Say Hello to Walgreens Advertising Group, the Latest Retail Media Network

The retailer officially joins CVS, Walmart and Target in the Amazon Advertising chasing pack

WAG has been in stealth mode for over a year. Walgreen's
Headshot of Ronan Shields

Key Insights

Walgreens Advertising Group is the latest retail media creation to enter the fray at the tail-end of a year that has seen both major store brands and ad service providers undergo substantial disruption.

In launching WAG, the retailer hopes to tap into lasting behavioral changes driven by both consumers and advertisers.

WAG offers media buyers ad placements across the retailer’s owned and operated properties, including a vetted network of third-party websites. Its analytics capabilities are based on using first-party data gauged from its MyWalgreens loyalty program.

The offering also involves managed service buys, including the potential to buy via a demand-side platform powered by Publicis-owned Epsilon. WAG has also collaborated with Adobe and Microsoft to present media buyers with access to customized audience segments, such as those likely to increase purchase volume after being served an ad among many others.

How it works (in theory)

WAG hopes all of this will unlock its vast bank of first-party data, gleaned from a loyalty program that boasts 100 million-plus members.

For instance, an advertiser can work with WAG by cross-referencing their own first-party data set (using suitable data privacy tools) with MyWalgreens data to identify a desirable subsection of users to serve ads to based on prior purchase behavior.

From here, relevant data signals, such as email addresses registered with MyWalgreens, can be used to establish a link between ad exposure and buying behavior, both online and in-store.

Other services on offer include lookalike modeling, which helps brands identify audience segments that display behaviors similar to their existing customers.

In addition, WAG also provides personalization services such as dynamic creative optimization, so website users are served with the creative execution that is most likely inspire them to make a purchase across Walgreens’ network.

Luke Kigel, vp of WAP and Walgreens integrated media, told Adweek the unit has been offering such services to brands for more than a year with the launch announcement a signal of its intent to further such activations.

“A big part of its has been figuring out how to unlock the power of your first-party data, it’s easy to say but it’s hard to do,” Kigel said. “Getting all the piping, agreements, privacy compliance and legal support is what we’ve been trying to do to truly tap into the power of the first-party data … we’re at a point where we’re very confident in our accelerated capabilities.”

First-party data is a dataset that is proving increasingly attractive to media buyers.

That’s because the ad industry is starting to wean itself off traditional targeting and metrics programs in the face of changes in privacy laws that are forcing online platforms, like the Google Chrome web browser, to withdraw support for measurement tools such as third-party cookies. The inherent value of first-party data is clear: rather than rely on outside tech companies, companies from retailers to online publishers own the consumer information that is gleaned from consumers visiting and registering on their sites.

Differentiation in a crowded space

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders across the globe, which proved a boon for both ecommerce traditional pharmacy retailers like Walgreens, such players had set their sights on digital media budgets.

Target’s Roundel, launched in mid-2019, is one such notable offering; CVS Media Exchange is a more recent addition to this cohort.

@ronan_shields ronan.shields@adweek.com Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.
{"taxonomy":"","sortby":"","label":"","shouldShow":""}