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“eMarketer is a great one-stop shop for the Amazon Media Group and our sales team.”

—Lisa Utzschneider

Former Vice President of Global Advertising, Amazon Media Group

An Interview with Lisa Utzschneider

Former Vice President of Global Advertising at Amazon Media Group

Lisa Utzschneider leads Amazon.com’s global display advertising efforts. She joined Amazon in September 2008, assuming responsibility for ad sales and operations for a range of Amazon-owned and -operated websites including Amazon, IMDb and Digital Photography Review. In this role, Utzschneider leads the product development and sales strategies for advertising solutions across the Amazon portfolio.

Prior to Amazon, she spent a decade at Microsoft leading a variety of advertising initiatives in product development, sales strategy and online industry standards capacities. Her last position at Microsoft was general manager of the sales and account services group.

(Editors’ note: Lisa Utzschneider was interviewed by eMarketer in January 2014; she was named Senior Vice President, Sales, Americas, Yahoo in October 2014.)

What are you responsible for as vice president of global advertising sales?

Lisa Utzschneider: I’m responsible for our global advertising business, which today consists of a few primary areas. The first is display advertising across our owned and operated sites including Amazon.com, IMDb.com, DP Review, and Diapers.com. The second is advertising on connected devices, including Kindle E-readers, Kindle Fire tablets and mobile, both IMDb’s mobile apps and the Amazon shopping app. The third is connecting with Amazon customers on the internet. And the fourth area, which I’m very excited about, is video.

Let me take a step back and provide some context. Amazon is in its 19th year of building a really robust retail platform for our customers. As a result, we’ve also built a large, loyal customer base of more than 224 million active customer accounts worldwide.

About seven years ago, we saw an exciting opportunity to help those customers find and discover new and great products through advertising on our sites, and to help advertisers discover new and relevant customers who are coming to our site in a shopping mindset.

Since then, we’ve been building our advertising platform and from the outset, maintaining an extremely high bar for the ads we show and the experiences we create. We’re always striving to ensure ads meet our customers’ expectations, while delivering meaningful results for our advertisers. It’s still early, but the advertiser response we’re seeing to date tells us it’s working.

Recently, we’re seeing positive results in integrating more video within our advertising program. We’ve just started doing this both within our ad units and through a new feature we’re calling Native Video.

What role is video playing in Amazon’s advertising across screens and devices?

Utzschneider: We want to create a compelling platform that includes video. For example, our customers like watching how-to videos to help them make purchase decisions. And we see that as a great opportunity for our marketers to meaningfully connect with Amazon customers. We launched native video in the fourth quarter of 2013 in the US.

So if I’m shopping on Amazon and I enter a search term—let’s say "Cover Girl"—I may see Cover Girl videos like "How to create a smoky eye" in the search results. Customers can watch the video, learn more about the products, how to use them, and make a more informed shopping decision. We also have the ability for customers to add the featured product to their shopping carts from right within the video. We’re adding this type of short‑form video content across other categories as well, like video game trailers and movie trailers.

What are your three biggest priorities for 2014?

Utzschneider: I’d say the first priority is global. We’re a global platform, and we focus on scale and product parity in every country we serve. We’ll continue to focus on scaling our current regions and evaluating new ones.

Right now, Amazon Media Group serves eight countries. We’ll remain focused on delivering great advertising across those regions and innovating as we grow the business. We also want to ensure the ad products we roll out are consistent country by country for our customers, and so that our global marketers can plan and buy advertising globally.

The second priority is connected devices. As I mentioned, we run advertising on Kindle E-readers, Kindle Fire tablets, and mobile. Tens of thousands of new customers make their first-ever Amazon purchase via mobile devices every day. In fact, people love shopping on a mobile device so much, millions of Amazon customers shop exclusively on a mobile device all year. That’s a tremendous opportunity to connect marketers with Amazon customers wherever they are and at every digital touchpoint.

I would say our third priority is video. It’s early days for us with video, but we see lots of opportunity to enhance both the customer and advertiser experience via video.

What are you doing with ecommerce ads?

Utzschneider: Within Amazon Media Group, we’re looking to leverage the Amazon platform in ways we feel are truly compelling for both our customers and advertisers. Our eCommerce Ads are probably the purest example of that, and we’ve been working on them for several years now.

With eCommerce Ads, we embed familiar Amazon shopping features and functionality right within the ad unit—into IAB-standard banners. That includes features like "Buy Now" or "Add to Cart," digital coupons, customer ratings and reviews, "Add to Wish List," and that list keeps growing. We’re continually iterating to both add more functionality and to learn how we can most effectively combine these different elements into a single ad unit, as well as integrating video.

