Amazon’s US ad revenues hit $1.65 billion in 2017 and are expected to grow 48.2% this year. With the majority of product searches now initiated on Amazon, brands need to increase the visibility of their wares in the platform’s search results, according to L2’s Marketing Playbook report.

Traditional brands and large ad companies like WPP, Publicis, and Omnicom are all taking note of Amazon’s ad services. In fact, traditional brands now own more Headline Search Ads and Sponsored Products than either indie brands or Amazon’s own private labels. (Both ad types are purchased by bidding on search words or phrases, but Headline Search Ads always appear above organic search results, while Sponsored Products appear within them, ideally in the top three positions on the results page).

But owning a smaller share of ads doesn’t mean that indie brands and Amazon private labels aren’t using them effectively. Indie brands are more selective than traditional brands about the timing of their Headline Search Ad campaigns. Being selective on Amazon is easy, since the platform allows brands to toggle their cost-per-click bids on and off. While traditional brands maintain an always-on strategy, indie brands sometimes shut off their Headline Search Ad campaigns completely, allowing them to consolidate investment and capture a larger share of placements during peak shopping times. Although indie beauty brand Derma-Nu only had 2% of Headline Search Ads in Q3, by the week of Thanksgiving in Q4, Derma-Nu owned more Headline Search Ads against beauty keyword searches than any other brand except category heavyweight Garnier.

This “less is more” strategy is also effective for Sponsored Product placements. Among indie and Amazon private label brands, 71% of Sponsored Product impressions land in top-three positions. That number for traditional brands is just 52%. As traditional brands continue to shift ad spend to Amazon, they would do well to learn from the strategies of indie brands and Amazon private labels.

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