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Retail advertising’s growing pains

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This week: 

Retail media growing painsGoogle’s ‘sweetheart deals’New York Times a-changing
CVS pharmacy

Retail advertising’s slog

It seems like every day there’s another retailer that’s trying to turn its site into an advertising platform.

Ulta Beauty, CVS and Walgreens, to name a few, have accelerated their ad businesses to capitalize on online shopping growth in the pandemic and offset shrinking retail margins.

This is welcome news to advertisers, which are eager for advertising alternatives to Amazon.

But as ad execs told Lauren Johnson, these retailers have their work cut out for them.

As they see it, retailers face stiff competition for big brands’ advertising, don’t share enough shopper data, and are inefficient to buy.

“There is a big opportunity, but most these platforms are still pretty nascent in media capability,” Jessica Richards, EVP of Havas Media Group, told Lauren. “Our prediction is this will be a big growth area in 2021 and the sophistication of targeting, sales tracking and more access to inventory via expanded sources will come soon.”

Read more: Big retailers like Walmart and CVS are trying to cash in on the soaring e-commerce ad business, but many advertisers aren’t sold


Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Google backed out Project Maven, a controversial AI project with the Pentagon, but has continued working with the agency.

Google’s ‘sweetheart deals’

Revenue-share agreements and other incentive programs have long been a contentious issue in the advertising sector. High-profile marketers have called for their agencies to provide more transparency in their contracts in recent years.

Now some rev-share agreements that Google has with a select number of adtech companies are getting new attention as smaller adtech firms struggle in the down economy and as Google faces accusations of anticompetitive behavior.

One such smaller adtech operator, Liam Patterson of Bidnamic, called these little-known RSA agreements “a kick in the teeth” for smaller adtech companies struggling to survive.

Martin Coulter and Lara O’Reilly revealed details of some of these deals, which include Google paying Marin Software more than $12 million in 2019.

Read more: Google has signed a number of little-known revenue share agreements with ad companies – but some smaller firms describe them as unfair ‘sweetheart deals’ 


Nighttime view of the New York Times Building
Nighttime view of the New York Times Building

Times a-changing

ICYMI, Steven Perlberg had a great profile on Carolyn Ryan at The New York Times, who’s seen as a contender to be its next top editor.

Ryan checks a lot of the traditional journalistic boxes one might expect of the executive editor at the Times – but also stands out as the executive supervising its most fraught topic: newsroom culture.

Her rise also reflects how newsrooms’ priorities have changed. Earlier in the shift from print to digital, a lot of their focus was on expanding their subscriptions, product expertise and storytelling abilities.

Now, with a broader social reckoning going on, diversifying their staffs and coverage has taken center stage. At the Times, that’s also meant dealing with tension and controversy that’s erupted in part as a result of expectations by its newer, more diverse staff about how much they should change the newsroom, and vice versa.

“After Dean, Carolyn has the hardest management job in the newsroom right now. Her portfolio is at the center of all the questions that are roiling the newsroom,” Nicholas Confessore, a Times reporter who has worked under Ryan, told Perlberg.

Read the full story: Carolyn Ryan is the most powerful woman in The New York Times newsroom – and she could become its next top editor More stories we’re reading:How Disney is taking a page from Hulu to capture streaming TV ad dollars (Insider)America didn’t need sports after all (The Atlantic)Auto giant Stellantis is seeking a new ad agency to handle its $2 billion global advertising business (Insider)Disney’s Bob Chapek on the future of moviegoing, Disney Plus and theme parks (Variety)‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games just bought the studio behind streamer hit ‘Fall Guys’ (Insider)

That’s it for me this week. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

– Lucia

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