Amazon is extremely tight-lipped about its fledgling advertising business.
The company hosted its first IAB Digital Upfront session today in London, lifting the lid (slightly) on how it might work with UK advertisers and ad agencies. Reporters were barred from the event.
Even holding the event is a big shift for Amazon. Twitter, Facebook, and Yahoo (now Oath) have all held public Upfront events for several years to show off what their platforms can do for advertisers. Twitter, for example, normally pitches itself as the real-time platform of choice and this year pushed its live programming offering.
According to public tweets from the event, and an attendee speaking to Business Insider, Amazon didn’t make the obvious pitch for advertising pounds.
Instead, it focused on voice and brand-building.
According to the attendee, Amazon wants to work with brands like drinks giant Diageo to design the future of shopping which, conveniently, might look an awful lot like using voice assistant Alexa to order things on your Amazon Echo.
“It’s not advertising at all,” the attendee, who wished to stay anonymous, said. “They were quite clear about saying that: they don’t see Alexa as an advertising platform. Rather it’s their number one tenet of the best possible customer experience.”
Amazon is trying to portray Alexa as a “customer relationships” platform, the person added. “They were trying to get across that it’s not an ads channel, you don’t need to spend, but it’s a new way of building a relationship starting with a customer need and working out how you would add value.”
Jerry Daykin, head of digital media partnerships at Diageo, wrote on Twitter: “Amazon’s big push [at Upfronts]: look beyond direct [ecommerce] opportunity and see how we play a role in the wider building of your brands.”
With voice, that might mean building useful skills for Alexa. At the Cannes Lions advertising festival this year, Diageo set up a bar where delegates could order a cocktail via Alexa.
According to Amazon’s logic, all of this would eventually result in more people buying your product.
The focus on customer experience makes sense. Amazon is famously obsessed with creating a good experience for shoppers. Its CEO Jeff Bezos apparently forwards any customer complaints to the relevant Amazon employee and simply adds: “?”
“I think they’re trying to find lots of different ways of creating fantastic experiences so people can get whatever they want, whether it’s toilet rolls or content on Amazon Prime,” the anonymous attendee said.
The person predicted that Amazon would slowly open up about ad opportunities on its platform. “They need to get brands on platforms like Alexa, to generate premium content rather than it just being some dude in a bedroom making a trivia app.”
Amazon’s advertising arm has grown substantially in the last few years, and is one of the fastest growing areas of business. Agency holding group WPP suggested that Amazon had earnt $US2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) in 2016. It has also opened up its programmatic advertising business to agencies.
Amazon’s big push at @IABUK #UpFronts: look beyond direct eCom opportunity and see how we play a role in the wider building of your brands. pic.twitter.com/pr6IkSXpNP
— Jerry Daykin (@jdaykin) October 6, 2017