Why the NFL on Amazon Prime Is a Victory for Connected TV

Why the NFL on Amazon Prime Is a Victory for Connected TV

Amazon

For decades, watching NFL games on television has meant gathering in front of a TV set and watching a game on one of the major networks. NFL games have been events that vanquish the competition. Featured programming such as Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and Monday Night Football have dominated viewer ratings. All of this is still the case. But how we watch football is changing.

On September 15, the NFL officially entered a new era of television broadcasting when the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers took the field for Thursday Night Football. Instead of televising the game on an established linear TV network, the NFL streamed the match-up on Amazon Prime as part of a $13 billion, 11-year deal with Amazon.

The game marked the NFL’s official embrace of streaming. It also meant that to watch TNF going forward, football fans would need to sign up for Amazon Prime, which is Amazon’s premium service costing $139 annually. And so far, it looks like fans are willing to pony up. According to an internal Amazon memo, the September 15 broadcast drew a record number of Prime sign-ups for a year-hour period.

Given the popularity of the NFL – easily the most dominant brand on TV based on viewer ratings – the streaming agreement has significant ramifications for advertisers. Notably, this is a victory for connected TV, which means watching TV content through a device such as Roku or Amazon Fire. Many people refer to connected TV as over-the-top (OTT) TV, which refers to streaming content directly over the internet instead of cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms. Although technically the two terms differ – with connected TV referring specifically to the device people use to stream content – for all intents and purposes, they are the same. Whatever you want to call it, connected TV has arrived: streaming is now more popular than cable. It’s no longer optional for businesses to have an OTT advertising strategy.

Connected advertising is similar to linear TV advertising because both formats rely obviously on video. But connected TV is different in many important ways. For one thing, advertisers need to understand how to create video content that will reach viewers across a variety of viewing devices in addition to TV screens, and connected TV ads are competing with multiple content streams. (You can watch TNF on a laptop, mobile phone, or gaming console with multiple screens open.)

And each streaming service and connected TV device (ranging from Amazon Fire to Roku) offer their own ad units. For example, Amazon Ads, which is Amazon’s fast-growing advertising business, offers ad units such as inline ads (which appear as selectable rows in each major browsing section of Fire TV) and feature rotator (a carousel-like ad placement appearing above the fold of the screen).

Ahead of the launch of TNF on Amazon Prime, Danielle Carney, Amazon Ads’ Head of NFL Sales, said:

We’re offering myriad opportunities to get involved with TNF, catering to brands’ range of needs. Our premier sponsorships give advertisers the ability to elevate their brands during the pre-game, pre-kick, halftime, and post-game shows. But that’s not all. We’re continuing to innovate and explore other potential sponsorships and packages that will enable brands tell their stories in unique ways through our surround, alternate feeds, and ancillary programming. Our newly built creative sports team will help customize the experience for our partners.

Outside of sponsorships, brands can use Streaming TV ads to reach fans throughout games on Prime Video and Twitch. Like our sponsorships, these video ads are backed by Amazon’s first-party insights, bringing more value and insight into campaign performance for brands.

To succeed, though, Amazon Prime needs to deliver viewing numbers to advertisers. Reportedly, Amazon has told advertisers that it expects to see nightly viewership of about 12.5 million people for its inaugural season of TNF. We’ll soon see. Amazon agreed for Nielsen to track ratings for TNF, and ratings for the September broadcast are still forthcoming.

Amazon Prime also needs to deliver a desirable experience. Amazon promises alternative ways to watch TNF, including Dude Perfect, a popular trick-shot comedy group. Amazon Fire TV and Alexa are bringing new features to NFL fans as well, such as trivia and real-time access to statistics (which should appeal to Fantasy Football devotees). Early fan reactions to the September 15 broadcast were mixed, and it looks like Amazon has some technical issues with content buffering to fix. Of course, no one can predict the quality of an actual NFL game, but Amazon can certainly deliver on the overall experience. Let’s see how Amazon adapts.

