Nine recently launched its new Audience Match product, in partnership with leading technology company Adobe, that allows marketers to unlock Nine’s ecosystem of more than 13 million signed-in users.
Audience Match is designed to enable Nine to help brands in activating people-based audiences across all of our properties, with Coles signing on as the launch partner.
In recent weeks, a number of senior marketers have wanted more information about the partnership and the opportunities it unlocks within Nine’s rich, brand-safe content environment.
In this video, Adobe’s Suzanne Steele, Coles’ Lisa Ronson, OMD’s Melissa Hey and Nine’s Michael Stephenson sit down with Mi3’s Paul McIntyre to discuss both the opportunity in Nine and Adobe’s audience-matching product and more broadly the opportunity that exists through a move to a more people-based marketing approach.
Rather read than watch? A full transcript of the interview can be viewed below.
Paul McIntyre, Executive Editor, Mi3: “Welcome to Mi3’s new marketing series, Future Forecast. This four-part series will deep dive into some of the key themes marketers and the broader industry will need to keep a watch on for 2021. Thanks to Nine for partnering on the series.
‘Today we're going to talk about what most companies and marketers are moving on at light speed, particularly through COVID: that’s data, digital transformation, customer experience and targeting. And we’ll get to that hot topic of a post-cookie world too. With us today is Lisa Ronson, CMO at Coles, who among other things recently entered the era of the printed supermarket catalogue. A massive move in my mind. We’ll hear from Lisa on that and where she sees broader digital transformation headed at Coles. We also have Adobe’s managing director, Suzanne Steele, Nine’s chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson, and OMD national chief investment officer Melissa Hey. Welcome to you all. Let’s get straight to it.
“Lisa Ronson, you’ve made a couple of big calls of late that I’m aware of, at least. You dropped printed catalogues and you were the first company to sign up to this new alliance between Nine and Adobe on people-based marketing. Just give us a sense on what’s happening at Coles when you say digital transformation.
Lisa Ronson, Chief Marketing Officer, Coles: “Well Paul, it’s all about having a very clear purpose and that’s to sustainably feed all Australians so they can live healthier and happier lives. So, a key part of that is serving up to them the content, when they need it and what they need. And it varies during different parts of the day, different seasons. So, this is really for us all about better targeting, more personalisation and serving the right content to the right customer at the right time.”
Paul McIntyre: “How long, Lisa, have you been on that journey? You’ve been at Coles for how long, and has it started before then? But what’s been the timeline on that?”
Lisa Ronson: “I’ve been at Coles now for 18 months and the transformation started before I joined. But it’s safe to say like a lot of organisations, with what’s been going on in the world for the last nine months, digital adoption has been at light speed. And so we know that our customers are engaging with digital channels more than they ever have been before, and Suzanne can probably talk to the stats on that, she would see it, and also Michael. And so we’ve probably fast-tracked a lot of the decisions we would have made in time – we’ve just made them at a different pace.”
Paul McIntyre: “And what are the key areas of focus for you that fast-tracked, Lisa? What areas have been on your radar?”
Lisa Ronson: “Well, you talked about the catalogue. We’ve been printing a catalogue for 50 or more years and walking it to letter boxes around Australia, and we’ve stopped doing that. We still have printed catalogues available in store if our customers need them. But we found that our customers were really engaging with both specials and value and also wanting to get a bit of inspiration as well. So we’ve moved from just talking about price on its own. We talk about solutions now. So price is so important to customers and that will continue. But what we’re trying to do is provide the right content that provides really great value for our customers, and the inspiration that they want for dinner and what they’re going to cook tonight and at the weekends.”
Paul McIntyre: “So, Suzanne Steele, digital transformation and customer experience is part of Adobe’s big mantra in the market. What have you seen happening in the past six months with companies through COVID? What are they doing? And I guess, what are the hotspots in digital transformation that you’ve seen in the last six months?”
Suzanne Steele: “Thanks, Paul. I think what we’re seeing is really organisations who were somewhere on their digital transformation journey are the companies and businesses that have truly proved to be much more resilient during this time. And we’ve seen projects being delivered in light speed that in the past would have taken 18 months or two to three years.
I can give you some examples of that. Obviously grocery retailers like Coles are big customers of Adobe as are all of the big banks. But for other organisations that really have stepped it up, take Petbarn, for example. They moved to all of their stores having to become distribution centres more or less overnight at the beginning of COVID. And they saw online sales go up by 43 per cent. They put in place their experience-driven commerce solution and it paid for itself within two weeks.”
Paul McIntyre: “How quickly did they move on that? And I guess they’ve used Adobe for that roll out?”
Suzanne Steele: “Yes, they did use Adobe. We were already working with them with Experience Cloud, but the eCommerce solution was fairly new. So that was stood up within six weeks.”
