L.L. Bean Testing iAds Programmatically

LL Bean test drive iAdsWhen Apple announced last week it was dipping its toe into programmatic via partnerships with ad tech companies, it cited retailer L.L. Bean as an early purchaser of iAds inventory via MediaMath.

It’s the first time the outdoor-focused retailer has bought through Apple’s iAds, though it’s gradually devoted more marketing spend to mobile initiatives.

“We didn’t get into it pre-programmatic because the buy-in prices were relatively expensive,” said Jeff Allen, VP of ecommerce for L.L. Bean, echoing what other advertisers have said about Apple’s iAd inventory. “We like to test and learn into new media, so we did things that were more proven.”

Apple enables programmatic buying on a flat price on a CPC or a CPM basis, not through true real-time bidding. While the advertiser can adjust the targeting, bid or budget throughout the day, the bid price can’t change on an impression-by-impression basis.

L.L. Bean’s willingness to test iAd stems from Apple’s rich targeting capabilities.

“We’re a data-driven marketer from a catalog heritage, so we have a good sense of what our audiences are going to be,” Allen said. “The richer the targeting capabilities, the better we’re able to hone in on specific audiences that our historical data suggests will buy our products.”

Because iAd inventory is tied to email addresses in the iTunes store, it provides precise targeting. Allen compared it with Facebook.

“They know who everyone is,” he said. “Obviously they’re not revealing any PII [personally identifiable information], but they have rich demographic data and make that available for targeting, similar to Facebook.”

Measuring the success of the campaign will be trickier.

L.L. Bean’s iAd initiative focuses on top-of-funnel campaigns, in part because the ads run in-app where click-through rates are lower.

To measure true success, the retailer plans to explore algorithmic attribution modeling. Allen also said he isn’t sure if Apple will allow something like a hashed email address to be used by an advertiser for attribution purposes. If allowed, it would provide a rich source of attribution.

“One of the things we’re sorting through with Apple, which is the same with Facebook and other providers, is data,” Allen said. “They’re very concerned with the privacy of their consumers. I appreciate that as a consumer of Apple products, but it also presents challenges.”

As with other major ad players like Google and Facebook, Apple guards its users’ data. While walled gardens please consumers, they frustrate advertisers as they complicate tracking users across environments.

“It makes it tough to manage holistic campaigns across everything,” Allen said. “You have all these siloed publisher environments. But that’s where consumers are and where they’re interacting, and you’ve got to figure it out.”

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