The broadcast is also significant for another reason: a victory for first-party data, which is the information that businesses collect directly from their customers. Amazon will use first-party data to sell targeted ads to help drive revenue for the games. This is huge. Right now, third-party audience data is withering away thanks to Apple’s and Google’s privacy measures. Businesses that figure out how to monetize first-party data enjoy an enormous advantage. Amazon has already become the third biggest ad platform in the world (behind Google and Meta) by using first-party data to sell targeted ads. The ascendance of first-party data is one reason why retailer-based ad networks have become so popular.

Bottom line: what is your advertising game plan for connected TV?

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with connected TV advertising, contact True Interactive. We have deep experience with this format.

Why Google Delayed Its Cookie-Killing Effort to 2024

Why Google Delayed Its Cookie-Killing Effort to 2024

Google

To no one’s surprise, Google announced that the company is postponing its plans to kill third-party cookies on Google Chrome. The deadline, originally scheduled for 2022, will now be late 2024. If this news seems familiar to you, you are not alone. In 2021, Google announced a delay to 2023, but now 2023 no longer is feasible.

Why?

The problem for Google comes down to the reality that the company raked in more than $209 billion in advertising revenue in 2021.

Google Ad Revenues

As a result, Google needs to proceed very carefully in its phasing out of third-party cookies, which advertisers use to serve up targeted ads to people by tracking their browsing habits across the web. The fact that Google announced the delay after it disclosed subpar quarterly earnings shows just how wary Google is of rocking the boat. To protect its advertising business, Google must:

  • Come up with an alternative to third-party cookies that will satisfy advertisers. If Google fails to do that, Google will lose business to competitors such as Amazon Ads. Amazon Ads deliver targeted ads based on their own data beyond the reach of Google’s privacy controls. And Amazon Ads isn’t the only one, as I blogged recently.
  • Mollify regulators. Because Google is the largest online ad platform in the world, Google must convince regulators that its consumer privacy changes won’t give Google an unfair advantage. As we blogged in 2021, U.K. regulators have already slowed down Google’s efforts. Regulators are concerned that the demise of third-party cookies could give Google too much power because Google can rely on first-party data on sites such as YouTube (which Google owns) to support its ad business.

Google’s approach to satisfy advertisers consists of the Privacy Sandbox, where Google experiments with alternatives to third-party cookies that enable targeting with stricter privacy controls in place. Those alternatives include:

  • Fledge, for remarketing new ads.
  • Attribution reports, for telling advertisers which ads work without compromising consumer privacy.

But it is taking some time for Google to devise solutions as noted above, and not without some considerable trial and effort. For the record, here is Google’s rationale for the delay this time:

The most consistent feedback we’ve received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome. This feedback aligns with our commitment to the [U.K. Competition and Markets Authority] to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox provides effective, privacy-preserving technologies and the industry has sufficient time to adopt these new solutions. This deliberate approach to transitioning from third-party cookies ensures that the web can continue to thrive, without relying on cross-site tracking identifiers or covert techniques like fingerprinting.

That rationale underlines both the impact of regulators and the difficulty in developing an answer to third-party cookies.

This latest delay has annoyed advertisers who had been taking measures to adapt to a cookie-less world and now find themselves delaying their plans. Others simply do not like the uncertainty of living in an extended transitional period while Apple enacts privacy control measures of its own. We suggest that for now, advertisers:

  • Accept the reality that as third-party cookies crumble and technology companies enact privacy controls, your ads will be less targeted than they were – at least until the industry adapts to alternative tools being developed. This does not mean you should stop advertising online. Online advertising remains the most efficient and cost-effective way to reach your audience.
  • Try alternatives beyond Google’s Privacy Sandbox. These include alternative IDs, contextual targeting, and seller-defined audiences.
  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Don’t abandon ship with ads that rely on web tracking. As you can see with Google’s announcement, things may not proceed the way Google plans.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms. Learn more about our services with Amazon Ads here and Walmart here.

