All Articles Marketing Q&A: eBay Advertising exec on real intent, cookies and new tech


Q&A: eBay Advertising exec on real intent, cookies and new tech

In this interview, eBay exec Scott Kelliher sits down to talk about the importance of first-party data, defining true intent, the challenges of audience targeting, a cookie-less future and where eBay Advertising's new technology fits in.

6 min read


Q&A: eBay Advertising exec on real intent, cookies and new tech

(eBay Advertising)

This post is sponsored by eBay Advertising.

The marketing world has become a complicated web of data, intent, audience segmentation and targeting tools. Throw in the need to prepare for a cookie-less future and the current pandemic, and even the best marketers can be thrown off their game. So how do marketers sift through the noise to find the right data and the right tools to help them do their job successfully?

Scott Kelliher, eBay Advertising’s head of US brand advertising and partnerships, sat down to talk about just that. Read what he had to say during the conversation, from the importance of first-party data and defining consumers’ true intent, to the challenges of audience targeting as the industry moves away from cookies, where eBay’s new eBay Advanced Audience Technology, or eAAT for short, fits in — and why these things are more important today than ever:

Can you start off by talking about the importance of utilizing first-party data as opposed to third-party data? 

Sure. But before I get into the benefit of first-party data, I want to first encourage readers to understand where the data they use comes from. You can buy an “intender” audience from just about any publisher or third-party data aggregator. The catch is, the data they use to define intent isn’t typically based on true intent signals. Mostly, it’s contextually-based or broadly defined behaviors that won’t necessarily perform. Thanks to first-party data like ours, advertisers don’t have to depend on assumptions about whether or not a consumer is intending to buy something. And, while they’ve gotten us much closer to true intent, third-party data providers don’t provide the transparency or robust set of intent signals that advertisers need to power successful campaigns.

E-commerce data like we have at eBay is based on real people shopping. Every visit, every purchase — and every item not purchased — every item viewed, every category shopped and every ad campaign engaged with results in billions of shopping insights that we share with our partners. For example, we know that the primary color purchased on eBay by engaged people isn’t white — it’s yellow! Interesting, right? Think about how brands can use those kinds of insights to plan smarter, more effective strategies.

How about audience targeting? What are the biggest challenges marketers face today in audience targeting? And what will the future of audience targeting look like?

There’s a long list. Speed, scale, precision, cookies, transparency — just to name a few. Advertisers want to make their ads more relevant, more engaging and, ultimately, more effective. First-party real intent data has become an incredibly powerful tool to make that happen.

Looking forward, understanding how all of the different pieces come together will remain the big challenge. Incrementality is coming up a lot lately. Advertisers want to know how all of the pieces go together. At eBay, for example, we know that approximately 70% of our customers who do a search on the platform make a purchase — and we know all of their behaviors with us before and after the search — which gives us a big advantage. Bringing those kinds of insights to our partners helps them make more effective decisions and should solve some of these issues.

Can you talk about eBay Advertising’s new technology and where it fits into the picture of first-party data and the future of audience targeting?

eBay Advanced Audience Technology is a new technology platform that tackles targeting challenges head-on. It helps our advertisers quickly find the audiences that are most likely to purchase and do it at scale.

At its foundation, eAAT is built on server-to-server connections, which means there’s no more lag in audience inclusion and exclusion. Now, our advertisers can reach people in their first eBay shopping session, sometimes with the next ad impression. For example, the first time I search “affordable laptops,” I am automatically added to our “Laptop Intender” audience segment. Then, the next ad I am served during that very same session will be one for an affordable laptop. Finally, when I make a purchase, I’m removed from the segment just as quickly. That means no wasted impressions on someone who’s no longer in-market. It makes audience targeting faster than ever and puts the “real” in real-time targeting.

Going server-to-server also means we no longer have to depend on match rates that significantly reduce campaign scale. In fact, in early testing, we found that eAAT can extend segment reach up to three times, all without adding in additional, less meaningful audiences.

Why will advancements in technology like this be important as the industry moves beyond cookies?

Because our audience targeting is based on logged-in eBay users, we don’t depend on cookies to connect our partners to their target audience across all platforms. And that means our partners have one less concern about a cookie-less future. We’re setting advertisers up for success today — and future-proofing against browser technology.

Why is the technology eBay Advertising has to offer more important now than ever in the context of today’s business environment?

It’s been really interesting to watch the shift in consumers’ mindsets throughout COVID-19. Our first-party shopping data has really given us a front-row seat to how people have adjusted and coped through the pandemic. What has been most interesting is how fast their needs and purchase behaviors are changing — there are new trends weekly. The real-time nature of eAAT has become so critical right now. Marketers are able to take advantage of every shopping window, even the shortest ones, to meet ever-changing consumer needs we’re seeing today. eAAT is putting brands in front of consumers when it matters most.

What’s next for eBay Advertising? What other challenges keep you up at night that you have the team thinking about?

We’re really thinking ahead about what the “return to normal” looks like and how we can help our partners make smart decisions in a brand new consumer landscape. We know more about an advertiser’s audience than just about anyone, and we are dedicated to helping brands succeed on eBay, even during difficult times. So, our focus now is on keeping our partners up-to-date and informed on quickly-changing consumer behaviors and making informed recommendations. We’re also looking at new ways — and new places — for brands to leverage our data. Making sure we understand all of the potential opportunities we have in front of us is a big challenge, but staying aligned with, and supportive of, our clients’ needs will always be our No. 1 priority.

Learn more about eBay Advertising.

Scott Kelliher joined eBay Advertising in May 2019 as head of brand advertising and partnerships. He is responsible for all direct and indirect advertising revenue, overseeing all aspects of the business including marketing, sales and operations. Prior to eBay Advertising, Scott held leadership positions at Time Inc., Yahoo and AOL where he guided business strategy and key client relationships across several categories. Most recently, he served as president of sales and marketing for the Tech, Telco and Auto verticals at Time Inc.