eBay Case Study


Buying Power: eBay Brings on Sophisticated First-Party Data for Impressive Results


eBay, the world’s largest online marketplace, is also one of the largest and most innovative advertisers on the Internet. eBay recognized that an increasing volume of “real-time biddable” display inventory was becoming available via leading ad exchanges and inventory aggregators, so the company made a strategic decision to adopt emerging real-time buying technology in an effort to dramatically improve its display advertising results. eBay’s vision was to apply to display advertising the same measurement techniques and buying strategies it successfully relied on for search: an entirely performance-based approach where investment is driven by response rates. Success in this area could lead to a more diversified advertising and marketing strategy.

To accomplish this, eBay sought help to satisfy a number of key requirements:

  • A technology platform capable of scaling to support eBay's advertising business, and the flexibility to integrate with eBay’s existing infrastructure and business relationships
  • Real-time buying and ad management capabilities
  • An analytics engine to deliver the data required to optimize for improved performance
  • Capability to develop offline integration to capture data models from the eBay analytics team
  • Real-time data feeds
  • Support for eBay's custom attribution algorithms to differentiate various online marketing channels
  • Compatibility with eBay’s search buying systems and methodologies
  • Single-point access to major inventory providers, including Google's DoubleClick and Microsoft’s AdECN


The AppNexus solution to eBay’s challenges around building a performance-driven, real-time display business demanded a complex integration of systems and data — all designed to enable intelligent buying decisions with measurable results. Along with an innovative technical solution, the AppNexus team’s deep expertise in online advertising and exchanges was key to meeting the technology challenges and delivering outstanding business results.

Leveraging the Amazing Depth of eBay’s Data
The first rule of effective advertising is "know your audience." The flexible AppNexus platform allows server-side integration with eBay’s databases while pulling in the complementary offline data models. All of this audience information is then funneled into the AppNexus “Cookie Store,” where it is analyzed and optimized to ensure each buying decision is smart and targeted.

Optimizing for Revenue 
As important as knowing one's audience is the ability to tie a click or conversion to the correct impression, and then measure the level of impact that impression had. AppNexus teamed up with eBay to solve this problem by connecting the AppNexus data warehouse to eBay’s sophisticated attribution engine, allowing eBay to count and attribute revenue based on its models, not just a simple client-side conversion pixel. The data from eBay’s attribution engine then feeds the AppNexus proprietary algorithmic optimization system so eBay can find the right pockets of inventory and acquire them at the right price.

Bridging the Gap Between Creative and Buying
Knowing one's audience and correctly attributing response are critical, but what about the role of the creative in generating response? AppNexus and eBay met this challenge by integrating the AppNexus platform with eBay’s proprietary dynamic ad engine. eBay’s ad engine allows the company to serve up a relevant ad based on a user’s recent search on the site, or any third party or other proprietary data point. The AppNexus optimization engine pulls data directly from eBay’s system, then delivers the intelligence to tie creative results to future buying decisions. This data about which creative was served is then streamed back into the AppNexus data warehouse, providing an integrated view across buying and dynamic creative.

Working Smarter with a Single Point of Entry 
AppNexus’s APIs and other data integrations allow eBay to continue to use its centralized trafficking system, but manage its entire display advertising business via a single AppNexus-created user interface. Furthermore, eBay has simplified its processes by consolidating all auction-based and direct buying in one place. AppNexus also provides the ability to bid on inventory across the major ad exchanges. This capability, along with access to vast amounts actionable information on response and effectiveness, has transformed eBay’s display ad business.


AppNexus delivered a real-time ad solution designed to meet eBay’s business challenges. The result was a deep insight into the company's display ad investment and conversion lift. eBay credits these strong results to its ability to assess the value of the impression in real-time via the AppNexus platform, allowing them to make a fully informed decision on whether to bid on an impression or pass on it. This is in striking contrast to the traditional way of buying display, where the publisher pre-determines the value of the impression in advance of a campaign. With the help of AppNexus’s real-time ad platform, eBay can use its own user data together with third party data to make an intelligent decision on the value of an impression. This efficient strategy allows eBay to show the right ad to the right person at the right time for the right price. This has culminated in a significant lift in eBay’s display ad performance with particularly outstanding results in auction-based impressions. eBay’s innovative approach with AppNexus represents a dramatic departure from the traditional way of buying and measuring display, offering a compelling first look at a new age of online advertising.