When advertisers think of the cutting edge of OTT advertising, they’re probably not thinking of Amazon as much as they are Roku, Hulu or YouTube.
Despite having great video products, Amazon has not ballyhooed itself as a source for great video inventory. There’s not lot of inventory on Prime, for instance, and Twitch functions as a separate division, not touching the vaunted data sets that make the inventory in Amazon’s other properties so valuable.
But Amazon’s OTT inventory is growing through its Fire TV platform, its Amazon Publisher Services (APS) network, which includes partner pubs and apps, some live sporting events on Prime Video and the ad-supported streaming video channel IMDb TV.
And while Roku’s hardware has more household penetration than Fire TV, and YouTube/Google have more users and advertisers, Amazon’s ability to power attribution and new measurement coveted by advertisers as well as the type of inventory it’s availing give it sharp differentiation.
Amazon is closing the gaps so quickly, that sources from more than a dozen agencies, brands and media companies believe it’s on track to become the leading source of connected TV advertising.
In 2018, Amazon began aggressively pursuing inventory deals with Fire TV. Roku, which has long since been hoovering up OTT inventory via the apps on its platform, currently controls much more, said Jim Lombard, co-founder and CRO of the CTV ad net Tetra TV.
But Fire TV campaigns are “cleaner” for attribution, said one CPG brand marketer who ran more than $100,000 each through YouTube, Roku and Amazon last fall for a measurement test.
Roku has more supply, but much of it is from a long tail of OTT apps with heavy ad loads. YouTube likewise has tremendous supply, but it also has user-generated content, which TV advertisers often want to avoid. Amazon’s video supply has grown more slowly, the marketer said, but is more focused on higher-quality programmers.
Amazon’s superior data play extends to OTT
In 2018, Amazon still had similar digital optimization metrics as other video DSPs. Now, said Patrick Bradley, associate director and CTV lead of the GroupM advanced video agency Modi Media, advertisers using the Amazon DSP can measure and retarget based on product page views, first-time purchasers, competitor conquesting and Amazon searches.
So Amazon’s transaction data gives its CTV ad business a huge leg up over other platforms, said QuickFrame CRO Spencer Weinman. That isn’t new for Amazon, which has the same purchase analytics for its display units, but it is new for TV and OTT advertisers, he said.
Amazon actually closes the loop on purchase attribution when it serves a Fire TV ad and then sees the same household or account holder purchase afterwards, he added.
One popular trick with DTC companies and other brands with their own apps and ecommerce sites is to measure search and traffic rates immediately after airing a TV or OTT commercial, to attribute a spike in engagement to the ad.
Google or Facebook can link the timing of OTT commercial airings with an uptick in searches, site traffic or engagements with their business accounts, as a way to attribute ROI, Weinman said. But those are proxy metrics, not directly attributable conversions.
Also, Amazon’s conversion reporting is standard for advertisers using its DSP, whereas it’s an additional cost to use Facebook’s foot traffic data or some other retail attribution company.
There’s a caveat: Amazon only allows transaction data to be channeled through its own DSP, and only returns aggregated results – so an advertiser could see that an Amazon video campaign generated 300 sales in the Chicago area, but none of the individual users are exposed.
Still, it’s a clearer picture than anywhere else in CTV advertising.
The Trade Desk, for instance, can purchase APS inventory using its own third-party ad IDs. The company doesn’t access Amazon transaction data, but since it can use its own IDs, The Trade Desk can frequency cap or measure Amazon alongside other open CTV inventory, which it can’t do for either Roku or YouTube.
“APS is supporting the open internet, in contrast to other big tech walled gardens,” The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green wrote in a memo last year, when Amazon launched a marketplace for outside DSPs to connect Fire TV inventory with outside advertising IDs.
Amazon has a nascent ad platform, so the most exciting features are still in the works, said Brad Geving, VP of media buying at the data-driven TV agency Tatari. For instance, he said in the past year Amazon has sharply honed its mid-flight optimization and post-campaign retargeting products.
If an item is selling among women aged 35-45 living in the suburbs, Amazon will package similar audiences for follow-up campaigns, as well as optimizing toward those audiences in real time, which increases the rate of conversions per ads served.
“Amazon is starting to do more of that in the background,” Geving said.
Advertisers will also favor Amazon to take advantage of products that haven’t even materialized yet.
Bradley said Modi Media is committed to Amazon’s managed service DSP so it can be a first mover whenever new tools do come out.
Other big advanced TV DSPs, including Roku and Comcast’s FreeWheel, have new offerings this year where they charge only for ads served to people who don’t see the ad on linear TV.
“I imagine that’s going to be possible with the data Amazon has,” Bradley said. “We’ll be looking out for that.”