Marriott (yes, Marriot) recently announced plans to start their own media network. To date, media networks have been largely built around retail, reasoning being:
1) Retailers have access to consumer-focused, 1st party, purchase-driven data that can be customized to create uniquely valuable audiences
2) These very same audiences can be deployed programmatically, with outcomes measureable from exposure to purchase.
Retailers from Amazon to Family Dollar have been building media networks at break-neck pace. Often sacrificing speed-to-market for sound decision-making i.e. they’ve gotten some things wrong. Meaning retail media networks – despite their potential – aren’t exempt from criticism. If the next wave of media networks wish to improve upon their predecessors, they’d be wise to focus on the following:
Choose Technology Paths Wisely
Some build, some bolt-on, some go agnostic. Regardless of path, advertisers will use it. Within programmatic for example, the build vs. buy decision is fairly cut and dry. Newer entrants have mostly gone agnostic. Building a DSP that serves as the sole activation point simply adds another platform to a growing list for advertisers. The more readily a media network’s buying options sync with current buying paths, the better.
Eliminate the Minimums
Nothing like implementing a gaudy minimum spend threshold to drum up interest among advertisers!
The best platforms are the ones allowing for agility via testing. Managed service investments have their place, but barriers to entry have become too much. Allow for lower entry points, end-to-end reporting, measurement, etc. at those levels. Give advertisers want they want – digestible buys offering iterative learnings that can be applied immediately.
Provide More Non-Endemic Options
Current retail media networks have an obvious sweet spot – brands with product on their shelves.
Be it physical, digital or both, brands that sell through the retailer are most compelled to reach its audiences. Having product on shelves also means media can be tied directly to dollar-based outcomes. These two themes – audiences and outcomes – have been the fuel powering the success of retail-focused media networks to date.
But what about brands not living on-shelf that still wish to tap into those audiences? Often, they’re on the outside looking in. Very few RMNs have non-endemic offerings. Mainly because the second piece of the puzzle – tying media to outcomes – can become harder. But the need to reach, test, and better understand these audiences still exists across non-endemic advertisers.
This new breed of media networks – likely focused on data within the financial and travel industries for example – would be wise to focus on non-endemic options. They’ll need to ensure a beneficial path to reinvestment by establishing value across both audiences, and outcomes.
Consolidate, with a Focus on Transparency
Not just a consolidation of platforms, but a consolidation of purchase pathways. Making a buy across both Walmart Connect and Roundel that can funnel dollars based on the performance of each retailer.
The goal would be transparency and cooperation across the media networks themselves. Then layered atop would be the idea of a single, frictionless clean room. Where first party data can be brought in, and impression-level, user-anonymous data can be exported out. Making the buys themselves more granular, while ensuring the outputs fuel and justify that very same level of granularity.
This may seem like a pipe dream, but it might not be a stretch considering how the next iteration of media networks might need to conduct themselves.
Media networks have come a long way in a short period, but there’s still room for improvement. Marriott is just the first in a long list of major brands (with unique stockpiles of consumer data) ready to enter the media network fray.
Thinking beyond hotel brands, the airline industry could soon follow. And if they’re able to buck the current walled garden trend by sharing both their consumer data and their reporting mechanisms with say, a hotel brand? Well, the sky’s the limit.
Consolidation. Cooperation. Transparency. Three words that don’t align with the current, retail-driven media networks, but ones that soon could align with the next generation.