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Walled Gardens – Park your e-commerce tank on tech engines' lawns

ClickThrough Marketing


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December 10, 2020 | 4 min read

Macy Edwards, Director of Digital Paid Media – ClickThrough Marketing

Macy Edwards, Director of Digital Paid Media – ClickThrough Marketing

Google, Facebook, and Amazon are dominating the digital space, and account for 65% of the total ad spend. In an industry that appears to be shrinking at -3% YoY, the giants are typically seeing a 90% growth YoY. Their share is due to the popularity of the marketing services they have and how they have packaged them both for agencies and advertisers.

Most importantly though is their data, and how they market and offer this through a “Walled Garden” approach.

So, what is a “walled garden”?

This is a closed ecosystem in which all the operations are controlled by the ecosystem operator.

You know when a platform has reached the “Walled Garden” level when they force clients to use their whole marketing stack to run campaigns:

  • Your DMP for Audience Targeting based on your Data.
  • Your DSP to push Ads on selected inventory (yours and/or selected 3rd Party inventory).
  • Your DCO to handle the Ads personalization / Ads hosting.

Generally, large publishers with significant influence and reputation in the market can pull off this trick. This allows them to have better control over the user data while keeping up with website monetisation via different methods like programmatic ads, ad-block monetisation, and paywall implementation. As we have seen with Amazon and more recently Facebook Shops and Google Shopping integrating with Shopify.

What does this mean for marketers?

Unfortunately, there will be a lot of change, as more and more of the transparency for advertisers on who they are targeting is disappearing. With little visibility on the quality of audiences, we are seeing a movement to publishers and independent ad servers to allow advertisers to collect person logs and build their pool of first-party audience data.

We will likely see the price for using data in Facebook, Google, and Amazon (amongst others), resulting in elevated CPCs and therefore the cost of advertising. This set up also inhibits the advertiser’s ability to scale across channels because there is limited measurement across and a reluctance to invest more.

How can marketers stay ahead?

Firstly, creativity, make your activity thought-provoking and unique. Going after brand objectives to grow awareness and therefore engagement and your overall first party audience data. Many lost their huge databases following GDPR so it’s time to invest in that, but also growing it with the right people.

Secondly, actionable insights, take learnings from campaigns, and build your knowledge of what works, where, and how. This means you can still build multi-channel campaigns and make the most of the walled gardens capabilities but then you can serve the activity through an independent ad server so you own that data, it is accurate and transparent.

Finally, partnerships, we can no longer run activity in one place, just focus on lower-funnel activity or measure results through one platform. We will need to play the field, building relationships with many platforms and publishers to ensure we understand the broader ecosystem and how we can be in the right place at the right time.

Essentially, people will play a big part in a field moving fast into automation in many other ways.

Born is the future of Digital Marketers.

This article originally appeared in ClickThrough Marketing’s 2021 Digital Marketers Playbook – available for free download now.


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