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Getting Acquainted with AD Retail Media

16 Feb 2023

By Andy Howard, The Mars Agency

Ahold Delhaize USA is hoping to make a bigger splash in the retail media world in 2023 by rolling out a more extensive advertising platform that unites its entire U.S. footprint.

Called AD Retail Media, the new platform features a host of new partners, advertising opportunities, and back-end services designed to provide solutions for many of the early-stage issues that other networks have been addressing, including ease of use and ease of activation.

Operator of roughly 2,050 stores across five divisions — Food Lion, The Giant Co., Giant Food, Hannaford and Stop & Shop — in five Eastern states, ADUSA has a customer base of 55 million weekly shoppers that includes 23.8 million loyalty cardholders; 68% of the company’s $54 billion in annual sales come through those loyalty cards.

AD Retail Media’s stated approach is to leverage best-in-class marketing and merchandising services to help identify, craft and execute insights driven omnichannel campaigns that map back to the specific goals and objectives of advertisers.

Launched in early January, the new platform is intended to be a one-stop shop for reaching all ADUSA shoppers through onsite and offsite touchpoints that will drive stronger engagement and product sales by delivering personalized experiences across the entire path to purchase.

One key aspect of the plan is to help partnering brands combine their shopper marketing and retail media programming to facilitate effective omnichannel strategies that provide greater coverage, measurement and flexibility. Even some of the most longstanding retail media platforms are still trying to build opportunities that allow brands to combine these activities.

Key Benefits

Comprehensive Coverage: Combining shopper marketing and retail media vehicles will “complete the circle” of shopper engagement to reach defined audiences, and more simply offer more ad inventory across a variety of channels and vehicles. While AD’s preference is full campaigns across all five divisions, some banner-specific activity is available, and exceptions will be made based on objectives and distribution.

The platform officially launched with sponsored search, onsite and offsite opportunities. Social media, CTV, online video, closed-loop attributed sales and ROAS, and behavioral/contextual targeting are among many additional capabilities planned for rollout later this year.

Improved Data Offerings: Access to first-party data will accommodate multi-touch attribution measurement. In an upgrade to AD’s previous offering, campaigns will have 14-day attribution windows, 24- to 48-hour refreshes, and report delivery timelines of 6 to 8 weeks.

Each supplier (or agency) will have access to a real-time self-serve media dashboard via AD Retail Media partner CitrusAd, Powered by Epsilon.

An “Offsite Plus” program will let select advertisers leverage 1st party data off-platform via AD partner LiveRamp, which will host a clean room to unite retailer and manufacturer data (at an incremental cost).

Easier Access: AD Retail Media’s “late bloomer” status has it launching with self-serve options that other networks added mid-stream based on supplier feedback. Product categories are divided among five AD Retail reps who will serve as a “one stop shop” for all media offerings and be a single point of contact from planning to execution.

CitrusAd will offer both managed and self-serve options for sponsored products, banner, and CTV programming — but is recommending managed service at the onset for anyone unfamiliar with the platform. Additionally, Food Lion reporting initially will be handled separately until that division is fully transferred over.

Moderate Pricing: AD Retail Media’s pricing is comparable to other networks of their audience size, with offsite CPM at $12 and onsite CPM via auction at $12-14. One notable change: creative fees, which were previously minimal, now start at $2,500.

Spending Flexibility: Unlike some other networks, suppliers won’t be requested to invest to any predetermined levels or meet any campaign spending minimums, but instead will be allowed “to build a plan at their budget to meet their omnichannel strategy,” according to the platform’s sales materials. Spending minimums will, however, need to be met to receive some reporting-level options “in order to have enough media to properly evaluate,” according to the company.

Creative Flexibility: Advertisers will be able to create and version out their own creative, handle the base creative with AD Retail Media handling the versioning, or have AD Retail Media to do it all (with costs varying accordingly).

In-Store Opportunities: Four established partners will extend the platform’s reach into physical stores.

  • Neptune Retail Solutions will offer its menu of in-store signage at all banners except Hannaford (and will handle program metrics and billing directly with advertisers).
  • Catalina’s AD-specific checkout coupon programs can now count toward retail media investments.
  • Vestcom Shelf Adz tags can also be part of an AD Retail Media plan.
  • Volta will provide DOOH opportunities through screens on parking lot charging stations, extending the network beyond the store.

Among other opportunities, former platform partner Quotient will continue managing digital coupon programs.

Measurement: In the early stages of the launch, measurement and reporting has not rolled out so could not be evaluated.

The Mars Agency’s POV

We helped our clients move forward with 1Q plans as ADUSA transitioned to the updated platform, working very closely with their team on logistics (briefs, proposals, creative, targeting) to optimize and ensure successful execution.

AD took a conservative approach by rolling out limited products at the onset but, as noted earlier, expects to phase in additional offerings as the year moves on.

While incremental fees have been added to every campaign for creative development and/or versioning, we recommend handling all creative (and versioning, if time allows) on your own to ensure flawless execution and expedite the process.

We also recommend keeping the lines of communication open with your AD Retail Media lead on specific topics like divisional programming and KPIs, as well as on your general expectations and concerns. In addition, keep your lead involved in all AD vendor communication to ensure there’s a clear line of sight into all omnichannel programming and connectivity across the business.

Additional processes and even a joint planning process to align merchandising and marketing activity will likely roll out in the future as AD Retail Media builds out the platform to better meet the needs of its suppliers.

To learn more about AD Retail Media and The Mars Agency’s perspective, contact Andy Howard at [email protected].

About the Author
Andy Howard is Director of Commerce Media at The Mars Agency, where he develops media strategies for leading brands across national and regional grocers. He has two decades of experience in shopper marketing and commerce media, helping brands develop strategies and practices to win with both shoppers and retailers. Andy has a passion for empowering brands with innovative thinking, inspiring holistic planning with retailers and pushing the limits of measurement.

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