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Connect, Be Consistent and Entertain If You Want to Cut Through


Andy Pierce, group strategy director at Core speaks as part of a partnership with Mobsta about Ireland’s secret weapon in the upcoming Women's World Cup, why he’s wary of retail media’s promises and why a longer-term mindset is crucial to really connecting with consumers

Connect, Be Consistent and Entertain If You Want to Cut Through

Mobsta is a proud supporter of LBB. As part of its sponsorship of the ‘Brand Insight’ and 'Media' channels, we’re exploring audience and media trends, discovering what brands and media experts think makes audiences tick in 2023 and beyond.

As group strategy director at Core, Andy Pierce has over two decades of experience in media buying and planning, social media reporting and research development, working with brands including telcos, beverages, FMCG, motors, retail, finance and media. He’s an advocate for and promoter of putting a much stronger emphasis on medium and longer term communications planning and strategy development, as opposed to tactical short term campaign planning.

LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Andy about creating the ultimate Irish lunch with KFC, the risks of retail media and how tech-bro culture is losing its grip on advertising.


LBB> What are you recently most proud of in your work at Core?

Andy> I didn’t work on it personally, but as an agency, we’re very proud of the recent work for Sky supporting their sponsorship of the Women’s National Football team in Ireland. Women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the world, but the team was relatively unknown to the wider public beyond a smaller cohort of fans. There was a great opportunity for the brand to build connective tissue between the team and the people.

People needed to see the team and its cause as their own. The work leaned into belief – a prerequisite for any Irish athlete to succeed internationally. Belief can be vulnerable, but when amplified and shared, it is our secret weapon. 

We coined the term ‘outbelieve’ as a rallying cry for both the fans and the team to overcome doubt and official world rankings and make it to their first ever World Cup finals. The team has made history and the country can’t wait to see them at the World Cup this summer. We are fiercely proud of our small role in this.

LBB> What's a recent way that you've related a business problem to a consumer problem and found a simple solution?

Andy> Recently KFC found itself in a sticky situation. The original ‘American glamour’ of the brand had faded and they were struggling to really connect with Irish consumers. The brand's cultural relevance was in sharp decline, as well as its transactions, particularly when it came to the very valuable lunch-time segment. So, we had some pretty big problems to solve and very little advertising budget to solve it. But sometimes the answer isn’t a big ad campaign. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a sandwich…  

We worked with our client to create the ‘KFC Chicken Fillet Roll’. The ultimate Irish lunch made by chicken experts. We knew we were onto something when Irish influencers and celebrities, who were previously reluctant to work with the brand, were lining up to help us launch it. It was an instant success, selling out in all restaurants in its first week! In fact, it was so successful that it was supposed to be a limited time offer but became a permanent menu item in every KFC in the country.

LBB> Media strategy requires a precise understanding of what data a brand or media owner has access to and how to make best use of that. What are you watching for when it comes to the changes in data laws and what clients should be aware of?

Andy> With many of our clients, data protection officers are already more stringent than GDPR. So gathering of consent around first-party data is a strategic priority. But data has become a loaded word. It always seems to mean consumer data. The reality is most brands have enormous amounts of data on campaign effectiveness which is under-utilised. 

The death of the cookie could be the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Because of it, mixed media modelling (MMM) is deservedly experiencing a resurgence. Regular studies are absolutely invaluable to sustained business success. Even without full-scale MMM, more and more simple modelling tools and techniques are available to help planners and brands understand how their marketing activity is growing brand health and moving sales. We encourage our teams to focus on understanding those relationships, mining them for insight and applying the learnings regularly.

LBB> In a time of information avalanches, what can make an audience stop and take notice?

Andy> Avalanche is right. We run a study which suggests people see about 3,000 commercial messages a week. That’s doubled in a decade. Cutting through noise is a challenge, but so is getting past skip buttons, ad blockers and swiping behaviour.

Some brands have turned to stunts to cut through that. But these are inherently short term. As Orlando Wood [chief innovation officer of System1 Group] points out, shock value is left brain. The stunt is remembered, but the brand forgotten.
I see three tactics brands can use: Connection, consistency, and entertainment.

With such massive media fragmentation, delivering mass reach is a challenge now for all but the largest brands. But that fragmentation also offers great opportunity to plan strong media connection between the brand and those key segments which can deliver growth. This is made more powerful when we factor in information on attention.

