Reseller Questions (Part 6): What’s Going on with Product Listing Ads?

Jennie Scholick Sep 30, 2014

As both a dancer and a devoted wearer of Adriano Goldschmied (AG) jeans, I was intrigued by the company’s newest social media campaign on Tumblr, the latest in a series of companies using dancers as models. The campaign includes images of dancers taken by famed dance photographer Dane Shitugi of The Ballerina Project and asks Tumblr users to share their own images with the hashtag #whatmovesme. Director of global communications, Johnathan Crocker, hoped the campaign would provide a “viral component” to the brand's marketing initiatives.

But, while AG is paying a lot of attention to their social media marketing and branding, are they paying an equal amount of attention to how paid search results impact their brand? This blog post--the final in our reseller series, at least for the moment--will look at the issue of Product Listing Ads by resellers, taking AG jeans as the example.

Case Study: AG Jeans and PLAs

Like many of the brands discussed throughout this series, AG Jeans seems to do the majority of their sales through other retailers. As a privately-held company, they do not release a great deal of information regarding their business operations, but between the small number of direct retail locations--12 in the US and 1 in Japan--and the large number of resellers with whom they work (including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie, and Piperlime), it seems fair to assert that the majority of their business comes through those channels. Also, those nationwide retailers provide a key growth channel for the brand in markets in which they do not have their own branded retail locations.

But what about online? AG does operate an online store and their own search ads appear consistently in the top spot on Google followed by authorized and reputable resellers.


The above screenshot should look pretty familiar to anyone who’s been reading this series, but with a new addition--a set of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) above the side search results.

So what do those PLAs mean for AG?

PLAs, which feature a photo of an item, a price, and a link to a reseller, have become an important marketing tool for resellers and brands alike. Google's recent upgrade to "Shopping Campaigns" has brought increased attention to this kind of advertisement.

As you can see in the screenshot, none of the PLAs that appear for “Adriano Goldschmied” are for AG’s own site. That is a consistent statistic we found when running PLA Monitoring for the brand. In fact, only accounted for only 2.8% of the PLAs on its branded keywords during our monitoring period. And, when they did appear, the results often looked something like this:


What these screenshots show is that when ads for do appear (these were both on searches for “jeans AG”) they often show up next to other advertisers listing their products for a significantly lower price--something that Google oh-so-helpfully points out. It seems a fair assumption that a consumer would click through to Nordstrom’s site rather than to AG’s.

What’s also interesting is that over the same time span, AG’s own site always held the top search ad spot on Google, suggesting that while they run a very effective AdWords campaign, they have not put nearly the same effort into their Shopping campaign.

The reason for that could be completely logical. PLAs, in general, have a higher clickthrough rate than text ads, resulting in many retailers directing the majority of their paid search budget to them. The best results, however, for PLAs are generally for non-branded traffic. As non-branded keywords return better results on PLAs, and branded keywords return better results on text ads, AG might be making the conscious choice to direct their attention to standard text ads rather than PLAs.

That said, only having options to purchase from resellers when a consumer is specifically looking for their products seems like a missed opportunity. They’ll very likely lose out on the direct sale and, while in general the advertisers bidding on AG’s terms are legitimate high-end retailers, they lose control of the customer experience. While it’s great that a customer in Chicago can walk into an Anthropologie or go to the Nordstrom’s website to purchase AG jeans, AG should be concerned about whether that consumer is building loyalty towards the brand or towards the retailer. The fact that their resellers sometimes advertise much lower prices than AG’s own site in those ads only adds insult to injury.

As a brand, AG has a dedicated customer base which they’re actively working to engage online in other ways, so why not through PLAs as well?

Well, why not?

In addition to the reasons stated above, the answer might be at least somewhat related to the ways that PLA campaigns work and are run. Google’s Shopping Campaign platform--while providing more tools for advertisers than their old PLA Campaign system--provides less clarity for advertisers about where and when their PLAs appear than the standard AdWords platform. It’s quite possible that AG doesn’t really know what’s going on with its PLAs--and certainly doesn’t know that its resellers are advertising much lower prices right next to their own advertisements.

While PLAs are not the highest priority for a brand like Adriano Goldschmied, keeping track of what their retailers are doing with their brand and brand name can only be in their best interest as one part of a comprehensive marketing plan. Since launching BrandVerity’s Product Listing Ad Monitoring service, we've begun to learn a lot more about these issues and would be happy to discuss how our service might help you and your brand.

Do you have any insight into how brands should manage PLAs? Questions about our PLA tool? Let us know in the comments below or contact us at BrandVerity!

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