budget (a specific request of many of our advertisers). An expected side effect is that CPMs might possibly increase due to more bids on a per-impression basis, but since you're bidding on a wider range of inventory I would expect that you would be able to reduce your CPMs and still spend the same budget you were spending before, with similar performance.

If there's something I can do to help please don't hesitate to email me directly (jamie@reddit.com). In the future for ads problems we also hang out on https://www.reddit.com/r/redditads

> the idea being that if you're interested in jerky when you're on /r/jerky you're also interested in jerky when you're not on /r/jerky

Now, that's one fundamentally DUMB idea if you pardon my French.

If I am interested in hemorrhoid suppositories, it doesn't mean I want to hear about them all the time, e.g. when eating a parfait.

Subs exist because they provide context, focus and isolation of the content. You start stuffing unrelated crap there - you f*ck up the very core of the reddit experience.

To their defense, I'm subscribed to various subreddits but never ever visit them. I only visit the front page to see their content, so I'd never ever see your ad if not for this change.

That having been said, this should definitely at least be an option.

Front page is a fair game. It's a summary of subs, so it's perfectly fine to have a mix of ads on it.

Just don't show ads for /r/abc when it's not a part of the current view.

Ah, yes, agreed.

So you made this change to benefit advertisers not Reddit? That's hard to believe.

CPMs should have gone down, not up, since your inventory was expanded meaning same demand for expanded supply. Y'all should also have reduced the minimum allowed bid down from 0.20 since you were expanding your inventory artificially w/ a coding change.

You should have also expected that CPAs for your advertisers were going to go way down once you removed the ad from it's intended context.

Either the logic driving the changes was weak or your explanation is lacking the whole truth.

I see a business in Reddit who wasn't pleasing it's investors and did something hasty to increase revenue.

There was no official communication of the subreddit targeting change to existing advertisers.

Benefiting advertisers and benefitting Reddit are really the same thing. We can't please investors without building a long-term, sustainable business; we can't build a long-term, sustainable ads business without advertisers being happy with our product.

> CPMs should have gone down, not up, since your inventory was expanded meaning same demand for expanded supply.

This really depends, there's more supply available to you, but you're potentially competing against more advertisers as well. e.g. if, for example, there's high overlap between visitors to /r/jerky and /r/dota2 you might see increased CPMs, if there's not other advertisers competing for your same inventory you'd see lower CPMs.

I'm curious why you bother with up/down vote buttons on ads in subreddits when you just continue to show the damned things if I downvote the shitty clickbait ad?

Because it makes ads look more like actual reddit posts. Like if ads are more "part of the subreddit" instead of being an additional separate entity.

How do you tell the difference though? I use an adblocker, so I don't think I've ever seen these reddit ads, but I'd like to know what to look out for, if I disable my adblocker.


Offcolour background, a little megaphone saying "promoted", all the way at the top of the subreddit, and offtopic (this ad was on /r/HFY)

Without context, that image makes it look a little more sneaky than it actually is. Here is an image of an add on the page.


Because any interaction shows engagement.

> There was no official communication of the subreddit targeting change to existing advertisers.

Why do you keep ignoring this point?

Parent comment said this correctly, but to clarify: the change doesn't actually increase overall inventory, it only increases "targeted inventory," i.e. you can now follow a jerky subscriber around to other subs, but the total possible impressions across all users is still the same it was.

Seems like Reddit could offer an additional option that limits display to a particular sub only. That way their bigger advertisers could still "spend more" to follow a jerky subscriber around but bold_panda could buy only /r/jerky inventory

Yes, I love this idea. Thank you for putting it more succinctly than I could have.

It's a bad idea.

What will end up happening is that bigger advertisers will spam the hell out of everyone, so people will start ignoring/blocking all ads, including more benign sub-specific ones.

A much better option would be to give users an option of suppressing cross-sub ads. This will still show sub's ads when a user is on the sub, which is something that people may actually want.

Strict relevancy of the ads is the key here. This is what reddit ads have had going for them before this change and it was their biggest and unique strength.

