CVS Quietly Pitching New Digital Media Network

Jacqueline Barba
Associate Editor, Path to Purchase Institute
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CVS Health is building a new advertising network reportedly dubbed CVS Media Exchange. The company has been pitching it to agency ad marketers and buyers, per a recent DigiDay report.

Though details on CVS Media Network are scarce, two buyers familiar with the pitches told DigiDay (while requesting anonymity) that the yet-to be-announced media network will be a fully managed service offering that gives brands the ability to place on-site ads on, including display and search, as well as off-site ads on other large digital platforms  — including Google, Facebook and Instagram — using CVS data. The retailer's reported plans are similar to other retail media platforms from retailers such as Walmart, Target, Kroger and Albertsons Cos.

CVS Media Exchange will cover all bases and more, according to one of the buyers, who told DigiDay it “goes beyond the usual media placements” and has the bandwidth to assist on creative services and strategy. It even offers dynamic creative, reportedly reaching a higher level of “sophistication” by using real-time technology and automatically personalizing content and promotions based on the viewer.

CVS is leaning on first-party data from its ExtraCare loyalty program (which currently boasts more than 77 million cardholders) in pitches, according to the same buyer, who indicated the retailer is using a “closed loop” metrics system for brands to connect sales to ad placements and advanced reporting capabilities.

A CVS spokesperson confirmed in a statement shared with DigiDay that it is weighing the network’s initial learnings and will “evolve and expand the program and launch later this year.”

So while it’s unclear when exactly CVS will officially launch the network, the drugstore giant has begun seeking related talent including a marketing director and program lead for CVS Media Exchange (CMX) as well as a director of retail media exchange analytics and a director of marketing technology and strategy.

In addition, like most news today, everything seems to relate back to the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. It’s possible that due to the rapid, dramatic boost in online shopping brought on by the crisis and the need for social distancing, CVS is trying to push its digital advertising platform along more quickly to help repurpose and reimagine already planned promotional campaigns and activity, as well as digitize future collaborations.

“Pre-coronavirus, I would’ve said it was on the test and learn docket,” one source told DigiDay. “Post-coronavirus, people are really looking for where the shoppers are shopping. For over-the-counter clients, it’s probably a big opportunity.”

CVS previously used WPP’s Triad Retail Media to provide digital advertising services. WPP shut down the Triad operation in early April, although it’s unclear whether or not the CVS relationship ended before then.