Retailers are now media companies, too

CVS introduces its own media network.

About a decade ago, I wrote a story about how brands were becoming publishers in their own right. Companies realized that they had massive audiences across Facebook and Twitter, and by building their own blogs/content arms, they could bypass the critical, often skeptical reporter. 

So companies took baby steps on their way to becoming full-blown media companies. Sorta. They started with curating content, giving fans little tastes here and there. Then they started to create content teams, even tapping their agencies to create “brand newsrooms.” Out were the brand newsrooms that housed press releases, and in came the content. 

But creating content is just one aspect of being a publisher. There’s a business side, too. And companies are not built to be content machines, from the edit or the sales side. Companies make a product or deliver on a service, and content is an ancillary product that serves that goal. 

Until recently.

Over the last year or so, retailers in particular, have created their own media networks that quietly transform their dot coms into media companies. Beyond creating mounds of content, they now sell ads. 

Target put on a fresh coat of paint on its media network, Roundel, a network to sell ads for brands selling goods in Target (and some that don’t). Roundel even creates ad campaigns for brands. 

Walmart Media Group, Walmart’s media arm, has programmatic capabilities, offering brands a self-serve ad platform. Walmart dot com, according to Statista, saw 438.5 million visits in May 2020 (up from 294.5 million February.

And according to Marketing Dive,WMG

provide(s) partners with real-time retail data on how Walmart Display and Sponsored Products campaigns are performing both in-store and online. The analytics offering is available through the Walmart Ad Center, a new single sign-in, self-serve platform that Walmart will feature more prominently in the coming months for brands looking to set up and manage their campaigns.

Of course, there’s Amazon, that little online marketplace that took in $14 billion in advertising last year. For sake of comparison, NBCU brought in just a bit over $10 billion in ad revenue last year for broadcast, while its cable properties made $11.5 billion, according to Comcast earnings.

In April, Digiday got wind that the pharmacy/health insurance company (recall that CVS bought Aetna in 2018) was going to be introducing an ad network. And yesterday, we welcomed CVS Media Exchange to the world. 

Ad Age reports:

On Monday, the pharmacy chain announced its CVS Media Exchange, a digital media platform that gives consumer packaged goods brands targeting access to specific customers based on the retailer’s own shopping data.

The network “allows brands to focus their ad spend on reaching the right customer at the right time, with maximum efficiency,” said Norman de Greve, CVS Health’s chief marketing officer, in a statement, noting that CVS “can target both loyal and category shoppers and accurately validate the effectiveness of a campaign by measuring both online and offline sales.”

The media world is a confusing, if not frustrating place to be. Lines are blurred, and often crossed, all in the service of us, the consumer. As retailers realize that they get as much traffic as their media partners, they are fulfilling a promise of the internet: democratization of media. 

It’s a little perverse, as that promise is typically assigned to the flow of information, where barriers to entry are low and anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can espouse their thoughts or hold the power to account. 

Brands, however, can take their message directly to their end-user through social posts and blogs. And now they can deliver their ads in an environment that actually will get people to click: at the very retailers that house their products.

No longer are media gatekeepers necessary, nor are independent ad networks. 

So now here we are, in 2020 where retailers are actual media companies, creating content and selling ads. What a world. 

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Eugene McDaniels, “Supermarket Blues”

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