This seems like a very ill-thought-out change. You didn't give advertisers more "targeted inventory." You moved the goalposts on what counts as "targeted," while simultaneously removing the option to target by subscribed subreddit.

It's fine to enable wider targeting, but the problem is you also removed the ability to target more specifically, which will drive away advertisers focused on conversion percentage.

My recommendation: enable both "general" (recently visited sub) and "specific" (subscribed to sub) targeting. When displaying an ad, pick the one that has the highest CTR for the current subreddit.

Not to mention:

> While we haven't done any sort of official analysis of CPM changes here, the expected

Sounds incredibly suspect. How could you make such a big change and not test it?

The ad world basically invented modern A/B testing after all!

Very interesting indeed.

FWIW, I spend a lot of money on Reddit ads, and was not confused. I was well aware that subreddit visitors are included for targeting even some time after they leave the subreddit and are elsewhere on site.

Thanks for your team's work on the new self-serve platform!

As someone who quit advertising on reddit because inventories were never available on the subs I was interested in, I can see why you would make this change.

I guess the simple middle ground here is to charge different fee for subscribers vs. subreddits.

Want to target the 17 million subscribers on /r/pics? You have to pay a low fee. But if you have to be seen by one of those 1700 people viewing r/pics right now? Pay higher.

It addresses the concerns of redditors like bold_panda as well as helps maximize inventory utilization.

If you're comfortable sharing, did Reddit consider exposing it as a per-campaign option for advertisers?

If that was considered but not implemented, do the comments in this thread change your opinion?

This seems like a transparently bad plan if you include subreddits I view a single post from when browsing popular.

It's extremely hard to believe anyone thought a single post view was a strong enough interest indicator to be a reliable conversion.

I want to believe it was a communication error, but your explanation here sounds like you intentionally diluted the ad value.

Nice... perhaps you could make this an option for the advertiser, i.e. run your ad in Specific or Related subreddits. Best of both worlds and more control for customer.

"We of course also limit the subreddits your ads can show on outside of the targeted subreddit to ones that are similarly "brand safe" to the ones you are targeting."

How exactly do you evaluate "brand safe"? I can rarely get my own marketing department to a decision on this sort of thing in less than a few hours, yet you seem to be claiming you can do this on the fly for many advertisers.

Yes, I have noted that your definition of "brand safe" seems to be rather narrower than mine 8)

Just make it an option and problem solved. You can even make it the default. As long as users like OP can opt-out.

I work at a digital advertising agency as a media buyer. I buy ads for a living, and spend ~$5MM a year.

Reddit is merely stepping into the big leagues.

What reddit has done is switched from "Contextual Category" (cx cat) targeting to "Behavioral" (bt) targeting. Usuaully behavioral is much much better, which is likely why the change was made. But OP was doing contextual cat really well, so it was more successful than bt.

Reddit made this switch because it will benefit the majority of advertisers, but hurt the ones who really know what they are doing. Reddit will earn more from the 80% that see improvement, and therefore spend more. The 20% like OP will spend less, but it won't matter.

CX CAT = Companies like grapeshot and peer39 use NLP to identify keywords on a webpage and categorize it. Then advertisers can buy ads on any webpage that is in those categories. One of my favorite strategies is to buy ads on content that is predicted to go viral in a certain category (like fashion). These are ads that HN usually would like because the ad content is similair to the content of the website. They target a webpage, not a user.

BT = Ads that target a specific user, no matter what website they're on. So once a user has visited r/jerky, they're tagged as liking beef jerky and could possibly see beef jerky ads on any site they visit. This is partially how you get ads that seems very out of place - beef jerky ads on a r/technology.

If you spend time buying media, you know reddit's behavior isn't surprising. Facebook and Google both have default settings that will burn through your budget and provide shitty results. Only someone who intimately knows the platform will be successful. Reddit is merely stepping into the big leagues.

Fellow buyer here. This is spot on.

Reddit is going down a well-trod path. First you implement something basic and allow any advertisers in to generate cash. In Reddit's case, they started with the easiest and most tolerable form of targeting--contextual.

