February 20, 2014

Amazon is the worst say ad execs who are also, somehow, themselves the very worst


"I'm obnoxious, shameless rubber... you're brutal monopolistic glue... "

Obnoxious, shameless pot, meet brutal monopolistic kettle.

A new article in Ad Age discusses why ad agencies—recognized authorities on how to be a disgrace to your species—have decided that Amazon is pretty terrible. That’s right, even advertising execs dislike Uncle Jeff now.

As Kate Kaye reports, advertisers are finding Amazon difficult to work with since that company began soliciting ad buys in 2012. She compares them to Apple, another company working to expand their portfolio of big budget advertisers. For both, ad revenues are the smallest fraction of their business, and neither seem to be willing to change their corporate style to accommodate data hungry advertisers.

Amazon’s sales approach is too pushy; Apple is too reticent to foster relationships. Most frustrating: Neither is willing to cough up enough of the consumer data that attracts advertisers to them in the first place. …

Perhaps the biggest issue hindering their ad growth is that advertising is an afterthought, a blip on the balance sheet. It’s still viewed by some as immaterial and potentially detrimental to the cash cows — an ad is an impediment if it distracts a consumer from the “buy” button or mucks up a beautiful mobile app.

For Amazon, ad placement brought in $614 million last year, according to Kaye. And while that’s slightly more money than I’ll earn this year, it’s nothing compared to their $74 billion in revenue.

As a result, Amazon doesn’t really need to chase ad dollars. And that leaves them free to be their usual terrible selves. But note, it is not Amazon’s criminal labor practices or their seemingly tireless efforts to raze every last bookstore they can find that have Madison Avenue in a huff. Ad execs don’t give a damn about that sort of thing. They just want more schmoozing and more of the creepy data Amazon gathers.

“Amazon is very professional. They get straight to the point; there’s not a lot of personal chit-chat going on,”

“It’s almost like going into a room and them putting a gun to your head and showing you your future,” said Norm Johnston of GroupM‘s Mindshare, describing Amazon’s sales-pitch swagger

Added Serge Del Grosso, form media director, North America, at SapientNitro: “There’s an opportunity for Amazon to probably be even more proactive in reaching out to media buyers with case studies that are specifically relevant to [advertiser requests].”

In addition, the … wait. Wait, that guy’s company is called SapientNitro? Hahaha, god I hate ad people.

Which brings us back to the central point: Amazon’s ad placement, including on their Kindle devices, is problematic and one reason to object to them generally. Their rapacious culling of consumer data, including from those same devices, is highly gross. If ad execs, the roiling tapeworms of our media digestive tract, can overlook—even admire—all of that and still find fault with your company, that is a sign. Jeff, that guy quoted above works for a company that sounds like a Todd McFarlane villain, and even he doesn’t like you.

These ad execs don’t object to Amazon for the right reasons. If they had their way, Amazon users would be hounded by more—and more accurately placed—ads on their devices, in promoted product listings, and in displays on the site itself. But if nothing else it’s funny to see these connoisseurs of all things obnoxious naming Amazon as a kindred spirit, placing them safely among the ranks of The Worst.

Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.