The March To One Million Siloed Ad Networks Continues

New Google Ads features - and one of them is helpful. Teenagers represent a whole new challenge for eCommerce. And why every brand suddenly wants to be an ad network.

I’m still revamping the formatting of Cache. Your input has been hugely helpful. Keep it coming!


April 18, 2021

📰 The News You Missed

The march to one million siloed ad networks continues

We have covered how the obvious response to Apple’s new privacy changes is for social networks to silo users on their respective networks. If they can own the customer journey soup to nuts, they will have far more intimate data than ever before.

While this is a newish idea in the United States - with only 4.3% of US eCommerce is coming from social commerce - it is not a new idea. 

But in that vein, this week, a pitch deck from TikTok leaked, outlining their new eCommerce offerings coming in early 2021. We knew it was coming, but here are the early details:

The new formats include:

  • Collection Ads, where brands can combine their product catalogs and branded videos to lead people to product landing pages.

  • Dynamic Product Ads, which automatically retarget people with products according to their online behaviors.

  • Promo Tiles, which allow advertisers to add customizable sales and promotions to their in-feed ads.

  • Showcase Tiles, which let creators promote products in their videos with a link to them in tiles below for users to purchase. // businessinsider.com

While social media companies are scrambling to keep you on-platform, other brands are looking for ways to circumvent social media altogether. 

Interestingly enough, big-box retailers are poised to capitalize on the ad market shakeup. 

While Google, Facebook and the media networks have massive scale, they lack the deep transactional data of a retailer like Amazon, which will approach $20 billion in ad revenue this year, and is growing at 51% YoY.

Amazon’s model represents the next generation of closed ecosystems built on a solid commerce foundation. Major players such as Walmart, Kroger, Target, Best Buy and others are all following Amazon’s lead by investing in their advertising businesses based on first-party consumer data including SKU-level data on transactions. Consumers meme about their Bible-length CVS receipts, but think about the data and infrastructure CVS had behind it as they announced their CVS Media Network. Walgreens became the most recent entrant to the game with its launch of Walgreens Advertising Group. Other players include Best Buy, eBay, Home Depot, Instacart and even Uber.

RMSs are transforming the advertising landscape in a positive way with vast amounts of permissioned first-party data, including SKU level transaction data that can be used to create closed looped measurement that validates the advertisers’ investments. These retailers can become advertisers’ ‘must have’ partners in the future offering targeting, measurement and scale, but only if they can generate scale with privacy guardrails. // adexchanger.com

Online & offline transaction data, visibility throughout the entire funnel, hyper-targeted customer groups could make big-box retailers an interesting force in the new PPC 3.0 world.

(The biggest question I have - do they have the technical chops to keep user data safe?)

Additionally, this week we learned of a second approach to this problem, as media conglomerates partner with transaction data providers:

Seeing a void in the marketplace, ad tech vendors are stepping in with tech solutions designed to help brands link in-store and online transactions to digital ads in real-time. Just this month, Verizon Media partnered with Catalina, a provider of consumer-driven marketing solutions, to help CPG brands more effectively connect digital campaigns with sales. The partnership matches Catalina’s sales data to Verizon Media’s identity graph, which means Verizon Media is now the first DSP to be integrated with a top CPG sales data provider. 

The new partnership between Verizon Media and Catalina provides validated omnichannel sales conversions, influenced by true media exposure. Markman says it’s hard for brands to connect omnichannel media buys with in-store outcomes in any scenario, since brands typically don’t have access to the data or a scalable way to connect it, but the challenges have only been exacerbated by the current climate.

Catalina’s access to more than 170 million shopper loyalty cards and its direct retailer relationships put the company in a powerful position. By matching Catalina’s sales data to its own cross-device ID graph, Verizon Media is giving marketers greater granularity at scale and providing its clients with product-specific purchase insights. // streetfightmag.com

I know I am giving iOS 14.5 a lot of coverage, but it is hard to understate:

  1. The power social media had before this change

  2. The ripple effects Apple is causing with its privacy changes 

These changes are shaking up the whole marketing ecosystem. 

(If you are still catching up on iOS 14.5 and its ripple effects, Joanna Stern released a great summary video this week. 

