Retail Media Networks: Necessary Cost Of Doing Business, Or Something More?

Kristi Argyilan, senior vice president, retail media at Albertsons. will discuss the topic of retail media networks at the Association of National Advertisers Media Conference in mid-February. Bill Duggan, ANA group executive vice president, sat down with Argyilan  for this interview.

Bill Duggan, A strength of retail media networks is driving immediate sales. Whether RMNs can help build longer-term brand equity is still debatable. What’s your perspective?

Kristi Argyilan: Yes, the beginning focused on lower-funnel strategy. Driving measurable sales to known customers is key to the value exchange, and we are the definitive owner of the last mile for our shoppers. But brands’ needs cover the entire funnel.

Duggan: Can you provide examples of how you are meeting that need?



Argyilan: Sure. Here are three examples. First off, there is first-party data.Our longstanding customer relationships create high-fidelity, first-party data.

We leverage that data to power campaigns inside and outside Albertsons’ properties.

Next, there is better storytelling. We bring richer content options  to help companies tell complete stories -- specifically, video, co-branded, event-based and sustainability messaging.

Finally, there is end-to-end merchant and media integration. If you believe every touchpoint is a branding opportunity, we continue to differentiate by accompanying shoppers to the store or website to make the actual purchase.

Duggan: There are a growing number of RMN options -- more than 20. How do you make Albertsons Media Collective stand out?

Argyilan:  Our leadership team has built Fortune 50 RMNs and has extensive Albertsons relationships, enabling us to move quickly to solve endemic (mostly CPG companies’) needs. Within six months of launching, we delivered audience and measurement autonomy with The Trade Desk.

Our Co-Op Garden mantra embodies our culture of empathy, transparency and collaboration. This unlocks deeper conversations with endemics looking for thought leaders to build beyond media and forced commitments.  

Our culture attracts like-minded industry leaders, including Pinterest, Omnicom Media Group (OMG) and The Mars Agency, to build a better RMN future. Pinterest chose Albertsons as the alpha partner on its first cleanroom measurement product. We appreciate the opportunity to bring closed-loop reporting to CPGs' social media investment. Additionally, OMG and The Collective are bringing similar transparency to CTV.

Duggan: Some brands are reluctant buyers of RMNs, saying they feel pressured by retailers to support them, and that RMNs are a “cost of doing business.” Please comment on that.

Argyilan: We strive to build trust and transparency with our endemic customers. We’re on a mission to earn, and be accountable for, every dollar. RMN investment is the most defensible and measurable piece of an endemic’s strategy, but requires co-creating the right audience, creative, media mix and merchandise plan. Treating the endemic investment as an expectation is poor partnership in action.

Duggan: Brands believe that lack of measurement standardization is their biggest challenge with RMNs. There is frustration with the amount, quality, and consistency of data and reporting available from each RMN, with wide variations existing between different retailer offerings. Do you have a perspective on that?

Argyilan: Yes. While we deliver standout products and media performance, not all RMN touchpoints should stand out. Albertsons Media Collective is calling for industry standardization. 

Companies have the difficult job of navigating many RMN offerings. The industry must recognize they will find alternatives if the tax to play is too high. Many of the unique RMN elements add friction. Measurement should also align to the company's objective, and a modern RMN will have multiple methodologies to support a full-funnel strategy. Standardization as an industry will enable us to move faster to build meaningful products.

Duggan: How do you attract non-endemic advertisers (beyond CPG) to your RMN?

Argyilan: We focus on three tactics: first, self-service access to decoupled insights, audiences, and other assets. Second, alternative ways of measuring success. Third and finally, real customer data is getting harder to access, but RMNs may not tell the complete story for non-endemics. We partner with these industries to add value where needed and step back when necessary. 

Duggan: How do you see the category evolving?

Argyilan: In terms of short-term evolution, an industry has emerged that successfully supports “RMN in a box” for small and medium-sized retailers. The big RMNs continue to build scaled in-house businesses consisting of core components, while building deeper partnerships with ad tech/media players that extend reach.

Privacy will continue to tighten up the customer data ecosystem, and RMNs will evolve to stay compliant. Cleanrooms are one way to solve for data protection.

For longer-term evolution, I foresee endemics wanting more from RMNs, ultimately wanting to co-control more elements of the entire retail relationship. The largest RMNs will provide an alternative to the digital dominators for any digital marketer.

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