Yelp launches audience network as it courts bigger brands

The new tool will allow advertisers to buy Yelp audiences off-platform.

Yelp’s ad platform has typically focused on small, hyperlocal businesses, but that's changing as the company seeks deals with larger national brands.

The business listings and review site added to its product suite for regional and national brands on Wednesday with the launch of Yelp Audiences, an audience network that allows advertisers to use Yelp data to target customers off-platform.

The data is valuable to brands because Yelp’s audience is extremely high intent, said Tom Foran, SVP and head of go-to-market for national brands at Yelp, adding that 90% of Yelp users make a purchase within a week of searching on the platform.

“[People] use Yelp when trying to find somewhere to spend money, whether that’s coffee, food or services like plumbing,” he said. “That audience is a quite natural extension to take off-platform.”

The network also offers Yelp an opportunity to play more in the brand advertising space, in addition to its search and performance offerings. KitchenAid, for example, used Yelp Audiences for a campaign promoting its documentary A Woman’s Place that targeted Yelp users off-platform with a map of women-owned restaurants in their area.

Plant-based egg product brand Eat Just used Yelp audiences to extend its campaign targeting “flex-itarians” based on Yelp searches with higher-impact video ads on connected TV (CTV).

“For the first time, we can pair that Yelp audience value and intent with the whole ecosystem of display, video and CTV,” Foran said. “It allows us to participate in more top-of-funnel awareness campaigns.”

The product also allows Yelp to expand into new verticals by making the platform relevant for brands without physical store locations. While Yelp was typically used by retailers targeting competitive searches with hyperlocal offers, it now has an offering for brands that don’t list on Yelp, but might still find value in its dataset.

“A combination of restaurant and nightlife data is really interesting to CPG brands,” Foran said. “That's exciting because we've been largely shut out of [that category].”

Currently available as a managed service offering, Yelp Audiences was built with privacy in mind, Foran said. Yelp doesn’t share personal data about its users with brands, instead basing targeting off of aggregated performance metrics.

Foran said Yelp is following industry discussion closely about the death of third-party cookies, which could impact the product’s reach. Unlike Facebook, which has been public about how the loss of Apple’s identifier for advertisers on iOS will affect its own audience network, Yelp typically serves more awareness campaigns than bottom-funnel app-install campaigns, which are more likely to be impacted.

“We've launched this with privacy as a requirement,” Foran said. “Even if the product could be 10 times bigger in terms of revenue than it is, if it is not privacy safe, it doesn't exist.”

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