How to Diversify Your Spend Beyond Walled Garden Advertising

Marketers want to reduce dependency on walled gardens. Learn about Walled garden advertising and how to drive performance beyond tech giants
Updated on April 15, 2024

Digital budgets are on the rise, and all eyes are on marketing to help businesses grow further. This has marketers re-examining their usual strategies and looking for new ways to make an impact. Their relationship with walled gardens has long been fraught with mixed feelings, which puts them at the top of the list of strategies to re-evaluate.

What is a walled garden in advertising?

A walled garden refers to a closed online environment where external advertisers have less access to customer data and limited control over how to measure success. The best examples of a walled garden include Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Why do walled gardens exist?

Walled gardens exist primarily for companies to maintain control over their digital ecosystems, fostering a curated and seamless environment for users. By tightly overseeing access to content, applications, and services, these closed platforms aim to ensure a consistent and secure user experience. Walled gardens also help maintain a competitive edge by creating a sense of ecosystem lock-in, making it challenging for users to migrate to alternative platforms.

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Why are marketers re-evaluating walled garden advertising?

Lack of data and transparency

The walled gardens got their name for a reason. What happens inside the walls stays there, including everything attached to advertising campaigns. Advertisers have limited or no access to the data, and reporting is opaque. And when someone leaves the walled garden to surf the open web, campaign learnings don’t follow them, which creates a disjointed customer journey.

Brand safety concerns

The proliferation of fake or hateful content, coupled with an increased need for policing on social networks has many brands rethinking their ad placements. Lawsuits against walled gardens also has brands paying closer attention to who they give their money to, and how that reflects on their own values.

Consumers are concerned, too

In an era of rapid social media evolution, fake news and misinformation continues to persist as a major concern. A global survey from the United Nations found that more than 85% of people are worried about the impact of online disinformation.1

Reasons to Expand from Walled Garden-Only Advertising

1. Broaden your audience reach

One of the biggest advantages of advertising on the open internet is that it allows businesses to reach a wide-open frontier of audiences. According to Criteo research, 7 in 10 people read articles on the open internet before buying important or first-time purchases.¹ The open internet offers businesses the opportunity to reach this vast audience and connect with a wider network of customers.

2. Go where shoppers are spending most of their time

Consumers are spending more time online than ever before, and the number is growing rapidly. People spend 66% of their time online on the open internet.² By continuously engaging people throughout their entire shopper journey, businesses are more likely to create lasting, result-yielding impressions on new and existing customers.

3. Improve brand visibility

Advertising on the open internet can help businesses increase their visibility and exposure to potential customers by telling their brand story on a wide range of websites and platforms.

With the ability to control where their ads are displayed, brands can also avoid having their ads appear next to controversial content and better ensure that they’re shown in safe and appropriate contexts.

Alternatives to walled garden advertising

By diversifying ad spend across more channels, digital marketers can address the concerns above, and reach consumers in all of the various places where they are spending their time. No one is saying that marketers should abandon walled gardens. They should continue to be a part of the marketing mix – albeit a smaller one. Here are some channels that are getting more attention:

The open internet

This is comprised of all the sites and apps outside of walled gardens. It includes premium, large-scale publishers like NBC,, and the Weather Channel, retailers like Target and New Look, and the millions of other properties not owned by tech giants.

The pandemic brought more people online than ever, where they are spending more time on the open internet, which they see as a source of trustworthy content and a place to find relevant products. From contextual targeting to customer engagement campaigns, the open internet is a channel where marketers can reach people across the full funnel.

Retail media

Retail media is defined as the ads placed on a retailer’s ecommerce site or app by a brand in order to influence the customer at the point of purchase. It can also include ads served to a shopper after they visit a retail site and leave, designed to bring them back to purchase.

When COVID-19 forced physical stores to shut down, shoppers found their favorite retailers, and new stores, online. This, in turn, has brands speeding up their digital transformations and shifting shopper and trade budgets to online activities. Brands see retail media as their way to own the digital shelf, reach high-intent consumers at the digital point of sale, preempt competition, and increase online product sales. Advertising in a brand-safe environment that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies is a bonus.


OLV advertising refers to video ads that appear before, during, or after video content shown on websites and mobile apps. With shortening consumer attention spans, OLV ads can help break through the noise of traditional advertising and capture interest. With the ability to showcase products, deliver effective messaging within a short amount of time, and create a more immersive ad experience, OLV advertising is a strategic solution to grab the fleeting attention of today’s consumers.

CTV ads appear on CTV or OTT devices, which are TVs or devices that enable the streaming of video content. People are streaming video content on smart TVs, mobile phones, or via devices like Roku and AppleTV in greater numbers than ever. CTV ads are a great way to reach them where they’re spending a significant amount of their time. In fact, an IAB poll revealed that 60% of US advertisers plan to shift budget from linear TV to CTV or OTT in 2021.2

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Ann Pyle

Ann revels in finding the simplest and clearest way to convey a thought. Her favorite word is 'moxie', which she tries to embody whenever possible. She's been developing content strategies and writing for the tech and B2B space for more than a decade. This, along with her SEO and advertising agency ...

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