Walmart acquires Thunder ad technology in preparing the self-service portal

News Highlights: Walmart acquires Thunder ad technology in preparing the self-service portal

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart acquired the technology and IP behind Thunder, an ad-tech solution focused on creative automation, announced a company blog post. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Thunder’s ad technology is an important part of a new self-service display ad platform that Walmart plans to roll out later this year, the retailer said. The automation capabilities are designed to make campaign launch and customization seamless and more accessible to a wider range of advertisers, including smaller suppliers.
  • The acquisition comes on the heels of an overhaul of Walmart’s media network. The renewal includes a name change from Walmart Media Group to Walmart Connect and a partnership with The Trade Desk to develop a demand-side platform (DSP).

Dive insight:

Walmart continues its ambitious expansion of its media network as it strives to transform Walmart Connect into a “top ten advertising platform,” as the company calls it. It will be an important part of the retailer’s strategy to get smaller advertisers into the fold, and reflects a path that rivals from Amazon are taking. Facebook have become digital advertising titans.

Self-serve advertising platforms are usually a central part of clearing small and medium businesses. Such offers give marketers more flexibility in managing their digital marketing efforts and avoid the hefty price tags of custom campaigns. Automation can also remove heavy steps from the process and reduce reliance on outside agencies when it comes to media and creative execution – another cost consideration.

“Thunder’s technology and team will shorten the time between the idea for an ad and the ad going live for suppliers,” Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart, wrote in the blog post. “Thunder will also increase ad effectiveness over time with creative versioning, testing, and optimization, providing advertiser-specific insights for higher return on ad spend.”

Walmart will get most of Thunder’s employees in as part of the deal, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. However, it won’t honor Thunder’s existing contracts with advertisers, the report said, and those relationships will disappear instead.

Creative automation continues to gain momentum as marketers spend more of their investments on digital channels and try to reduce costs during the pandemic. Pinterest last month introduced a new ad format that allows marketers to automate the process of creating personalized ads for specific audiences. Researcher Forrester predicts that by 2023 11% of creative and media agency tasks will be automated, a shift accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis.

With the acquisition of Thunder, Walmart’s ad-tech suite looks better. The company is developing a DSP with The Trade Desk, one of the leading players in the ad tech category, which plans to launch in time for the holiday season in 2021. Over the summer, the retailer integrated an omnichannel analytics solution called Performance Dashboards into its media network. Previously, Walmart introduced the Advertising Partners program, a self-service portal that makes it easier for marketers to purchase search ads and sponsored product ads.

Walmart has seen success with its fledgling advertising company, operating in a busy area that now includes Target, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens, along with more digitally-oriented competitors. The company claims ad revenue and the total number of advertisers using its media network has doubled in the past fiscal year, although Walmart has not disclosed specific numbers.

Catching up with main rival Amazon will still prove to be a major challenge. Amazon’s ad revenues were up 64% year-over-year to $ 7.95 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to earnings by earnings released earlier this week. The growth rate of ad revenue was higher than any other business segment.


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