One other important consideration: remember, Google is not the only company doing away with third-party cookie tracking. Apple did so with Safari in 2020, and Mozilla with Firefox. The writing is on the wall: it’s time to adapt to a world without third-party cookies. True Interactive can help you do that.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Lead image source: https://unsplash.com/@laurenedvalson

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Netflix Chooses Microsoft As Its Ad Tech Partner

Netflix Chooses Microsoft As Its Ad Tech Partner

Advertising Microsoft

Netflix continues to roll out its previously announced plan to provide an ad-supported subscription tier. The streaming company has chosen Microsoft to be its global advertising technology and sales partner. This means Microsoft will supply technology to facilitate the placement of video ads on Netflix. All ads served on Netflix will be available exclusively through Microsoft’s platforms.

In a statement, Netflix Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said:

In April we announced that we will introduce a new lower priced ad-supported subscription plan for consumers, in addition to our existing ads-free basic, standard and premium plans. Today we are pleased to announce that we have selected Microsoft as our global advertising technology and sales partner.

Microsoft has the proven ability to support all our advertising needs as we work together to build a new ad-supported offering. More importantly, Microsoft offered the flexibility to innovate over time on both the technology and sales side, as well as strong privacy protections for our members.

It’s very early days and we have much to work through. But our long term goal is clear. More choice for consumers and a premium, better-than-linear TV brand experience for advertisers. We’re excited to work with Microsoft as we bring this new service to life.

The news comes weeks after Microsoft completed its acquisition of the Xandr ad-tech unit from AT&T, which had been involved in programmatic advertising. Xandr provides a data-enabled technology platform with tools that help power a diverse ecosystem connecting marketers and media owners through first-party, data-led advertising solutions across its network. The Wall Street Journal reported that the acquisition gave Microsoft the technology necessary to become a contender for the Netflix deal. The Wall Street Journal also noted that in pitching itself as a contender against rivals suchas Google, Microsoft “stressed one word: agnostic. Microsoft emphasized that it won’t compete in streaming with Netflix, the person said. Comcast’s NBCUniversal operates the Peacock streaming service while Google owns YouTube.”

It was widely known that Netflix would seek an ad tech partner to support its nascent ad-supported tier. The company, facing declining membership and sagging stock price, is under pressure to compensate for lost revenue by adopting ads. Rivals such as Disney+ are set to launch an ad-supported option, too.

But Microsoft is a surprising choice as a partner. Microsoft has not, historically, been known for video ads. Having said that, going with Microsoft likely means that Netflix will launch its ad-based platform as a reservation buy when it goes into beta, but that would be short-term. Long-term, I think this means that Netflix, as well as Microsoft, is looking to open up Netflix advertising in the same way that Google does on YouTube/YouTube TV.

That would mean that after Microsoft works out the kinks through reservation buys, the company would open up placements for all advertisers, regardless of budget, to run video ads on Netflix. Reservation buys would continue for any advertiser, but anytime those placements are not bought, they would go up for auction. I foresee, though, that big series like Stranger Things, The Crown, and The Witcher will require large reservation busy since demand will be high. The same goes for movies.

Disney+ recently announced that the cheaper D+ offering would have ads as well, but those would be done through The Trade Desk. TTD is a popular DSP (demand side platform), but typically they require a reasonably sized budget in order to run campaigns.

With the Netflix/Microsoft deal, it opens up “TV commercials” for the everyday advertiser.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive can help you navigate the connected TV landscape. Our services range from media strategy and planning to automated performance reporting. Learn more about our services here, and contact us to learn more.

Streaming Services Embrace Ads: Advertiser Q&A

Streaming Services Embrace Ads: Advertiser Q&A

Advertising

Netflix sparked one of the biggest stories in the ad tech industry in April when the streaming company announced it was going to embrace advertising. This move was long anticipated from industry watchers who wondered how long Netflix could satisfy investors and recoup the costs of content creation based on subscriber growth alone. Well, Netflix finally relented after distancing itself from ads. That’s because Netflix’s subscribers are not growing at the rate Netflix once enjoyed when the company was challenged by few competitors. In its first quarter of 2022, the company actually lost subscribers. But Netflix is not the only company adopting an advertising-supported tier. Disney+ will also adopt advertising in 2022. The two platforms join streaming companies such as Hulu and HBO Max in doing so. Here are some questions advertisers might be asking:

Will people who subscribe to Disney+ and Netflix start seeing ads with their current plans?

