eBay Puts Media Contract Up For Review - Could It Signal Marketing Shift For C2C Strategy?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay has launched a global media agency review, moving from a decentralized market-based model to a more centralized model amid larger business strategy shift to broader consumer-seller focus.

According to agency research firm COMvergence, eBay spends an estimated ~$395 million on measured media annually - that's traditional advertising and placement outlets like broadcast TV and radio - and now it appears eBay may be looking for a new creative direction going forward.

eBay gave the following statement to Mediapost, explaining why they are undertaking the review, which is expected to be concluded by the end of Q2:

“In support of long-term growth goals, eBay’s marketing organization has embarked on a global transformation – moving from a decentralized market-based model to a more centralized model that provides global efficiencies.  

As part of this evolution, eBay is reviewing its media business to ensure our media capabilities more effectively service eBay globally, while maximizing impact across our focus categories and core markets (US, UK, and Germany).” 

That last part about including both focus categories and core markets could have some interesting implications when taken in the broader context of the business strategy shift eBay has undertaken in the last few months to include more of the consumer to consumer (C2C) market that had previously been a core strength of the site along, with continued initiatives for certain focus categories.

When CEO Jamie Iannone took the helm in 2020, his initial "tech-led reimagination" strategy specifically called out the need to capitalize on eBay's robust C2C platform, seeing it as the foundation of the company's success.

"I am honored to rejoin eBay as its next Chief Executive Officer," said Mr. Iannone. "In my previous experience with the Company, I developed a deep appreciation for what makes eBay so special.

eBay 's success has always been rooted in its robust C2C platform. I believe the Company has tremendous opportunities to capitalize on this foundation, innovate for the future and grow its ecosystem.

He took those sentiments even further in an interview with CNBC in July 2020, saying getting back to individual consumer selling and becoming the "seller platform of choice" were among his top priorities for the company, along with focusing on key core vertical categories for growth.

I'm not satisfied with where we are and I see enormous upside potential in really getting back and focused on the customer experience...

...First building compelling experiences in key verticals that are really core to eBay and also getting back to our consumer selling that's individual selling which is really important to the platform.

Second is being the seller platform of choice,especially around non-new in season. We've got a 500 billion dollar opportunity in the core of what eBay is great at in non-new in season and being the seller platform of choice there is a huge opportunity.

Unfortunately, consumer selling and being the seller platform of choice quickly faded to the background as Iannone has pursued a very narrow focused vertical, "high value, enthusiast buyer" strategy - leaving many of the non-new in season, one of a kind, vintage, antiques and other collectibles C2C sellers that were the "foundational roots of eBay's success" feeling excluded and abandoned.

After mass layoffs in January 2024, new open job positions signaled a possible pivot back to a wider consumer-seller focus.

That shift was bolstered even more when Chief Business Strategy Officer Stefanie Jay departed the company, followed by Iannone heavily "leaning in" on C2C success in Germany during the Q4 2023 earnings call and other recent investor conferences while forecasting a return to GMV growth by Q3 or Q4 2024.

eBay also recently shuttered their dedicated social media channels for Sneakers and Watches, redirecting users to the main eBay accounts and has been surveying buyers about C2C initiatives with a possible revival of the "eBay It Forward" campaign briefly tested in early 2021 featuring a wide range of items such as kitchen appliances, outdoor equipment, and homegoods with a theme of "Sell What Didn't Work Out To Make Room For What Does."

That type of marketing is exactly what many sellers who have been disappointed with the "high value vertical focus strategy" say the site has been missing, especially during the all important Q4 holiday shopping season.

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It's also interesting that eBay specifically says they are looking to move toward a centralized global marketing effort rather than the decentralized market-based model they had pursued previously.

Many sellers have noted over the last few years that eBay's marketing in France and the UK differed greatly from the US.

For example in France, eBay played to vintage nostalgia, with a little humor in The Camera - showing a girl on a mission to revive her father’s passion for photography by repairing his old Nikon camera with spare parts, tools and vintage accessories found on eBay.

And in the UK, eBay ran campaigns showcasing different types of items for Style Seekers, Experts, and Bargain Hunters along with the "There's A Small Business For That" campaign highlighting the wide variety of products from small businesses across the platform.

But in the US, most of the marketing spend has been put exclusively toward those very narrowly focused categories, particularly eBay Motors Parts & Accessories or the cringe-worthy "Never Get F*ked Over Again" campaign aimed at promoting authentication services for luxury items.

If you asked many longtime sellers for suggestions on where the eventual winner of eBay's marketing agency contract should focus their efforts, they'd likely point to the "Find It On eBay" commercials from the early 2000s for inspiration.

What do you think of eBay looking to possibly make a switch in ad agencies or strategies and what would be your top suggestion for how they should approach marketing the site going forward? Let us know in the comments below!


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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!