Marketing Briefing: Marketers continue to move dollars to retail media as returns improve

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Maintaining a popularity that only seemed to rise in the pandemic, marketers are still finding value in their retail media investments.

Sabra’s CMO Jason Levine went so far last week as to call retail media its “number one media investment” given its power in “improving purchase intent and conversion.”

Sabra is one of a number of brands finding success in retail media as media buyers say they continue to see a “significant shift” of ad dollars to the channels. That said, retail media still has a way to go: it is generally up around 20% year-over-year for many brands and accounts for roughly 15-25% of the total media mix for brands investing in it.

“Retail media spends continue to increase exponentially (2x-4x) as retailers merge to omni-commerce ways of working, versus silos of in-store merchandising and online digital marketing,” said April Carlisle, evp of commerce at Spark Foundry in an email, of retail media’s continued growth. 

The channel, an early winner in the pandemic, has two driving factors behind its continued growth, according to Jason Colon, head of commerce and growth marketing at OMD. With people still turning to e-commerce and shopping more online, there’s more of a need to be where people are shopping. At the same time, retailers have continued to beef up their retail media offerings to “meet modernized programmatic standards,” said Colon. 

Buyers expect brands to continue to invest in retail media with some shopper marketing dollars moved from in-store marketing to retail media channels.

“Search is typically the biggest bucket of spend (40-60%) within retail media budgets, given the shopper search for products has moved from multiple feet of shelves in-store to products ‘above the fold’ on desktop computers to, now, inches of products visible on mobile sites,” said Carlisle. “Search during Q4 will never be more important as shoppers look to meet their holiday needs and wish lists, while product availability may be unstable.” 

Of course, marketers’ interest in retail media is nothing new. The channel has been growing in recent years with more retailers building up retail media arms (in the hopes of competing with Amazon for more ad dollars, of course) and more major marketers interested in investing there (the draw of access to more first-party data has only become more intense as the death of the third-party cookie nears).

That being said, some buyers caution that retail media networks will still feel the impact of third-party cookie depreciation and that marketers need to be careful of investing too heavily into retail media as the capabilities of each retailer will be different and managing where ads show up across the various retailers can be difficult. 

3 Questions with Sesame Workshop CMO and evp Samantha Maltin

How do you choose brand partners for Sesame Workshop’s iconic characters?

Sesame Workshop’s mission is to help kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder; that’s always our first filter, across the content we produce and the partners we engage. We then consider how each opportunity can shine a light on our social impact work — not everyone knows there’s an independent nonprofit organization behind their childhood favorite. We think about how we’re uniquely qualified to help in a given situation, how our characters can thoughtfully deliver an important message in a way that no one else could. The Sesame Street Muppets can spark deep, personal, and often immediate connections with kids and families across three generations. And we don’t take that trust for granted.

So how do those brands work with the nonprofit?

Collaborating with mission-aligned companies and leveraging our partners’ platforms broadens our reach and impact. Our partnership with Doordash in their Super Bowl campaign this year helped us elevate our mission with an audience of almost 100 million people, and their donation of $1 for every order to Sesame Workshop raised $1 million to support our ongoing global work with vulnerable children and families. Through partners’ buy-one-give-one efforts, the Sesame Street x Bombas collections have helped drive the donation of more than 900,000 pairs of socks, and during our 50th celebration, every sale from a Sesame Street x TOMS collaboration provided a pair of shoes to the people who needed them most.

Our partnerships are also about amplifying a message. When we introduced our COVID response initiative, Caring for Each Other, Champion helped get that content to its 7 million followers across email marketing and social media channels. We leverage our research and audience insights to ensure that our partnerships continue to help keep our brand relevant and for various segments of our audience.

With Sesame Street moving to HBO Max, what has changed (or is changing) for the brand?

The partnership gives us the flexibility to create new Sesame content and formats, and develop new IP to expand our audience alongside our flagship series. Animated Sesame Street specials, like the recent Furry Friends Forever introducing Elmo’s new puppy Tango, will debut each year. We have four new series including the Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, and Mecha Builders and Bea’s Block coming soon. For the first time, fans can find nearly all 51 seasons of Sesame Street in one place. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have been watching increasingly more television. And while many advertisers still have most of their ad dollars in digital and social channels, linear and connected television is seemingly making a comeback — at least that’s the case for fashion advertisers. New research from digital marketing agency Croud suggests that more than 40% of U.S. shoppers would buy clothes after seeing a shoppable television ad. Ahead of the holiday rush, see more key findings on how people are shopping from the report below: 

  • 41% of US shoppers have said they would consider buying clothing and footwear from a shoppable TV ad in the next six months.
  • 25% U.S. shoppers said they use Instagram to start their journey when looking for clothing or footwear online, followed by Facebook (21%), TikTok (9%), and Snapchat (8%).
  • 65% of U.S. respondents said they expect to purchase clothing online more in the next six months, higher than the average of the global respondents (60%). — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“In this digital-focused world, it has become more challenging for brands to stand out from the crowd.”

— Katie Kotsbak, associate vp of media at Good Apple ad agency, when asked why a brand would lean more heavily into OOH now.

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