No. Both Disney+ and Netflix have made it clear an ad-supported plan will cost less than the ad-free plans that exists now.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently told investors, “If you still want the ad-free option, you’ll be able to have that as a consumer. And if you would rather pay a lower price and you’re ad-tolerant, we’re going to cater to you also.” Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said the same about Disney’s plans.

Why are Disney+ and Netflix running ads?

The obvious answer: advertising brings in revenue to offset the costs of content creation. But advertising also gives audiences more options. Recently, Hulu revealed that 70 percent of its viewers were on ad-supported plans with the remainder on the pricier ad-free tiers. Both Disney and Netflix expect that audiences will respond to having both an ad-free and cheaper ad-supported option.

“Based on our Hulu experience, we actually have more AVOD [ad-supported video-on-demand] than SVOD [subscription VOD] subscribers,” Christine McCarthy of Disney said, speaking at the 9th Annual MoffettNathanson Media and Communications Summit. “We expect about the same percentage for both Disney+ and Hulu, just based on the experience curve that we’ve witnessed.”

Reed Hastings of Netflix also cited Hulu’s success when he unveiled Netflix’s plans to investors. Hastings specifically called out Hulu as proof that ads are working for video subscription services: Hulu ended 2021 with 40.9 million paying subscribers, up from 35.4 million a year ago.

When do ads come to Netflix and Disney+?

Disney plans to launch an ad-supported plan in 2022 at some point; although Netflix has not specified a timeline, a leaked internal memo from Hastings indicated that an ad-supported plan could be coming before the end of the year.

What will the ads look like?

At the MoffettNathanson conference, Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, said that the Disney+ ad-supported tier will start with 15- and 30-second spots, but will expand to a “full suite of ad products” over time. The ads will have an average of four minutes per hour, which is fewer ads than at Hulu. That’s partly because 65 percent of viewing on Disney+ is movies, which has fewer ad breaks than series.

According to Variety, the ad-supported version of Disney+ will not accept alcohol or political advertising at launch, nor will it run ads from rival streamers or entertainment studios.

Nothing is known yet about Netflix’s plans. But since Netflix cites Hulu as a model for successful advertising, Hulu’s own ad units are worth learning more about. And there are many of them. Here are a few:

  • Standard video ads appear as a commercial break during the streaming of any of Hulu’s full episodes. Such ads can also appear as a pre-roll for clips hosted on distribution partners of Hulu or as companion banners.
  • Binge ads let advertisers deliver contextually relevant messages to the audience during a viewer’s binge session. These ads help businesses to engage with audiences in a non-disruptive way. Binge ads are for viewers who have watched three or more shows of the same series.
  • Sponsored Collection brand placements gives advertisers extended ownership of a collection sponsorship through logo placement adjacent to content in Hulu’s UI across devices.
  • Hulu’s Pause Ad is a non-disruptive, non-intrusive user-initiated ad experience that appears when a viewer presses pause when watching content.
  • The Ad Selector allows the user to control their ad experience by choosing the ad they want to see. The user will be presented with two or three video options. Once a selection is made, the user will be presented with the commercial of their choice. If no selection is made after 15 seconds, one video in the unit will be randomly selected to play.

Hulu shares its ad units in more detail here.

Netflix is renowned for using analytics to personalize content for its audiences around the world. Its own ad units may skew toward the Ad Selector option cited above, tailored to global audiences. But the company will need help.

“Netflix already has a trove of first-party data that can deliver a variety of audience segments for advertisers, and relevance for consumers,” said Adam Helfgott, CEO at MadHive, the programmatic ad tech firm. “In order to sell that inventory in context with TV overall for advertiser objectives, they will need to integrate into the ecosystem and partner with DSPs, SSPs, and infrastructure providers.”

