How Ranker created 1,000+ cohorts for in-session targeting across all browsers

The company

Founded 11 years ago, Ranker is a digital publisher located in Los Angeles and aims to be the definitive source of visitor-based rankings on everything from film to sports to food. Its core belief is that the opinion of millions is more relevant — and far more predictive — than the opinion of one writer or critic. Ranker has a robust psychographic platform based on preference correlations from over a billion votes on its lists covering Film, TV, Music, Sports, Travel and other everyday lifestyle items. These provide a treasure trove of declared first-party data.

The challenge

Ranker needed a next-generation solution to take the place of the first wave of Data Management Platforms. Ranker also found that many buyers were increasingly asking the media company to define and determine the uses of their first-party data.

After testing the validity of other providers, Ranker chose Permutive for its forward-thinking, privacy-safe approach to first-party data and edge computing capabilities. By choosing Permutive, Ranker went to market with their first-party data much faster than if they had built their own proprietary platform. “We found that Permutive was the most aligned on our privacy requirements, the real-time build and customization of cohorts, and making sense of our first-party data to align cleanly with our own taxonomy,” said Dana OMalley, National VP of Sales at Ranker.

"As the industry figures out the privacy piece, it helps our clients feel confident that we have a strategy in place for dealing with the ongoing changes around third-party cookies and privacy regulation."

JR Hoffman, Senior Director of Sales Operations & Planning at Ranker

The solution

Using Permutive, Ranker created high-intent audiences based on first-party data, collected from a variety of unique visitor data. This includes site votes, surveys, behaviour, and context. Ranker also has the ability to create lookalike audiences. The seeds are broken out by content category through IAB segmentation combined with Ranker’s contextual taxonomy. This enabled them to increase scale across various direct, private marketplace, and programmatic guarantee campaigns, and optimize all these in their partnership with one of the top four streaming services.

Testing contextual versus first-party cohorts

Ranker ran tests for the streaming service campaign, starting with contextual targeting across all the client’s audience interests in week one. While those ran, Ranker built cohorts from its higher intent audiences via Permutive, which were applied in week two and resulted in lift across the board.

Reactive to proactive insights

Ranker uses pre-sale audience affinities to craft proposals and post-sale analysis, helping position campaign success and insights back to their advertisers. Ranker previously relied on being reactive to cohorts that they built. The team can now identify affinities and intent based on a combination of different activities, such as voting data, page view data and affiliate link data for each campaign, all in real-time using Permutive’s edge technology. This provides a view on what impacts campaigns from a scale and performance perspective.

Deeper audience understanding

The insights Ranker provides help advertisers understand more about the audience that’s clicking on their display ads and viewing their video ads; Ranker can tell advertisers what their users are doing and their other interests and likes, demonstrating the value of their unique first-party data cohorts. These insights include pre-, mid- and post-campaign data designed to inform planning, mid-flight optimization and future targeting.

  • 4X

    increase in revenue year-on-year

  • 25%

    increase in RFP win rate

  • 175%

    improvement in conversion rate


  • 4x increase in revenue year-on-year

    Ranker has seen a 4× increase in revenue year-on-year, a 25% increase in RFP win rate within six months, and 90% of its campaigns have Permutive targeting, which is a testament to the strength of Ranker’s cohorts and the technology.

  • 31% increase in click-through rate

    For the two-week campaign with the streaming service, Ranker saw incredible lift across several metrics after adding first-party high-intent audience cohorts in week two via Permutive. This includes a 31% increase in click-through rate (CTR) for desktop. The campaign also achieved a 41% increase in CTR for their Mobile Video Interscroller unit and, cross-device, conversion rates improved by 175%

  • CPSV lowered by 26%

    The increase in CTR lowered the advertisers cost-per-site-visit (CPSV) and cost-per-subscription (CPS) due to efficiencies in audience targeting — CPSV lowered by 26%, and CPS lowered by 63%. For the other placements, CPS lowered by 59% for the Video Wall Overlay. CPS lowered by 86% for the Mobile Video Interscroller, and CPS reduced by 42% for the Scrolling Billboard.

    “I don’t remember a time that I’ve seen performance lift like that. It speaks to the value of our audiences beyond just context. That mixed with the Permutive technology in being able to do this in real-time and making sure that it’s a scalable solution for our partners has been incredibly powerful,” said OMalley.

Next steps

Ranker is excited about the ongoing growth and refinement of its data segment and data collection strategy. The publisher is continuing to build on its taxonomy and creating first-party cohorts for advertisers. They are also testing Permutive’s modelling for seeded audiences, providing a robust go-to-market for advertisers who previously may not have had a clear reason to work with Ranker in the past.

From an integration perspective, Ranker will use audience survey capabilities within Permutive to fill gaps in data, for example, building demographic cohorts such as age to then model out. In addition, they will offer clients brand lift surveys to measure campaign performance and insights surveys to offer partners more information on their customers.

Why Ranker partnered with Permutive

"The insights that Permutive offers are really powerful. Being able to show the power of our data beyond contextual targeting has given us competitive differentiation in the market."

Dana OMalley, National VP of Sales at Ranker