Now that Reddit has taken outside investment that aims to turn it into the next feed-based FB competitor, they are following the playbook pretty obviously. This typically means things like:

- Improve audience data (see efforts asking for email registration, new profile pages, new tracking, etc.)

- Clear out low-quality advertisers and content that scare away big brand advertisers (see past changes to user, post, and ad policies)

- Increase impressions and ad engagement by moving from static banners to ads inserted into the feed to continually create new impressions the more someone scrolls (see Reddit's mobile app)

- Increase RPM with more expensive ad formats like video ads (see their June video ad update, starting to host video, etc.)

Reddit has a somewhat significant disadvantage in all of this in that they are starting from a place of strong privacy and user-favorable policies. This has led users to feel that they are the reason Reddit exists and the content creators and sub owners vs. the reality, which is that they are the product.

This means Reddit has an uphill battle in rolling out these revenue-driving changes, and many of the more noticeable ones have been met with fairly significant and visible user pushback. This is why the announcements are almost always bundled with other positive changes.

I would anticipate further reduction of user privacy, a site-wide conversion tag to make it easier for them to build stronger user audience profiles for retargeting and facilitate conversion tracking setup, ads inserted into user uploaded videos, images and gifs and maybe even comments to increase impressions, and attempts at monetizing influencers who get paid outside of Reddit (read: money they don't get) via promoting posts.

As a Reddit user of 12+ years, I've disliked seeing many of these changes. As an advertiser, I understand why these changes are necessary for them to be successful in the existing Google/FB duopoly. My hope is that they continue to honor user wishes for privacy as Reddit would not be what it is today without users who felt it was a safe space to anonymously post certain things. My other hope is that they start dramatically improving their ad platform since pretty much every advertiser I've asked really dislikes it, citing poor UI, targeting issues, tracking limitations, and quality issues (it definitely won't perform for everyone).

>As an advertiser, I understand why these changes are necessary for them to be successful in the existing Google/FB duopoly.

Well then maybe you can help me understand. I see this going exactly as you describe, but I don't understand what's wrong about the old advertising model... just charge more. Direct advertising on reddit seems like it should be very lucrative. Couldn't they also sell trackers

You wrote

> This has led users to feel that they are the reason Reddit exists and the content creators and sub owners vs. the reality, which is that they are the product.

The content creators aren't wrong, are they? Granted, to Reddit eveyone who views the page is the product that they sell to advertisers for money, but the content creators are the ones drawing in the page views, not reddit.com (or tumblr.com, etc), and they are selling that content to drive page views. Sure the dollar is king, but without content to generate pageviews reddit is nothing. I feel like this is indicative of a destructive and characteristically narcissistic attitude that pervades the Valley, namely that people who participate in the online information exchange--not as idle lurkers but as active participants--are essentially a resource to be extracted. This won't work long term, the effects are already pretty obvious on Reddit, a lot of the best content creators have already abandoned most of the site and if they continue down the road you outline it won just be the best memesters and the people who have interesting and nuanced personal philosophy (both of which have mostly vacated reddit in the last 1-3 years), but also anyone who has an interesting story to tell, which a huge draw for a lot of people. If Reddit continues to go down the road of "boiling the frog" it will just be Buzzfeed in a few years, and it's such a waste--I doubt that Reddit has a product (the product here being a BBS-like service) that can generate a user profile with comparable value to that of google and facebook, the data is not rich enough. That said, I'm curious as to why their aren't more trackers on reddit, it seems like google amazon and facebook would be keen to add their users' reddit browsing habits to their profile.

> "but I don't understand what's wrong about the old advertising model... just charge more. Direct advertising on reddit seems like it should be very lucrative. Couldn't they also sell trackers"

There have been complaints of reach being too low, so I could see the line of thought with making the broader targeting the default. Brand advertisers often don't care as much about the context (as long as it is brand safe) and care more about the person. It can lead to some issues, but allows targeting at much greater scale because of the inventory it opens up. I agree with other comments though that they should leave it as an advanced targeting option. Not every advertiser performs the same, and some do much better in a narrowly-configured contextual targeting setup.

