Lisa Utzschneider on Amazon’s duopoly threat: ‘I want to see a three-horse race’

Utzschneider was speaking at The Drum's Programmatic Punch

The former sales boss of Yahoo, Lisa Utzschneider, believes Amazon’s pending deal with Sizmek will act as a positive force in an adtech sector currently lacking in competition.

Utzschneider was previously the global vice-president of advertising sales at Amazon before moving to Yahoo. Now “in the business of trust” as chief executive of Integral Ad Science (IAS), the exec said she believe Amazon’s pending bid for Sizmek’s ad server and Dynamic Creative Optimization business will improve the health of competition within the industry.

“Currently when you look at the digital landscape it's Google and Facebook, with Amazon nipping at their heels,” she said at The Drum’s Programmatic Punch conference. “I want to see a three-horse race."

“I want to see healthy competition between the three players and... if [Amazon] invest correctly, it will give them the ability to have a more powerful closed loop - they'll be able to track all of those impressions, track to ROI, connect it with e-commerce sales. That it is very powerful.”

Utzschneider, who is planning to grow IAS in the Latam and Asia Pacific markets, added advertisers should already be actively be considering Amazon as a key partner, regardless of the Sizmek deal and its effect on their media buying strategy.

“If you look at Amazon as a company – the velocity of their innovation right now and how many touch points [it has] across how many businesses, and if we were to sit here 12 months from now, how many new businesses they will be in that we can't even predict – I think it would be a lost opportunity for marketers not to partner with an Amazon because of the breadth of the portfolio of businesses and innovations they're doing,” she said.

However, other leaders in the space are more skeptical of Amazon’s potential to disrupt the industry for the better. Speaking on the same panel as Utzchneider, Captify’s chief executive Dominic Joseph said he was concerned the product of the Sizmek deal would be another walled garden in an industry already dominated by two.

“It’s going to be harder and harder for a marketer to get a holistic view of the customer,” he said. “They're going to have more access to these bigger brands and Amazon no doubt have amazing e-commerce data already, so it's going to be something we're going to have to watch.”

However, the adtech chief encouraged the industry to think more laterally with regard to the duopoly – or potential triopoly – rather than “freaking out” about their dominance.

“Instead of sitting there feeling sorry that we're a 20%-er in this industry, we've got to harness all the other things consumers do and change what consumers do as well,” he said. “Adtech doesn't just need to be a sector reacting to the tools around us. We also have to build up trust with consumers and influencer their own behaviors.”

Joseph added Captify is currently experimenting with voice search technology as part of its mission to drive “optionality” in the industry.

“It’s very important to realize there is action that is going on outside of [Google] – agencies and brand marketers have a big role to play in how to understand that,” he said.

Last week saw Maurice Levy's Ycor nearly derail the Amazon/Sizmek narrative when it claimed to have outbid the tech giant for the adtech assets.

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