Is Amazon Starting to Use Product Listing Ads?

Amazon is by far the largest spender on Google AdWords’ traditional Text Ads in the U.S., spending some $157.7 million across its various properties in 2013 according to Advertising Age analysis of AdGooroo data.

Moreover, not counting its other owned properties, itself is Google’s top spender in the U.S. and near the top in other markets as well, ranking #2 in Text Ad spend on Desktop/Tablet in the U.K. and Germany and #3 in France from January through October this year according to AdGooroo data. (And although these figures do not include Text Ad spend on Mobile Search, February 2014 AdGooroo research showed is dominating U.S. Mobile Search spend as well.)

Amazon PLA Blog - Top Text Ad Spender

However, one area where Amazon is not leading is Product Listing Ads (PLAs), the prominent search engine results page ads featuring product images and prices, which Amazon reportedly does not sponsor as a policy. And while there has been much speculation on why that policy is in place (often touching on the relationship between Amazon and Google), AdGooroo data can only confirm that we have not found any PLA activity by Amazon in any market since we began measuring the ad medium in March of 2013.

That is, until last month.

In AdGooroo’s October 2014 ranking of the top Product Listing Ad advertisers for Google France, based on PLA Desktop/Tablet activity on more than 90,000 keywords in the French market, ranked #4 with $980,000 in spend.

Amazon PLA Blog - Top 10 PLA Spenders France Oct 2014

What’s more, Amazon is continuing to sponsor Product Listing Ads in France as of this writing. For example, the following screenshots were taken on November 17, showing with 4 total ads showing up in 2 Google France PLA blocks for the keywords ‘samsung galaxy’ and ‘ipod’:

Amazon France PLA 1

Amazon PLA screenshot 2

The question is, does Amazon’s recent Product Listing Ad activity in the French market mark the start of a new policy at the online retail giant, and will Amazon begin sponsoring PLAs in the U.S. and other markets?

Time will tell. But one thing is certain – if Amazon were to commit its considerable resources and search marketing expertise to Product Listing Ads, it would significantly reshape the search marketing landscape that has been in place since Google began charging advertisers for PLAs in May of 2012.

Indeed, Amazon’s lack of participation in Product Listing Ads may be giving its competitors a sizable advantage on the search engine results page, considering the high-profile physical position of PLAs on the page, their colorful product graphics and the fact that consumers are clicking on them more often than Text Ads, according to Q2 2014 AdGooroo research.

Amazon’s competition is clearly recognizing these advantages and responding; according to the same Q2 AdGooroo research, on average the Top 20 search advertisers are devoting 63% of their budget to Product Listing Ads and only 37% to Text Ads. Notably, Amazon ranked #3 among these top search spenders in the study, even though they spent no money on Product Listing Ads.