Paul McIntyre: “And other examples, Suzanne, more broadly these hot spots. Are there similar initiatives like Petbarn that a lot of others have been doing?”
Suzanne Steele: “Yeah. Certainly experience-driven commerce is where it’s at. Another example of that is 99 Bikes. They saw record sales in April of 2020 when we couldn’t do very much except one-hour exercise. So they were selling as many as 1500 bikes a day and their revenue in April reached 3.1 million, which was more than double the previous December. And December is typically their biggest sales month. So real innovation from customers.”
Paul McIntyre: “Is that across the board? Large blue-chip companies doing this, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises? And what’s the different response? Are they doing it differently according to company size?”
Suzanne Steele: “I think everybody who needed to move to have a digital front door moved really quickly if they hadn’t already done it. And to be honest, that is across the board, other than those companies who went into hibernation, and we know who they are. Even the New South Wales Department of Education, who had been on a digital transformation journey for 13 months leading up to the bushfires and COVID, migrated 2,200 school websites over a period of 13 months. It was a huge lift for them. They were able to then broadcast closure alerts during the bushfires and also during COVID. So it is really across all segments.
Paul McIntyre: “It’s fascinating to start to see in retrospect how companies and organisations are rolling it out. Lisa let’s get to those big moves you’ve made around catalogues and then the Nine Adobe licence. How hard was it to make that call on eliminating the printed catalogue? And why were you first on this people- based marketing initiative.
“For those that are not aware, Nine is putting about 13 million registered users across TV, newspaper or news media and radio assets into Adobe's data set. It’ll allow blue-chip marketers, at least like banks and retailers, telcos and eCommerce operations to load their customer databases into Adobe Audience Manager and experience platforms to target and personalise communications in premium content environments, like they do already with Facebook and Google. But first Lisa again. How big was that call to make on catalogue? Was there a lot of debate internally?”
Lisa Ronson: “Like any big decision in an organization there’s a lot of debate. But one of our values is to be completely customer-obsessed. So the insights we got from our customers were that their preference was to engage with us digitally so they could get that content and the solutions they were looking for. And now they can go onto our digital catalogue, we’ve got a contents page, they can pick what they want to go to and look for. It’s actually easier to engage digitally than it is to sometimes leaf through the whole paper catalogue. But they’re still available in store. We have stopped printing millions of catalogues per week that we’re not walking to letter boxes. Because we found that most households were preferring to use digital channels rather than their traditional channels. And so we just pivoted to cater to that customer need and desire. When you’re making decisions on the basis of the customer it’s not that difficult.”
Paul McIntyre: “Well, it’s interesting. I mean the risk to the randomness sometimes of discovery in the catalogue, even my 13-year-old will go through a printed catalogue and discover that there’s some sort of device he wants, and then the lobbying starts. That sort of discovery process though is obviously a small part of how people consume catalogues or look for what they want.”
Lisa Ronson: “Given the age of your son, Paul, he’ll probably find that discovery digitally anyway. So you’re not off the hook. Sorry about that.”
Paul McIntyre: “Thanks for the tip.”
Lisa Ronson: “We just want to engage with our customers in the channels and the way they want to be engaged. And you asked about the Nine-Adobe partnership. It was an extension of a partnership. We’ve had a longstanding partnership with Nine and Adobe, so it’s really about being effective per personalisation. And this gives us that effective personalisation at scale. Given that we cater to the majority of the Australian market, that scale is really important to us. So for us, with customer insights and being customer-focused, it was a no-brainer.”
Paul McIntyre: “Melissa, you work with Coles on this and it’s brought a media strategy. What’s your take on the Nine-Adobe initiative and what it means for brands more broadly? Are we going to see more of these sorts of initiatives and moves?”
Melissa Hey, National Head of Trading, OMD: “I think it’s a great opportunity for all of our clients. It’s something new in market. And I guess the opportunity with the scale and getting into premium Australian content is where the interest lies. We haven’t previously had that opportunity with YouTube and Facebook. Also, you’re not sure on the safety side of it as well. So there’s also the brand safety aspect as well on the premium content. There’s a lot of interest from clients.
“I think how they use it though will be very different. It depends on where each client is that on their digital transformation. And I must say it’s actually not just the digital transformation. I think it’ a journey because we’ve just seen over these last eight months that people are having to change and adopt very quickly. I think that’s going to be a continuation and we’ll be seeing a lot of clients adapting and changing. And it’s not just a once sort of ‘set and forget’, it’s a continuing updating that roadmap for your digital ecosystem.”
Paul McIntyre: “The interest in clients, Mel, across the board on what Nine has done. Has it triggered some broader interest as to how they use people-based marketing? Beyond what we see with wall gardens and Google and Facebook?”
