CFO World

How monetising media is helping Mondelez’s marketing team to fuel growth

CMO catches up with global head of content and media monetisation for the snacking giant to talk about brand strategy, cross-functional buy-in and taking risks
Laura Henderson

Laura Henderson

Over the past year, Mondelez International has been building out a media monetisation strategy that transforms the snacking giant from transactional media spender to content investor, producer and owner.

Mondelez isn’t the only brand to reach the conclusion that premium content is a way of fighting against ad blocking and the fragmented, changing media landscape. PepsiCo is another actively investing in content as a way of funding brand marketing and generating a cash return on media investments, and other brands are following suit.

During her presentation at this week’s AANA Reset conference, Mondelez global head of content and media monetisation, Laura Henderson, said her job is to “make content that’s good enough to make money”. She labelled this new discipline of marketing “commercial creativity”.

The beneficial effects of media monetisation are twofold, she suggested.“Firstly, it’s about producing stuff that earns attention,” she said. “Secondly, it’s a new economic model that provides fuel for growth. Generating cash returns means we can invest more in strong, powerful content.”

The biggest example of Mondelez’s monetisation efforts to date is ‘Stride Gum presents Heaven Sent’, a content proposition based around a record jump by skydiver, Luke Aikins, from 25,000 feet without a parachute or wingsuit. The stunt and safe landing was screened on 30 July on live TV via the Fox Network in a one-hour special, as well as streamed globally on YouTube.

The stunt chalked up 1 billion impressions and US$15 million in earned media value, and importantly, marked a turning point in how Mondelez engages both with the media, as well as its partners, by giving the company the opportunity to sell distribution rights, advertising and generate fresh brand integrations.

“It allowed us to penetrate the pop culture in a way we hadn’t been able to do previously,” Henderson said. “For a business that’s struggled to gain share, we started to see a turnaround for the first time in months.

“On top of this, it was a real proof point for the model. We were able to generate reach that we didn’t need to pay for, and that we weren’t able to pay for. It’s a new way of thinking about an ecosystem around content with valuable IP at the core and all the different ways you can exploit that.”

While at Reset, CMO sat down with Henderson to talk about the business triggers behind the content investment, what her media monetisation strategy, and how cross-functional collaboration has been vital.

Why media monetisation

Henderson said the decision to starting looking at content as a monetisable brand asset was triggered by the need to find new ways of delivering growth in the face of disruption and media fragmentation.

“The inflection point for us was when we looked at this in the context of what’s actually happening in the world. You see such fragmentation within the media landscape, it’s no longer easy to reach consumers, and it’s more expensive to reach them too,” she said.

This is changing the economics of the industry, Henderson said. “We also started thinking about what happens 5-10 years down the line to all of these spaces where we used to advertise – as they’re going away, and as people skip and block ads,” she said.

“The question became: How do we create more value for ourselves in that equation so we can reach people in more relevant ways and do so more sustainably?”

What the content mix looks like

Mondelez started investing in its media monetisation strategy just over a year ago, creating what Henderson called a ‘slate’, or collection of properties it could use to build a value-based content proposition. The main aim is to own IP, but the types and formats of content are hugely varied.

One approach is to exploit the group’s own brand IP, and Henderson pointed out Mondelez did this a few years back with a mobile game based around its Oreo cookies called Twist, Lick, Dunk. “It signalled to us that there is a lot of latent equity in our brands and that we can bring it to life in different ways,” she said.

In other cases, it might be creating new IP. ‘Stride Gum presents Heaven Sent’ is an example of Mondelez working with a partner to create a new proposition.

“Then foreseeable we might buy IP,” Henderson continued. “Those three buckets sit on a spectrum of low risk, low reward to high risk, high reward.”

The emphasis in the first 12 months has been experimentation around formats and models. Over the next year, Henderson’s priority is brand-led content development.

“We’re very focused on growing our power brands, and doubling down our investment behind those global, high-margin and growth brands,” she explained. “You’ll see us look at content monetisation through the lens of those global brand briefs: What are they trying to do and how can we bring that to life in new ways.”

Henderson described content as “stuff that audiences see”.

“The reason why it’s so relevant right now is because the explosion of digital and mobile has empowered our audience base,” she commented. “We’ve always been in the business of creating content, it’s just what that content looks like has shifted and it needs to be much more audience-led as opposed to message- led.

“Increasingly, the audience side of the equation is more rich and interesting than before... As we move into this new model, we’ve been leaning on that side of the equation much more and our media agencies, partners and as we look to plan these types of occasions, it’s about marrying media and creative together in new and interesting ways.”

