Headline Search ads. Sponsored ads. Product Display ads. Each has its own appearance, screen placement, and budget; its own strengths and weaknesses; its own strategic advantage. When initiating an Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) campaign, it’s not as easy as spending a little bit on everything. You have to choose the AMS ad types that best suit your individual needs.

In this article, I’ll explain the 3 types of AMS ads side-by-side so you can discover which ones to incorporate into your campaigns, and how much to invest in them. Let’s get started…

Headline Search Ads

The Headline Search ad is a good standard to start with. This robust and conveniently flexible ad shows off multiple products at the same time and allows you to customize both the ad copy and click destination. However, its performance in the field is limited.

Appearance: It occurs when shoppers use the search bar, and appears across the top of the page, above the results.

Targeting Approach: Keyword. Ads appears on search result pages for relevant keywords.

Cost: Minimum campaign budget: $100; minimum cost-per-click (CPC) bid: $0.10

Unique Advantages:

Custom Destination: Unlike other ad options, you can decide where everyone who clicks the ad lands. You can choose between your brand pages, product pages, search result pages or a custom URL (such as an original landing page). You can then specialize and hand-tailor ad campaigns and stray from the conventional.

Custom Copy and Images: Likewise, you can also choose the text and images in your ads. Aside from infinite creative possibilities — including the potential for jokes or promoting specials — this also enables trial-and-error testing. Write up multiple ads with different copy and see which performs best.

Multiple Products: If you have a wide range of product types, want to promote a new product category, or simply want to show off more goods, this AMS ad offers the largest range.

Drawbacks: Low Click Rate. Because the ad is only triggered on the right conditions, the ad appears sparingly and, overall, has a low click rate.

Works Well If:

  • Brands have a lot of products to feature, or would benefit showing off multiple items or different images of the same item.
  • Your Amazon SEO performance is lackluster, and you want to even the playing field to have your items show up on first-page results.
  • You can create catchy and effective advertising copy.
  • You have a strategy in mind for a custom landing page. (For example, a landing page that looks like the Amazon search results page but is filled with your products instead.)

Sponsored Product Ads

For hands-on, DIY marketers who have done their homework, Sponsored Product ads could skyrocket sales. But it requires some skill and technique to make the most of it, on top of the competitive bidding fee.

Appearance: Like with Headline Search ads, shopper searches also trigger Sponsored Products ads. These, however, mimic the search results, and are intermixed among them at the bottom of the page.

Targeting Approach: Keyword; with the option to manually control keyword criteria.

Cost: Minimum daily budget: $1; minimum CPC bid: $0.02

Unique Advantages:

Two Different Targeting Approaches: Sponsored Product ads allow for both automatic and manual targeting. Automatic permits Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) to match your ad with what it deems relevant search criteria, while manual puts all power in your hands, for better or worse.

Automatic targeting is quicker and easier, and a little cheaper in bidding. However, manual targeting gives all the power to vendors, which is why it can work wonders in capable hands.

Drawbacks: High CPC. Of all three types of Amazon Marketing Services ads, Sponsored Product ads tend to be the most costly. If your bid doesn’t win, your ad doesn’t get shown; so the cost can get brutal with more competitive keywords.

Works Well If:

  • You’re working with marketers who are experienced in keyword targeting.
  • Your products have great ratings — each item’s rating is displayed at the right of each box.
  • Your sales history is above average. Sales history is one of the criteria that determines appearance.
  • You have an excess advertising budget and want some safeguard padding.

Third Party (3P) Sellers

While only vendors can use the majority of AMS services, 3P sellers can take advantage of Sponsored Product Ads. Amazon changed its policy in January 2016 to allow 3P merchants to use this type of ad, although the other two types are still exclusive. (Update 8/4/17: Amazon recently made Headline Search ads available for brand registered 3P sellers.)

It works much in the same way for 3P sellers, with a choice between automatic and manual targeting, a daily payment cap and periodic Search Term reports. All the benefits remain the same, and according to Amazon themselves, Sponsored Product Ads have the best return on investment out of the three types.

Product Display Ads

Product Display ads are in a whole separate league from the first two. They follow different targeting parameters and appear on different pages, making them particularly useful in complementing greater advertising campaigns or providing foundation for specialty ones.

Appearance: Product Display ads appear on the pages of related or targeted products. The ad appears just underneath the cart information and additional sellers on the right-hand menu.

Targeting Approach:

Product Targeting: Vendors can choose specific product pages for their ads to show up on. These could be similar products, competitor’s products, or products that naturally work well together.

Interest Targeting: You can also target products under the same interest group, ensuring your ad gets seen by people with the same passions as your target customers.

Cost: Minimum campaign budget: $100; minimum CPC bid: $0.02

Unique Advantages:

Choice of Product Pages: The option to choose which product pages your ad appears on presents a lot of possibilities. On the surface level, this allows a finer degree of shopper targeting that considers personal interests and product relations. On a more subversive level, it allows for direct competitor targeting.

Custom Ad Text and Images: Like Headline Search Ads, Product Display Ads also allow customizable text and images. Aside from the creative benefits, this also complements campaigns directly targeting competitors as we mentioned before. Simply put, you can choose ad copy and images that point out your competitor’s shortcomings and how your product circumvents them — all displayed on the competitor’s product page!

Drawbacks: Low Click Rate. Because your ads only appear on individual pages, they won’t appear as often, bringing in a low overall click rate.

Works Well If:

  • Your products serve a specific niche or highly defined interest group. Because of its targeting mechanism, these ads wouldn’t perform as well on a broad interest group, such as “exercise,” but would perform great with more specific targeting, like “mountain hiking.”
  • You’re running an aggressive campaign against your competitors. Amazon Marketing Services allows you to run ads directly on their pages in hopes of converting their customers to yours.

Get Started

No matter which ad type you decide, you want to make sure it gels with your strategy. You can even build an entirely new strategy based on the unique properties of each ad.

Do you have any results with different AMS ad types? Good or bad? I’d like to hear about them, so please share your thoughts below.

Matt Ellis

Matt Ellis is a freelance online content creator, specializing in eCommerce, content marketing, branding and web design. For over a decade he’s been sharing his industry knowledge through eBooks, website copy and blog posts. You can learn more about his work here.


This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.