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Navigating Walled Gardens: Unveiling Advertising's Closed Ecosystems

Want to follow prospects around with your ads? The answer lies in a concept known as a walled garden. These closed ecosystems offer advertisers a wealth of user data and targeting capabilities, but they also come with their set of challenges, especially when it comes to data access and transparency. 

This guide aims to unpack their nuances, benefits, and limitations, offering a clear roadmap for marketers looking to optimize their strategies in these spaces. Whether you're just stepping into the arena or seeking to refine your approach, we're here to shine a light on the path ahead.

What Is a Walled Garden?

A walled garden is like a digital playground where one company makes all the rules. This company decides what can be seen, what can be clicked on, and what data gets collected. All of this is done within the boundaries of a single online platform. This level of control is especially important when it comes to collecting and using data for advertising.

Familiar names in this domain include giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. These platforms allow advertisers to target their vast user bases but with one caveat: they provide limited insights into user data and behavior.

The name "walled garden" aptly describes this approach. Much like a physical garden surrounded by walls, advertisers can see the lush landscape and potential within, but gaining deeper access or insights requires navigating gates and barriers set by the platform. These restrictions often translate to limited data transparency for advertisers, making it challenging to measure campaign success comprehensively or understand user behavior in-depth.

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Historical Background of Walled Gardens

The concept of a walled garden isn't a recent invention. It traces its roots back to the 1970s, a time when telephone companies were the talk of the town. These companies were not just service providers, they were empires in their own right. They owned the entire infrastructure—telephone poles, wires, and even the technology that made communication possible.

But their control didn't stop at physical assets. These companies also had a significant influence over the type of information that could be transmitted over their networks. Whether it was a long-distance call or a local chat, the company had the final say. This level of control set the stage for what a walled garden could be: a space where one entity has the ultimate power to dictate the rules.

Fast forward to the digital age, and the essence of the walled garden remains unchanged. The internet has become the new playground, and the stakes are even higher. Now, it's not just about controlling telephone lines. It's about managing vast amounts of data, online content, and digital interactions. The core principle, however, remains the same: control is the cornerstone of a walled garden.

In this new context, control extends to what ads people see, what content is recommended, and even what products appear in search results. It's a comprehensive grip on the digital experience, all aimed at keeping users within a specific ecosystem. This ecosystem is designed to be so convenient and tailored to individual preferences that there's little reason to venture outside of it.

Advantages of Walled Gardens Ads

Walled gardens offer several advantages that make them appealing for both users and advertisers. Let's explore some of these benefits in detail.

Advantage 1: Highly Targeted Advertising

One of the biggest perks of walled gardens is the ability to show extremely relevant ads to users. Because the platform collects a lot of data on user behavior, it can figure out what people are interested in. This means that the ads shown are more likely to be something the user actually wants to see. 

Imagine you're working for an athleisure brand launching new running shoes and want to promote the new product on Facebook. You can target individuals who have shown an interest in running or athletics. You can also further segment this audience based on age, geographical location, buying history, and even specific interests like marathon running or trail jogging.

Such detailed targeting ensures that the advertisement is seen by those most likely to be interested, thereby increasing the likelihood of conversions and reducing ad spend wastage.

Advantage 2: Improved User Experience

Walled gardens aim to create a seamless and enjoyable experience for users. By controlling the content and ads that appear, the platform can ensure that everything fits well together. This makes for a more cohesive and less jarring experience for users, which in turn keeps them engaged and more likely to stay within the walled garden.

Advantage 3: Data Security

Because all the data is kept within the confines of the walled garden, there's a level of security that can be more reliable than on open platforms. This is especially important in an age where data breaches and privacy concerns are top of mind for many people.

Advantage 4: Easier Analytics and Reporting

For advertisers, another benefit is the ease of tracking the performance of their campaigns. Walled gardens often offer in-app analytics and reporting tools that allow for a deep dive into how ads are performing. This makes it easier to tweak campaigns for better results.

Advantage 5: Quality Control

Walled gardens have strict guidelines about the type of content and ads that can appear on their platform. This ensures a certain level of quality and prevents users from being exposed to potentially harmful or low-quality content.

Advantage 6: Simplified Billing and Payment

Handling finances is often more straightforward in a walled garden. With centralized billing systems, it's easier to manage budgets and payments, making the administrative side of things less of a headache.

Advantage 7: Access to New Features and Tools

Being part of a walled garden often means getting early access to new features and tools rolled out by the platform. This can give advertisers a leg up in optimizing their campaigns and staying ahead of the curve.

