Criteo Doubles Down on Retail Media With the Launch of a New Self-Service Ad Platform

The company prioritizes transparency with its latest initiative

The Criteo logo
Criteo's CEO claims its identity graph now exceeds 2 billion users. Getty Images
Headshot of Ronan Shields

Criteo has announced the launch of a self-service ad platform that allows advertisers to purchase media space on retailers’ websites. It’s part of the transformation of the ad-tech company as it prepares for a cookie-less world.

Publicly-listed Criteo has seen its stock price suffer since the decline of the cookie—arguably the cornerstone of ad tech—accelerated as Apple’s rolled out intelligent tracking prevention in its Safari browser. This decline was compounded when Google confirmed it will do likewise in its Chrome browser earlier this year.

Since then, the company has doubled down on retail media (the placement of brand-sponsored advertising within ecommerce properties) to reduce its reliance on retargeted ads as a revenue driver.

Geoffroy Martin, evp and general manager, growth portfolio at Criteo, described the self-serve platform as a service that offers benefits to both the demand-side platform (DSP) and sell-side platform (SSP) of the industry without the need for cookies.

For instance, the DSP offering can help media buyers deliver brand-safe media placements in retail environments. Additionally, the SSP-element of the offering helps publishers generate much-needed additional revenue streams.

Taking on walled gardens

Martin told Adweek that retail media has historically had walled gardens, and media buyers would have little certainty over where their ads would appear.

“Amazon pioneered the field or it was done in [a nontransparent] way,” he said. “What we’re doing with this launch, which is a first of its kind, is to allow brands and agencies to buy in an open and transparent way on the whole network of retailers.”

Martin also said the platform “will also allow advertisers to have full control over whoever is going to appear on their properties” and that it can be done with self-service or a “fully managed solution.” He declined to comment on which retailers will be participating at the launch of the self-service offering, but the company’s website lists tier-one retailers such as Best Buy, CVS, Macy’s and Target as official partners.

David Hutchinson, vp, marketplace and retailer optimization at iProspect, said in a statement that lockdowns across the world prompted by the Covid-19 crisis helped accelerate the flow of spend from offline to online.

“Brands now more than ever need the right solutions to reach and engage consumers on the websites and apps of their omnichannel retail partners and to tie media spend to sales outcomes,” he said.

The ad-tech company estimates the total addressable market for retail media is between $15 billion to $25 billion with Criteo Retail Media platform currently available in the U.S. and Canada. It will be released to clients in other parts of the world later this year.

Post-cookie efforts

The launch marks Criteo’s execution on its full-funnel vision and continued diversification beyond retargeting. On its earnings call last month, CEO Megan Clarken described the 2020 rollout as the “second phase” of Criteo’s transformation.

Clarken addressed queries about the company’s efforts to address the decline of the cookie and said, “We continue to leverage our direct integration with advertisers and publishers and use their first-party data as a means to create identity solutions for our clients.”

She also said this has helped build the company’s identity graph—the means by which ad-tech companies target audiences online—which was in excess of 2 billion.

“It now aggregates system identifiers, like hashed emails or logins for over 96% of these users,” she said. “We’re also investing in to build and support a user ID network around cookie-less identifiers for advertising, independent of browsers.”

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.