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Why Tropicana is betting on retail media as Google starts to deprecate third-party cookies

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Google’s third-party is (finally) crumbling. At the same time, the way shoppers search for information has expanded beyond Google, into TikTok, Amazon and other retail platforms. It’s made for a booming retail media networks business that brands like Tropicana are increasingly relying on to target shoppers.

For the last five years or so, the juice brand has been steadily shifting its media spend away from broadcast television commercials to follow cord-cutting shoppers where they are online. To home in on said shoppers, customer insights from a mix of retail partners is becoming increasingly more crucial, according to James Spalding, vp and general manager of Tropicana at Tropicana Brands Group. (He declined to detail Tropicana’s ad spend or retail partners.)

“While we can’t share specifics, there is strong return on investment in terms of the wealth of insights we’re able to gather,” he said in an email. “And as retailer platforms become more robust, there is an increased opportunity to use the data throughout the [marketing] funnel.”

WIth more than 75 years in business, Tropicana’s current priority is driving broader awareness and affinity for the next generation of shoppers, especially in the crowded marketplace of food and beverage. Meaning, data-informed, targeted digital advertising in places, whether it be TikTok or streaming ads, is a key part of the brand’s media mix, per Spalding.

From January through October of last year, Tropicana spent nearly $29 million on advertising, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. That figure is significantly higher than the nearly $17 million the brand spent that same time frame in 2022. In total, Tropicana spent about $26 million on media in 2022.

As Google’s cookie deprecation gets underway, retailers stand to profit from peddling their own first-party data to brands like Tropicana. (A look at how agencies are handling the smorgasbord of retail media networks here.) True, Google and other tech companies have historically been known for their data capabilities. But when it comes to food and beverage industries, retailers like Kroger, Walmart, Target and Costco “have the amount of data that would make your head spin,” Spalding said.

Retail media has been growing its share of total U.S. ad spend, raking in 13% of digital ad spend last year and expected to increase to 15.2% this year, according to Insider Intelligence.

Leveraging data from retailers to inform marketing strategy isn’t necessarily a new industry trend. But as the proliferation of retail media networks continues, there’s an increased opportunity to collect enough shopper data to inform marketing strategy more holistically, according to Kristen Hogan, founder and CEO of REX Collective, marketing consultancy.

“The difference now is advertisers have the ability to hyper-target with better data and iterative creative, reaching a customer as down-funnel as it gets,” Hogan said in an email. 

Maturation within retail media has allowed the Tropicana brand to better understand consumer shopping behavior, improve targeting and get to product-specific insights, like other things they’re shopping for in addition to Tropicana. “This helps us identify potential partners, home in on our messaging, and glean unique insights to further distinguish Tropicana in the oversaturated juice category,” Spalding said in an email.

Google’s cookie deprivation has been a long time coming. And while brands aren’t now scrambling to recoup consumer data, they are taking a second look at the weight and value that the first-party data they and their retail partners have, agency execs say. 

“Third-party cookie deprecation is forcing advertisers to re-think how they gather and leverage both customer and prospect data to fuel their audience management, personalization, journey orchestration, and advanced measurement efforts while respecting consumers’ privacy rights,” said David Fontanez, svp of integrated media and strategy at Response Media digital agency.

As data privacy measures continue to mount and shoppers expect hyper-personalized ads, retail media network ad spend is expected to grow from the aforementioned 13% of digital ad spend last year to 21.8% by 2027, rivaling social’s 22% of ad spend, per Insider Insights reporting.

“Retail media is projected to grow significantly in the short-term, and you have probably seen its presence grow as a consumer even in the last six months,” said Hogan. “Retail media is effective because of the use of first-party data and because you’re reaching the customer incredibly close to the point of sale.” 

As much as the industry has feared a cookie-less future, Spalding said Google’s cookie depreciation is just another shift in the way the world of marketing and advertising works. “Now what we’re seeing is everyone else has great data and we just need to use it smartly,” he said. “A lot of these folks have had the data for a significant amount of time, and now they’re just realizing the true value of it. Which is fascinating when you think about how savvy a lot of these retailers are.” 

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