UM expands commerce media practice for clients Johnson & Johnson, EJ Gallo Winery, others with newly expanded unit

If 2022 is the year of commerce media, then 2023 might be the year commerce media ups its game to break down internal silos and improve its measurement. 

IPG’s UM has quietly been active in the shopper marketing space since 2013, forming UM Shopper with one employee: Amie Owen. The media agency is now morphing the unit into UM Commerce, a reflection of the growth in commerce media that has spurred its media spend growth from $125 million in 2019 (before the pandemic) to around $1 billion today. 

Owen, officially head of commerce at UM, now oversees a staff of about 50, and attributes three things to creating the right market conditions to evolve into UM Commerce: 

* Technology advances such as the re-emergence of QR codes and out-of-stock technologies

* Consumer habit changes spurred on by the Covid pandemic

* A better data trail to track the consumer journey, including access to Acxiom data

“Those three things really coming together enabled us to really accelerate what we’ve been doing in the space for over a decade,” said Owen. “All different facets of technology really created a different way to shop [and generate] discoverability from a consumer standpoint.”

Owen pointed to internal changes including improved access to data giant Acxiom, which IPG owns, as well as the formation of an internal council that includes representatives from all corners of the holding company, including Kinesso and Matterkind, two tech companies that help agencies access Acxiom’s data more efficiently. Other council participants include performance agency Reprise, IPG’s content studio, IPG Media Lab and cross-agency strategists.

“The council empowers us, as much as we’re empowering the greater picture to make a really big integrated story,” said Owen, who noted the importance of breaking down internal silos for more effective work. “We brought it all together for a one-stop shop for our clients.”

Those clients include EJ Gallo Winery, Johnson & Johnson, bug repellent Thermacell and candy firm Storck, among others. 

“The UM Commerce team not only evaluates who to reach and with what message, but also considers when we should reach them, and going a step further, where we should drive them when they engage with our ads,” said Lila Gilstein, integrated media manager at E&J Gallo Winery. “This allows us to reach our consumers when they are in the shopping mindset, and when we want to ensure a seamless consumer experience.” 

“Our onboarding with UM served as a fast track to engage in the retail commerce space,” added Kelly Cook, Storck’s president. “We’ve been able to increase our investment across key retailers’ media networks to strategically meet our shoppers in new and relevant ways.  Whether our consumers are seeking us at a given moment or not, we’re reaching them in relevant ways and increasing basket sizes to drive candy purchases.”

The news of UM’s commerce expansion doesn’t surprise Jeffrey Bustos, vp of programmatic+data center at the IAB, given the broader elements that are powering commerce media’s growth. 

“We’ve seen significant growth in the activation and targeting across retail media networks and we’re continuing to see the emergence a lot of new retail media networks,” said Bustos who declined to comment specifically on UM Commerce’s evolution but spoke of what to expect next year. 

“What we expect to see in 2023 is that there is going to be a significant shift in measurement and efficiencies that retail media are driving,” he added. “The focus next year is going to be on the ability to get to viewability standards and look at cross-retailer performance.”

Attribution to viewability, understanding attribution windows and understanding the attribution difference between a click vs. an impression in retail media are three areas Bustos feels need improvement across the commerce media spectrum. 

Although Owen points to the decade UM has been in the shopper, and now commerce media business, it’s clear the media agency world is taking this exploding area of media seriously, including Omnicom and independents alike

And why not? As Chad Engelgau, Acxiom’s CEO, told Digiday last week, everything’s becoming an ad network.

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