> "The content creators aren't wrong, are they?"

I don't think they are. But it isn't that black and white in reality. Many would not be where they are today without Reddit existing as a platform for them to grow their audiences. I think they and Reddit are somewhat symbiotic and a better balance could be reached.

I'm not sure I agree with you here.

"User is visiting r/foo now" is arguably a behavior! So posting an ad to a specific subreddit is arguably behavioral.

"Once visited r/foo six months ago" is arguably not a behavior; it's not something the user is doing. If anything, that is contextual. Presenting the ad based on this amounts to targeting the user based on a pile of past context attached to their account, not based on their current behavior.

And since behavioral works better than contextual, there we go: it explains why OP has reduced ROI!

Taking away this laser targeting op is describing is definitely a step backwards

Could you explain a little why in your opinion BT is preferable to CX Cat? Is this only in the eyes of Reddit or also in the eyes of an advertisement buyer like yourself?

My opinion is probably skewed, I only do rtb and no direct buys, so my categorical targeting is somewhat different than what OP is doing. BT generally does better for me because data quality tends to be better (you can get really specific, like a user with HHI 100k+, owns a Ford, AND is in market for a new minivan.)

I'd usually rather get 100k of those really expensive impressions, than 1m of less targeted (cat) impressions.

Advertisers are trending towards behavioral, it is a lot more powerful and the available inventory is much much bigger. Rather than limited to only sites about bacon, the author get buy ads on any site and (in theory) get the same performance while spending less.

I'm very new to the publisher side of media buying - my feeling after reading OP's post was this was the case. We currently run AdX on our highly categorically sorted site (with no smarts to it) - are you saying then it would be better ROI for us to build out ad serving based on behaviour rather than category? (Category would be much easier for us, I imagine this is just a case of sending the category to Doubleclick.)

I'm op, forgot the password I used.

I have no publisher side experience, and I only do rtb - no direct buys. Traditionally BT generally does better for me. Data quality tends to be better (you can get really specific, like a user with HHI 100k+, owns a Ford, AND is in market for a new minivan).

Thank you for shedding light on this. I suspected this was what was happening. They are letting the big advertisers empty their wallets.

I was a long time and happy Reddit advertiser myself up until last month when their original ad system was deprecated.

I experienced the exact same change in results as the OP describes: An effective 10x increase in CPA with the same ad copy and what I understood was the same targeting. When you think you're paying for the same thing but experience worse results by an order of magnitude, then you know something is up.

The deceptive nature of this change is that their new ad platform does not explain any of details that their product manager has graciously offered here. It's too bad that it has taken a front-page HN post to get this information to light; this already undermines the trust of the ads product team at Reddit. Thank you to the OP for explaining the change in laymen's terms.

Next, despite spending tens of thousands of dollars with Reddit, it's nearly impossible to be in contact with a competent person on their ads team. My support requests have gone routinely unanswered, or at best I receive a template response after days and days. After this most recent change I tried a last resort option of posting in the Reddit ads subreddit, which also received no response: https://www.reddit.com/r/redditads/comments/6wlyya/using_the...

The only benefit I've seen in the new platform is conversion tracking, which is a basic feature that has existed on even the most rudimentary ad systems for more than a decade. The Reddit Ads platform is way behind the times, which is sad because they're sitting on some of the most valuable web traffic in the world.

Hey jmarbach, we haven't made any changes to targeting in the last month. The changes described in this post were made 6+ months ago, which means any performance difference you're seeing over the last month are entirely coincidental. The deprecation of our old ads platform didn't involve any changes to the way ads were trafficked on the back-end, it simply turned off our outdated front-end interface for ad buying.


I am a very heavy reddit user and I was constantly finding myself in a situation when I would see ads for, say, diapers while browsing /r/software. I was also given an option to "report" such ads for violating Reddit's advertising guidelines and one of the option was to file it under "This ad is not relevant to this subreddit".

From users perspective this makes it look like the ad was sneaked onto /r/software by a disingenuous advertiser.

Also, the very decision to show ads outside of their targeted subs is EXCEPTIONALLY STUPID and I don't use caps lightly.

