Amazon is coming for Madison Avenue's talent, and it could be another blow to embattled agencies and ad-tech companies
- Amazon is building ad formats and marketing teams as it seeks to fill some 190 advertising jobs in New York.
- With ongoing layoffs and restructuring impacting ad-tech, media companies and agencies, Amazon is seen as a big hirer for these roles.
- Amazon is luring talent with compensation packages that favor high base salaries and low commissions.
- Amazon was also reportedly recently interested in moving into New York offices near some of the agency giants.
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Amazon has big advertising ambitions, and it’s coming after Madison Avenue’s talent to realize them.
Amazon trailed Facebook and Google in rolling out ads for fear of annoying consumers, but it’s now hiring in earnest. As of the week of June 17, its site listed about 190 full-time jobs open in New York, the epicenter of the ad industry, ranging from account executives to copywriters to ahead of OTT partnerships.
Last month, Amazon was reportedly looking atnew office space at One and Two Manhattan West, nearby to commuter-heavy Penn Station and within a 20-block radius of major holding companies such as Omnicom, Dentsu, and Publicis.
“They’re quietly building up the Manhattan garrison,” said Jon Reily, VP and global commerce strategy lead at Publicis Sapient, an agency of the holding company Publicis, and a former Amazon e-commerce exec.
Amazon is hiring for big advertising roles
A scan of Amazon’s advertising job postings shows that it’s hiring for roles aimed at brands and agencies, and it comes at a time ofa lot of volatility at agencies.
Out of the 190 open roles, 86 are for Amazon’s self-serve performance marketing tool that marketers use to buy search and display ads on Amazon.com. Another 21 positions would focus on IMDb TV, Amazon’s recently renamed ad-supported streaming service.
Read more: Big brands like Verizon and Toyota are backing Amazon’s Freedive as the e-commerce giant pushes deeper into OTT advertising
People working on the self-serve platform tend to be aimed at brands that sell and promote items on Amazon like retailers and consumer-packaged goods, which requires deep expertise of where brands sell products on and off Amazon. The IMDb TV roles, in contrast, are more technical, akin to those employed at ad-tech companies.
“While they’re both ad products, they represent very different types of people and talent,” said Ari Lewine, co-founder and chief strategy officer at ad-tech firm TripleLift.
Across the board, Amazon is also hiring salespeople focused on specific verticals, including an open position to sell to financial service marketers — mimicking a tactic that big platforms like Facebook have used for years to make inroads with specific types of advertisers.
Amazon flips the script on commissions
Amazon favors bigger base salaries and less commission for salespeople compared to ad-tech and media companies, say advertising sources and recruiters. Rajeev Goel, CEO of ad-tech firm PubMatic, said senior sales roles at an ad-tech company are typically paid with half their salary coming from base, half from commission. For more junior employees, the mix is 70% base, 30% commission.
While Amazon’s paying bigger base salaries means less pressure to hit incremental sales goals, it rewards employees for consistently delivering sales results.
“Amazon’s compensation is totally different than other other tech company and it’s almost customizable,” said Richard Lear, managing partner at Vantage Partners, a recruiting firm that has helped fill data science roles at Amazon but has not worked with Amazon’s advertising department.
TripleLift’s Lewine said that the de-emphasis on commissions could reflect how Amazon takes its time to build ad products that are built with the user in mind.
“The sales job is very different working at Amazon than it is at any other company or a smaller, unknown company that isn’t sitting on arguably one of the most valuable data sets ever,” he said.
Amazon could benefit from instability in media and advertising
As ad tech, media companies, and agencies face consolidation and layoffs, Amazon could benefit from a glut of unemployed talent, said several ad-tech sources. Amazon’s recent acquisition of part of bankrupt ad-tech firm Sizmek already gave it access to ad-tech talent and Sizmek’s clients.
“There’s a macro-level question about where are all of these people going to go,” Lewine said. “The only clear, large-scale hirer when you counter-balanceVice, Oath,Refinery29, [and] Sizmek is Amazon.”
According to one Amazon Advertising employee who spoke on background because they were not authorized to talk to the press, more creatives are moving to tech firms like Facebook and Amazon as agencies face growing competition from publishers, consultants, and marketers’ in-house teams.
“The ad agency model is being more disrupted from all over the place,” the employee said. “That’s caused a lot of volatility in the job market of agencies, which has caused many creatives to look for calmer waters.”
Read more:Amazon is acquiring an ad server from bankrupt ad-tech firm Sizmek, giving it a new tool to compete head-on with Google. Here’s what it means for marketers.
Observers had mixed views on how successful Amazon will be in filling sales and marketing roles, though.
Goel said that he’s not worried about Amazon because he’s seen it hiring mostly engineers versus sales and marketing roles. In fact, Goel said PubMatic is growing its headcount by 20% with 100 hires this year. TripleLift also said that it plans to hire more than 200 employees this year across all departments.
Amazon isn’t a fit for everyone, though
Amazon also has a reputation for having a rigorous hiring process and chaotic management. It uses amethod called Loops, where potential hires meet with a variety of Amazon employees that they may or may not end up working with to suss out if a hire will fit into the culture.
“They’re rigorous,” Vantage Partners’ Lear said of the cycles. “It’s a classic [way] of viewing someone from as many angles as possible who may be coming in.”
Several ad-tech companies referenced a2015 investigation by The New York Times into Amazon’s culture and work environment as a selling point in attracting talent.
“Amazon needs to demonstrate that they can offer what creative people are looking for — a nimble, entrepreneurial environment where they feel like their work serves a purpose, is appreciated, and supports learning,” said Louise Peddell, VP of human resources at Undertone.
On the other hand, Publicis Sapient’s Reily called Amazon’s culture’s “kind of like a religious experience,” and one that he feels proud to be a part of even though he doesn’t work at Amazon anymore.
“Amazonians are very proud to be Amazonians and they they feel like they’re changing the world,” he said. “That spirit moves through the whole company.”
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