Email logins are like first-party data gold – but they aren’t easy to get.
A startup called Bonbon, which officially launched on Monday, wants to reward people for their sign-ups.
The company, co-founded by two ad tech vets in July 2022, has a cross-site, single-sign-on service for the 30 publishers in its network.
Data gleaned from these registered logins, such as cross-site browsing behavior and user-provided areas of interest, is shared with publishers to provide them with an addressable traffic source in the absence of third-party cookies. Bonbon can then retarget these registered users through email and social media.
Users, meanwhile, get sponsored promotions and discounts in exchange for signing up. Offers are tailored to the page a user is visiting and to their individual interests.
The solution is aimed at midsize publishers that rely heavily on programmatic for monetization because their revenue is most threatened by cookie deprecation and declining traffic, said Bonbon CEO and Co-Founder Elliott Easterling, who is also a co-founder of mobile data company TrueData.
The value prop
The dip in referral traffic from social media and an overall lack of user engagement aren’t new problems, but they are becoming more acute.
Most publishers see just two page views per user per month, Easterling said, and most visitors have very little incentive to register and log into a site they rarely visit. Publishers therefore need to provide an incentive to register beyond the content itself, he said.
When a publisher integrates with Bonbon, it places code on the publisher’s page that triggers a call to action for visitors to sign up for Bonbon’s service.
The call to action is tailored to the site’s content. For example, users who visit a site about horror movies might see an offer for a chance to win a set of Funko Pop figures depicting famous horror villains.
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Users who sign up are prompted to provide an email address and demographic info and to pick from a list of topics that interest them. Bonbon shares all of this data with the publisher by placing it into its own cloud-based customer data platform.
The data is used to target ads to users who log into multiple sites in Bonbon’s network using the same email address. Because advertisers can match the logins against their own first-party data, these impressions tend to attract higher CPMs than non-addressable audiences, Easterling said.
Easterling has plenty of experience to draw from as he gets Bonbon up and running.
In addition to co-founding TrueData, he also co-founded lead-gen company Folsom Media.
Plus, his Bonbon co-founder, Will McGivern-Smith, was TrueData’s chief product and strategy officer and director of business development at Nielsen Catalina.
Easterling sees Bonbon following a similar path to success as TrueData by building a scaled identity data graph that can power programmatic deals.
Which is why Bonbon’s biggest priority is increasing its addressable audience. Ten of the 30 publishers in its network joined within the last month, Easterling said.
Bonbon’s network, which includes Sportsnaut.com, SOHH.com and MTGRocks.com, currently reaches 14 million monthly active users, of which about 18,000 users have signed up for a Bonbon login – evidence that getting people to share their email address is not an easy feat, even if they’re being rewarded.
The startup also has partnerships with publisher monetization platforms Hashtag Labs and The Publisher Desk. It’s compatible with alternative IDs, including The Trade Desk’s UID2 and ID5, with plans to add more ID integrations soon.
(The Trade Desk also operates its own single-sign-on solution called OpenPass, but Easterling said that hasn’t impacted its working relationship with Bonbon. Publishers can choose to integrate both companies’ solutions, he said.)
Bonbon’s solution currently only works on desktop and mobile web, although it’s working on launching integrations with mobile apps within the next year.
The platform is also finalizing deals with a major SSP, which Easterling declined to name, as well as a monetization platform with more than 200 publisher integrations and other publisher networks.
But there’s an even bigger hurdle Bonbon has to overcome in its quest for scale beyond getting visitors to log in – and that’s convincing publishers to give up on their own paywalls, Easterling said.
The company initially started its publisher outreach by focusing on larger sites that rely on programmatic and also operate paywalls. But most of these publishers run their ad sales teams and their subscription teams separately, he said. This creates a dynamic in which sales and subscriptions see each other as adversaries. The subscription team is often loath to weaken the paywall to bring in more impressions for the ad sales team to monetize.
Because of these tensions, Bonbon has shifted to midsize, programmatic-heavy publishers, because they tend to be glad that anyone is interested in helping them monetize at all, Easterling said.
“Larger publishers want to see proof points before they move,” he said. “We’re seeing the most velocity with midsize publishers who are really writhing in pain right now.”