Google Ads rolls out auto-applied recommendations

Secondly, we’ve been looking at ways for businesses to move faster — by quickly taking action based on recommendations from our real-time insights, powered by machine learning. To achieve this, we’re taking automation one step further, giving marketers an option to "opt-in" to automatically apply certain campaign and performance recommendations. This means that every time our algorithms detect an opportunity to improve a campaign, brands can implement these recommendations instantly, enabling them to be fast and helpful for their consumers and save time. // blog.google.com

Google Ads recommendations are so, so bad. I wonder how many accounts are so mismanaged that they benefit from these “recommendations from our real-time insights, powered by machine learning”? 

And if those insights are so keen, why doesn’t Google know that I have already downloaded the Google Ads app?

Thankfully, unlike Microsoft Ads, this is an opt-in program. So definitely do not opt-in. 

While this feature is not helpful, Google Ads did release a new feature advertisers are exciting to see:

Dynamic exclusion lists are coming to Google Ads

So today, we’re announcing a new feature that will help simplify this process – giving advertisers the ability to use dynamic exclusion lists that can be updated seamlessly and continuously over time. These lists can be created by advertisers themselves or by a third party they trust, such as brand safety organizations and industry groups. Once advertisers upload a dynamic exclusion list to their Google Ads account, they can schedule automatic updates as new web pages or domains are added, ensuring that their exclusion lists remain effective and up-to-date. // support.google.com

This feature will roll out to all users “within the coming weeks.”

Google is sunsetting its Google Shopping mobile app

“Within the next few weeks, we’ll no longer be supporting the Shopping app,” a Google spokesperson told 9to5Google. “All of the functionality the app offered users is available on the Shopping tab. We’ll continue building features within the Shopping tab and other Google surfaces, including the Google app, that make it easy for people to discover and shop for the products they love.” - via gizmodo.com

Why is Google already killing an app that it just released 19 months ago? 

The Google Shopping service has been a rough proposition for users—starting in 2012, it has been nothing but an ad vector that exclusively showed "paid listings" and no organic results whatsoever. This made some sense as a service that showed advertisements in little embedded boxes in Google.com search results, but it was unclear why a user would download an app that exclusively shows ads.

In April 2020, Google Shopping gave up on the "paid listings only" policy and started listing anyone that signed up on the "Google Merchant Center." The Merchant Center has retailers generate and send Google a product data feed, which is used for the search results. This means Google Shopping still isn't a spider-driven search engine the way Google Search is. Google Search does it best to find, catalog, and index the world's data, while Google Shopping doesn't go out of its way to index the web; it only cares about businesses that send it data feeds. This can lead to woefully inadequate listings for some searches, especially for companies Google doesn't like. For instance, a search for "Amazon Echo" will never list an Amazon.com result in the Shopping search results (Amazon is welcome to buy an ad, though). - via arstechnica.com

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Shopping is such a missed opportunity for Google. 

Taking Stock With Teens

I’ll highlight a few of the items I found most interesting from the study:

  • Cash is the top payment method, followed by Apple Pay.

Credit cards are the thoughtless default of most online retailers. If you target teens, are you offering the payment options they want?

  • 88% of teens own an iPhone and 90% expect an iPhone to be their next phone.

  • Racial Equality is 3x more important of a social cause than Black Lives Matter.

If you are a brand aligning yourself with a cultural cause, it might be easy to connect with a particular organization. But there may be downsides to that approach.

But that isn’t all we learned about Gen Z this week. Sitecore released a study of how consumer behavior of Gen Z changed during the pandemic and here are their findings:

  • 80% are more willing to try new brands online since the pandemic

  • 63% have less patience with slow or poorly functioning websites

  • 57% are less loyal now to brands than before the pandemic

  • 37% either abandon a purchase or post a negative review with a poor digital shopping experience // prnewswire.com

Get your website in order because Gen Z don’t eff around. 

Quick Hits 🥊

  • A few weeks ago, Buffer added Instagram engagement features to its platform. This week they expanded those features to include Facebook too.

  • Unbounce released their 2021 Conversion Benchmark Report this week, which is stocked full of good data points.

  • Google Chrome announce some new features, including collapsible tab groups, linking to highlighted text, and much-needed performance improvements.

  • Speaking of Chrome, we have covered how other browsers would need to opt-in to Google’s new proposed advertising technology, FLoC. Yeah, well, it turns out no one is doing that.

Just For Fun 🤪