EMarketer says 2022 will be “the year of retail media networks“, with US spending growing another $10bn to $41.37bn, representing 17.2% of total US digital ad spending.

To get there, however, many brands are going to have to learn how to operate in the new environment.

That is according to Abi Harmon, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Ascential.

Whole new game

Harmon was EVP and MD at Flywheel Digital, a commerce platform-centric services agency acquired by Cannes Lions owner Ascential, until she stepped up to Ascential in May 2022.

It acquired Flywheel in 2018 for $60 million, then an Amazon-centric managed services provider (MSP). Now Flywheel helps buying of ads across Amazon Advertising, Walmart Connect, Instacart, Kroger, Home Depot and Criteo. Harmon says advertisers embracing the arena need to understand a thing or two.

“The education component in this space is really, really important. … Understanding the ins and outs of the retailer really matters,” she says.

“Suddenly, you’re having to link how a consumer interacts with your product on an endless aisle in a different and unique way.”

Put it together

So, how exactly is it different, advertising in a commerce-media environment?

“Components of the imagery and creative and content on that page matter hugely, thinking about supply chain and logistics and how that influences and impacts your media strategy,” Harmon explains.

“This space is really pulling all of that together and creating sort of a closed loop of opportunity.

“It’s exciting, but it also requires quite a bit of education to train traditional marketers on how to think about parcel shipment versus last mile versus pick up online … Suddenly marketers are having to be experts at each individual retailer.

“So a lot of the work that my team does when we think about domain expertise and the investment that we make in technology and product is putting those pieces together to tell that story.”

Flywheel’s revolution

Ascential is the former publisher EMAP, once acquired by Guardian Media Group and Apax Partners.

The company was renamed Top Right Group in 2012, then Ascential in 2015, ahead of a £800 million a year later, which earned The Guardian £80 million.

In its portfolio, the group also owns the Cannes Lions festival, WARC and acquired the MediaLink consultancy firm.

At the time of the Flywheel acquisition, Amazon was the main marketplace in town. It was also pretty much the first major ecommerce provider to also become an advertising channel, with merchants able to buy ads in product and listing pages.

Now Walmart Connect, Target’s Roundel and Criteo are offering similar capabilities to other retailers, while the likes of PromoteIQ, CitrusAd and Instacart are also amplifying that opportunity for smaller players.

You are watching “The Road to Cannes 2022 – Commerce: The New Cannes Conversation”, a Beet.TV Preview Series presented by Criteo. For more videos from this series, please visit this page.