The media network opportunity: Moving beyond retail

The media network opportunity: Moving beyond retail
Lauren Wetzel
Thursday, May 2, 2024

Retail media networks have been the darling of the marketing world over the past few years, their growth fueled by the confluence of two major industry waves: online shopping becoming mainstream and the transformation of the advertising ecosystem.

Online shopping, for one, is expected to pass the $6 trillion mark worldwide this year and represent over 20% of total retail sales. The online shopping experience has just become really smooth, for the most part, and consumers are all in. Advertisers, on the other hand, are reckoning with the rise of privacy and the loss of third-party cookies, and retail media gives them a chance to connect with consumers at the point of sale — where they’re in a shopping mood and consent is easier to secure — and on participating media platforms.

It’s a much more elegant solution than cookies ever were. And it’s vastly superior too. To give you a recent example involving the use of InfoSum’s data clean room technology, Pepsi, Garnier, Weetabix and a few other top brands in the UK leveraged custom shopper segments using loyalty card data from Sainsbury's Nectar360 to target consumers on Channel 4. The net result was a staggering sales uplift of up to 122%. The convergence of retail media and CTV is truly “reshaping consumer engagement,” as a new IAB report just pointed out.

But why should this breakthrough be limited to retail?

The rise of non-retail media networks

Think about the media networks you might have seen in the headlines recently: Walmart Connect, Target’s Roundel, Kroger Precision Marketing, Albertsons Media Collective, Tesco, and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Amazon Ads. They’re all linked to major retailers. However, the media network opportunity expands well beyond what we consider traditional retailers, online or offline. Instacart isn’t a retailer, strictly speaking. Nor is Uber, Planet Fitness, TripAdvisor, or the digital kiosks at your Wawa or EV charging station.

Wherever there’s a screen, or speaker, there’s a clear opportunity to use first-party data to engage consumers with more personalized experiences, and embedded in those experiences, more relevant ads as well.

Let’s explore a few of those nascent opportunities.


Resorts and hotel chains have volumes of customer data from their loyalty programs, and some are already providing outside advertisers with a chance to use that data to target hotel guests on the company’s websites and apps, on in-room TVs, on wi-fi portals, even on digital screens at the bar or in the lobby. Airlines are doing the same on their apps and free-wifi landing pages already, and it won’t be too long before we start seeing personalized ads on in-flight entertainment systems.

Another example in the travel industry is online aggregators. The aim is to “offer something that resonates well with the audience member,” said TripAdvisor’s James Cottee in one of our Identity Architects podcasts. “Will the ad enhance their experience, whether that’s from a travel or lifestyle perspective?” 

As travel media networks evolve, following trends similar to those in the retail sector, off-site activation emerges as a promising avenue for advertisers. This strategy allows a diverse array of companies to leverage precise targeting based on travel bookings. For example, insurance companies can tailor their Connected TV (CTV) ads to offer travel insurance specifically to consumers who have recently booked a holiday. Similarly, beauty retailers might deploy their sunscreen advertising campaigns across their owned media channels, targeting those planning to travel to sunny destinations. Finally, a ski goggles company could target the latest range of ski goggles to individuals who have recently booked a stay at a ski resort. These targeted approaches enable advertisers to efficiently reach relevant audiences, enhancing the likelihood of conversion.


Billboard ads haven’t materialized on our infotainment screens yet, but that doesn’t mean that the auto industry is ignoring the media network opportunity altogether. Large digital marketplaces, for instance, have business relationships with thousands of dealerships, insurance companies and lenders. Translating those relationships into media partnerships is a natural fit for them.

Rideshare companies have recognized the opportunity ahead and have started implementing ad networks to deliver advertising to their captive audiences. Uber already has nearly 400,000 advertisers in its program and anticipates $1 billion in ad revenues in 2024. According to Lyft, riders check their app nine times during a ride, and they’re more likely to view an advertising message (on their phone or a pre-installed tablet) while they’re in the back of the car.

The targeting insights used by the media network don’t all have to come from first-party data. At InfoSum, we recently announced a partnership with Experian to provide auto brands with rich new data points (like fuel type, make, model and vehicle price) they can use to connect with in-market buyers. Data enrichment is quickly becoming a key selling proposition for media networks.

Financial services

Financial services are sat on a goldmine of first-party data, encompassing valuable insights into customer behavior, demographics, and spending habits.  Harnessing this data for marketing purposes has long been a challenge due to the highly regulated nature of the industry and strict data governance protocols. However, with the rise of data clean rooms, financial services can now unlock the potential of this data without compromising data security or privacy. 

Banks are the obvious contenders for launching media networks, given their established relationships with merchants. Banks and credit card issuers have a long tradition of offering rewards, promotions, and cash back to loyal customers when they shop with preferred merchants, such as retailers, restaurants and airlines. But the format of those offers doesn’t allow merchants to make a pitch for their products and truly stand out. Media networks take targeting and personalization to a new level by allowing advertisers to actually advertise their products and target customers based on their spending data.

And everywhere else

There are many other examples of emerging media networks outside of travel, auto and finserv. The top gaming companies, for instance, have an enviable scale and captive audiences; Large audio platforms can help advertisers target podcast listeners on and offsite. The list goes on.

Media networks can work in any industry as long as the focus is on developing — and, yes, monetizing — top-quality first-party data, with privacy front and center. It’s all about “delivering customer-first and relevant, targeted solutions,” says Stephen Shepherd, Media Strategy and Partnerships Director at dunnhumby.

No wonder analysts expect ‘retail’ media to outpace every other ad channel and reach over $100 billion in ad spend by 2027 in the US alone — on par with social media and bigger than CTV, digital audio and traditional TV combined.

It’s all about data collaboration

Take a look at today’s success stories, and you’ll quickly see that the best media networks are those that see their media business as a partnership. "It's a complex marketplace,” says Brian Gleason, Chief Revenue Officer at Criteo, “because the retailers aren't the only ones with data. Brands have data. Publishers have data. Agencies have data. It's the connective tissue between them that we're trying to figure out."

“We've always had a heritage in data,” said Ollie Shayer, omni-media director at Boots UK, in a recent podcast. But now, we’ve created a platform our suppliers and brand partners can use to unlock new growth opportunities. That’s huge.”

The main appeal of media networks is that they provide an environment where all parties learn from one another. Brands can use the company’s data to develop audience segments perfectly tailored to their needs, activate those audiences on the company’s owned properties and with its constellation of media partners, and team up with measurement partners to measure campaign effectiveness at unrivaled levels of detail. 

It’s got data collaboration written all over it. 

At InfoSum, our unparalleled speed, best-in-class privacy protection, and industry-leading multi-party collaboration capabilities make us the platform of choice for media networks. We’ve helped clients across retail, auto, gaming, travel, sports, financial services, audio, healthcare, and beyond unleash the power of first-party data to drive product innovation and unlock new opportunities.

Ready to explore media network opportunities for your business? We’re here to help.

Blog Icon

Related articles

Back to Blog home