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What Walmart’s Vizio acquisition could mean for retail media — and the ripple effects that may hit industry data

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Walmart’s rumored plan to acquire Vizio went from theoretical to reality this week, with the retail giant set to pay $2.3 billion for the smart TV manufacturer. The move will bolster Walmart’s retail media offering, Walmart Connect, adding streaming capabilities that will help it attract more brand marketing ad dollars. The deal will also allow Walmart to add to its existing data at a time when the rapid growth of retail media has made the space more competitive and Amazon continues its effort to get a bigger slice of the market.

Marketers and ad buyers see the Walmart-Vizio match-up as a way for the retailer to bridge the gap between brand and retail ad dollars as well as boost Walmart Connect’s distribution and scale by bringing it into new homes. Vizio collects data from 23 million opted-in devices, and 18 million of those are through SmartCast, the company’s smart TV operating system. The potential for Walmart Connect to enhance targeting and measurement capabilities by using Vizio’s ACR (automatic content recognition) data is appealing, according to buyers, but it’s unclear how the companies will combine data efforts or what will happen to Vizio’s existing partnerships. 

“Vizio has a ridiculous platform of information and Walmart has their ridiculous arsenal of information, meaning data, so marrying those things together, obviously gives some opportunity,” said Jennifer Kohl, chief media officer at VML, adding that the growth of streaming viewership and the potential ad dollars makes it easy to see why Walmart would want to find a way into streaming, especially as Amazon has made headway there with advertisers recently. “They’re all doing it because advertising dollars are being handed out,” Kohl said.

Vizio’s platform has more than 500 direct advertiser relationships, according to the release about the deal from the two companies, which likely appeals to Walmart as the retailer looks to gain momentum with more advertisers and nab brand advertising dollars, especially as Amazon is now targeting those brand advertising dollars with Prime Video. While Walmart likely isn’t the only retail media player eyeing streaming ad dollars, the company is in a unique position to make a deal like this with Vizio, according to agency executives, who say that marrying retail and streaming data amid the current privacy environment will continue to be an appealing move.

“I think they’re going right after Amazon, as they should,” Vinny Rinaldi, head of media at The Hershey Company, said when asked if the deal could be part of a push by Walmart to compete with Amazon. How a marketer sees Walmart’s offering versus Amazon’s will depend on the category and brand, as the two retailers play different roles for different brands. “But Walmart has a leg up on especially fast moving consumer goods where we don’t own the endgame,” Rinaldi said.

The Walmart-Vizio deal may have trickle-down effects beyond Walmart’s retail media offering, as the move could affect the media planning and buying process for marketers, agencies and measurement companies like iSpot, Nielsen, VideoAmp and other companies that use Vizio’s ACR data, especially as current contracts expire. It’s unclear what Walmart’s plans are for Vizio’s ACR data going forward, and Walmart did not respond to questions by press time. Vizio, iSpot, Nielsen and VideoAmp also did not respond to requests for comment.

While some fear the potential for planning to get harder should access to Vizio’s ACR data go away or become part of a walled garden of sorts at Walmart, others believe that fear could be overblown. What happens with access to that data will become clearer once the Walmart-Vizio deal goes through and the companies begin working together. Until then, it will likely be business as usual for both companies.

As Walmart wades further into streaming — the company’s partnership with The Trade Desk currently grants access to streaming video — Walmart will need to give advertisers a sense of how Vizio’s and Walmart’s data will be connected, how measurement and reporting will work with both companies, and, overall, make sure that the infrastructures of both companies are set up to communicate for reporting, according to agency execs.

“The big piece is gonna be connecting the pipelines for measurement,” Steven Frey, director of integrated media planning at Media by Mother, said, adding that Vizio’s ACR data “is definitely something that Walmart has not dealt with in its current iteration. Connecting that into Walmart’s overall tech stack, I think is gonna be a pretty monumental lift but is probably where they’re going to get a lot of value.”

Frey continued, “If they can connect basically those data warehouses to enact full-funnel measurement, I think that’s where they really start unlocking the big value.”

Amie Owen, head of commerce at UM, echoed that sentiment: “The value is the data.”

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