Creativity, Technology, and Proximity: The Trifecta of the Test-and-Learn Agenda

By Kristal Walton, SVP, CPG & Retail Industry

If you work in marketing, especially tactical planning, you know that budgets have become stretched thinner than ever. Omnichannel or multitouch planning has become the key watchword for CMOs looking to make their dollars go the extra mile, maximizing impact by hitting on multiple consumer touchpoints.

In tandem, increasing excitement and focus on retail media investments has catalyzed robust growth. Back in April, Insider Intelligence reported, “U.S. retail media ad spend will hit $45.15 billion this year, an increase of almost 20% over 2022. Growth will accelerate each year through 2027, when we expect spend to reach $106.12 billion.” Understanding the retail media landscape has shifted from a “nice to have” to a necessity for marketers faced with the pressure of providing guidance within a brand P&L across varying media types.

Edging into new frontiers like retail media might feel overwhelming, but that type of experimentation serves as the key for marketers looking to stay ahead of the curve. To ensure continued growth and evolution alongside the industry, a test-and-learn agenda underpinned by a bet on creativity, technology, and proximity, will undoubtedly prove successful.

The Power of a Test-and-Learn Agenda

You may feel tempted to stay away from a test-and-learn approach, but resist that urge; experimenting for the sake of it should not be evaded. Testing and learning will help you push for increased data, learnings, and knowledge, which, in turn, will help grow your business. For me personally, the following formula has emerged as the gold standard: 10% emerging and new test tactics, 20% proven tactics’ growth and evolution, and 70% repeatedly proven core tactics.

Despite the sector’s growth, certain retail media tactics such as on-the go video or digital signage still remain an emerging tactic for most brands reliant on more tried-and-true methods like paid social, CTV, paid search, and display. Mondelez tested out the power of retail media in a recent campaign for Belvita breakfast biscuits, an example presented at the 2023 Path to Purchase Institute Retail Media Summit. The media plan included mobile display ads and programmatic DOOH, targeting an audience of verified shoppers across partner retailers’ media networks who purchase in the cookie category. The result? 28 million impressions, leading to $1.1 million in attributable sales.

At GSTV, I am proud to have worked in partnership with CPG brands to develop test-and-learn plans that scaled upward from a small market test to an annual multi-program plan. For instance, GSTV grew its partnership with a top CPG beverage company to 15X spend. We went from a single brand five-market test utilizing the client’s existing video assets to national scale plans spanning over five brands across the total portfolio. The initial test proved successful for incremental sales lift and, soon after, other brand portfolios were added with a continued test-and-learn approach. We now partner to achieve business objectives specific to each brand including new product trial, promo awareness, consumer and retailer proximity targeting, and, of course, incremental sales lift and ROAS. This is another great example of building a test and learn roadmap including creativity, technology, and proximity, all working together to make a measurable impact.

Through partnership, in the architecture of a test-and-learn plan, both partners can identify key goals and objectives to understand what success looks like to the broader organization, amplifying existing marketing plans with elements across creative, targeting, and measurement to accomplish the test criteria.

Experimentation breeds evolution, and evolution breeds success.

Creativity, Technology, and Proximity

For planners, creativity, technology, and proximity should serve as the underpinnings of that experimental approach. For example, in 2019, PUMA, guided by Havas Media Group, embraced out-of-home in motion by tapping into Firefly, the company leveraged taxi and rideshare vehicles to build a smart city media network, to geo-target consumers across different locations and times of day, driving foot traffic to the retailer’s new Fifth Avenue store in New York. Taxis served creative content in high-traffic areas including major airports, tourist attractions, athletic fields, and existing store zip codes, with situationally aware digital smart screens determining campaign direction and ad frequency based on driver routes, area demographics, and traffic patterns. Creativity plus technology plus proximity.

This media buy marked a strategic shift for PUMA at the time, one that started with the brand moving its $120M media budget to a new media agency 2018. At the time, Adam Petrick, Global Chief Brand Officer at PUMA, spoke to Digiday about the decision and voiced interest in “find[ing] the right content for PUMA and maximiz[ing] its budget in the process.” In short, Petrick wanted a test-and-learn approach that would maximize results and minimize spend. He got one.

Retail media has certainly evolved since 2019. For one, ad spend across that sector in the U.S. has grown 25%, from $13.23 billion to 51.36 billion, according to eMarketer. But retail brands across the board can still learn from this early-days example. It exemplifies a retail brand tapping into the holy trinity of creativity, technology, and proximity to drive results, adopting an innovative approach rather than relying on pre-existing marketing tactics.

In Conclusion

Injecting creativity, technology, and proximity into your plans leads to success. When you plan with these elements in mind, adopting a growth-oriented rather than fixed mindset, you have the opportunity to create stronger connections with consumers that ultimately drive results for your brand.

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