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3 French alliances take on Facebook, Google for digital advertising space

By Nicolas Peltier

20 Minutes France

Paris, France


In a digital advertising market led by Google and Facebook — a lot of people now use the word “duopoly” to describe the situation — publishers are looking for innovative solutions. Many plead for more partnerships and alliances that can help them share their data and sell with similar offers.

Working together, they can also create a comparable reach to GAFA’s (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon), while they promising better context and brand safety for advertisers.

Last year, many initiatives were launched in France. Let’s have a look at three of them:

1. Gravity — the most ambitious: Officially launched last summer, the Gravity alliance seems to be the most ambitious solution to fight against the duopoly. It’s an initiative of two French media groups, Les Echos and Lagardère. The commitment is to bring together some publishers (the founders as well as L’Equipe, Condé Nast, and Prisma, among others), retailers (Fnac Darty), services (SoLocal), and telecom companies (Altice SFR and Orange).

In total, 25 groups and 150 digital brands make Gravity the third most powerful offer for French Internet users, with a daily reach that exceeds 50%. An essential element when you want to exist in the world with GAFA? “We’re trying to be the third,” said Francis Morel, CEO of Les Echos, when Gravity was announced.

Gravity is currently the third most successful digital advertising alliance in France.
Gravity is currently the third most successful digital advertising alliance in France.

Beyond its reach, Gravity’s speech is, above all, a data speech. The guideline is to share all members’ Internet data and allow advertisers to activate it, thanks to an ad-buying platform. The alliance highlights its 2,000 clusters, which are determined by 30 million profiles, and affirms a high granularity.

Gravity’s aim is to represent 15% of market share in the programmatic area by 2021. To make it real, the alliance hired Fabien Magalon as its CEO, who was previously head of publishing solutions for … Facebook. Everything but a coincidence.

2. Skyline — the most best for “brand safety”: Unveiled a few days after Gravity, the Skyline alliance unites two groups that are historically competitors in the French market: Le Monde and Le Figaro. These are two premium publishers that are leading the French information area. Together, they claim the fourth highest reach with more than 70% of Internet users who use their sites at least once a month. This is a global audience that is now available through one common platform.

Skyline counts on its big-name alliance partners to support advertisers.
Skyline counts on its big-name alliance partners to support advertisers.

While Gravity’s main concern is about data, Skyline’s is more about brand safety. Indeed, the promise to advertisers is a promise about safe and controlled investments. “With us, clients will know where they invest,” said Marc Feuillée, Le Figaro’s CEO.

For both groups, Skyline is also an opportunity to publicly ask about the role and added value of intermediary ad tech vendors. It’s all about regaining the control of strategic inventory — like native, pre-roll, or in-read — and make them grew better and faster.

This choice seems good for Le Figaro, which claims it made its video income increase significantly. In February, Skyline alliance claimed it appealed to 85 advertisers six months after it was launched. To be continued …

3. RelevanC — the best “IRL” option: The last project, announced in 2017, is RelevanC, which was born following discussions between the start-up Redpill and the retailer group Casino. Like Gravity, the aim is to offer advertisers a new way to use data. But the strength of RelevanC is the exploitation of transactional data from the 10,000 shops of Casino in France (Géant Casino, Monoprix, Franprix, and more). Then, it can add others’ data from its e-commerce Web sites, like Cdiscount (more than 20 million unique users).

Matching offline and online data could allow advertisers to better understand their consumers and target their campaigns. So, RelevanC claims more than 1,200 clusters with individual but anonymous profiles.

The other difference with Gravity is the possibility to activate the data on a lot of inventory sources, including Facebook, for example, rather than with a small group of media partners. Because it is an open platform, RelevanC has seen other retailers join, like GoSport or Courir. And it’s probably not over: “The more we identify data, the better our offer will be,” explains Marco Tinelli, founder of Redpill.

About Nicolas Peltier

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