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How Campbell’s navigates the burgeoning retail media landscape, even as it creates more walled gardens

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The landscape of retail media networks is growing at a breakneck pace, with retailers like JPMorgan Chase, Best Buy and CVS competing with colossal retailers like Amazon and Walmart. While there is seemingly an infinite number of retail media networks to test, especially as Google’s third-party cookie crumbles (whenever that happens), marketers like soup brand Campbell’s are dealing with the fallout from the increased number of walled gardens that has resulted from this growth.

Retail media’s growth spurt has made for more closed ecosystems, given there aren’t yet set standards across measurement and ad formats. Those closed networks have become one of the biggest challenges facing brands advertising in the retail media space, according to Marci Raible, vp of integrated marketing at Campbell’s Soup Co.

“The other thing that we’re all dealing with is just the increasing number of walled gardens when you’re looking at the media environment,” she said. “As a brand, that becomes our biggest challenge because everyone has just created more walled gardens.”

It certainly doesn’t help that retail media has become somewhat of a catch-all term for retail media networks and retailer data, Raible added. Campbell’s isn’t alone in its frustration. Georgia-Pacific consolidated most retail media spending into seven networks after testing over 25 options.

That’s not to say efforts aren’t being made to solve the issue. The Interactive Advertising Bureau/Media Rating Council released an initial draft of retail media measurement standards last September, finalizing them in January. Thus far, retailers like CVS Media Exchange have aligned themselves with the IAB’s standards.

Internally, Campbell’s is looking at its media buys week over week to evaluate campaign performance and measure success, per Raible. Although, Campbell’s has not started to explore retail networks outside of its endemic space yet, she added.

“We are looking at what’s working, what’s not working and optimizing into what is [working] so that we can drive that week-over-week improvement in our performance,” Raible said. The approach to retail media buying is to negotiate the deal, look at performance and optimize from there. “You can optimize within the buy and then if it’s not working, optimize out,” she added.

Typically, agency executives evaluate performance on a monthly or quarterly basis to verify campaign goals have been delivered, said Steven Frey, planning director for Media by Mother. But for a CPG brand of Campbell’s size, a week-over-week look can be more sustainable.

“As businesses are really just seeing that there’s money to be made in the market,  this is the era of where we’re going to see just a lot of expansion into different niches in the market,” he said. “The top line rule that we use when we’re speaking with clients about retail media is to get very specific on the use case that you’re trying to put forward.”

Retail media has been part of Campbell’s playbook for at least the last seven years because the food brand works with the retailers that sell its products (i.e. Walmart, Target, Instacart, etc.). However, Google’s third-party cookie deprecation is giving retail media networks a boost, not just in terms of how many players are in the retail media space, but also when it comes to what ad offerings are available.

For example, Walmart’s Vizio acquisition back in February came with the potential to open up more inventory and ultimately bridge the gap between brand and retail dollars, something retailers have been gunning for recently. At its inaugural InFront, otherwise known as The Home Depot’s version of NewFronts, Ted Decker, chair, president and CEO of The Home Depot, told the audience the retailer’s retail media network was being built to target advertisers’ marketing dollars as opposed to trade dollars.

But ultimately, it’s a matter of solving the million dollar question: How do you streamline and measure campaign effectiveness across a multitude of retail media networks, each with their own individual walled garden? Until that question is answered, retail media growth could start to stall, according to eMarketer, which cited that 42% of global advertisers don’t plan to change their retail media ad spend due to the lack of standardization in measurements as well as ad formats.

“There have been all these walled gardens. With the deprecation of the cookie and clean rooms, to me, that becomes the really interesting next space that we go to,” Raible said. “You’ve got all these walled gardens, how do they start coming together in clean rooms and hopefully create a better user experience.”

Expect to hear more about data clean rooms as the retail media network snowball continues to grow. But it’s easier said than done to stand up said clean rooms, said Frey. In the meantime, he added, advertisers’ best bet is to understand how to best leverage each network and its ecosystem.

“It’s really important to make sure that you’re thinking through the flow of data and how that’s going to most effectively benefit what you’re trying to achieve,” he said.

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