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News Plus 18 Nov 2021 - 4 min read

Criteo hires ex GroupM commerce chief Roger Dunn; Global CTO says no cookie bombing, pushes into retailer media with $900bn in partner transactions

By Sam Buckingham-Jones - Senior Writer

(L - R) Criteo CTO Diarmuid Gill, ANZ MD Colin Barnard, former GroupM GM, Commerce, Roger Dunn. In a wide-ranging interview with Australian media, Criteo CTO Diarmuid Gill said: "Ultimately, advertisers don’t care about clicks, they care about sales."

GroupM's former General Manager of Commerce Roger Dunn has landed at French-based ad tech giant Criteo, which is doubling down on commerce and transaction data-fuelled advertising. Launching a new contextual advertising product, global Chief Technology Officer Diarmuid Gill says the click-focused Criteo of the past is gone - now it’s all about sales.

What you need to know:

  • Former General Manager of Commerce at GroupM, Roger Dunn, has been hired by Criteo.
  • As Criteo expands in the ANZ market, global CTO, Diarmuid Gill, insists the company does not practice “cookie bombing”, a controversial tactic which games last click attribution incentives to publishers.
  • Rather, Criteo is now focused on sharpening its artificial intelligence engine to boost client sales.
  • Retailer media is a core and growing part of Criteo’s business, Gill says, and the company has sight of 500 billion “user events” each day.
  • Gill had a veiled swipe at Apple’s pro-privacy push, saying the tech company doesn’t like tracking “when it’s done by other people”.

Advertising technology company Criteo has hired former GroupM commerce boss Roger Dunn, ramping up its local retailer media network which, globally, has sight on $900 billion in transaction data – more than twice the annual total sales of Amazon.

In a briefing to Australian media yesterday, Criteo’s Paris-based Chief Technology Officer, Diarmuid Gill, said the company was looking to improve sales results and was not interested in “cookie bombing”, but conceded its tech was focused on clicks in an earlier part of the company's life. 

Cookie bombing is the practice of buying high volumes of cheap ads to drive impressions and conversions, just before an online user makes an action online. Former Google exec, now Criteo ANZ Managing Director Colin Barnard, acknowledged the company did have that reputation.

“Our advertisers judge us on sales," said Gill, responding to Mi3 questions. "In the very early iteration of the Criteo engine, what we were training the AI on was predicting clicks – what a user clicks on or not. As we began to get more sophisticated with the quality of the AI, what we realised was that ultimately advertisers don’t care about clicks, they care about sales.” 

The firm says it works with 20,000 retailers around the world and sees billions of dollars of transactions each day.

“When a user goes to one of our retailer partner websites and they buy a product and then do the checkout and so on, we’re able to see which users see the ads, which click, and which buy. And then we train our engine to be able to figure out what were the signals that differentiate the ones who buy from the ones who just click and do nothing,” Gill said.

“As we got more sophisticated, we began to train the engine on providing different ways for the advertiser to control. So was it on the margin? Do you prioritise high margin goods versus no margin goods? All with a view of increasing sales. That’s ultimately the metric our clients judge us on. That’s not something you can game by doing last click attribution.”

E-commerce and Roger Dunn 

Hiring Dunn is a strategic move by Criteo into the commerce space. For six years, Dunn oversaw e-commerce, customer experience and broader commerce at MediaCom and then GroupM. His replacement, Sean Bone, was named last week.

Dunn was also a key voice in Mi3’s recent report exploring the rise of retailer media in Australia

A Criteo spokesperson declined to comment on Dunn's hire. It's understood more details will be released in coming days. 

Apple double standards

Gill said Criteo was a strong advocate for an open internet, urging media owners not to wall themselves off – as many are, including, earlier this year, Reddit. After the deprecation of third-party cookies in Google’s Chrome browser, Criteo will work with multiple alternative ID solutions, including LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution and ID5.

Gill took a thinly-veiled swipe at Apple for making it more difficult to track users and target them with ads but allowing levels of tracking in its own App Store systems.

“I think Apple don’t like tracking when it’s done by other people. But they have significant revenue from their own app store. It’s one of their key advertising hubs,” Gill said.

“The interface they provide to third parties is very different to the ones they provide through their own products, so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to how open and fair and all of those kinds of things are. It’s their ecosystem, they’re calling the shots, but it’s up to everyone to make their own mind up about what their core motives are.”

Contextual and first-party data

Criteo yesterday announced a new contextual advertising solution that connects real-time context to commerce data to drive attribution.

“Unlike traditional contextual targeting, it is the only solution that doesn’t just rely on contextual signals but also uses commerce signals pulled from first-party data to reach people who are ready to buy,” Barnard said in a statement.

“It’s all thanks to our world’s largest commerce data set on the open internet, which sees over $900 billion of e-commerce sales annually, three times that of Amazon.”

To mark the announcement, Criteo released a survey of 79 Australian marketers about Google’s announcement to delay third party cookies. The survey, carried out between August 24 and October 8, found:

  • 41 per cent of marketers said more than half of their digital advertising relies at least partly on third party cookies.
  • 90 per cent believe first party data will be crucial in coming years.
  • 55 per cent said they’ll spend more on Google, Facebook or Amazon.
  • 43 per cent said they’ll spend more on retailer media.

Mi3 Special Report: Australia Post-Cookies, Post-Privacy

  • How brands including ANZ, CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and Westpac are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.
  • Report covers all of Australia‘s major publishers, their strategies.
  • All major alternative IDs covered.
  • Plus marketing consultancies, tech provider and agency insights.
  • Independent Mi3 report, based on 35-plus interviews, supported by MiQ and Resolution Digital.

How brands including CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and more are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.

Get ahead of the curve. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT HERE DOWNLOAD your 67-page report here.

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