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Nissan spent most of 2018 tinkering with what its top marketer in Europe Jean-Pierre Diernaz says will be the advertiser’s next great media channel — the connected car. Over the next 12 months, the data gathered from those vehicles will start to inform every facet of the advertiser’s marketing, from creative to its programmatic buys.

How are you preparing for this shift?
One hundred percent of our cars are going to be connected within the next 12 months. That means moving from processing a couple of megabytes every minute from our vehicles to processing a couple of gigabytes. To cope with all those insights, we’ve spent much of this year coming up with a more robust strategy for our data management platform. All our European companies are now using a DMP as part of their planning whereas that wasn’t the case earlier this year. We realized that we weren’t using enough of the data we had.

So what does this look like in practice?
It means that alongside how someone drives a car, we can use the data points on our vehicles to interact with them with precise marketing messages and push relevant services to them as they drive or are being driven. We need a bridge between our online and offline channels, and that’s where the connected cars can help. It’s why we’re pursuing what we call a subscription marketing strategy in 2019. For example, we could push a WiFi hotspot subscription for the car to a family that uses their car mainly at the weekend.

Has preparing for the subscription marketing model meant you’ve needed to take more marketing in-house?
Yes and no. It makes sense for us to take control of the data analysis of our ads. It’s important because we’re trying to enrich our customer profiles. We’re trying to join up more than 2,200 databases across our various channels now, and the connected car is part of that. That data is going to be fed into our DMP, so our marketers need to be hands-on with it. Other aspects of our media strategy will stay with agencies because we still need their expertise.

Does that include all your programmatic buys?
We’re not going to buy our programmatic ads. It’s better to leave those to our agencies. We do, however, have a view on everything they buy. My team looks at all Nissan’s programmatic investments in each market each Friday and then gives our agency an action plan for the following week. We’re a big company and so my team of marketers have other responsibilities beyond just buying media.

What are you doing to get visibility on your programmatic spend?
We need to be sharper on the bidding side when it comes to understanding the dynamics of a programmatic auction. That’s something we’re looking into through audits on both the bids we make and also audits on the quality of people making those investments so that we’re aware of the knowledge and skill of the specialists employed by our agencies. It’s similar to how we work with the big online platforms where we meet with them each month at a European level and then every quarter at a global level. I have the benefit of a dedicated team that works with these platforms on joint business plans that gives us an intelligent view on the best way to move forward with them.

Does that mean you completely trust your agency?
The relationship is improving. It’s down to us as the client to explain clearly what we expect from our partners and what we’re prepared to pay for. I haven’t got the level of transparency I want yet, but it’s something we’re working toward as we feel like our next agency model needs to better cope with the fact that online advertising is becoming more fragmented around platforms and ad tech so that we have more control over what money we invest.

What will that model look like?
We’re going through the process right now, so there’s not much I can say. Everyone knows the classic agency model is dead. We’re going to change everything about the way we work with our agencies, from the structure of the teams and their location to the processes, tools and briefs used to buy our media. It will be built around a more integrated, collaborative approach with our agencies, merging together data, creative and maybe IT. The future of online advertising is likely to be even more fragmented than it already is, so we need partners to help educate us otherwise we’re not going to know how much goes anywhere.

Will that mean working with more partners, particularly when it comes to the ad tech stack?
The ad tech stack is more fragmented than it ever has been because there are so many niche experts that could potentially add value to what we’re trying to do. There’s always a new tool to improve the tool you’ve just bought. Despite that, I’m in favor of picking the best partners even if that means fragmenting the value proposition of our ad tech stack. We can afford to take this view because we have a level of integration, control and management which makes it easier to understand how all those vendors fit together. It would be easier to pull everything into one big player and use that in all our markets. But while we’d get some efficiencies, I’m not so sure we’d get the effectiveness.

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