Edmunds builds industry's fastest automotive ad platform with Adzerk


Edmunds is an American online resource for researching new and used cars, with over 16 million page views a month.

edmunds sponsored listings
edmunds sponsored listings

As they grew, Edmunds realized that car manufacturers and dealerships were clamoring for an opportunity to get more visibility on Edmunds's site - leading to the decision to incorporate sponsored car listings into their site/app. These ad units would involve car manufacturers/dealers paying to have their car listings promoted in relevant car searches.

Such an ad product would be a win-win-win: dealers would love the opportunity to drive more visibility; users would get a native, unobtrusive ad experience; and Edmunds would create a new, high-margin revenue stream.

So Edmunds decided to build their own sponsored listings platform for displaying sponsored car listings in search results. To speed up the process, they incorporated Adzerk's ad serving APIs to power the delivery and optimization of this product.

"With Adzerk we could build an innovative sponsored listings ad platform that put us ahead of our competitors."
Keith Sader, Director of Ad Engineering

What Edmunds Wanted

In designing their platform, Edmunds had a few key goals:

  1. To have car listings look and behave like organic listings - including information like the right car make and model, MSRP, and display image
  2. To have the system integrate with Google Ads Manager - the ad server they were currently using for standard banner inventory - so that Adzerk campaigns could be reported in GAM
  3. To have fast ad response times. Using standard JavaScript tags they were seeing 500ms-2s+ responses when they wanted < 50ms
  4. To drive more revenue through high-margin, highly-targeted native ad units
  5. To release the product in weeks, not years

Edmunds currently used Google Ads Manager as their standard ad server - but it offered little in terms of customization around the ad's look/feel, response times, and search term targeting. They tried but were unable to create the exact sponsored ad unit they wanted using Google's JavaScript tools.

They could have alternatively tried to build this custom ad platform from scratch - but that would have involved hiring new engineers or borrowing some from other projects.

So Edmunds reached out to Adzerk, whose APIs could allow them to build the exact sponsored car listings product they wanted in just weeks.

What Edmunds built with Adzerk

After integrating Adzerk's APIs into their mobile and web applications, Edmunds quickly built a sponsored car listings platform.

With this product, when someone searches for a specific car, then a car manufacturer or dealer can pay to have their car listed in the "Deals Near You" section.

For instance, Toyota can pay to have a listing for their 2019 Tacoma appear whenever someone searches for "Toyota Tacoma".

edmunds sponsored listings
edmunds sponsored listings

The below video highlights the process in real-time:

Edmunds also innovatively discovered how to track Adzerk-powered promotions within Google Ads Manager. To do this, they attached GAM tracking pixels to individual ads in the Adzerk system. After they request an ad from Adzerk, the JSON response contains this GAM pixel, which Edmunds then places on the page. If fired, Google's reporting would then report an impression.

With Adzerk, Edmunds now had:

  1. A new revenue-driving ad product that barely changed the user experience
  2. High-value ad units that loaded just as quickly as organic content did
  3. Integration with GAM so that all reporting could be done in one place
  4. An ad platform that was compliant with all privacy laws since it relied on intent and search terms, not PII

By using Adzerk to power the decision-making process, Edmunds built this product in just a few weeks - enabling them to start monetizing this new ad unit much faster than expected.

"If you're fine with standard programmatic ads, use Google. For everything else, use Adzerk."
Keith Sader, Director of Ad Engineering

The results

Edmunds saw positive results immediately upon launching:

Revenue growth These new ad units have led to 30% ad revenue growth
Fast response times Working closely with Adzerk's engineers, Edmunds got response times as low as 35ms - ensuring that these paid listings didn't slow down page/app load speeds
Launch date Using Adzerk they released this product in just weeks - letting them launch 9x faster than if they had tried to do it entirely by themselves
  1. Revenue growth - These new ad units have led to 30% ad revenue growth.
  2. Fast Response Times - Working closely with Adzerk's engineers, Edmunds got response times as low as 35ms - ensuring that these paid listings didn't slow down page/app load speeds.
  3. Launch Date - Using Adzerk they released this product in just weeks, letting them launch 9x faster than if they had tried to do it entirely by themselves.

How Adzerk Helped

As the market leader in ad serving APIs, Adzerk's tools made it easy for Edmunds to build the exact sponsored listings platform they wanted. Edmunds took advantage of these specific Adzerk features and benefits to design the product:

  1. Adzerk's Decision API - this API enables Edmunds to request ads server-side and then get a response in JSON containing details about the promotion to display.

    For instance, below is an illustrative example of what an automated API request from Edmunds to Adzerk could contain. Here they are asking Adzerk what event to display for a search of "Toyota Tacoma".

    edmunds ads
    edmunds ads

    After sending this, Edmunds gets a response in JSON containing details about the car listing that should be placed onto the page / into the app. Edmunds then takes this information and inserts it directly into their backend app/web client, ensuring that the ad uses the same CSS/formatting as the surrounding listings.

    Below is an example of the type of information returned in the JSON response, which contains data they can place into their apps - such as the image URL, MSRP, and other metadata.

    edmunds ads
    edmunds ads

  2. "Adzerk's APIs helped us build the fastest, most innovative ad product in our industry."
    Keith Sader, Director of Ad Engineering

  3. Fast responses - Since ads are requested server-side - not through page-slowing JavaScript tags - Edmunds can place this content with little delay. Adzerk's tools can respond in as quickly as 35ms - an order of magnitude faster than most tags.
  4. Malware-free and privacy-law-compliant tools - By not using client-side (on-page/in-app) code, Edmunds ensures Adzerk can't insert malware or drop cookies that could leak user PII. Plus, as Adzerk is GDPR-, CCPA-, and LGPD-compliant (as well as other laws) by default, they didn't have to worry about building their own compliance software.
  5. Revenue optimization algorithm - Using Adzerk's revenue optimization tools, if there are multiple listings that are eligible for a given search, then the algorithm will select the promotion that'll drive the most revenue for Edmunds.
  6. Management APIs - To ensure Adzerk creatives have the right Google tracking pixels, Edmunds uses Adzerk's Management APIs to automatically send these pixels from Google into Adzerk's system every night.
  7. Privacy-first, cookie-free, high-revenue targeting - Adzerk's robust targeting tools - including custom targeting, keyword targeting, and the proprietary targeting language Zerkel - let brands easily tailor content based on intent and context - neither of which require PII or cookies to serve high-value ads.

By using Adzerk to launch in weeks instead of years, Edmunds quickly built a sponsored car listings platform that drove 30% more ad revenue.

Interested in learning more?

If you're interested in building your own sponsored listings platform, please feel free to reach out, and we'll set up a free demo.

"Adzerk is a great partner, and we recommend them to anyone building a custom ad server."
Chief Digital Officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

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