The complexity of programmatic and the media supply chain can stump even the most sophisticated marketer. So, in September, Bayer hired Josh Palau to the new role of VP of digital and omnichannel marketing to figure out how to connect consumer touchpoints in a fragmented world.
His remit is to figure out how Bayer can get more aggressive in the digital space to meet the demand of consumers, Palau said. “We are looking at omnichannel as a combination of a mindset and an execution.”
That means Bayer is trying to understand what consumers are thinking as they, for instance, are in a store and comparing Coppertone with other sunscreens on their phone.
“We want to be useful and present to the consumer at the point of purchase,” Palau said.
Palau talked to AdExchanger about programmatic, transparency, brand safety and why Bayer is strengthening its partnerships with the duopoly.
AdExchanger: What are your colleagues’ reactions when you talk about programmatic?
JOSH PALAU: The organization overall believes programmatic is useful, and we need it. But a good portion of them have no idea exactly what it means, or, if pressured, would say it means buying a targeted user. I think that knowledge is good enough.
Programmatic is a very useful thing, but only if we can build segments and learn from them, and drive cost efficiencies or creative efficiencies. That’s where programmatic becomes more useful, compared to direct buys where you can’t target women, or women in San Diego with kids.
When brands buy segments, they can run into scenarios where the cost of the data plus inaccuracy makes targeting a wash.
That’s why we are working hard with our partners. Facebook allows [people-based targeting], and Google is doing good work [to move past cookies]. I’m not a fan of the duopoly because I like competition – but as a marketer I kind of am. I know I can get most of my target audience there.
With digital, we keep trying to get better with minimizing waste. But it’s not like there is no waste in TV, radio or print. We have to have some acceptance of waste in the system.
What’s changing about how you’re working with Facebook and Google?
We need to work at leveraging them as more than a media partner. We want to get great rates, but we need their help on measurement, educating our brands and on creative and targeting. Google calls our agency and they call me. Instead, we need to get our team, Google, Facebook, our agency and our creative agency at the same table at the same time.
Some brands are very hesitant to give up all their data and move everything onto the Google platform. Others embrace the efficiencies created by using more of its products. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
Bayer leverages a lot of Google tools, and we are OK with that. The efficiencies and performance it gives us outweighs anything else. I’m a fan of the single platform because I think it makes it easier and more consistent.
People who say they are afraid of giving to data to Google are basically saying they are unethical as people, which is why I get passionate about this topic.
When I used Google Analytics, and our sales data was in there, I never thought Google would go in there and peek so they could raise our bid cost by two cents. I don’t think they are going to disrupt that even over millions of dollars. Because once that’s gone, it’s not ever coming back.
What is Bayer doing to become a more data-driven organization?
I’m proud of the capabilities and platforms being built at Bayer. I inherited some of this, but I need to make sure we fulfill the vision. There has been a lot of work that’s been done to collect data and leverage the data so we can have our own dashboard to understand performance and optimize.
We are employing people who not only understand search or programmatic, but have worked at an agency and know how to manage a campaign – not that they do it anymore – but it allows for more productive conversations with the agency and the brands, and helps [Bayer] brands feel more comfortable that our best interests are being measured.
Amazon is becoming more popular among CPG brands because it can close the loop. What are your thoughts?
Broadly speaking, CPGs are trying to take that relationship that exists in the shopper [marketing] world, like with Walmart, and creating that for Amazon. It’s becoming a bigger focus area for us because we do see the end-to-end sales.
I have heard people say, “Let’s do more on Amazon search than Google search, because it performs better.” The real answer is that there is not enough volume to shift those dollars there. And as a brand, I still need you to understand that Coppertone is the best sunscreen for your children. If you don’t understand that first, it’s not going to help search.
How are brand safety concerns playing out at Bayer?
Every company I ever worked for – even before brand safety made headlines – cared about where we ran.
One of the overarching struggles with brand safety is this focus on targeting. We don’t necessarily want to be on a sports gambling site or celebrity gossip page. But what if the person who fits our profile or has been to our websites happens to visit those sites?
I care about the content running in front of the audiences that want to buy, because that’s where the waste happens: when I’m not putting my message in front of the right people.
Marketers have been pushing their agencies for more transparency. How do you think this plays out?
If you are driving your partners to such a fine line of profitability, they will go away. I don’t want my agency to not make any money.
As an industry, marketing budgets are not going to increase dramatically year over year. I have been lucky enough to work for organizations where if we find out that $10 is only getting $8 of efficiencies, I’m not going to cut spend down to $8. I’m still going to spend $10, but have it be more efficient.
After transparency, what’s the next hot topic?
AI will become more popular. Brands are trying to be more efficient with their headcount and people. It’s not about cutting costs, but about what our people are working on we could automate.
Every single analytics person I ever talk to spends more time pulling reports than generating insights. And how can we use AI to map allergies or UV indices a few weeks out?
Our consumer care team answers a ton of questions, from how to use the product to where to buy it. A machine should be able to figure out and answer all these things, and that frees up people’s time to work on more business-impacting things.
This interview has been condensed and edited.