Previously they felt and acted as community-oriented announcements - you see one, look at it, perhaps visit the link, hide it and be OK with looking at another one. But now ads come across as a irrelevant stream of random bullshit, just like all other ads everywhere else. Reporting doesn't do anything. Hiding is plain broken on mobile, with hidden ads showing up again and again with "unhide" option... which would've been funny if it weren't obnoxious.

The change basically managed to destroy all the goodwill and tolerance I had for reddit's ads in a matter of days, prompting to add a cosmetic rule to uBlock. I genuinely wish I didn't have to, because some of sub-restricted ads were in fact interesting.

Can you please indicate exactly when the change from contextual to behavioral targeting was made and when it was communicated to existing advertisers? For example, in the initial announcement post (Mar 30) there is no indication that changes to the targeting methodology had been made already:


If you spent $10k+ on facebook or google they'd assign you an account rep. That rep likely wouldn't be much help, but at least you have a name and an email for when something goes wrong.

EDIT: Found confirmation that this is how it works now.


> Targeting a subreddit means you are targeting the subscribers and recent visitors of that subreddit. Subscribers can see your ad while visiting the targeted subreddit and on other subreddits if they recently visited that targeted subreddit.

That's a bummer. I really liked the idea of highly targetted ads in subreddits...


Looks like they've updated the Reddit ads page since I last looked, but it seems quite explicit:

'Interests' means shows the ads everywhere. 'Subreddits' means show it only on that subreddit.


Now I noticed that it says the 'Potential Daily Impressions' are too low for that subreddit. Used to be that it wouldn't let you run the ad this way. Maybe now it automatically changes to run everywhere if this is the case?

The FAQ states:

> Why can’t I target a specific subreddit?

> We only allow users to target the top 5k most trafficked subreddits, as other subreddits do not garner enough traffic for advertisers to hit their minimum budget. We will continue on-boarding subreddits as they grow in size!

Maybe during the 'ad review' your particular ad was switched to target an interest in jerky instead of just the subreddit? Was there any sort of confirmation email about Reddit accepting your ad?

Subreddit does not mean that it only shows in that subreddit. That's the problem I outlined in my OP.

Their is no interest category for jerky specifically and Reddit certainly wouldn't be that proactive as to adjust my ad for me in my experience. It's an automated system...which is fine...but they swept this targeting change under the rug.

The tooltip says "Targets users that are visting a particular subreddit."


I feel like that's pretty unambiguous... Would be interesting to hear somebody from Reddit weigh in on this.

(Also it looks like the system isn't automated: https://www.reddit.com/r/redditads/comments/6z144n/how_long_...)

Anecdotally, as a user, I actually noticed this two weeks ago when certain ads started to feel like they were following me around in other subreddits. It creeped me out enough and was annoying enough (ex: I don't want to hear about tech jobs when I'm browsing my sports subreddits; it reminds me of work) that I finally unwhitelisted reddit. Prior to this, I had reddit as one of the very few whitelisted sites on my adblockers because I felt like the advertising was in good faith. That it was actually pretty relevant sometimes. It's sad to read that I wasn't just being paranoid.

Did you talk to someone at Reddit about this? I'm sure they'd like to know how you feel. If you haven't, you should send them this feedback directly.

BTW, it's clear as day that they do this on their help page: https://www.reddithelp.com/en/categories/advertising/targeti...

I sent them a long email w/ all my suggestions for improving their platform. My current opinion of Reddit is that they DGAF about their advertisers.

How long ago did you send it?

This, and make some metaphorical noise. I'd also check for contract verbiage that allows them to make these changes without notice. And I'd document everything.

I ran into the same issues. I had a niche (starwars) product I was advertising on the starwars subreddit during holidays which would pull in ~$1.5 per $1 spent on Reddit (lifesize wookie cardboard cutout).

After new changes the tactic operates at a loss so I opted to stop advertising on Reddit all together.

Did you never run into any problems regarding trademarks?

By targeting recent visitors to a subreddit... they are essentially no longer targeting anyone.

I rarely browse the reddit homepage, but I know that most redditors do.

