Financial services giant Intuit is launching a small business-focused media network, letting advertisers target customers across the web and tapping into a new revenue line, executives exclusively told Adweek.
The venture, called SMB MediaLabs, will let advertisers target the customers of accounting firm QuickBooks on a range of digital media properties, including audio, online publishers, social platforms like Meta, and connected TV. Intuit is working with Vizio as its exclusive CTV partner. QuickBooks had 7.1 million customers at the end of the fiscal year 2022.
Small business owners use QuickBooks to help manage their accounting and pay employees, among other tasks. Intuit also owns email marketing business Mailchimp, whose customers the company plans to eventually make available to advertisers for targeting, said Dave Raggio, vice president of U.S. acquisition marketing for Intuit’s small business and self-employed group.
“There are not that many good small-business data sources,” Raggio said, noting many data sources on small businesses come from government sources or are scraped from the web, making them less up-to-date and inaccurate. “I just looked at what we had and noticed that we could provide a lot of value for other advertisers that were trying to reach this audience.”
Intuit joins a growing number of corporations, often retailers, that have been retooling themselves as media networks in response to the proliferation of digital interfaces and the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, which has made advertisers hungry for new sources of first-party data. The bet has paid off: Retail media will attract $45 billion in U.S. ad spend this year, a 20% year-over-year increase, per Insider Intelligence.
Most entrants into the space start by serving ads on their e-commerce websites, including Marriott, a non-retailer that launched a media network last year. By contrast, SMB MediaLabs will not start by serving ads on its owned and operated (O&O) properties but on other digital channels.
Hailing from the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) world, Raggio joined Intuit to market QuickBooks to small business owners. The challenges Raggio faced there spurred the idea for SMB MediaLabs.
“The creep of the scope is not novel, but the focus is,” said Nikhil Lai, senior analyst of performance marketing at Forrester, of the rise of commerce media.
Intuit also owns tax filing service TurboTax and personal finance company Credit Karma, but these business lines will be separate from the media venture.
Filling a niche
Intuit is betting the small business audience could be a lucrative area to target for all kinds of advertisers, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer.
For example, it can be more efficient for CPG companies to ship products directly to shoppers if they are in bulk, and small business owners would be the ideal customers for bulk orders, Raggio said.
“If you’re trying to sell homeowners insurance, the fact that [someone] owns a small business makes it much more likely that they own a house,” said Eric Perko, founder of media agency Apollo Partners, which worked with Intuit to launch SMB MediaLabs.
Unlike a lot of traditional retail media networks that only run on O&O properties, we are running ads in environments where [buyers] are already investing
Dave Raggio, vice president acquisition marketing, Intuit
SMB MediaLabs will start as a managed service available via insertion orders. Intuit will place the buy with a demand-side platform (DSP) and any audiences are isolated to individual campaigns. In order to be able to deliver this offering, Intuit made several hires in data science. It’s also worked with agency Apollo Partners and has integrated tech from LiveRamp.
QuickBooks customer data is anonymized and aggregated, and advertisers cannot access customers’ personally identifiable information or financial data. The company is also letting customers opt out.
Getting on the media plan
The managed service offering may offer more privacy, but it could deter some buyers who want to test a new media channel easily, preferring the synergies in reporting and frequency management that come with buying directly via a DSP, said Janine Flaccavento, executive vice president of the retail, CPG and QSR vertical at Dentsu-owned data agency Merkle.
“Automation and self-serve are where some of these newer [retail media] brands find scale,” she said. “It’s easier for us buyers to test and learn, and the more the effort that has to go into that, the more it costs the brand that’s buying.”
Raggio said SMB MediaLabs is more open for buyers to test than most retail media networks by not acting as a walled garden.
“Unlike a lot of traditional retail media networks that only run on O&O properties, we are running ads in environments where [buyers] are already investing,” he said.
Because buyers can already execute granular targeting on Meta and other social platforms, QuickBooks will also have to prove to buyers that their audience is non-duplicative, Flaccavento said.
“I can go to Facebook and target small business owners,” she said. “What else makes it richer?”
Raggio said that along with offering basic data points like industry, location and age off-the-shelf, SMB MediaLabs can put together a bespoke targeting plan for buyers, based on when a customer is up for renewal on services, if they’re overpaying for products or their existing brand loyalties, among other attributes, for an additional fee.
“It’s about driving efficiency through finding the highest value subset of audiences within the vast SMB landscape,” Raggio said.
Feature Image Credit: Getty Images
Catherine is an Adweek staff reporter covering ad tech and platforms.