Warner Media launches WMX, its first-party media platform Play

When you’ve heard enough about publishers launching their own first-party media platforms … stop reading. And maybe you’re going on vacation for the next year or two.

Warner Media Group (WMG) is the latest to throw their hats in the ring, launching a renamed agency and ad tech company on Thursday specifically targeting musicians and brands trying to reach their fans.

The new store is called WMX (not to be confused with the one-off Walmart Exchange advertising platform that shared the same nickname).

On the one hand, WMX has an income toolkit for musicians and the music industry and Warner Media lifestyle outlets such as Uproxx, HipHopDX and the concert discovery service Songkick.

For artists, this includes merchandise and sponsored content, as well as newer mobile game installation or NFT services, said Paul Josephsen, WMX’s chief strategy officer. Games are a growing channel. WMG had a big record start on Roblox’s platform last year and saw enough benefit to invest tens of millions in Roblox earlier this year.

The other side of WMX is a direct selling company that bundles inventory and data from all WMG owned and operated websites and other platforms where artists inventory and WMX is able to enter into ad sales and revenue sharing agreements, including with YouTube, Spotify and TikTok.

“This is a roof over our individual publishers and a central organization to combine with our other pieces like our significant YouTube inventory,” said Josephsen.

At the heart of the new WMX service is a product called CONNEX, which marketers can use to develop a first-party asset within the Warner platform. When a brand shows up with their own first-party customer data, some customers are matched against WMG’s identity record and the matched IDs can be used to target or measure a campaign. If a brand campaign contains sponsored content on YouTube, WMX can also collect new fans or registered users who come in contact with the brand through this sponsorship.

But there is a catch: CONNEX data cannot leave the WMX platform, said Josephsen, which means that brands cannot build target groups on Warner Media first-time providers and then export those target groups to address them elsewhere. But the CONNEX data grows in size and effectiveness over time and helps inform the creative and overall strategy, he said. For example, a brand might find that a particular genre of music or demographic is responding well to a campaign and focus more on that.

It is now common for large media and advertising platforms to have first-party data and analysis products that only apply to their own and operated media or inventory that they control. Google’s Ads Data Hub is big, but publishers like The New York Times, NBCUniversal, and even retailers like Walmart or Target are following the same path.

Currently, WMX only includes Warner Media’s own websites and inventory, but Josephsen said the company plans to launch an audience expansion product in the future that will allow brands to target known or logged-in audiences programmatically over the web.

Brands are pushing their supply-side partners to provide more data and stronger analytics, Josephsen said. However, given the tightened data protection regulations of technology companies and governments, such granular data can only be used by large media companies with their own audiences.

“Brands are looking for fewer bigger and better partners,” he said. “We are able to get into this specificity with them and do it on a large scale.”

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