Digital marketing is obviously a big part of the retailer’s transformation plan and it began using programmatic ad buying earlier this year.

At Econsultancy’s Get With The Programmatic event earlier today Argos’ performance marketing manager Ed Lovelock gave an overview of how the company is using the marketing channel.

He began by outlining the challenges the business faced as part of its transformation strategy. These were:

  1. Culture. This includes both customers and employees. The latter had to be encouraged to adopt new practices and become more agile.
  2. Suppliers and internal teams.
  3. De-silo marketing channels. The catalogue couldn’t work independently of digital, for example.
  4. Technology. Lovelock realised his team couldn’t do it all themselves, they had to find partners.

These issues can all be overcome to an extent by education and making sure employees are aware of the benefits.

Lovelock said that one of the big challenges he faced with the marketing teams was that they always tried to relate programmatic to other channels, but display is different as it can cover the full spectrum of the marketing funnel.

We’ve evolved how we educate the business and have changed tack a few times. The education piece varies depending on which team you’re dealing with.

He recommended running some small tests to help prove the concept and demonstrate how it works.

Importance of rich data

As a multichannel retailer Argos has access to a broad range of customer data.

This includes web browsing, email, SMS, the Argos loyalty card, product reviews, web orders, online registrations, app data and more.

While this is a hugely powerful tool for the company it has to be used sensibly so as not to unnerve the customers.

Argos worked with Infectious Media to deduce which bits of data were most useful and how they should be integrated into its programmatic plan.

This is how the display advertising funnel runs from top to bottom, which all then feeds into the single customer view.

  • Brand marketing

For example, Argos did some work around Christmas in the tech category, specifically focusing on tablets.

Brand awareness campaigns in display use softer messages to warm people up to the brand.

  • Direct response

This involves delivering more sales-led messages to people that are already warmed up to the brand, perhaps including an offer or promotion.

  • Retargeting

Most people are familiar with display retargeting. The ads are shown to people who have visited the Argos website to try and bring them back.

  • CRM

Post purchase display ads include product suggestions for add-ons. The aim is to try to stimulate future purchases.


Lovelock’s main points can be summarised as:

  1. Work to your strengths.
  2. Get organised and educated.
  3. Demand and transparency and strategy.
  4. Start simple.
  5. Personalise everything.

Any questions?

Responding to questions from the audience, Lovelock was asked how much of the success has come from optimising media buys compared to optimising the creative.

He explained that Argos focused mainly on media buys at first in order to get benchmarks for different objectives.

We’re only now beginning to understand how different creatives can effect that, but first we wanted to understand how programmatic worked.

Another audience member asked about the challenge of attribution.

Lovelock said Argos hadn’t quite solved it yet but he felt it was a problem that the industry as a whole was struggling with.

Display has its own unique challenges when it comes to attribution due to the “post-impression element.”

If you see an ad on social it brings the brand front-of-mind even if you don’t click there and then. That’s something we’re still working on.

Overall Lovelock suggested that attribution is likely to remain a fluid and ongoing challenge.