Amazon Sponsored Display Ads Are Replacing Product Display Ads

Amazon is currently in the beta process of phasing out traditional Product Display ads and replacing them with a newly minted offering, “Amazon Sponsored Display.” Unlike Product Display ads, which only appeared on amazon.com, Sponsored Display will have the ability to reach potential customers both on and off the site.

More often than not, Amazon changing up product names and acronyms is more of a rebranding effort than actual overhaul of the service. Is this switch to Sponsored Display more of the same, or do brands using Amazon Advertising have a useful new tool at their disposal?

Amazon Sponsored Display

How Amazon Sponsored Display Compares to Product Display Ads

Essentially, Amazon Sponsored Display operates virtually the same on amazon.com as Product Display ads did. Unlike the other Amazon Advertising options, Sponsored Brand and Sponsored Product ads, Display ads don’t rely on keywords, but instead use browsing and sales data to serve ads to audiences that may be interested in buying your product. Potential customers are found based on pages they’ve viewed, terms they’ve searched for, and items they’ve previously purchased. This isn’t changing.

The look of the ads isn’t being updated with the name change either. Sponsored Display ads will still feature a product image and title, star rating, price, Prime eligibility icon, and “Shop Now” button. Brands will also choose their budgets for the campaigns, start and stop dates, and ad groups the same way as they did before.

So What’s Changing?

The most significant change coming with Sponsored Display ads is that they are integrating some of the functionality of Amazon’s demand-side platform (DSP) into an Amazon Advertising option for the first time. We’ve advocated in the past for brands to use both Amazon Advertising and Amazon DSP in tandem; now Amazon is giving brands who haven’t dabbled in DSP an easily approachable way to see what the platform has to offer.

Traditionally, Amazon Advertising options have only served ads on amazon.com, while DSP ads are served to Amazon’s collection of owned online properties as well as mobile users on Android, Kindle Fire, and iOS platforms. The two services have a complementary dynamic: Amazon Advertising ads are focused and precise, targeting potential customers near the bottom of the sales funnel and driven by conversions. DSP ads are widely distributed and reach customers near the top of the sales funnel, with metrics driven by impressions. Together, they offer a more holistic approach than either one alone.

Using remarketing techniques from DSP, the new Sponsored Display ads will now appear off-site on third-party websites and apps, attempting to win back customers to buy that pair of shoes or headphones they looked at but didn’t purchase. With a strategic mix of keyword-driven and audience-curated ads to cast a wider net, brands should now be able to reach an even larger group of potential customers through Amazon Advertising alone.

Sounds Great. Is There a Catch?

Yes and no. It’s not a catch per se, but just because Sponsored Display ads incorporate some of the benefits of DSP ads, it doesn’t mean they incorporate all of them. Specifically, brands won’t have the same control over how the ads are served to specific sites or specific audiences in the way they do with DSP. Think of Sponsored Display as the entry-level introduction to DSP advertising; if you want all the bells and whistles, you’ll still need to sign up for the proper Amazon DSP service.

For many brands, the added functionality that comes with the move to Sponsored Display is purely an added bonus. Other brands may have specific blacklisted sites off Amazon where they expressly don’t want their ads appearing, and that level of control will likely be much more difficult without a dedicated DSP account and campaign manager.

As Sponsored Display grows and is more widely implemented, time will tell whether Amazon will offer brands more control on Amazon Advertising with off-site targeting. It may well be that Sponsored Ads are simply the trial to entice brands to buy the full DSP package.