Case Study

Salon Sees Superior Ad Performance Results

Sovrn Communications // October 6, 2022

Salon chooses Ad Management for its delivery of superior ad performance results


Starting in 2016, Salon began undertaking major efforts to modernize the way their business was monetized. A team of seasoned advertising operations professionals focused on reconfiguring Salon’s ad placements, programmatic advertising, demand mix, and all of the necessary reporting for this line of business. The team brought knowledge of native, outstream, video and sponsored content executions from their past work – all viable tactics for monetization that Salon had not previously utilized.

The Salon team was knowledgeable, but still relatively small when considering the challenge of managing all demand partners across formats, providing consolidated reporting, and handling receivables. As such, they decided to explore industry options to augment their in-house expertise.


Monthly visitors


Revenue increase


Solutions tested

The Opportunity

Salon carefully vetted several programmatic solutions over the course of two years. Ultimately, Sovrn Ad Management (formerly Proper Media) was selected to manage all monetization efforts for because they delivered the best performance and freed up the most resources for the Salon team. On a month-by-month comparison, these efforts yielded higher eCPMs and revenue across all programmatic advertising than any of the other solutions that were tested. Working with Sovrn also allowed Salon to outsource all of the optimization, receivables, reporting, and ongoing maintenance.

Since the team at Salon already had a wealth of experience, they assumed taking the header bidding in house would deliver the best performance. However, after running subsequent tests, it became obvious that Sovrn Ad Management delivered superior results, besting an in-house approach using Sortable and Index Exchange. It was clear that even the experienced team at Salon couldn’t match the performance of the Ad Management team, which delivered more revenue at a fraction of the cost.

The Ad Management team re-configured Salon’s entire ad tech stack and helped to implement an optimal ad layout based on prior testing data from across dozens of similar sites. The team provided industry best practices not only for where ad placements would deliver optimal performance, but also configured technical specifications for loading and refreshing ads in order to maximize yield. This led to rapid, sustainable upticks in the KPIs that influence eCPMs, viewability and CTR, which drove a substantial increase in Salon’s revenue.

“Over a comparative period from Jan-September in different years, Sovrn Ad Management delivered an 80% increase in revenue when compared to Index Exchange through a combination of higher CPMs and increased impressions. Our resulting eCPM was 23% higher than Index Exchange during that time.”

— Justin Wohl, Chief Revenue Officer at Salon

The Results


Since each demand partner requires regular communication, optimization, and technical resources in order to maximize results it can be difficult for small revenue teams to efficiently manage their entire ad tech strategy. Due to lack of scale, it can also be difficult for publishers to receive the kind of “white glove” service that is needed to optimize with demand partners like Google and Amazon. Ultimately, Sovrn Ad Management was more effective than Salon at managing its own demand, due to the scale of demand sources and the close partnerships that the Ad Management team could leverage for quick resolution of any issues that may arise.


Reporting came to be quite burdensome once header bidding was moved in- house. Salon required a team of people to manually report on performance from disparate data sources, compiling information in an excel spreadsheet that was both prone to error and lacked usable features. By contrast, Sovrn Ad Management reporting tools were a breath of fresh air. The reporting interface includes data from all bidders in a format that can be used to gain actionable insights.

It also maps code changes and tracks the impact to revenue in real time. These tools gave Salon the ability to immediately measure how changes impact revenue, rather than waiting for several days to compile reporting. It also allowed Salon to access real time data about performance without hours of manually compiling data compilation.


Without the scale of an entire network of properties, testing any concept came with an inherent risk of large revenue decreases. This is a luxury that most publishers cannot afford in terms of top-line revenue and cash flow. With a provider like Ad Management, statistical significance can be found by testing small audience percentages across multiple properties, proving or disproving theories in days, rather than weeks.

About Salon

Founded in 1995, Salon is an award-winning independent publication covering news and politics through a progressive, nonpartisan editorial lens, alongside our rigorous and inquisitive coverage of culture and entertainment, science and health, and food.

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