Netflix may also step up product placements in its shows such as Stranger Things. Netflix has not really actively monetized product placements even though its shows are not shy about integrating real products into their plotlines, as Stranger Things does with businesses ranging from Cadillac to Eggo.

Meanwhile, competitors Amazon Prime Video and Peacock will literally drop products into actual shows. These received less attention than the news from Netflix from Disney+, but they are also intriguing. At the 2022 NewFronts, Amazon and Peacock demonstrated new ad formats that use similar virtual product placement (VPP) tools, a post-production technique for inserting a brand into a TV show or movie scene.

Amazon’s VPP tool, operating in beta, lets advertisers place their branded products directly into streaming content after they have already been filmed and produced. Peacock’s new “In-Scene” ads will identify key moments within a show and digitally insert a brand’s customized messaging or product post-production so that the brand is showcased in the right TV show/movie and at the right time. These function very similarly to in-game ads.

It’s going to be an interesting and exciting year for advertising.

What should advertisers do?

  • Understand the growth of advertising on streaming platforms in context of the rise of connected TV. If you’ve not done so already, take a closer look at why connected TV is growing and how it could expand your audience. (True Interactive can help you with that.) Connected TV is enjoying 60-percent growth, driven by a public’s appetite for streaming that continues unabated, Netflix’s slowdown notwithstanding.
  • While you await more clarity on available ad units, get to know the audiences on each platform. Which is right for your brand?

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive can help you navigate the connected TV landscape. Our services range from media strategy and planning to automated performance reporting. Learn more about our services here, and contact us to learn more.

Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

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What’s Next for Netflix?

What’s Next for Netflix?

Connected TV

Remember when Meta shocked the world by announcing a historic drop in its stock price? Well, Meta has some company now that Netflix realized a massive drop in its own market capitalization after announcing that the streaming service had lost subscribers for the first time in 10 years. The news shook investors, but it also inspired speculation about new directions for Netflix – notably the likely introduction of advertising, a move that Netflix has resisted for years. But times have changed, and now Netflix must adapt or die. Here’s what I think will happen next:

  • Advertising will happen sooner than you think. Netflix said it will take a few years to integrate ads into the platform. But I’m thinking it will take months. The company has endured two consecutive disastrous quarters and forecast another bad one on the way. Netflix is under too much pressure to wait two years. Plus, its audience is receptive: two-thirds of connected TV viewers in the U.S. prefer to see ads if they can pay less for the service, according to a recent survey conducted by DeepIntent and LG Ads Solutions. On top of that, Netflix is already set up to create an ad business. The company is sitting on top of deep first-party data. All Netflix needs to do is partner with an ad tech platform to get an ad business up and running. (The Trade Desk has been circulated as a likely partner.) And watching content on streaming is a pretty straightforward experience: it’s easy to drop in ad spots before or after shows, and during them, just like linear TV. And connected TV offers even more options such as ads appearing alongside the search bar or in the screen menu. Knowing Netflix’s aversion to advertising, I suspect the company will avoid interruptive ads even for a lower-price tier.
  • Ads will get creative. Sure, we’ll see plenty of traditional commercial spots like you see on Hulu. But Netflix has been quietly building a merchandising operation over the past few years. The company recently launched its own digital commerce site to sell clothing tied into its popular shows. Netflix will likely create merchandise licensing deals to feature products from other businesses in its shows, such as Stranger Things. So far, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been reluctant to go down this route. But all bets are off now.
  • Netflix will get sold. I don’t think advertising will be a savior for Netflix. True, there is a receptive audience, but is there enough to sustain Netflix’s future? I predict that Netflix will be sold to Apple. Apple launched its own streaming service, Apple TV+, in 2019, and the company is hungry to grow. Apple has deep pockets and is eager to achieve brand cachet, which it lacks right now. But Netflix has plenty of brand cachet. I could see Apple buying Netflix but allowing the company to keep its own name. The most expensive part of owning a streaming service is creating contentNetflix gives Apple TV+ a way to accelerate content development.

