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Of Candy & Communications: How data is fueling business outcomes for two distinct businesses

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the big question for marketers was how would the consumer react? Yet two businesses, Hershey’s and T-Mobile, with very different products — candy and telecommunications — found a way through the challenges by turning to the data.

According to new research by Adweek and The Trade Desk, savvy marketers know that data-driven advertising is a winning strategy. Here are some key findings:

  • Programmatic-first marketers are significantly better at measuring performance and have higher levels of confidence in achieving optimal ROI.
  • Those who lead with programmatic are 15 percent more likely to be confident in their ROI.
  • Accurate marketing and measurable media emerged as the two top priorities for advertisers today.
  • Connected TV is recognized for its advantages over linear in terms of data-driven targeting and smart retargeting.
  • Marketers plan to significantly increase their focus on Connected TV.
  • The number of marketers who plan to commit 50 percent of their budgets to Connected TV is set to double over the next two years.
  • Marketers who are programmatic first, think of being data driven as absolutely key to their competitive advantage.

With these findings in mind, Jed Dederick, Senior Vice President of Client Development at The Trade Desk, set the stage for a panel discussion to gain insights from two leading brand marketers, Kari Marshall, Vice President Media at T Mobile, and Charlie Chappell, Head of Media and Communications Planning at Hershey’s. Here are three takeaways from the conversation.

Let Data Be Your Guide

When the pandemic hit, it affected consumer consumption habits. T-Mobile’s Kari Marshall says the company noticed significant increases in consumer TV streaming. At the same time T-Mobile’s retail stores were unable to open, so the company was forced to think about servicing current and potentially new customers through new “digital experiences.” Marshall admits that, in the beginning, no one knew exactly what would work but they had “real-time data” to inform media investment in the short term. The company had just merged with Sprint in April, it was important to send out a message that “we were now one.”

For Hershey’s the pandemic impacted the company’s biggest buying season, Easter, which meant throwing their existing media playbook out of the window. New strategies have emerged and carried through to the next big surge in candy consumption, Halloween, says Charlie Chappell. “One of the use cases for some incredibly granular data was getting data back from retail channels almost at the store level, saying where is their excess inventory versus where is there not, and then leveraging things like programmatic media buys to direct more media into those locations where we felt it wasn’t going as well as we wanted it to.” Says Chappell, “That’s what got people to say, ‘Wow, if we start to dig into this data more, what other use cases can we find that can bring incremental commercial value to the company.’”

Tie the Data to Business Goals

It’s not data for data’s sake, it’s data for solving specific business use cases. The key to success is “knowing how much to bank on the data you’re receiving immediately versus the long term,” says Kari Marshall. “Some data you look at and have patience because it’s not something that anyone is going to act on today, or in a month.” From a technology standpoint, Marshall says, “looking at partners that help us solve and answer questions that aid with both short term and long-term decisions is critical, more so now when we’re starting to invest in things that are a slower burn.” Chappell agrees that ad-tech solutions provide broader insights into data. “The more that we can see across an open eco-system what’s performing, we’re able to make smarter, better decisions both in the short and the long term. Once you see the power of that you get kind of hungry and you want to see more.”

New Spaces Like Connected TV Open up Opportunities

Whether candy or communications, both these businesses have embraced the new platforms and recognize the advantages of CTV. In her estimation, T-Mobile’s Marshall says it’s not the pipes of delivery that are important, but the value of the video asset, the actual content, “regardless of how the consumer is accessing that content through various platforms or screens or subscriptions that they might have, trying to anticipate how we would reach that consumer once they stop viewing in a more traditional linear fashion.”

Hershey is also paying attention to this shift away from linear. “Where is the consumer going? That led us on this journey to Connected TV, this is video. They’re consuming it on the same screen. The creative part is simple because you don’t change anything. It’s just a matter now of let’s go follow that consumer,” says Chappell.

This shift has also opened up a broader and more nuanced process of driving advertising relevance for the consumer, which goes beyond a traditional age demographic approach, the sweet spot being adults aged 18-49. Connected TV allows for more sophisticated relevance, with different variables. For one campaign, this allowed Hershey’s to focus on parents with kids in a similar age bracket.

Take the old thinking out, insists Chappell. “You’re translating it over from your old TV buying days.”

Marshall agrees. “I would say not moving into some of these new places is limiting your reach,” she says. “We’re going to miss out on that ability to reach everyone if we’re not in these new spaces. There are consumers that are not watching linear TV. How are you going to reach them?”

Watch the full session here.