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Amazon to Make It Easier to Buy Its Ads With Self-Serve Tool

VivaKi Is First Agency to Use Tool, No Timetable for Broader Rollout

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Marketers like Bank of America will soon be able to buy Amazon ads without a salesperson.

Amazon wants to make purchasing ads from the e-commerce giant as easy as buying a new book.

Amazon has built a self-service tool that will allow media buyers to purchase ads from the company without needing to involve a salesperson. Publicis Groupe's VivaKi has signed on as the first agency to use the tool, which runs ads on Amazon-owned sites and a network of third-party sites.

Major online ad sellers typically roll out self-service ad-buying tools in hopes of opening up the demand floodgates. The thinking goes that a do-it-yourself process reduces the friction that goes into an ad buy, such as a salesperson pressuring for a bigger budget or an advertiser worrying they don't have enough control over their campaign.

"Allowing an agency to create campaigns on its own ... with its own hand on the keyboard will create better results for their clients, and in turn, it's going to create more relevant advertising for Amazon's customers," said Seth Dallaire, Amazon's VP-North American advertising sales and a former Yahoo sales exec.

Self-service tools also reduce ad sales costs and can help increase profits. They free up a company to sell ads to smaller advertisers that may not spend enough money to merit a dedicated (and salaried) salesperson. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and even Pinterest offer ways advertisers can buy ads without a salesperson.

Amazon doesn't disclose its ad revenue, but eMarketer estimates it pulled in $707.7 million from advertisers last year.

VivaKi has been working directly with Amazon to develop the self-service tool since at least around December 2011, according to previous Ad Age interviews with the agency. The project is a result of a close relationship between the digital media buying giant and the ecommerce king, according to Domenic Venuto, global president of data and technology at VivaKi.

"We chose them as the launch partner for this exercise because we recognize they have a lot of experience in the programmatic media space," Mr. Dallaire said of VivaKi. Amazon will eventually extend the tool to "select" agencies beyond VivaKi, but Mr. Dallaire declined to say when that might happen.

Amazon told several agencies outside of VivaKi it was working on a self-service ad-buying tool near the end of 2012 and said it was looking to roll it out as soon as the first quarter of 2013. Mr. Dallaire declined to comment on development timing.

The self-service ad-buying tool features exactly the same targeting options and reporting metrics available to advertisers buying through Amazon's sales team, Mr. Dallaire said. For example, Amazon measures how many people shown an ad end up checking out the advertised product's detail page on Amazon versus how many of those people purchase the product. That way, it can report on how a campaign lifted consideration and purchases.

"Our goal is to get to 100% of any spend that is going to Amazon right now through the self-service interface," said Mr. Venuto.

VivaKi has spent "the past couple weeks" being trained on how to use the tool but has yet to run an ad using it, Mr. Dallaire said. He declined to say when the first ads are expected to roll out but said the agency will launch "a couple campaigns" using the tool. VivaKi is training staff in the U.S. and U.K. on using the platform and expects its execs across the globe to use it eventually.

Mr. Venuto would not share any information about how long the agency group has tested the self-service tool and would not name any test clients. He did, however, suggest that the convenience of a self-service system accessible through the VivaKi trading desk will facilitate campaign optimization based on data flowing in real-time.

For instance, if social media conversation around a brand indicates different campaign targeting or messaging is appropriate, VivaKi easily tailor its ads through the new system, rather than picking up the phone to call an Amazon rep.

"It seems like a trivial step, but it's not," said Mr. Venuto.

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