What Brands Should Do

The Netflix news is a wake-up call for advertisers to embrace connected TV. The only reason Netflix has a future is because connected TV (CTV) has evolved far enough to allow for ads in the first place. Oh, and guess what? Executives at competitors such as Disney+ are doing exactly what Netflix is doing. Hulu, for one, already figured out how to crack the code with CTV ads.

According to Forbes, a recent study from the Leichtman Research Group estimates that 80 percent of TV homes in the U.S. have at least one connected TV device. That number represents a steady increase from the 57 percent logged in 2015, and 24 percent in 2010.

Predictably, CTV use soared during the pandemic: Forbes also cites a Nielson report, which notes that CTV viewing exploded from 2.7 billion hours during the pre-pandemic week of March 2, to 3.9 billion hours during the weeks of March 23, March 30, and April 6. Even during the week of May 4, when stay-at-home laws eased in some states, CTV viewing remained above pre-pandemic levels at 3.5 billion hours.

These stats are good news for advertisers embracing CTV. So is the fact that CTV allows brands to reach out to specific audiences. As Forbes notes, “CTV’s targeting capabilities are the ‘holy grail’ for advertisers.” Many CTV companies use ACR, or Automated Content Recognition, which collects data that can inform programming recommendations for users and better target ads to niche groups. Although audiences in the era of connected TV may not be as huge as the linear TV days, CTV helps brands better understand and reach their niche market effectively.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to capitalize on the opportunities CTV can offer your brand? Contact us. We can help.

Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox: Advertiser Q&A

Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Google recently announced that the company will enact a new consumer privacy measure that will affect users of Android devices. Let’s take a closer look at what Google announced and why the news matters to advertisers.

What did Google announce?

Google said the company will limit the sharing of data on smartphones running its Android software. According to a blog post, “Specifically, these solutions will limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID. We’re also exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs.”

What does Google’s announcement mean?

The announcement means that Google will make it harder for advertisers to track user behavior as they use Android devices to browse different sites. Advertisers know whether users clicked on an ad or bought a product when they browse the web because of the Advertising ID tracking feature. Google will eliminate identifiers used in advertising on Android for everyone, and this includes Google, too. By the way, Google has already allowed users to opt out of personalized ads by removing the tracking identifier.

Didn’t Apple just launch something similar to what Google is doing?

Indeed, in 2021, Apple launched a privacy control known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT). This requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. This move, done with little advance notice, curtailed the ability for advertisers and ad platforms such as Facebook to target digital ads across the web. Facebook in particular has struggled to figure out how to come up with an effective antidote to ATT. The company recently suffered a momentous drop in its market capitalization partly because of its difficulties adapting to life post-ATT.

Won’t Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox Hurt Google?

Not likely. Google has a huge advertising business to protect. The company is not going to simply remove ad targeting without coming up with another way to track user behavior. In fact, Google is developing alternative tools in its Privacy Sandbox to help businesses serve up targeted content in a more privacy-conscious way. They include:

  • Fledge, for remarketing new ads.
  • Attribution reports, for telling advertisers which ads work without compromising consumer privacy.

Google will probably have even more control over data than it ever has. And it will protect the first-party data it collects through Google Search, the Google Knowledge Panel, and YouTube.

When will the Android Privacy Sandbox Take Effect?

Not for at least two years. Google makes so much money from advertising that the company is going to work very closely and slowly with advertisers to introduce a privacy control without rocking the boat. Google told The New York Times, ​​“We realize that other platforms have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers. We believe that — without first providing a privacy-preserving alternative path — such approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses.” And just in case you didn’t get the point, Google’s post hyperlinked to an article about Application Tracking Transparency.

Why is Google even doing this at all? Why not keep things the way they are?

