As an online publisher, I am always on the lookout for possible opportunities to increase and diversify our advertising income. Hence, I got excited when I heard that Amazon is offering its own CPM advertising program. Amazon may just be the competitor that Google Adsense needs.
I have been using Amazon Ads for three days now in three formats: leaderboard, medium rectangle and wide skyscraper. We serve Amazon CPM Ads via Doubleclick for Publishers, where we also set up pass back networks in the event that Amazon cannot serve ads. Amazon has detailed instructions on how to use DFP to serve Amazon CPM ads.
Review of Amazon CPM Ads
Here are my initial findings about the Amazon CPM ads:
1. Low Income Potential
Earnings from Amazon CPM Ads are very disappointing. In 3 days, we just earned a few cents from Amazon. Cents and not even a dollar!
In contrast, we tried Epom.com at the same time, rotating Epom.com’s ads in the same ad units as Amazon. In 3 days with Epom.com, we earned around $25. And to think that I have high hopes for Amazon and not with Epom.com! I have not even heard of Epom.com until they approached us and asked us to try them out!
In contrast, on our first day of using Adsense back in 2003; it was love at first sight. I put the Adsense code in only a few pages to test it out, but the income on that first day made me decide immediately that Adsense will have the prime advertising spots on our site. It was that good! Amazon, on the other hand, failed to give me that wow feeling.
2. Big discrepancy in reporting
I use Doubleclick for Publishers (DFP) to serve Amazon CPM ads, and followed the guidelines Amazon provided on how to serve their ads through DFP (including setting up of pass through).
I am aware that there are discrepancies in ad impression reporting between DFP and AdSense, but the discrepancies between Amazon and DFP are just eye-popping. Here are the differences in the ad units we’ve used:
- Wide Skyscraper = 31,155% difference
- Medium Rectangle = 120% difference
- Leaderboard = 49,057% difference
In our case, DFP reports significantly more impressions than Amazon. It could be due to reporting lag times although the above percent differences are so high if it is just a 24-hour reporting lag time. There may be some technical explanation for the discrepancies (is DFP counting the number of times Amazon had to serve ads from the passback ad networks and recording it as Amazon?)
3. Low fill rate
The fill rate with Amazon CPM ads is low. For Medium Rectangle where Amazon is reporting the most impressions, the fill rate is only at 23%. This is just about par with remnant advertising networks that we use such as Burst Media, which is disappointing. Fill rate is an important metric especially with CPM ads as it represents the percentage of ad requests sent by the network.
4. Target CPM Rate Not Met
One of the features I was excited about Amazon CPM Ads is ability to set a target CPM rate. Amazon CPM ads will be served only it can meet or exceed the target CPM specified in the ad code; otherwise, your pass back ad network will serve an ad.
Unfortunately, this does not seem to be working right now.
So far, our CPM rate is 44% lower than our target CPM rate. This shows that Amazon is serving ads that are below our target CPM rate, which was not high to begin with.
Considering that our Adsense CPM is 800% higher than the target CPM rate we’ve set, Amazon’s CPM Ads are truly disappointing.
5. Lack of features to manage ads
Right now, Amazon CPM Ads has only two sections: their Home section (where you see the report) and Create Ad Code.
There is currently no way to retrieve the ad codes you have previously created. If you have not previously copied your code, you will have to recreate it. If you also need to change something in the code – e.g. your target CPM rate – then you will have to do the changes in the code itself.
There is also no way to determine what ads are being served, which is common feature for most CPM ad networks. There is also no way to block certain ads (or their categories) from appearing.
6. Quality of Ads is High
The redeeming part about Amazon CPM Ads is that the quality of the ads is pretty good. There are no blinking ads that are common in remnant CPM networks such as Conversant (ValueClick) and BurstMedia. Advertisers are typically other big businesses. There are some house ads advertising some of Amazon’s properties and certain categories, but I don’t see a lot of them.
After 3 days of using Amazon CPM Ads, I have to say that I am disappointed and my expectations were not met. The income we earned was totally unexpected — and not in a good way.
So do I think that Amazon can compete with Adsense? Definitely not at this stage. Adsense is still a million miles away from Amazon. I was hoping to see something that will be at the same level as Adsense in terms of income potential for publishers, and Amazon failed to show me anything remotely promising. Even Burstmedia is looking fantastic right now compared to Amazon CPM Ads!
I am not throwing the towel yet on Amazon CPM Ads. I may try to see how Amazon CPM Ads will perform when the code is pasted directly on the site, and not served through DFP. I still hope that the Amazon CPM Ads program will improve as it attracts more advertisers and welcomes more publishers in its fold. But in the meantime, I am not replacing our Adsense with Amazon Ads.