Up next: How Mondelez is leveraging partnerships to monetise media

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The importance of media partnerships

While the onus is on owned IP, that doesn’t mean Mondelez wants to develop everything in-house. Instead, it’s relying on a mix of new partners, such as production agencies and publishers, as well as existing agencies, but working with them in new ways. A key partner is The Story Lab, a content agency within the Dentsu Aegis Network.

“Media agencies are part of that equation and the way we work together is much more in lock step, so it’s mutually beneficial for us to succeed in these types of things,” Henderson said.

“In the past, you’d have content producers who sit at the top with the idea. They’d develop it, create and distribute it. We’d show up at the bottom, and foreseeably make it worse by interrupting with a commercial message. What we’re saying is we want to lift ourselves up that value chain.”

According to Henderson, the industry is at an interesting point in time for media and creativity, where new capabilities are still developing. “Marketers and agencies know how to tell great brand stories, we know how to persuade people to think differently and pick things off the shelf. Entertainment partners know how to tell great stories that are going to earn attention, but the intersection of those is still in development,” she claimed.

“There is such a critical need for brand strategy at the centre of that and creative planners within the agency have a huge role to play where those two worlds intersect.”

A new way of positioning marketing

Another big shift is in how marketing as an internal function is positioned to the wider business. For Henderson, a media monetisation approach requires “commercial creativity” and for marketers to look at content and innovation in a new way.

“We have more great ideas than we ever had but half don’t see the light of day because they’re too hard, complex or it’s too easy to say no,” she said. “This idea of creative problem solvers who know how to connect the different pieces, get over hurdles as they come about and who know how to figure out where we’ve got gaps and who we should be working with, is a skillset very rapidly evolving and in demand.”

As Mondelez expands its media monetisation model, Henderson said it’s important that it’s achievable at scale. She’s now looking at how to get the new approach embedded into regions.

“We don’t want this to be just another thing marketers have to tack on, it’s about how it fundamentally changes the way we work day-to-day,” she said.

Taking risks and cross-functional collaboration

Being willing to change is vital if Mondelez’s media monetisation model is to be sustainable. And it’s clear from the Heaven Sent stunt example, that an appetite for risk is also required.

“What’s critical is having senior leadership empowering their teams to make these decisions to move quickly and to recognise where there is risk, but not run away from it,” Henderson said. “Celebrating those moments of risk are critical, and equally, learning quickly when things don’t go well is a huge piece in changing the culture.”

Cross-functional collaboration is another key component, and Henderson said she was surprised at how quickly Mondelez’s legal team became an ally as her team worked on the Heaven Sent stunt.

“The lawyer I work in our global office never said no, she just said ‘here’s how we might do it’,” she said. “From there, we started building this cross-functional taskforce, slowly adding risk management, insurance, finance and accounting, because it changes the way we operate our business. It’s this team of people that made this possible.

“Oftentimes, marketers think they’re just going to say no, so avoid them and push them to the side. But give them a role in that challenge, and you’ll be surprised what they can make happen.

“In this type of model, you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve got to find ways to bring the rest of the organisation on board.”

Another key to cross-collaboration is to speak the language of the business. Henderson agreed marketers commonly assume everybody knows where we’re coming from - to their detriment.

“It’s really important to help them understand in the context of what we’re trying to do – for us it’s achieve growth amid huge disruption – then show them how they can be rock stars as well,” she said.

“This model is about changing marketing from a cost centre to profit centre. You speak to anyone in accounting and finance and their eyes light up. You speak to a lawyer about there being real value in our trademarks and IP, and they can see it working differently. Grounding it in the commercial realities of the business and helping them chart a path forward where they can be heroes in that mix has been really valuable.”

Find your ‘stick-to-it-ness’

From a marketing team perspective, Henderson said attributes she’s now looking to foster are “curiosity and grit”.

“Whenever I’m looking at talent or building teams, curiosity is the first thing I look for – are you bringing the outside world in, and can you connect seemingly disconnected things in new way,”she said.

“And grit is because it’s really hard to be a marketer and have some of this stuff happen. Things go wrong, multiple times a day, and as a marketer, you need an incredibly sense of purpose and commitment. I call it ‘stick-to-it-ness’ – anything can fly in your face and you’re still able to move forward.”

Read more about how a new Australian organisation is hoping to help brands gain more value out of their owned media assets here.

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