What Challenges Do Walled Gardens Pose? And How to Overcome Them

Walled gardens may offer a lot of benefits, but they also come with their own set of challenges. Understanding these challenges is the first step in finding ways to overcome them. Let's dive into some of the most common issues and explore possible solutions.

Challenge 1: Data Access

One of the most significant impacts is the control over data. In a walled garden, the company that owns the platform has all the information about what users do there. This data is like gold for marketers because it helps them understand what people like and don't like. However, this information is usually not shared with others, making it a challenge for marketers to get a full picture of user behavior.


The key is to diversify advertising efforts across multiple platforms. By not putting all the eggs in one basket, marketers can gather data from different sources and get a more well-rounded view of their audience.

Challenge 2: High Costs

Advertising within a walled garden often comes with a price tag. These platforms know they have valuable data, and they charge marketers to access it through advertising. This can make it expensive for marketers to get their ads in front of the right audience. Budgeting becomes a crucial part of the marketing strategy when dealing with walled gardens.


Marketing resource allocation becomes crucial here. Marketers need to allocate funds wisely and keep track of return on investment (ROI). Sometimes, it might be more cost-effective to focus on platforms that offer similar targeting options but at a lower cost.

Challenge 3: Limited Reach

While walled gardens offer highly targeted advertising, they also limit who can be reached. If a marketer wants to show ads to people using a specific platform, those ads will only be seen by users within that walled garden. This means that marketers might miss out on reaching potential customers who don't use that particular platform.


Expanding advertising efforts to include other platforms can help in reaching a broader audience. Also, consider using traditional advertising methods like TV or print to supplement digital campaigns.

Challenge 4: One-Sided Analytics

Walled gardens, by design, focus on keeping data within their boundaries, which leads to a one-sided perspective on analytics. When using in-app analytics tools provided by these platforms, advertisers primarily get insights related to user actions within that specific environment. 

For instance, if a user engages with an ad on a platform, the in-app tool might attribute a subsequent conversion to that interaction. However, this approach overlooks the user's journey outside of the platform. Did the user engage with the brand's website prior to seeing the ad? Were there other touchpoints after the ad that influenced the conversion? Without this holistic view, advertisers risk making decisions based on incomplete data, potentially skewing their strategies and budget allocations.


To navigate the limited perspective offered by walled gardens, leverage advanced marketing analytics solutions like Improvado. Improvado aggregates data from a multitude of marketing and sales sources, eliminating the confines of individual platforms. This offers a unified view of customer interactions, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the customer journey. 

With this consolidated data at their fingertips, marketers can pinpoint which touchpoints are driving conversions, optimize budget allocation, and formulate more informed strategies. Not only does this mitigate the risks associated with one-sided analytics but it also empowers brands to achieve a greater return on their advertising investments.

To navigate the limited perspective offered by walled gardens, Improvado also offers marketing attribution modeling capabilities. This modeling approach delves into the intricate journey of a customer across multiple touchpoints, tracing back the path to conversion, and ensuring every interaction is accounted for, whether within or outside the walled garden. 

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Challenge 4: Regulatory Concerns

Walled gardens also bring up questions about rules and regulations. Because they have so much control over data, they often face scrutiny from government bodies. Marketers need to be aware of any new laws or rules that could affect how they can advertise within these platforms.


Staying updated on current laws and regulations is essential. This will help marketers adapt their strategies as needed and avoid any potential legal issues.


Walled gardens are a fascinating and complex part of the digital landscape. They offer a controlled environment where one company sets the rules, affecting everything from the ads people see to the data that gets collected. While they present challenges, particularly for marketers, they also offer numerous advantages. These range from highly targeted advertising and improved user experience to robust analytics tools and data security. Understanding the ins and outs of walled gardens can help both users and advertisers make more informed decisions. Whether it's diversifying advertising efforts or staying updated on regulations, knowledge is the key to navigating the world of walled gardens effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Walled Garden?

A walled garden is a digital space controlled by a single company. This company decides what content and ads can appear, and it collects data within this controlled environment.

What are the Advantages of Walled Gardens?

Some advantages include highly targeted advertising, improved user experience, data security, easier analytics and reporting, quality control, simplified billing, and access to new features.

What Challenges Do Walled Gardens Pose?

Challenges include limited data access, high costs, limited reach, regulatory concerns, and complexity in managing campaigns.

How Can Marketers Overcome These Challenges?

Marketers can diversify their advertising platforms, budget wisely, expand their reach through other mediums, stay updated on regulations, and educate themselves on each platform's unique rules.

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