January 27, 2011, 3:39 PM

eBay aims to show shoppers more relevant ads

A new advertising deal also will lead to more brand discounts on the online marketplace.

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EBay Inc. has struck a deal designed to give retailers and brand manufacturers a chance to reach consumers with display advertising that is more relevant than the ads previously shown on the online marketplace.

The multiyear deal with Triad Retail Media aims to place ads before consumers that better match their shopping interests, enable consumers to learn more about ad content without leaving the eBay site and offer advertisers the chance to carve out their own spaces on eBay to further promote products. The deal also will give shoppers a chance to receive discounts from advertisers, again without leaving eBay. That’s not to say all ads will keep consumers within eBay; some ads will enable shoppers to click away from the online marketplace to other brand and retail sites.

“As eBay continues to focus on innovation and new ways for eBay shoppers and sellers to connect, we are driving even better experiences on eBay.com,” says Christopher Payne, vice president of eBay North America. “Our new agreement with Triad puts our customers front and center as we deliver more relevant, customized advertising content to them through Triad’s leadership in digital retail media.”

Triad, which recently changed its name from Triad Digital Media, will offer ads that the company calls behaviorally targeted. For instance, a shopper browsing apparel and fashion items on eBay might see an ad for a brand of shampoo. An automotive shopper might see ads for car cleaning products. “With the past ad-network approach, there was little to no relevance with the ads, resulting in a less than optimal experience on the site,” an eBay spokeswoman says.

The change gained cautious praise from at least one eBay expert. “Historically, sellers have been frustrated with display ads on eBay, to which eBay has responded by reducing the number and placement,” says Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps retailers sell through online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, search engines and comparison shopping sites. “Ebay has owned up to the fact that its display ads are not very relevant compared with what you see across the Internet.  From our perspective it’s good to see that eBay is admitting the problem and taking steps to resolve it.”

Another aspect of the Triad deal involves what it and eBay call sponsored landing pages. That brand of car cleaning products, for instance, could sponsor a page located within the eBay site. Consumers could click there through the ad and find product videos or articles about the brand, Triad CEO Greg Murtagh says. Sponsored pages also might tie in brands with holidays or sporting events.

The ads on the category pages also could include links to a social networking site, such as a brand or retailer’s Facebook page, where consumers could Like a brand or product, he adds. “Everyone’s trying to build traffic these days to engage consumers,” he says.

The deal also will lead to the launch of another site feature tentatively called eBay Extras, which Murtagh says will be introduced toward the end of the first quarter, in mid- to late March. The service will allow brands to put up coupons on that part of the eBay site—discounts could be as small as 75 cents off a bottle of shampoo, Murtagh says—along with other promotions and offers for free product samples. “It will be a huge traffic driver for brands on eBay,” he says.

The new eBay ad program differs from Amazon’s Product Ads, Wingo says.

Launched in early 2008, the Amazon program enables retailers to embed ads with product information within Amazon pages instead of at the bottom of the pages. The program is designed for merchants that do not want to set up an Amazon store but want to gain customers via the world’s largest online retailer—and control that valuable customer data.  Similar to product comparison services, the ads enable consumers to view pricing information and click through to the other retailer’s site.  

Amazon Product Ads are like a comparison shopping engine on Amazon,” Wingo says. “Product Ads are generally used by third parties that are not selling on Amazon, but rather just advertising.”  By contrast, the eBay program appears designed, at least generally, to lure more traffic into retailers’ eBay stores.

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