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Five Media Planning Lessons From Danone

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By Patrick Roman Gut, SVP, Head of Advertiser / Agency Sales, NCSolutions

Recently, I had the opportunity to virtually sit down with Danone’s Mike Sallette in a fireside chat at the Brand Innovators Media Buying Summit. Our conversation focused on the upstream components of media buying. Specifically, we discussed how to pivot and adjust to have an active brand voice during times of uncertainty. From scenario planning, to having the right data assets, to working holistically as an organization, here’s what I heard from Mike on how the Danone team maintains flexibility to continue an active advertising program even when there is reoccurring uncertainty.

1. MAINTAIN SUFFICIENT CAMPAIGN CONTINUITY TO DRIVE GROWTH
Our nation has faced its fair share of unrest over the last year and in 2021 alone, making marketers unsure of their place in both the action and dialogue. The Capitol insurrection, the Chauvin trial, a severe storm in the South—events like these cause disruption and lead to the instinctual reaction of wanting to turn off paid media. But disruptions and levels of uncertainty will continue, and Mike stresses that it's critical to maintain media campaigns at the optimal weights—especially during times of disruptions. With category growth calming down from 2020 levels (see some example categories below), brands must act to defend market share. Brands with a higher share of voice relative to their share of the market will grow, and those below risk losing share. There’s both a short-term and long-term impact on brand health when you pull or pause campaigns. Mike urges marketers to put protocols in place to quickly pivot to stay on during these disruptions.
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2. DEVELOP OPERATIONAL FLEXIBILITY SO YOU CAN QUICKLY REALLOCATE MEDIA SPEND
Mike encourages brand and media teams to prepare contingency plans in anticipation of the continued pace and scale of macro unrest and supply chain disruptions—to develop flexibility and operational agility requirements for a readiness mindset. Mike has found it helpful to form cross-functional “media issues response teams” comprised of stakeholders across the brand. These teams verify if they have proper visibility into what media is in market, whether they have back-up creative on hand, and how to handle inventory if they have no other option but to pause a paid campaign. At any given moment, brands must be in the position to reallocate media. “Danone must have the ability to reallocate media within 72 hours. We value that speed to adapt to ever-changing conditions affecting consumers.”
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3. UNDERSTAND CONTEXT AND TRADEOFFS WITH FINANCIAL SCENARIO PLANS
When asked how to handle cuts to the marketing and media budgets, Mike stressed that marketers benefit from working closely with their finance teams. He recommended establishing benchmarks for each media channel to understand context and tradeoffs—understanding how the reach for each campaign and brand share will decrease if media spend is cut. It’s not as simple as banking the cash that is taken out of marketing/media budgets. To defend the spend, ensure all stakeholders understand the net impact on sales when media is cut.

4. KEEP YOUR EYE ON BUSINESS GOALS, FORECAST AND ADJUST MEDIA PLANS ACCORDINGLY
Mike gave a few examples where the teams mobilized to quickly shift media spend to new opportunities during civil unrest or with leftover funds at the end of the year. In each case, the teams came together with a sales goal (e.g. conquest, increase penetration, grow loyalty) and tailored their KPIs accordingly, be it ROAS or household penetration. In one campaign opportunity with Instacart, Danone’s general manager, brand, finance, and analytics teams spearheaded a portfolio-level campaign over a brand-level campaign when a forecast revealed anticipated positive returns for this bet. “When we bring data to the dialogue—that really helps people make decisions.''
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5. STRONG COLLABORATION STARTS WITH ORGANIZATIONAL ALIGNMENT
When asked how his teams get it all done, Mike explained that it starts with a great brief. It could take 100 people to bring a campaign to life from start to finish. Focus on the business objectives driving the campaign and align on primary goals and KPIs upfront (you don’t want too many). “Force alignment in briefing templates, and ensure there is explicit confirmation on major approvals throughout the process."

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