Starbucks to Offer Real-Time Bidding for Pumpkin Spice Latte

starbucks cups
You can now use real time bidding to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Credit Flickr

In a move sure to please anyone who works on the buy side of digital advertising Starbucks has opened up real-time bidding (RTB) for the coveted Pumpkin Spice Latte. The company’s statement, released earlier today claims that “Just as with a scarce and valuable ad impression, real-time bidding for the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) is designed to truly balance supply and demand at the moment of purchase. Those customers who use a mainstream DSP will have direct access to the our new PSL Exchange, and can be confident they are getting the best possible market pricing at the moment they want their latte.”

Of course, Starbucks can control the supply of PSLs directly, rather unlike the supply of ad impressions available as a result of customer traffic and engagement. So until the program launches later next month it is unclear how actual paid pricing will trend overall, much less vary within the day. We suspect many agency and advertiser employees who work in media buying will be more focused on the ability to actually secure a PSL at their desired time, rather than be overly concerned with value pricing, and will therefore set their bids high, perhaps even above list price.

Additionally, by offering PSLs directly in the same buying system as ad impressions, media buyers will be able to buy a latte under their client’s media budgets. Detailed reporting on the effectiveness of the latte consumed by the media buyer vs. ad impressions delivered under the client campaign will likely take some time, though Starbucks will offer a guide on best practices.

As of this time no information is available on precisely which DSPs will have access to the PSL Exchange, though Starbucks clearly is not pursuing a private exchange strategy here and we do expect broad DSP integration once the program is completely rolled out. Starbucks also notes that not all of their retail locations will initially be connected to the PSL Exchange, so when you set your bid parameters be sure your desired store is available under targeting options, hyper-local.

We can only speculate that if Starbucks succeeds with the PSL Exchange other menu items will be added in the future.