Big Box and Telecom Reign Supreme, While Credit Card Companies Enter the Top Ten

Note: This post is the first in a series of pieces covering the programmatic marketplace during the holiday season.

Thanksgiving Week’s Biggest Spenders

We took a look at the biggest spenders within the Index Exchange marketplace from Monday, November 23, the Monday before Thanksgiving, to November 29, the Sunday before Cyber Monday. The biggest buyer during this time was Best Buy – a company for which Black Friday and Cyber Monday are massive sales days. Most days the top ten contained only retailers, financial services, and automotive companies, which is a departure from most weeks in the programmatic marketplace, when CPG companies invariably have a presence in the top ten. See below for the top ten spenders across all seven days:

Days 1-3: Pre-Thanksgiving Ramp

The brands that increased spend the most over the first three days of Black Friday/Cyber Monday week were Verizon and Target – from Monday to Wednesday, Verizon increased its spend 85% and Target grew 61%.Much of the top ten remained the same throughout these first three days, with some intra-top ten shuffling. Here’s what’s most interesting:

  • Walmart appeared briefly, and then disappeared (perhaps to make room for Target.) Walmart claimed a spot on the top ten on Monday, November 23 and scaled spend way down on Tuesday and Wednesday. Target, a Walmart competitor, only spent more as the week progressed, capping out on Wednesday as a top three spender. Perhaps Walmart is strategically saving ad spend for the remainder of the holiday season and moved to allow Target dominate Black Friday advertising.
  • Retail kicked in on Tuesday and Wednesday. Retail stores are represented in the top ten on Monday, but this changed on Tuesday and Wednesday, when we saw apparel/footwear and house/home retailers join in. On Tuesday, Williams-Sonoma brands break into the top ten and on Wednesday, Gap and Williams-Sonoma both clear the list.
  • Credit cards joined the party. Holiday advertising is not just about deals on clothes, cars, and consumer electronics – it includes information on how to pay for it all, too. This year, we saw a number of credit card campaigns enter the top ten. American Express and JP Morgan Chase & Co. both positioned in the top ten on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. MasterCard entered the top ten on Wednesday, at the number five spot.

See the thumbnails below for the top ten brands ranked by spend for Days 1-3:

 Day 4-5: Thanksgiving and Black Friday

On Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the number of impressions sold and bid requests (i.e. an opportunity to run an auction) were the lowest for the week. This makes sense – consumers were spending time with family on Thanksgiving so there were fewer chances to advertise online. On Black Friday the dip in impressions was counteracted with a spike in budget – brands were paying more for the impressions that were available. In terms of brand buying behavior, this is what happened in the programmatic market on Thursday and Friday (11/26 and 11/27):

  • Best Buy continued to dominate, in the absence of campaigns specific to Black Friday. Though web traffic declined on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Best Buy continued to spend and didn’t budge from the top spot. Interestingly, Index Exchange’s bid registration team (an internal team that approves every piece of creative the exchange transacts on) reported that Best Buy had zero campaigns specific to holidays, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday. Thus – the big box used this expensive week to push existing campaigns hard.
  • Top three spenders positioned identically on the two days. The three giants of Thanksgiving and Black Friday – Best Buy, Verizon, and Target – were the top three spenders (in respective order) from Wednesday-Friday.
  • Macy’s pops in for visit. Macy’s appears in the top ten on Thanksgiving and Black Friday after a complete absence earlier in the week. On Thursday, Macy’s also appears in the top ten brands for impressions served, but not on Black Friday. Thus, Macy’s was likely blanketing digital display on Thanksgiving, while Black Friday was more targeted and focused.
  • Target competed most aggressively for impressions on Black Friday. The company in the top ten with the highest winning bid price average was Target and the average overindexed other brands’ average by a significant margin. This suggests that when Target unearthed an impression it was serious about attracting, it placed high bids to win the auction and secure the purchase.

Note: Average winning bid price indicates how aggressively a buyer competed for the impressions they ended up buying. A possible read of the graph above is that brands with higher average winning bid prices are using a very targeted advertising strategy and know more about the impression. Lower average winning bid prices can indicate a less targeted advertising approach – many brands on Black Friday were after scale or had less defined segments.

Days 6-7: Cyber Weekend

Index Exchange saw sizable spend on the weekend after Black Friday, with some interesting top ten spender maneuvers. Specifically:

  • Best Buy finally takes a break. While Best Buy claimed the top spot on Saturday, Sunday saw Best Buy fall to fourth place on the list of top ten spenders, the lowest position it had all week. The company decreased spend 50% from Saturday to Sunday. This confirms Black Friday was a major target for the company and scaled back once Black Friday and the Black Friday hangover on Saturday subsided.
  • Third place goes to credit card companies. Consumers are worried about spending during the holidays – credit card companies knew that the two days after Black Friday were days when consumers were likely to feel a bit guilty about their purchases and eager to find financing opportunities to carry them through the rest of the very expensive holiday season. On Saturday and Sunday the third place on the top ten list was claimed by two credit card companies – MasterCard and American Express, respectively.
  • ConAgra makes an appearance. Finally, a CPG company returns to the Top Ten. Now that consumers are tuned into the holiday season, it’s time to start advertising holiday recipes! ConAgra’s appearance in the top ten on Sunday, November 29 is likely related to just that – reaching consumers on a calm Sunday at home with holiday recipe ads featuring ConAgra products.




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