Should you advertise with Amazon? Social Media partner with programmatic platforms to power new ways to target advertising

Ad platforms aren’t just for advertising networks anymore.. The social media giants have awoken to the power of their own databases are are partnering with Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to deliver custom networks to advertisers. Amazon has launched the Amazon Advertising Platform, Facebook Audience Network is booming, and Quora is jumping in.

Here’s what you need to know.

Back up a minute: How does programmatic advertising work?

You need to understand how programmatic ad placement works, because, according the IAB, 80% of ad buying now takes place programmatically, or, to use the term they prefer, “automatically.” How does that happen? Think of SSPs and DSPs as representing the two sides of an exchange. Publishers make the most profit from direct ad sales: those juicy premium placements on the masthead, those fancy skyscrapers. But that leaves a lot of site real estate left to sell, and like fish, content expires. So they channel their excess inventory to supply side platforms or SSPs. These allow them some control, like setting a minimum bid for the space and excluding unsavory advertisers who might offend their audience. On the other side of the exchange are the Demand Side Platforms. They look across all the offers bid for the most advantageous for their customers. Got it?

And then you have social media platforms like Facebook and Linked In that essentially “own” a specific audience. If you want to reach them, you place ads through Facebook and LinkedIn. Until now, when those platforms have begun to allow sales through intermediaries. (But I digress.)

Now major social platforms have realized they can partner with SSPs and offer ad networks outside of their own “verticals,” using their data to increase the targetability of the buy.  In other words, if you ever wished you could reach your Facebook audience outside the Facebook world, you just got your wish.  

Here are some of the major social media sites venturing into Programmatic partnerships:

Facebook Audience Network: Target by preferences and people you know

“Birds of a feather flock together.” This truism, that people who are alike tend to like the same things, underscored geographic targeting for decades, and now that we all ‘live’ online and are no longer location-bound, we ‘flock’ virtually.  And billions upon billions of ‘likes’ later, nobody knows that better than Facebook. Their deep library of preferences have long been a boon to advertisers who want to be on the platform, which, because of the value of its trust with the audience, enjoys a higher response rate than other click-through platforms.  

Now they offer that audience across the webverse, with the Facebook Audience Network. The Follower applies the likes, dislikes, and look-alikes of its users across non-Facebook websites, allowing a precision of preference targeting that is unmatched.

Further, if you have a robust fanbase on Facebook, you can use the “look-alike” feature to target anyone else on Facebook who shares similar interests to your fans. It’s one of our favorite targeting tools.

Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP): Target by purchases

The largest internet seller in the country has realized its value. It’s been following the moves of its competitor, Alibaba, and Amazon seems to have woken up and smelled the coffee. First, they stopped stocking every item and started representing other sellers. Now they are offering themselves as an ad platform. As they say in their promotional video, they have watched us shop for 20 years. They know what we like and they know what purchases correlate with other purchases.  

Because while people were looking at Amazon as a retailer, they have quietly built one of the strongest social media platforms in the world. All those reviews and ratings? That’s social media, baby, and they are bursting with data. For years they used it for their own purposes.  That “people who bought this also bought” scroll at the bottom of every page?  The special offers “just for you”?

The Amazon Advertising Platform essentially lets you do the same thing. You can find customers by the books they buy or review, the movies…the list is as endless as the range of their product offerings, which is pretty endless.  And of course, it’s not just on Amazon, it’s through the programmatic platform they offer you.

Or build your own custom ad network

Want something even more custom? If you have a CRM database with a thousand or more names, you can import your list into a programmatic management platform and build your own look-alike audience. The method uses military-grade, HIPAA compliant encryption to export your data and match it against likely targets.

Should you manage your ad buys yourself or use a professional?

Let’s talk about this. Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Quora, and others provide self-service platforms that let you manage your own buying and the set-up is pretty simple. They all provide reports and data.

But if you truly need to maximize your KPIs, professional management is the difference between night and day. Here’s why

  • Professional work across multiple DSPs. By the nature of the market, multiple DSPs are competing to serve the same ad from the same publisher at different prices. If you don’t know what you’re doing you can bid against yourself and drive up your own prices. (We’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.) A professional manager is working across multiple DSPs to get you the best results for your budget.
  • Professionals can judge what’s normal. They have a broad basis of comparison and can gauge whether your campaign is performing as it should or if there’s a problem. They can be an early warning system for issues like ad-wearout or a conversion path with too much friction.
  • Professionals are watching the store. Click-fraud is a scourge on the ad world and you have to stay on top of it. Pros know when something’s off, when you’re actually not doing great in Russia, when there’s too much activity in one place.  
  • A professional is on it full time. An active bidding site requires close monitoring. Just as you wouldn’t try to day-trade the stock market part-time, the programmatic market moves fast. You can’t maximize efficiency unless you’re paying attention.
  • Professionals keep up with the changes. As platforms compete their capabilities are evolving fast.  It takes time to keep up on the changes and experience to understand how they affect individual accounts.

Testing the waters

We’ve worked with programmatic placement for 6 years now, and seen good results from retargeting.

To find a completely new audience, you have to test.  We’ve been working with FAN since the beginning of the year and it’s showing strong results for our clients.  The proprietary platform we buy through gives us more control than the standard Facebook ad portal, so our results might not be typical if you manage things yourself.  We are implementing an Amazon buy on behalf of a client soon and are eager to see what happens.

From the beginning we’ve talked about the need to test and measure as new tools come into the market.  It’s a balance to not chase the latest shiny thing, but with the revenue these platforms stand to generate, we don’t see Amazon or the like backing down any time soon.