"Content plays a foundational role in our media plan," said Tony Pace, CMO for the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, in a presentation. "Stuff we're doing today has been several years in the making."
Subway's "stuff" includes lots of custom integrations with TV programming -- including Jimmy Fallon, The Office, and The Biggest Loser. These are often simple plot tie-ins, things that would not have been out of place 10 years ago. It's product placement, though Pace doesn't like the term.
How does Subway measure ROI for these deals? "We've seen effectiveness of integrated content show up in media tracking," he said. "We were able to show these impressions have more value than a commercial impression."
Adjacent ad placements do have a place in Subway's media strategy, often as a amplification of the integrated branding. For example, when a Subway fan in Chicago posted a photo of her baby costumed as a Subway sandwich, "we contacted her, posted it, and put some more messaging around it. Over a couple days we got more than a million people to take a look at that," according to Pace.
"There's more opportunity for content that originates in one space and moves to other spaces," he added.
Kellogg Company also highlighted its deployment of user-generated content from social channels, but made more of a connection to paid display media.
Jon Suarez-Davis, VP Global Digital Strategy and North America Media, described Kellogg's three-pronged focus on data, technology, and the media mix. Overlaying all three are "essential consumer insights," such as this one: "Moms are willing to engage with authentic content that reminds them of the simple moments they have shared with their own children."
Kellogg distributes messages created from those insights through programmatic media channels, including open exchanges and private exchanges. Programmatic buys now account for half of Kellogg's display budgets. The company ramped up its private exchange strategy toward the end of last year and is happy with the early results. The CPMs are higher, says Suarez-Davis, but so is the value. (Read more of Suarez-Davis's comments on programmatic)
New Sell Siders: Retail And Telecom
Unilever's Rob Candelino, VP Brand Building, stressed the need to place media at the retail level. That includes digital and mobile experiences within physical environments. "It's big and it's growing and it's important," he said. "We don't have it cracked."
But the retailers are starting to crack it themselves, embracing the fact they have a substantial role to play as bundlers of media. Even if that means filling in-store "inventory" with house ads. "We are using stores as a primary means of owned media," said Jennifer Kasper, Group VP of Digital Media and Multicultural Marketing. "We have 33 million active households in our credit card database."
Telecom is another vertical to ramp up media sales. Deutsche Telekom's Gerhard Louw, Senior Manager of International Media Management, said, "All the big telecoms have become media sellers in their own right. It does make the whole story much more complex, especially when it comes to negotiation time."
The Unbundling Mistake
Another concern for Kellogg Company, Subway and others has been the separation of media and creative functions.
Before working on the client side, Suarez-Davis was at Publicis on the media side. He exhorted his media colleagues, "You have every right to play on the creative side. The unbundling of media in the agencies has in many [clients'] opinion caused a lack of creativity on the media side."
And here's Subway's Pace: "One of the unfortunate consequences of media becoming unbundled is there's not the same ownership of creativity. That's a loss for brands and agencies alike."
When the two sides don't talk, the result can run contrary to the brand's interest, as happens when the creative expenditure occasionally robs the media budget.
Andrew Budkofsky, EVP Sales & Partnerships at Break Media, said, "We have clients who say they don't have money for distribution or promotion – after investing money in creation."
Realistically, unbundling won't be reversed anytime soon. The cost efficiencies that come with consolidating media spend through a single agency are too attractive. So creative agencies, media agencies, and vendors coordinate as best they can.
Budkofsky says, "We work with brands, creative agencies, and media agencies. They're all on the calls together, they have to be. You can't have someone not knowing what's going on."
Agency And Vendor Issues
Clients are managing more agency and vendor relationships than they ever have, necessitating vigilance on quality and service.
"When they know you listen and pay attention, people give you better service," says Pace. "A lot of CMOs, their distance from the media is too great. In most instances that's your biggest single dollar investment."
ANA recently looked into the issue of media rebates in partnership with Reed Smith. Their study found widespread examples of media sellers creating incentives to agencies for referring or influencing client spending towards a particular seller.
"We need to become more transparent," said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but they should be in the agency contracts," he said.
Agency trading desks came up several times during two days of panels. Kellogg's doesn't use one, but Chrysler Group is a proponent. ANA Group EVP Bill Duggan asked Neville Manohar, Chrysler Group's Head of Emerging Media and Media Analytical Science, how he felt about rumors of media markups at the trading desks.
"With us, we have set very clear business objectives… that get to those areas. We measure them very diligently. And not all the business is with the one trading desk," Manohar said.
Big TV Lives On
It seemed more speakers at the conference showed their Super Bowl ads than did their digital work.
A big game spot can cost a brand $10 to $20 million, once creative development, production, music rights, and media outlay are factored in. It goes without saying that level of spending dwarfs any standalone digital media placement. Clearly brands continue to find value there.
"If these things weren't performing for us, we wouldn't have double downed in 2013," said Manohar.