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Amazon Ads' reporting mishap on Black Friday gives retail media a (temporary) black eye

The news: Amazon's Ad dashboard began providing inaccurate data to advertisers at the most inopportune time: Black Friday, one of the top sales days of the year.

  • The problems began late Friday afternoon, according to a number of agencies.
  • By Friday night, Amazon had reported advertising expenditures that were approximately half of what advertisers expected them to be. Ads were still running—but advertisers didn’t know how much they were spending.
  • On Sunday, Amazon finally admitted the reporting lag, and said the issue had been resolved.

Why it matters: Amazon offers advertisers a dashboard that tracks ad spend across various ad formats, including sponsored items, sponsored brands, and sponsored display ads. To determine how effectively to deploy their advertising budgets, brands and agencies rely on real-time reporting and track ad spend in relation to real-time sales figures.

  • Black Friday is a critical day for ecommerce, with 2022 sales growing 14% vs. last year, and without accurate data, some advertisers quickly ramped up ad spend to meet sales goals.
  • Incorrect data surrounding ad spend and sales levels could also deceive advertisers into believing some or all of their Amazon ads performed better than they actually did, causing them to increase their spend on account of outdated metrics.
  • Overspending on ads or missing a critical sales figure could cost agencies clients or, at the very least, impact relationships adversely.

Our take: A spokesperson said the company “will work with our advertisers to ensure they have the best possible experience with all Amazon Ads products," when asked about the problem. But accurate real-time data on campaigns during the most critical sales period of the year isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a necessity.

  • Considering much has been made of Amazon’s retail media prowess over the past year, the mishap is a black eye that could make advertisers think twice before diverting too much of their ad spend to the retail giant.