Melissa Hey: “Yeah, there’s interest in wanting to understand how it can work. I think that’s the biggest point that we’ve seen, and a lot of inquiries coming in from clients, how they can use it. Each one will adapt differently. Because at the moment it’s still at scale, but it’s not necessarily one-to-one marketing. It’s still quite broad, but it is addressable, so it’s really important. And each client is going to probably use it differently, but they still have to understand all the elements that are available for them. We take each client on an individual basis.”
Paul McIntyre: “Lisa, give us a sense of how you’re going to use this Adobe-Nine match-up and in what areas, what ways?”
Lisa Ronson: “Well, as I said before, we’ve got such great, rich content that our customers are really looking for. So, for us, using the partnership is all about the greater personalisation, using the data that Nine have across their broader audience so we can get those messages and that content out to our customers when they need it and when they are looking for it. It’s our strategy of right customer, right message, right time. And this just helps us do that. We are constantly looking for ways that we can better target and provide better service to our customers and this is just one part of our overall marketing strategy to do that.”
Paul McIntyre: “Mel, you mentioned it’s an opportunity for clients around premium content. We haven’t seen this before. What’s the sense on benchmarking Google and Facebook against the premium content player like Nine? What are your expectations around the effectiveness of this and the difference in performance?”
Melissa Hey: “This is the really exciting part I think for clients, to be able to start to really see the engagement levels, because we’ve always predicted that premium content does provide higher engagement. Having this opportunity now, we can do some testing to actually confirm that and get the insights, especially with what’s being talked about in the market today around engagement, and not every viewing is equal. So I think this is a really good opportunity for clients to test that theory.”
Paul McIntyre: “What has been the reaction from the market so far? It’s still early days.”
Michael Stephenson, Nine’s Chief Sales Officer: “I think people are still getting their heads around it because what we’ve created alongside Suzanne and Adobe is actually quite simple. What we do know is that people-based marketing and addressability are critical for advertisers, they’re big emerging themes. They will be critical to short, medium and long-term business growth. And at Nine, that’s what we're all about. How can we partner with the likes of Adobe and others to deliver better business outcomes for clients?
“So as a result of that, the incoming poster announcement at our Upfronts just on two weeks ago has been quite overwhelming. What brands are realising is that this is actually quite easy to do. If you’re an Adobe Audience Manager customer, you can simply upload your data segments and your audiences into the platform and match them with ours, you can activate via an email, and it can be up and running within 24 hours. Then you’ll continue to transact and buy those audiences the same way that you do today using Facebook and Google. There’s an amazing part of the process which brings a big smile to my face. Would I like to choose Facebook, Google or Nine, sitting within the platform that makes buying our audiences in our premium environments very, very easy?”
Paul McIntyre: “Well, to Mel’s point, it does for the first time put a premium content company up against Google and Facebook to test effectiveness. How do you think you’ll go?”
Michael Stephenson: “I think really, really well. We have proven at an industry level through Think TV, the power of advertising on television and the combination of linear TV and BVOD. Of course, BVOD brings together the very best of television with the very best of digital. And what we’ve been able to do or what we’ve enabled advertisers to be able to do with the Adobe partnership is not target at scale within that premium BVOD environment to start with. Then into the first quarter of next year we’ll roll that out across our broader digital ecosystem. But I think this is kind of next evolution of people-based marketing to deliver better outcomes for brands. And I’m positive that brands advertising in an environment where consumers are more engaged, deeply connected to the content, will deliver business outcomes. Nine are committed to working with brands to make that happen.”
Paul McIntyre: “Mel, what’s your hunch on how this is going to go? And how will someone choose Facebook and Google over Nine or vice versa? What's your sense there?”
Melissa Hey: “I think it will depend on the campaign, but we’d need to test it as well. It’s a massive opportunity. The definite positive is the brand safety. At the moment, we have a lot of discussion in market on social channels around what is happening and how do you actually manage that. So you’ve got brand safety brand suitability, and the responsibility as well of where you want to be. So it really does benefit Nine in that premium content, having it there as a first choice, because you are assured of brand safety and the security around it.”
Paul McIntyre: “The great argument with traditional media companies is reach. And now we’re starting to get to some personalisation. Does that affect even how media agencies think and operate, and plan reach and personalisation? It gets a whole lot more targeted, doesn’t it?”
Melissa Hey: “Definitely. Reach is always going to play a big role. It’s actually about reaching, and we’ve mentioned that Nine has the scale there with 13 million users to be able to compete with YouTube and Facebook. Because usually you go there for the next reach step, to get the consumer-centric or the personalisation message out there.”
Paul McIntyre: “Lisa, the budget allocations for how you execute on this now when you’ve got big reach, big mass brand campaigns and personalisation. Does it affect how you allocate your budgets in the next 12 months, two years, that whole scenario?”