For example, we have a 300x600 unit that runs on our "Thank You" page, and it can include a video, the product’s average customer star rating, and an "Add to Cart" button. We’re seeing that eCommerce Ads are performing, on average, 20% to 30% better than standard ads across key metrics.

Why are these ads performing so much better?

Utzschneider: The more we can do to make advertising helpful for customers—whether it’s helping them discover new products, accessing more product information, making it super simple for them to add a product to their shopping cart or "Wish List"—the more meaningful engagements it drives between customers and those brands.

For example, you could come to Amazon and look at an ad promoting a Pantene haircare product. Without ever leaving that page, you could watch a video of the Pantene product within the ad unit, you could see the customer rating or a review right within the ad unit, and add the product to your shopping cart—right from the ad. That’s offering our customers an easy and convenient shopping option, while helping advertisers connecting with a relevant audience.

What new ad formats are you working on that you’re excited about?

Utzschneider: I wouldn’t say we’re focused on creating new ad formats specifically, but rather on how we truly optimize the advertising experience on our sites and across devices for both customers and advertisers. The fact that customers come to Amazon in a shopping mindset—whether it’s to research products or make a purchase—makes us a little bit different in this space. And we embrace that difference. It also means we approach advertising a little differently. We strive to create advertising that helps customers discover products vs. just delivering impressions.

We want to create advertising that helps inform customers and helps advertisers connect with customers in ways that are most meaningful as they’re shopping. We believe ecommerce and advertising intersect at the customer when both are optimized to help them find, discover, and buy, so that’s where we focus. We believe that’s how we can deliver the most value for our advertisers.

Our eCommerce Ads are one example of that. Using video in different ways is another example of how we’re looking at optimizing experiences for customers and advertisers across our platform.

I can’t speak to new things we may be doing in the future, but I can say we’re also really focused on cross-screen formats, as are our advertisers. Customers expect their shopping experiences across screens to be as seamless. Similarly, marketers are looking at how to create consistent advertising experiences across devices and screens. We’ve been working with many marketers to connect them with audiences across devices, whether it’s a PC, mobile device or Kindle E-reader.

We’re finding that marketing campaigns running on at least two screens are performing, on average, 18% better across key metrics than campaigns running on a single screen. Recently, we ran a campaign for the DVD release of "Despicable Me 2." It featured eCommerce Ads and ran on Amazon.com, IMDb.com, and on the Kindle Fire tablet. The customer could view a pre-roll of the movie as well as add the DVD to their shopping cart from within the ad. They could do this from their PC, for example, and complete the purchase later on their Kindle Fire or mobile phone.

You and your team have worked with some of the world’s largest brands. What do they want most from their Amazon advertising experience?

Utzschneider: Marketers know we have a loyal and engaged customer base of over 224 million active customer accounts worldwide. Done right, the combination of that user base, plus the growth of ecommerce overall, is a tremendous opportunity for them. We work with some of the largest global marketers, and these marketers are excited to team with us to create the most meaningful engagements for Amazon customers with their brands.

Amazon prides itself on being customer-centric. What does this mean for the advertising business?

Utzschneider: We start with the customer and work backward, just as we do with everything at Amazon. We aspire to create relevant and shopping experiences for our customers, and better results for our advertisers, by delivering useful ads that help customers discover and buy the products they’re looking for.

You’ve worked in digital advertising and media for a while now. What keeps you excited about being in this business?

Utzschneider: You’re right; I’ve worked in the digital advertising space for quite some time now. At Amazon, we believe it’s day one. It’s day one for the internet, it’s day one for advertising, and we’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of figuring out ways to create relevant, innovative experiences for our customers and advertisers. There’s so much opportunity ahead of us to be able to connect with Amazon customers from any digital touchpoint and deliver relevant and meaningful marketing experiences to them.

What do you and your team like best about eMarketer?

Utzschneider: eMarketer is a great one-stop shop for the Amazon Media Group and our sales team. With eMarketer, the team doesn’t have to scour through a lot of data to get the precise insight that they’re looking for—they can go and quickly pull the insight and get what they need. The insights and data are easy to find.

Second, it helps the team get better educated about industry trends. It’s so important for a sales team to stay up to date on what’s happening in the industry, especially our industry, because it’s evolving so quickly.

The third thing we really like about eMarketer is that it’s global. We are a global platform, and our marketers think globally. Being able to equip our sales team with global insights is really valuable for us.

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