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Amazon, Advertising's Sleeping Giant, to Awaken in 2013

E-commerce behemoth preps self-serve RTB platform

Amazon made a splash during October’s Advertising Week while previewing its advertising business, but that was merely a ripple compared to the waves the e-commerce behemoth has coming for 2013 and beyond.

Over the past year, Amazon has built a proprietary real-time bidding platform that plugs into exchanges and supply-side platforms, including Google’s AdX and PubMatic. This platform lets the company retarget its users across the Web based on their browsing and purchase habits on Amazon’s owned-and-operated properties. That could be a game changer. Given Amazon's recommendation engine and general deal-closing prowess, the company's data should have advertisers drooling. 

Darren Herman, chief digital media officer at The Media Kitchen, said he’s bullish on Amazon’s market opportunity. “I think they could become one of the bigger media companies in the next five years or so. You have to realize that they’re capturing a ton of demand through their owned-and-operated sites and have people shopping right now.”

Amazon slowly rolled out the platform in 2012, but as early as the first quarter of 2013 it will introduce a self-serve real-time bidding platform for media buyers, including agency trading desks, which will be able to use the platform to manage their own buys, according to multiple sources with knowledge of Amazon’s plans.

“Amazon has a longstanding practice of not commenting on future plans, so we can’t speak to a self-service platform,” emailed an Amazon spokesperson.

While Amazon has yet to demo the platform for agency buyers, according to trading desk executives with knowledge of Amazon’s plans, the platform is expected to let buyers leverage Amazon’s valuable data—to an extent. The self-serve RTB platform would hypothetically function similarly to Facebook’s Ads Manager in terms of how buyers could target their ads. Sources said Amazon is extremely protective of its data and wary of providing outside access, so like Facebook, Amazon's platform would enable buyers to create targeting segments such as “men; aged 25-34; in California; interested in high-definition TVs; who have purchased how-to books and home improvement tools.” But Amazon is not about to hand over its customer's names or individual buying histories.

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