From June 2016 to June 2017, only 38% of Retail advertisers bought programmatic ad placements, accounting for a mere eight percent of spend for the category. Surprised? Retailers have historically preferred going direct to publishers for media buys, while running highly targeted campaigns. During H1 of 2017, nearly three quarters of spend for the Retail category across desktop, mobile, and video was direct - up ten percent YOY.
Which brands are spending the most via direct buys? And, are any larger brands utilizing programmatic? Let's take a look.
The Top Direct Retailers
Looking to target a direct retail buyer? Look no further than Best Buy. The brand was the second top direct spender for the first half of the year, following Amazon, within the Retail category. The desktop heavy advertiser spent 80% of their ad budget on direct buys, up 20% from last year.
Targeting top destinations including Digital Trends, CNET, AOL, and Ziff Davis sites, Best Buy struck direct deals with nearly 700 sites during the first half of the year. What has changed in their strategy? Their adtech partners.
With the increase in direct spend, and overall digital budget, came a shake-up in their ad network partners. During the first half of 2016, Best Buy funneled 20% of their budget through AOL’s Advertising.com network. Flash forward to 2017, and Best Buy has chosen to work with Tapad, Google AdX + AdSense, and Rakuten Affiliate Network, while dropping Advertising.com from their buying plan.
Which other brands are spending the most on direct during the first half of 2017? Target, eBay and GAP finished out the rest of the top five direct advertisers by spend during the first half of 2017 across desktop, mobile, and video.
Which Brands Are Buying Programmatically?
Of the top fifty Retail spenders from June 2016 to June 2017, only five spent over 30% of their desktop advertising budget on programmatic buys.
Although GAP was the fifth top direct spender during H1 2017, they have thrown programmatic in their mix over the last year. Nearly half of their spend share, to the tune of $7.1M, was spent programmatically during the twelve month period ending in June 2017. MediaMath, the brand’s top programmatic partner, has grown their share by over ten percent within GAP's desktop display buying plan.
Bloomingdale's continues to favor programmatic buys, using Rubicon Project consistently as their top adtech partner. The SSP has grasped a steady 30% of the brand’s digital advertising spend since June 2016, while the retailer also added new ad network partners to their mix. Overall, direct spend has declined ten percent from H2 2016 to H1 2017 for the department store.
Bluestem Brands, Alibaba, and Loot Crate, Inc. finish out the rest of the five brands that spent over 30% of their budget programmatically on desktop.
If Retailers Are Partnering Up, It’s With Ad Networks
Google AdX + AdSense and Amazon continue to be the top partners for Retailers to court with their digital advertising dollars. Advertising.com and Tapad finish out the list of top ad networks for the Retail category.
Drilling down to DSP partners assisting with programmatic buys, MediaMath and The Trade Desk win out. Drawbridge and DataXu have relatively little share compared to the aforementioned adtech companies that retailers are preferring to funnel their dollars through.
If you're looking to pitch a Retail brand for digital services, whether from the buy or sell side, know that incorporating a highly targeted, direct strategy is the best way to go. If you are a programmatic partner, be ready to prove that your inventory is worth their dollars and be prepared with their media plan in order to poke holes in their current strategy.