Google is getting out in front of regulators and responding to public sentiment. The Big Tech companies are under increased scrutiny for the amount of data they collect about people, and Google probably more so than others because of how popular Google Search is. Legislators around the world are leaning on Big Tech to become more privacy conscious. Google is making changes on its own terms before those changes are dictated to Google.

What should advertisers do?

  • Do your homework. Stay on top of developments by following Google’s public blog posts.
  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • If you are succeeding with Google Ads, stay the course. Google is enduring an imperfect transition right now toward a privacy-world, but as noted, Google is going to protect its turf.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads. That’s because it’s clear that between Apple and Google, third-party data tracking is going to become less effective. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Kai Wenzel on Unsplash

Why Walmart Connect Is Winning

Why Walmart Connect Is Winning

Walmart

For the first time, Walmart shared how much money its advertising business, Walmart Connect, is generating. And business is good. In announcing its quarterly earnings February 17, Walmart said that Walmart Connect achieved $2.1 billion in revenue in 2021. Why is Walmart Connect succeeding?

What Is Walmart Connect?

Walmart Connect is the name of Walmart’s advertising business. Walmart Connect creates targeted advertising by capitalizing on the customer data it has accumulated about search and shopping on Walmart.com and in Walmart stores. Walmart Connect offers many ad units. For example, Search Brand Amplifier makes it possible for a brand’s logo, a custom headline, and up to three of its products appear at the top of a web page (on Walmart.com), thus improving brand recognition and showcasing a company’s product portfolio.

What Did Walmart Announce?

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Walmart said that Walmart Connect is growing remarkably well. According to Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs, “Walmart Connect advertising experienced robust sales growth this year with a strong pipeline of new advertisers and large growth opportunities ahead. In fact, the number of active advertisers using Walmart Connect grew more than 130% year over year. And about half of the ad sales came from automated channels in Q4, more than double last year. We expect Walmart Connect to continue to scale over the next few years with plans to become a top 10 ad business in the midterm.”

Why Is Walmart Connect Succeeding?

Walmart Connect is benefitting because the company relies on first-party customer data. Ad platforms that rely on first-party customer data are becoming more attractive as businesses such as Apple and Google make it harder for advertisers to capitalize on third-party customer behavior data to create online ads. First-party data is beyond the reach of these privacy initiatives. That’s a big reason why retailer-based ad businesses are flourishing – and Walmart is not the only one, as we blogged here.

Another reason for the success of Walmart Connect is that the company has offered automated advertising tools. As noted above, in a call with Wall Street analysts, Walmart said that half the advertising revenue in 2021 came through automated channels. This suggests that Walmart is doing a good job offering programmatic advertising — or the use of automated technology for media buying (the process of buying advertising space), as opposed to traditional (often manual) methods of digital advertising.

Although we don’t have any numbers yet, it’s also likely that Walmart’s physical stores will play a role in the growth of Walmart Connect. Walmart Connect sells ads on more than 170,000 screens — including televisions and self-checkout kiosk screens — located inside more than 4,500 U.S. stores. For example, TV Wall Ads provide placement of an advertisement on thousands of in-store TV screens in stores, with the goal being to influence shoppers while they’re making purchase decisions. Keep an eye on the in-store ad units. They are primed for growth as people become more comfortable shopping in stores post-pandemic.

What Should Advertisers Do?

  • Consider retailer-based ad networks as a complement to your existing digital ad strategy, not as a replacement. If your strategy focuses on Facebook and Google, for instance, don’t move your ad dollars over to a retailer network. Remember that Facebook and Google also already offer proven advertising products that capitalize on their vast user base. For example, location-based digital advertising tools help strengthen Google’s advertising services at the local level.
  • Work with an agency partner that knows the terrain. For instance, at True Interactive, we complement our history of helping businesses advertising on Google and social media with expertise across retailer ad networks such as Amazon and Walmart.
  • Learn more about the ad products that might apply to you – and those products are evolving. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site – meaning advertising across the web, as well as via connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here and our Walmart Connect expertise here.

For More Insight

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses,” Tim Colucci, January 11, 2022.

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business,” Tim Colucci, May 19, 2021.