Lisa Ronson: “Absolutely. We’re constantly iterating how we spend our budget because we want to be customer-centric. People based marketing will force brands to be more customer-centric and think about how their above the line or long-term communications work with their below the line, short-term communications. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I think the mix will constantly iterate and change. It depends on time of the year as well, what people are doing at the time, whether they’re out and about or at home. Customer-based marketing and people-based marketing will force us to become more customer-centric and that’s always a good thing.
Paul McIntyre: “Finally, a wrap-up for this whole white-hot theme around the end of cookies in the digital world and a move to people-based marketing. What could it look like in two years’ time, Lisa, that whole notion of being post-cookies and people-based?”
Lisa Ronson: “I think it’s more conversations around customer centricity. Brands are really focused on their own first-party data, how they can build better connections and better loyalty with their customers. And I think we saw that in the EU post-GDPR. A lot of brands went to their own first-party data, what they knew about their customers to better service their customers. So again, it’s all about customer centricity, being more targeted and delivering the content that our customers are looking for at the right time.”
Paul McIntyre: “Suzanne, I guess this is in your sweet spot too, between cookies and people-based, and it’s where Adobe is headed or is. What’s your sense of what companies are going to be doing in the next 12 months, two years in this whole area?”
Suzanne Steele: “I think data is king and content is queen. And I think as consumers, their having frictionless customer experiences is going to be the answer. I absolutely that receiving relevant and timely content that’s non-invasive is what customers are expecting now.”
Paul McIntyre: “It’s a big change though, Suzanne, because the industry is built essentially on an infrastructure of cookies in the digital scene. There must be some very quick moving going on about what the hell we do now. Are seeing that?”
Suzanne Steele: “Yeah, we are. Adobe has been planning for this for quite some time. That’s why innovations like custom destinations that we’re doing with Nine have been fast-tracked.”
Paul McIntyre: “Mel, again for media agencies and digital, the whole industry has been based on cookies. What does people-based mean for you, your company, and also the industry? It’ll be quite a radical change. I guess there’s a lot of smoking tyres.”
Melissa Hey: “I think so, but we've been planning for this for a while too. I think all marketers have been looking to be able to do personalisation and be more targeted to get engagement. The marks become so fragmented that engagement is key. So everybody, and I would say the majority of clients, have been working on their first-party data to ensure that they can do personalisation. So whilst it’s coming quickly, cookies being taken out, I think clients are getting prepared and have been for a while, because they wanted to move into the space of personalisation and ensuring engagement with their customers.”
Paul McIntyre: “So, Michael. Suzanne said data’s king, content’s queen. What does it say to you for Nine in terms of cookies and people-based? You’re clearly moving there, but what’s the big picture?”
Michael Stephenson: “At Nine we are a content, data and technology company, and it’s in that order. So I would say content is king and data is queen. But the two of them are clearly very important in terms of how they must work together. In February 2016, we launched Nine Now and asked consumers to sign into that platform. So we have also been building towards this point for just on four years, and there's 13 million signed-in users now in our digital ecosystem. That’s important because first-party data will become the currency of the future.
“And the theme I think we see play out over the course of the next couple of years is addressability and people-based marketing at scale. Where we won’t go is down to such an individual level whereby you target such small groups, because that won't allow us to deliver business outcomes. And at the end of the day, all of these things are designed to make sure that Coles and all of our other customers ultimately deliver greater business outcomes and increased sales or whatever their particular KPI is. So all of these things work together to get us to that end point.”
Paul McIntyre: “So is there any clue on what’s next from you in terms of people-based marketing beyond Adobe, Michael?”
Michael Stephenson: “Our relationship today is with Suzanne and Adobe, and they’ve been amazing partners forever. But who knows where these things evolve for both Suzanne’s business and ours. For the immediate future, we’re obsessed by getting this right. A significant number of Australia’s largest advertisers are on the Adobe platform. And like I said, the incoming already post their upfronts has been quite overwhelming. So, it's how do we get this up and running and make it operational, so that all the advertisers in Australia that have a first-party data asset can take advantage of our premium environments to deliver better outcomes.”
Paul McIntyre: “Lisa, I’ve got to ask a final cheeky question. Suzanne says that data’s king and content’s queen. Michael says content’s king and data’s queen. Which way are you going to go?
Lisa Ronson: “I'm saying they’re both queen, but I would. But I think in summary, Stepho just knocked it on the head. Then when he was talking about customer centricity and it’s about growth, this is all about growth.”
Paul McIntyre: “Great points. Well, that’s it for our first edition in the Forecast 2021 series. We’ll have another in two weeks. So stay tuned. Thank you to Lisa, Suzanne, Mel and Michael, and stay safe.”
This content was originally published on Mi-3.com.au.
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