Amazon Is Taking on Data Clean Rooms

Amazon Web Services, the tech giant’s cloud storage unit, is launching its own clean room technology next year, the company recently announced.

In doing so, Amazon, which already runs a huge retail media business, demand-side platform and streaming services, is expanding its footprint into another part of the advertising industry, and one that is still fairly nascent: privacy-safe ad tech.

Data clean rooms let advertisers and publishers join their data and find overlap without leakage. They have become a buzzword in advertising as the industry braces itself for a future without third-party cookies and more privacy regulations. Amazon is poised to be one of the most competitive solutions on the market, three sources told Adweek.

Amazon’s growing tech footprint helps it compare favorably to other clean room providers, but its size is also a liability, as many of its potential customers also compete with Amazon on one line of business or the other, and may be wary of trusting the giant with even more of their business.

“Is it wise to consolidate on a single stack?” said Ana Milicevic, co-founder of ad-tech consultancy Sparrow Advisors on how the marketing and media industry should evaluate investing further in Amazon. “Depending on who you are, that answer may change.”

Clean rooms are just one of a litany of identity solutions advertisers can turn to when third-party cookies become obsolete. They’re generally more accessible to the larger advertisers and publishers who have enough first-party data that sharing it is useful, Milicevic said. A survey of 266 marketing professionals by data clean room firm Habu found that 53% had never used one, according to an August report in Digiday.

Connecting the thousands of data lakes

Still, clean rooms promise data security, and Amazon is leaning into the space. Amazon Ads, a separate business within the tech giant, offers a clean room solution called Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC), but its use case is confined to advertisers linking their data with signals from Amazon media properties, such as their websites and streaming services. AWS clean rooms can be used to link data from any two companies, including other publishers or companies not even in the advertising industry.

The new AWS offering will still strengthen AMC; AWS clean room infrastructure will eventually be baked into AMC, allowing marketers to minimize data transfers. Without AWS clean rooms, marketers using AWS had to migrate all their data when they wanted to use AMC and now all operations can happen in one place, minimizing data leakage.

AWS’s global head of data collaboration and interoperability solutions for advertising and marketing Adam Solomon told Adweek that the data clean room solution was designed to meet customer demands.

“What we heard from customers is there are hundreds of thousands of data lakes already on AWS,” he said, referring to repositories of data. “If … I want to collaborate and we’re both on AWS … is there any way that we can do this without moving our data elsewhere?”

With its entrance into clean rooms, Amazon is becoming a player in another corner of advertising, an industry it’s already starting to dominate (the company was one of the few tech giants to report a strong third quarter for its advertising business).

Protecting against potential data leakage

Google is Amazon’s most direct competitor, with both a cloud business and an ads business, but Amazon’s new offering is pretty differentiated, sources said.

Google offers clean room solution Ads Data hub, but it only works against Google properties, not the entire internet, making it more akin to Amazon Marketing Cloud. Google Cloud does not offer its own clean room tech, meaning Google Cloud customers would have to use a third party to match their data with non-Google sources.

We treat Amazon Ads like any other customer of AWS.

Adam Solomon, global head of data collaboration and interoperability solutions for advertising and marketing, AWS

Google did introduce Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation, or PAIR, in October to connect publisher and advertiser data, but via its ad-tech platform DV360, and not at the infrastructure layer of cloud data storage.

“Google doesn’t have an equivalent to AWS clean rooms,” said Alex Cone, co-founder of Coir, an ads privacy learning platform.

Tech vendors that solely provide clean room technology may also note Amazon’s entry into the market with unease. Most of these vendors don’t have the ability to store data, meaning that a marketer would have to move their data from a place like AWS or Google Cloud to the vendor’s software, which opens the potential for leakage, said Nancy Marzouk, CEO or identity-focused ad-tech firm MediaWallah.

Reflecting the potential threat of Amazon, clean room tech firm InfoSum published a blog post highlighting what differentiates its product, while also emphasizing InfoSum’s capability to collaborate with AWS.

“From InfoSum’s perspective, the AWS Clean Rooms is a welcome addition; it has done little for the other vendors to bring them closer to InfoSum’s key strengths,” the blog post read.

But businesses such as retailers might be wary of sharing data with AWS since they may compete with Amazon’s retail and media businesses, Cone said.

However, Solomon stressed customer data is not shared from AWS to Amazon Ads. “AWS takes the security of our customer data very seriously,” he said. “We treat Amazon Ads like any other customer of AWS.”

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