Yelp Launches Off-Network Ad Options for Wider Reach


Yelp today announced a fairly significant structural expansion to its ad products. For the first time, it’s offering ad  placement and management for campaigns that happen outside of its own four walls. This is intended for national and regional advertisers who typically execute cross-channel campaigns.

Known as Yelp Audiences, the main value driver is data. By tapping into extensive user data from Yelp’s on-site activity, it empowers campaigns happening off-site. Given that Yelp exists at certain parts of the consumer buying cycle, this appeals to advertisers who want more full-funnel campaign coverage.

By doing this, Yelp hopes to appeal to more advertisers than the narrower universe that’s currently attracted to its on-site ad options. And it’s positioning Audiences as a holistic one-stop-shop to further appeal to national and regional advertisers. In that way, this is a clear move to grow its addressable market.

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Show & Tell

So how is all of this done? Through pixel integration and first-party reporting, Yelp can target users in other networks that have previously visited its pages, or relevant lookalike audiences. In all cases, its behavioral data gives it an edge in crafting and optimizing ad campaigns for maximum performance.

This approach is backed by Yelp’s research that indicate 90 percent of users make a purchase within a week after visiting Yelp. By retargeting them as they emerge in various waypoints around the web and app ecosystems, Yelp is uniquely positioned to optimize ad campaigns in a data-backed way.

Going deeper on the process itself, Yelp works with advertisers to assemble their creative assets, which it crafts into campaigns. It then executes campaign distribution and placement through various networks. This first-party execution is key to ensure the Audiences program is privacy-friendly (more on that in a bit).

As for those “various networks” they include a mix of distribution points that Yelp has customized for the Audiences program. They include premium websites, mobile apps, and connected TV video streaming services. Yelp also works closely with DSP partners to control brand safety and viewability across platforms.

To show rather than tell, Yelp reports that KitchenAid piloted Answers for its “Woman’s Place” campaign. It delivered targeted ads in all of the above channels to encourage consumers to eat at women-owned restaurants in their local markets. This resulted in a 12 point lift in brand perception — 5x greater than benchmarks.

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First-Party Advantage

Back to the privacy point, data integrity is baked into Yelp Audiences as it’s using first-party data to execute off-site ad placement for advertisers. In other words, the chain of custody for user data stays with Yelp, rather than being sold to third parties. That last part is the trigger for most privacy regulations.

Amazon does something similar, given extensive consumer shopping behavioral data that it utilizes in targeting its growing on-site ad network. But it also utilizes that data to target search ads on Google to acquire additional traffic. Here, its onsite data can help optimize keyword bidding and other parameters.

More closely related to Yelp’s move is Shopify, which is rumored to be working on an advertising product (also called Audiences, interestingly), which uses its on-site data to empower off-site campaigns. It does this by using Shopify data to profile and target lookalike audiences on Facebook and Instagram.

Back to Yelp, VP Alon Shiran told us in a recent Localogy Live episode that Yelp wants to create products that are bought rather than sold. In other words, it wants its ad products to be developed in a product-first way so that their inherent appeal drives traction… rather than its past sales-heavy approach.

Audiences could carry some of that philosophy in how its packaged, priced, and sold. We’ll keep watching for evidence of that. Meanwhile, beyond KitchenAid, Yelp Audiences’ launch follows pilot programs with similarly-positioned national brands like food-tech company Just Eat and comfort-tech company Purple.

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