And what's on the homepage that most everybody who looks at it clicks through to? Any and every random subreddit you could think of.

I have seen /r/bitcoin on the homepage recently.

I have seen /r/security on the homepage recently.

I have seen /r/rtlsdr on the homepage recently.

That's ridiculous.

If I want to advertise a SDR to the "rtlsdr" crowd, I do not want to pay for impressions for every single user on reddit who has just recently viewed /r/rtlsdr because they had a quirky post which resonated with people.

To makes things worse, they have also changed the algorithm to promote lesser known subreddits to r/all (or r/popular) more easily [1]. Which is not always good, /r/rtlsdr was unusable for a few days after that...

[1] "The algorithm change is fairly simple — as a community is represented more and more often in the listing, the hotness of its posts will be increasingly lessened. This results in more variety in r/all" https://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/comments/4oedco/lets_...

this problem is the same for other ad platforms.

i only want to target people on those sites that have contextual meaning to my offerings and not creepily offer them a chevy truck when they're on a cosmetics page simply because they once searched for "chevy".

these ad platforms maximize impressions and clicks, not conversions - metrics that are good for them but usually annoying, misleading and meaningless for real ROI. and there's not much you can do about it, by design.

Yeah, by design only experts are going to be super successful. The average small business owner will waste a lot of money on reddit, facebook, and google because missing a single checkbox will have massive impacts on your campaign.

this is 100% true.

for example, using any kind of partial broad match and not having a large amount of negative keywords (which must be manually managed and maintained over time) will waste a lot of money.

Exactly. Experienced users know to use mod-broad. Same with facebook - when building an audience the interface looks like you're using AND logic, but only a tiny checkbox will enable AND logic, by default is OR and presented a deceiving way. (They also enabled insta and fb by default, and used to do fb display network by default too).

According to @jamiequint, "You are also able to exclude any specific subreddits you don't want to show up on.". Would it help to simply exclude every subreddit except the one you want? You'd need a comprehensive list of subreddits, but the Reddit API at https://www.reddit.com/dev/api/#GET_subreddits_default seems like it would give you that.

But then you have to manually add the hundreds of thousands of individual subreddits to your exclusion list, and be prepared to add hundreds more each week.

That would scare me as advertiser. I don't want my ads on certain sub-reddits.

PM from Reddit here.

We limit the subreddits your ads can show on outside of the targeted subreddit to ones that are similarly "brand safe" to the ones you are targeting. (e.g. if you are explicitly targeting only NSFW subs your ad will show up on other NSFW subs, but if you're not targeting NSFW subs your ad will never show up on a NSFW sub). You are also able to exclude any specific subreddits you don't want to show up on.

Who decides what is "brand safe"? If it's not the ad buyer, that seems like a huge problem.

The whole point of marketing is to build an association between a context and a brand - if you can't control what context in which your ad appears then the platform becomes nearly useless.

Worse than useless, actually, since you could be paying to build association with context you that damage your brand. I would be outraged if my ad for /r/luxury ran on /r/couponing, regardless of whether you consider it to be NSFW.

Brand safety is about nsfw/extremist/gore/etc content. Brand safety is not the difference between r/luxury and r/couponing. I've never advertised on reddit, but many platforms allow categorical targeting, and categorical exclusions so you can explicitly exclude things that are outside the realm of brand safety, but would still hurt your brand.

I agree with soared, there are standards for this (generally around not getting penalised by the ad exchange you are running on.)

As a prospective Reddit advertiser, I'm disappointed to learn of this new alteration, as it does seem to dilute my budget considerably.

The ability to target specific subs has multiple benefits:

- the advertiser knows precisely where the ad's appearing. Useful for them and their notion of where it'll be most useful, and indeed, knowing it won't be running anywhere else. Reddit appears to be deliberately diluting this benefit.

- the reader had previously been assured of ads relevant to the sub. As has been noted elsewhere, it's not always welcome for ads from professionally relevant subs to bleed outside the work day. Then there are subs which people might not want ads targeted for them appearing elsewhere - I'm not entirely confident someone who'd visited a sub on the basis of tentatively exploring a possible element of their sexuality, for example, might want that highlighted the next day when visiting some other sub entirely.