Consistency is perhaps more important than ever. With more noise than before, and less attention than we’d hoped, brands need to build and leverage strong brand codes now more than ever. Wear-out is a dated concept, most campaigns never wear in.
Ultimately though, I think we need to go back to the power of entertainment. In the past, ads were entertaining. They made people laugh. This resulted in people liking the brand more. Then we all got really earnest. Brands became too important to make people laugh. Affinity; getting people to like a brand is a really powerful determinant of future success. It should be a key metric right at the very top of our goals and scorecards. That’s been taking a back seat for a while now. Ironically TikTok might put us back on the right path here. It's primarily an entertainment platform, and if brands aren’t entertaining, they’ll be skipped.

LBB> Many have heralded 2023 as the year that retail media really begins to dominate. What shifts in that area will you be looking for in the coming months? And what do brands need to understand to make the most of retail media?

Andy> I’m a little wary of the heralds’ motives. Retail media is physical availability and brands should approach it like they did search in its early years. Like search it’s a point-of-need medium and it can be very valuable, especially to newer and challenger brands looking to steal sales at the bottom of the funnel. But also like search, the power is with the publisher and it could get expensive, fast. For larger and leading brands, there is a real danger of paying for sales they would have gotten anyway. Brands are grappling with untangling themselves from the Google tax, and the Meta tax. Retail media could become the Amazon tax.
The key question to ask is where is the retail media budget going to come from? If it’s coming from brand building advertising, then approach with caution. It needs to come from performance, promotions, or from pricing budget lines. Otherwise it’s another short-term investment. And it should be tested and benchmarked against the full marketing mix through MMM models, not just benchmarked against performance media.

LBB> What’s the trend in media strategy circles that you’re getting tired of hearing about and why?

Andy> I’m not sure if it’s a trend, but I’m glad to see the invasion of Silicon Valley culture into marketing recede somewhat. We got a bit carried away with language like disruption, tech stacks, and moving fast to break things. I’m pleased to see the industry beginning to find its own confidence and voice again. We’re refocusing on our unique strength which is building brands that drive business for the long run. Advertising has always taken a little time to work out how to use new communications environments. The first press ads were door-to-door sales scripts written down, the first TV ads were radio ads read over static images. It’s taken time to understand the new landscape, but I think that’s really starting to mature now, and we're less in-thrall to tech-bro culture.

LBB> The carbon footprint of different media is an interesting topic of debate at the moment. What are the key considerations you'd go through with clients wanting to make sure they buy media with their sustainability goals in mind?

Andy> That it’s going to involve some tough but important decisions. Currently media is optimised to deliver reach. When we introduce carbon impact into that optimisation, the cost of that reach will increase.
So there’s going to be a trade-off. As an agency, it’s our job to present the options. But, ultimately it’s up to clients to decide on the size of the trade-off they want to make, and over what timeframe. The only way to make that decision is as you say to be mindful of their own sustainability goals. So it’s critical that those goals are quantified: that the organisation has measured its own impact, and can quantify what level of reduction is required from marketing. We can take positive steps forward today, but how much you trade-off is a question that has to be answered on a brand by brand basis depending on their quantified needs.
The reality is this level of reporting is still in its infancy in a lot of markets. As more and more hard data becomes available over the next decade I can only see this debate becoming larger and having more C-suite oversight.

LBB> Finally, if there's one area brands should be paying attention to right now to ensure they're making the right media decisions, what is it?

Andy> Fragmentation. It has some fundamental implications for how we plan. Price inflation has been talked about for years, but cost of reach has risen even more due to fragmentation. Especially when we factor in the role of things like attention.
Gone are the days of planning in blocks. There’s much greater benefit in planning based on audience connections and having a longer term presence at key connection moments. We also need to think more about how we plan across multiple platforms; on video in particular. This demands a range of formats and time lengths. Cut downs of a hero asset aren’t the right approach because increasingly there’s no guarantee your audience will see it. One simple implication is that media planning and connections planning needs to precede any creative development other than proposition. There are big opportunities for brands who take a lead in planning this way with huge efficiencies to be gained.

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Mobsta Ltd, Mon, 27 Mar 2023 14:29:19 GMT