Pernod Ricard bolsters in-house expertise amid technology push | Marketing

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With at least a quarter of its marketing budget going on digital, Pernod Ricard is sharpening its own in-house expertise on everything from programmatic to virtual reality, artificial intelligence and mobile apps.

It might seem like scatter-gun approach but the drinks giant’s head of marketing in the UK, Adam Boita, assures it is anything but. Having realised that it can’t rely on awareness marketing, the French drinks giant is focused on sparking recommendation and discovery to drive adoption. For Boita, it’s a shift best summed up by Pernod Ricard’s emphasis on data, audience centricity and the lifetime value of customers.

Take the growing ease at which it changed its approach to programmatic; globally the business is looking at how it can take programmatic in-house as part of wider efforts to bring its creative and media expertise closer. Boita, like many marketers, is cautious as to what a so-called “in-house” programmatic offering would look like client-side, though he does see the importance of hiring experts to make whatever it is planning a reality.

“There’s definitely a role for media specialists on client-side who have maybe come from a media background and can inform and help clients navigate that new world,” he continued.

The marketer explained how those experts could help unravel the insights from its data management platform Oracle’s Blue Kai, which is already being used to propel strategies away from socio-demographic targeting to more behavioural activations.

“People would say that traditional programmatic would be like mobile or traditional display but actually Facebook has brought programmatic searches – it’s all about getting the bidding system right and delivering the right message to the right time in the right context,” said Boita.

“We’re far down the line in terms of our understanding of programmatic. The landscape is changing all the time but we’re willing to test and learn on every single campaign. There may be a discretionary part of the budget where we just test a new part of something that we’ve not done before to take learnings not just for the brand but for the rest of the portfolio.”

Beyond the world of adtech, Pernod Ricard’s marketers are coming to grips with artificial intelligence. Both the Amazon Alexa and Google Home personal assistants have piqued the interest of Boita for Pernod Ricard’s World’s Best Bar site, and his team also experimenting with a bot. Neither spin off from AI has a clear role in the drinks company’s existing marketing strategies but early tests have been encouraging.

“The great thing about AI and bots is that the technologies allow us to have fun surprising and delighting consumers,” said Boita. “Once you set the parameters the AI or bot does the rest therefore those consumers and brands are learning at the same time.”

Similar investigations into the Internet of Things and mobile apps like Uber are well documented; What isn’t but could open a new way of encouraging people to try new brands is VR. Through Havana Club VR (see below), the business created a pop-up bar in Soho earlier this year that was complete with a virtual experience, utilising a mix of interactive electronic objects and immersive theatre techniques to sell the idea of people on the journey of someone who owned a bar in the 50s.

“They created the physical space and then VR takes you to that world,” explained Boita at the Adtech London conference. “Rather than showing a Cuban distillery, it was about being in the Cuban lifestyle and took people on the journey….It’s a nice way of driving narrative in those physical and digital spaces. We had real smells and drinks that matched the VR experience.”

For all the innovation, Pernod Ricard faces a tough challenge in harnessing those technologies to convince drinkers to try new brands. According to research from media agency Maxus, most people, particularly older ones, are less inclined to experiment than to regularly drink one or two of their favourite alcohol brands. More than six (62%) in ten of those 6,500 people surveyed across the UK, Australia, China, Germany, India and US agree that they tend to by their favourite brands at all times, while two thirds (66%) of those aged over 35 are more likely to do this compared to 55% of younger drinkers.

Understanding that audience isn’t just about using the same channels they do, which is why Pernod Ricard is increasingly viewing its audience through a behavioural lens. “If we can somehow look at the content that resonates with your audience and put that through a behavioural filter and see exactly what part of the content has piqued the interest of the consumer then you can start to break down the science of content,” said Boita.

“We’ve ramped this up over the last year as we get to grips with the huge amounts of data that’s out there and how you interpret it so that we [the marketers] know exactly what we’re going to get out of this.”

None of this can happen if the company’s marketers don’t have the skills needed to scrutinise data and manage relationships with its agencies and technology partners. Boita explained: “What we’re trying to do is make sure everyone in the department, especially in my team, is upskilled in the latest movements in terms of the technology and the media they’re buying. We’re leaning more and more with each campaign and the agencies we work with become partners and collaborators. They come and sit with our marketing department two days a we get that share agency feel. Having that resource and insight allows the knowledge to be shared amongst the whole team, which I think is really important rather than just waiting on training sessions – that learning should happen on a daily basis.”

You can join us at Programmatic Punch on 8th December. It’s a one-day event that asks experts from all corners of the advertising industry to trade verbal blows over the realities of automated media trading.

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