If you've been in the paid search industry for a few years, you've probably heard of – or even used – Criteo.

You may also know Criteo Retail Media from earlier times when it could be described as a sponsored product advertising network, around 2016 when Criteo acquired a company called Hooklogic.

Hooklogic had built a business by aggregating the inventory of many retailers and allowing brands to bid on that inventory on a CPC basis.

Additionally, you may also know that in 2018 Criteo acquired a company called Storetail to help retailers offer new creative formats and targeting options.

What you may have missed, however, is the announcement of Criteo's new retail media platform.

For now, I'll be sticking to this sponsored piece of product and the platform that powers it as it is an easy-to-reach promotional item that not only goes on vacation but also planning for 2021.

So, let's get to the features of the retail media platform for sponsored products.


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This technology enables retailers to serve ads that blend in with the existing site structure, look and feel. It enables the retailer to “sell” placements in search results, crawl pages, and anywhere they believe a sponsored product placement will meet user expectations.

So retailers can focus on being a retailer, not an ad management platform or software developer, so they can get promotional offers to market faster without the cost of owning, maintaining, and building an ad technology stack.

That's when you stop thinking about an extremely large and expensive set of tasks that need to be done properly.

Products sponsored by Criteo

The other thing this format does is give brands an always available option to advertise with that retailer.


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Traditional retail advertising can be very administrative, even with online-only ad flights, with insert orders, large budgets or minimum requirements, weeks of planning on creative assets and reviews, embargo periods and post-campaign reports that may not happen until full Allocation period has expired.

While these larger display purchases allow you to associate in-store lift, shopping cart analytics, and brand halo effects, it can take eight weeks after the campaign ends to receive them.

Criteo is now partnering with retailers in North America to deliver corporate-level self-service advertising tools to brands such as Target, Best Buy, Costco, Meijer, Macy, Kohl, Walgreen, CVS and Ulta.

What is special about the Retail Media platform is that the advertiser can choose whether to run their ads with a single retailer, or to run a campaign with multiple retailers and break the reporting down to the individual retailer level.

Brands can use budget caps to allocate budgets to different retailers at the required levels, or use AI to dynamically allocate funds to get the best return on ad spend.

Some retailers, like Target, have already used Criteo for an exclusive environment they refer to as a "private market" where their ads are only shown on target.com.

The ability to target only Target (pun intended) is great for brands looking to drive more sales specifically on target.com, or even take advantage of product popularity to free up more physical shelf space, range expansion and also Target Plus sellers too valuable the marketplace, which has to advertise its products and has no presence in the store.

How it works

Sponsored products through Criteo are a CPC model and a first price auction.

It is not based on keywords. The focus is more on the individual SKUs.

All SKUs are pre-assigned keywords thanks to information from retailer product feeds, data collected from retailer websites, and Criteo's AI.

Brands then don't have to spend resources on developing creatives.

Bids can be set at the line item level and at the SKU level. The concept of a line item is actually new to the retail media platform.


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In the past, to group SKUs, you had to divide campaigns using “product groups”.

Now you are creating line items and each will act as a tactic to drive your larger campaign strategy forward. You assign a retailer to each line item.

This gives you control over where your budget is going and allows you to view reports at the dealer level.

criteo line item

Additionally, you can now use the SKU-level bidding feature to manage CPC bids for individual products.


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By adjusting a product's bid, you can adjust the product's competitiveness in the auction.

The inline editing tool allows you to enter and save a new CPC value for each product in the Product Bid Override field. The entered value must either be equal to or greater than the minimum bid.

Another difference with the new platform is that these floors are now set by the retailer, so they can vary significantly within the categories. So far, Criteo has set minimum bids for running network campaigns.

Once entered, the product will use the new CPC for bids. The line item bid is automatically used for products that do not have a value to override the product bid.

View of the Criteo products

With this new campaign structure there is a lot more flexibility in the organization. For example, you can create a campaign with a line item for a retailer.


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You can also run a campaign of 10 line items with a different retailer each. Or you can have 100 SKUs in a line item.

Each line item has a start date and an optional end date. (The start and end dates are not at the campaign level.)

You can budget for the line item and use daily or monthly stimulation tools. You can also choose not to set a line item budget and rely on the budget set at the campaign level.

Your decision.

criteo budget view

While the daily and monthly budget stimulation in the new platform has been moved from the campaign level to the line item level, the assignment is now carried out at the campaign level and no longer at the account level.


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In addition, Criteo now offers several more mapping options. Previously, you could only work 30 days after clicking and 1 day after viewing. Options now include Post-Click: Seven Days / 14 Days / 30 Days and Post-Viewed: None / One Day / Seven Days / 14 Days / 30 Days.

Brands can now align with the attribution windows they use with other platforms if they so choose.


As mentioned earlier, brands can now view dealer-level reports. In addition, Criteo normalizes metrics between retailers so you can easily compare performance between retailers.

The new platform also includes data visualization so you can now slice and dice with customizable reports with the metrics you want.

You can download reports directly from the user interface or schedule reports via email.

Criteo coverage

How to get started

Technically, there is no minimum spend to get access to the Retail Media platform.


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However, prices on the platform depend on spending commitments and whether you use Criteo's managed services team for management support.

With the introduction of this new platform, Criteo has also evolved its pricing model to provide complete transparency to brands, agencies and retailers.

The new pricing model adapts to the media and cost prices used by other media buying tools and creates more transparency and flexibility in paying for your usage.

I highly recommend reading Forrester's report, "Consumer Brands: It's Time to Take Control of the Fate of Your Retail Media" report, produced by Forrester on behalf of Criteo. The full report is available for download and covers today's retail media landscape. And you can check where, as part of their process and optimization, you are going against respondents and their maturity in retail media.

It will cost you an email to get it, but I thought it was worth it. If not, there is a lot more material in the resource area. From there, you can contact Criteo to get started.


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More resources:

Photo credit

All screenshots by the author, December 2020


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