A majority of brand marketers plan to increase their advertising budgets on Amazon, but they don’t have a strategy to make that spend effective yet.
So said Kerry Curran, Managing Partner, Marketing Integration at search and e-commerce agency Catalyst, during the only panel at New York’s Advertising Week this year devoted to Amazon. The panelists made clear that the company is extending its reach and power in ad tech much further than the panel’s title — "Seismic Shifts: How Amazon is Reshaping Shopper Marketing” — implied.
Xaxis Strategy Group Manager Frederick Seddon, another panelist, said Amazon’s demand-side platform (DSP) is most effective when used in a holistic strategy because the e-commerce and tech giant is combining its reach, data, and technology to also become a powerhouse in generating awareness and outcomes in new areas. Amazon DSP has become the favorite ad platform among marketers, according to a survey released late last year by Advertiser Perceptions.
“There is no good work that can be done on Amazon DSP that doesn’t relate to what you are doing outside that platform,” Seddon said. “There needs to be connectivity to the greater ecosystem.”
He noted that Amazon is a provider of both stand-alone advertising technology and retail technology, with a substantial media operation, a dedicated installed base of devices and apps, and the ability to hook into major partner and advertising platforms. Its resources can be used for spreading a brand’s messages, for maintaining loyalty with existing customers, or for reaching those who may be in-market and considering other brands.
Seddon cited Nike and its careful selection of products to sell on Amazon.com as a strong example of how to both capture immediate sales and “preserve the brand experience that is key to Nike's customer relationships."
Meeting the Amazon Challenge
Some of the challenges of skillfully deploying Amazon Advertising are borne of the ways it’s disrupting typical industry practices. The panelists said that dollars assigned to Amazon come from multiple, often siloed budgets such as retail or shopper marketing, e-commerce, and, increasingly, brand advertising.
“The lines between e-commerce, marketing, and technology have blurred,” said Mike Feldman, Team Lead, Retail Media for Georgia-Pacific (home to major consumer-product brands such as Brawny, Dixie, and Angel Soft). Like the other panelists, Feldman said he was looking to hire experts in one area, then train them in other relevant disciplines to handle media buying and planning, retail optimization, and the process of deriving intertwined insights from all the relevant data.
The panelists said new learnings would bear fruit beyond Amazon as retail competitors such as Walmart launch advertising platforms and, in Walmart’s case, its own video vertical, Vudu, which had a highly visible presence at the show with an outdoor trailer, a sponsored booth, and its name on a stage. Walmart, Feldman noted, is partnering with publishers such as Facebook, Pandora, and Pinterest, using its own first-party, deterministically gathered data to optimize placements and help marketers sell. The retailer, he said, is providing tools to launch and hone an effective campaign.
“We can test, get quick feedback,” Feldman said, “and quickly learn the number of impressions needed for statistical significance.”
Amazon Advertising, the panelists agreed, requires both special skills specific to its quirks and requirements (which we cover in detail in our guide to using Amazon Advertising) as well as experience with the broader market.
Melissa Burdick, Co-Founder and President of Pacvue, said she looks for great technology such as APIs that can seamlessly hook into her company’s marketing- automation solutions. She has also come to appreciate Amazon’s speed at launching new ad-tech products while acknowledging the need to work with Amazon to make them function fully. They “never launch anything at 100%,” she said, but they do provide staff she can call. The panelists said Amazon gives major partners access to product features in beta and requests their help in developing the products further. Both Xaxis and Catalyst are in the Amazon “find-a-partner” directory, which Amazon calls a “community of agencies and tool providers who offer expertise across a diverse range of Amazon Advertising specialties.”
Be Curious and Bold
If they’re smart, marketers and their partners will also understand how to use Amazon's data to optimize outcomes across campaigns, media, and platforms, and make Amazon part of a virtuous cycle of messaging and optimization.
“When working with Amazon you need a partner who understands the programmatic ecosystem and connecting it to the unique data and aspects Amazon can provide,” Seddon said, “someone who has been in the industry long enough to understand how bidding works and can bring their own data and insights to match Amazon’s.”
Brand advertisers can't afford to ignore Amazon, the panelists agreed. Seddon applied the lessons even further:
“Be bold, be curious — know the walls are coming down between disciplines — and use common sense. You always have to be learning in the ad-tech space.”