Barkow, who will stay on as Bazaarvoice’s GM of Media, discussed with AdExchanger his new company and the buying and selling of media through e-commerce and shopping publishers today.
AdExchanger: Beyond what it means for Bazaarvoice and Longboard Media, what does the acquisition say about advertising and commerce broadly?
JIM BARKOW: For retailers and for advertisers, it means the growth of retail media — shopping media — is continuing to accelerate.
One of the first tasks we’ve come up with at Longboard is educating retailers and helping them put media and inventory [on their sites] that can be made available to advertisers. We are also educating more retailers about how shopping media can positively affect both the site experience and monetization.
To scale the space, for us, focusing on retailers first and establishing the network’s inventory provides the advertiser an ability to reach a share of voice in certain product categories or audiences with meaningful volume.
The reason Longboard Media was mostly interested in this acquisition and merger with Bazaarvoice is that it helped us accomplish both those goals. And, Bazaarvoice has the largest retailer network for reviews, ratings and content. That’s the direction we need to accelerate.
At a high level, our verticals are around shopping and commerce. First, we work with shopping publishers that are considered product review, deals, price comparison and coupon sites — any place where you can go look at product content but can’t actually buy. Then, our second vertical is the retailers themselves.
Ultimately, our publisher base is about attracting audiences that are around the point of buying. There are other ad networks which primarily serve the audience with little regard for the content. We’re purely focused around the shopping experience and the path towards actual purchase.
Our inventory is also slightly different than your typical ad network. We’re very transparent about who our publisher base is, and we’re also publisher-direct. This means that for some of our largest retailers, you can buy directly on them – even down to product category, particular product, a price point or profile – which is different than most ad networks. Also, typically for an ad network, the publisher base is wide and broad, but not very deep [in a vertical].
What happens to you now that the company has been acquired by Bazaarvoice?
Of all the questions that go on during acquisitions, that’s probably the easiest one for me to answer. First, I’m not done. Longboard is not done — nor is our vertical which was a must-have for Bazaarvoice. My role going forward is as GM of the Media Group, which is going to encompass what Longboard does as well as some possible future project development and other channels as well. But, it’s going to be mostly centered around media. I’m very excited to stick around for at least a couple of years and grow the channel.
And the rest of the team is staying? How many people is it?
Yes. We’re a little more than 25 people and, in fact, we brought over people from Bazaarvoice into our team. It’s a full company acquisition.
Now that you’ve hooked up with Bazaarvoice, how do you think your advertiser clients might change?
Sure. Let’s start with an understanding of our advertiser base. It’s in four different distinct channels. One of them we call endemics, which is product manufacturers themselves. We’re running advertising inventory on Newegg, for example, with fairly large buyers.
The second category is credit cards – or anybody who is around the consumer transaction and funding it.
The third area is retailers themselves. A lot of times it’s retailers either working as a publisher or purely as an advertiser. They come to us looking for inventory, largely on our shopping sites, but also possibly take advantage of our audience data, as far as retargeting consumers.
Our fourth area, and probably our fastest growing, is non-endemic brands where the content itself is not necessarily relevant, but the audience and experience is exactly what they’re looking for. A lot of those advertisers encompass auto manufacturers, even financial services or other services.
So, with Bazaarvoice, the first benefit to advertisers is scale. Bazaarvoice has over 1,500 different brands (advertisers) using Bazaarvoice’s rating and review platform. We’ll be leveraging that network of brands to help them engage in deeper, software marketing messaging.
Do you see a connection with what your company is doing and programmatic buying?
We’ve been experimenting with programmatic buying – both by allowing advertisers to buy our inventory via programmatic buying, and by retargeting audience via real-time bidding (RTB) platforms or exchanges.
From the sell-side perspective, we look at what’s the best way to leverage either exchange marketplaces or RTB for our [shopping] publishers – meaning on an inventory basis. For us, that area is probably not as important as the news media is tending to promote right now. There are a couple of issues. Latency is probably the largest one. Also, the actual effective yield is not that compelling. I can see it being compelling for content sites, or mid-funnel sites, or even the long tail sites that don’t have the value of the content or the brand association that could garner either direct sales or direct promotion. But, we’re on the opposite end where our inventory is very premium, and there’s a direct association with brands. Therefore it’s in high demand.
Anytime we turn on RTB for some inventory in order to experiment, the effective yield is still very, very low at this point, so I’d say our vertical is possibly a little bit new and is still yet to be taken advantage of [in RTB marketplaces]. RTB is essentially about an agency or advertiser controlling the targeting and brand.
On the buy side for us, RTB or programmatic buying is very valuable, mostly because we’re resolving the brand engagement interaction point as well as finding and refining our user base again (retargeting). In that regard, from a buy side [perspective], programmatic buying is probably the largest value in the ad space for the next couple of years.