Unilever, Telstra, PHD executives debate the right way to reinvent media and advertising

Panellists at AANA event on media's transformation debate precision making, creative investments and in-house sourcing

A push towards precision marketing at scale, more in-house resourcing and rethinking creative assets are all occurring at Unilever and Telstra in Australia as the brands look to reinvent media, advertising and their agency partnerships.

Speaking on a panel at this week’s AANA event, ‘The Media Challenge: One Year on’, Unilever head of media and PR, Annelise Douglass, argued the shift to people-based marketing is less about one-to-one, and more about driving segmentation across media and marketing. And she suggested the shift is actively underway in Australia.

Douglass pointed out there are also “universal human truths” that are always going to apply to multiple segments and which marketers continue to need to tap into.

“And that makes great creative a lot of the time,” she said.

Telstra executive director of retail marketing, Jeremy Nicholas, said the telco’s media investments are greatly informed by one-to-one and have to be, given its broad customer base extends from consumers to large enterprises.

“It really does inject in a positive way across our overall marketing mix,” he said. “While we can’t buy and do everything in that way, we think about that highly targeted, heavily segmented work.”

Yet the concept of one-to-one is something Nicholas had a problem with. “There is a time and place for a lot of people to see something together,” he said. “That’s underestimated as you get more and more into this world. I wouldn’t want to entirely go to that environment. Don’t believe that’s always the way to best way for people to consume great creative.”

The pair also debated – and differed – on the shift people-based marketing is having on their creative output and spend. Douglass said the Unilever team is reducing the number of ads it is making and culling non-performing assets. The FMCG giant has previously stated it’s spending about 30 per cent less at a global level on creative as a result.

What there is a growing emphasis on is dynamic creative, Douglass said. At Telstra, however, creative output is up, even as the telco does fewer “really big things”, Nicholas said.

“I’m a big believer in going to places where the audiences are. If you’re going to advertise at Christmas, advertise where all the other brands are advertising shows how great you are compared to the competition. It’s similar with things like sporting grand finals,” he said.  

“At the same time, we’re serving content to our stores, our out-of-home network, ecommerce engine, one-to-one campaigns. I need to develop a lot of content in order to serve those environment and target and tailor to certain people. Luckily, there’s a lot of automation to help serve that. But you do need more raw content to achieve that. And it’ll become more important as we better manage that purchase funnel.”  

In-house programmatic: Pros and cons

The third component of the panel conversation and media’s evolution was bringing more capability in-house, a trend the ANA conference’s speaker strongly reflected. For example, US brands such as Nationwide, Target, P&G and American Eagle were all looking at the issue of media seriously and investing in in-house trading desks as a result.

In-housing around media could also be seen across both Unilever and Telstra through their own trading desk investments. Fellow panellist, PHD Media CEO Mark Coad, noted several of its local clients working under a hybrid model.

While there are legitimate reasons to do this – such as data sensitivity - Coad sounded a note of caution about all brands trying to invest in these capabilities internally.

“I hold the view that programmatic capability is going to form the heart of the future agency. That ability to use artificial intelligence and automation to serve the right message and right time. That’s where it’s going,” he said.  

“But in a world not too far from now, the competitive advantage for our clients is going to be getting that right message to the consumer at the right time… your speed to market will be your biggest competitive advantage. If that’s the case, you better have the best people and the best technology. You might save money in the next few years going down this path, but I think there’s a longer-term piece missing from this right now.”  

Douglass agreed programmatic investment internally isn’t as simple as data protection or control. “A lot of companies in Australia don’t have that stretch to do this. And year one from a programmatic perspective is the best year from a P&L perspective, but years two and three are often the hardest to return a profit. There are whole heap of questions that need to be asked here,” she said.

Nicholson noted Telstra’s hybrid model on the trading desk as well as creative.

“The benefit we see in a hybrid model is we’re a huge data-driven company as it is, with huge amounts of data and security. But we do need the outside perspective… working on the trading desks or in an advisory role, in order to provide that tension,” he said.  

“We really run on the idea that no one knows the business like the people working inside it, but we need that to collide with outside thinking, because no one knows your industry better than those sitting outside it.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

 

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