Is the distinction literally NSFW or not, or is that an example? Because there are a lot of finer distinctions that matter.

What about the example of not wanting to see work type ads on sports subreddits?


Only on Reddit....

That explains why I've recently been seeing so many crap ads all over reddit. Guess it's time to re-enable my adblocker over there.

Agreed that they should make every change documented and explicit - if you didn't realize they made this change -> that's squarely on them.

That being said, this is a welcome change because up until now the inventory has been so small on almost any individual subreddit as to make the time spent setting up and managing ads on the platform ROI negative.

Thanks for the heads up. I wasnt aware of the changes. Reddit had proven to be a good ad platform for my clients (I do media buys for others). Will have to reconsider using it.

FWIW I saw a jerky club ad, probably yours, on my new account in the past day or two. I have never visited /r/jerky or anything else remotely related to jerky.

Either the algo is wrong or you bought it wrong or it was someone else's ad.

It was a terribly annoying ad, it read like "hey, i like jerky but it's so expensive, so i set up a club where you get jerky every month blah blah blah"

Basically tried not to look like an ad.

Thanks for posting this.

I was considering an ad buy on Reddit next month to promote a niche product - I'll probably still do it, but I'll be a lot more ready to pause if the ROI isn't backing out, because now I know why.

(/u/bored_panda - please consider reinstating the tight subreddit targeting option of the past!)

This has been true for years I thought.

Reddit has ads? I thought the Reddit Gold funded them?

Don't worry, reddit is hurting themselves too:

Now about 50% of the time I go to reddit, I have a jarring, awkward experience that reminds me they're datamining my history instead of a mellow, nearly invisible on that made subreddits feel more like a community.

I'm sure reddit 4: digg sum moar! will be a great production by the reddit team and look forward to all the change it'll bring.

Yup, I always appreciated how ads on reddit were tied to the subreddit I was on. Now it sounds like they're not and it's going to be the same shitstorm of irrelevant ads as on the internet at large. I look forward to seeing ads for products I already bought over and over again on every subreddit I visit.

Jarring exactly the phrase I'd use to describe my experience the past few weeks noticing that ads are following me around and not related to the subreddit I'm in.

All they're doing is retargeting people, which is no different than what the rest of the online ad industry does.

This seems pretty annoying. Do/did they tell you anywhere that your ad would only appear on the specified subreddit previously, or was this just expected behavior?

In any case, you should stop advertising with them if you don't like their business practices. Semi-unrelated, but I stopped using Reddit a bit ago, it became too much of a haven for racism, misogyny, and an endless stream of sockpuppets touting white supremacy views.

Reddit is way more valuable if you subscribe to smaller discussion-based subs that have stricter rules. I haven't gone on r/all or any default subs in years but I still get a lot out of my front page since I try to be selective about which ones I subscribe to.

The fact that a $10 CPA was every considered acceptable is crazy, specially for the product you sell. Considering how cheap Reddit's impressions are, your conversion rate must be just a hair above zero. How do you know that your results aren't due to saturation and burnout? Once you've squeezed every bit of blood from a turnip, it becomes exponentially expensive to continue to do so. Maybe there just isn't a market for your product. IMO, if you have to show more than 1000 people your product to sell one, you have a product problem.

> The fact that a $10 CPA was every considered acceptable is crazy,

I know plenty of industry where a $10 CPA would be a massive discount. $100 clicks aren't unheard of or uncommon for niche high value products.

> IMO, if you have to show more than 1000 people your product to sell one, you have a product problem.

This is how niche products work, you need to hit a lot of eyeballs before you find the RIGHT person who converts.

If you have high customer satisfaction and a good retention program you can make a business out of numbers like this. Are you going to make a billon dollars on it, probably not but you can live comfortably off of it.

You can't really make accusations about someone's CPA without seeing the data. You've no way to tell if that $10 CPA is 0.5x ROAS or 15x ROAS, either of which would completely change the conversation.

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