HOW WALMART IS GOING AFTER BRANDS LIKE KELLOGG’S FOR RETAIL AD DOLLARS

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Big-box store is running beta tests with top marketers to prove its nascent ad platform is working

Walmart has been meeting with major brands like Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble and Unilever to sell them on the fledgling ad platform that it is building to take on Amazon.

This week, the retail giant held a conference, the 52Sixty Summit, in New York City, hosting the marketing teams from the top brands to walk them through the promise of the ad platform, which is all about shopper data that connects dots for advertisers, according to Stefanie Jay, GM and VP of Walmart Media Group. Walmart is taking advantage of its real-world stores, where 85 percent of the sales occur, to measure the effectiveness of ads—if consumers see an ad online the only way to know the effect is to track their path to the actual checkout line.

“The platform has ability to both target and measure advertising, ingesting both online and offline sales,” Jay said in an interview in New York on Thursday. “If you want to show an ad to a customer digitally and know if it’s driving online or offline sales, this is the platform to do it on.”

This is the message Jay delivered to marketers like Gail Horwood, CMO of Kellogg’s, who is working with Walmart on beta tests of the advertising platform. The tests are looking at what creative works best in shopper ads and how to measure the impact of ads by integrating with the Walmart app, which detects when a consumer goes to the store.

Walmart has shown that it wants to be a major force in retail advertising, especially since it started to build an in-house media group instead of working with brands through WPP’s Triad. In May, the company held its first NewFronts advertising presentation for its Vudu video service. Now that it has advertisers’ attentions, it needs to show results.

Here is what Walmart needs to do to convince brands that it’s a serious partner in advertising:

Measurement mix
“While we absolutely believe in the promise of it, we also want to ensure that we’re validating our advertising spend the same way we validate it with all of our partners,” Horwood said this week in an interview alongside Jay in New York.

Walmart says it works with outside partners to prevent ad fraud, verify display and ensure brand safety, still brands rely on Walmart’s internal data to understand exactly when a consumer shopped for their products on its website and then came to store for purchase.

“Our core measurement is based on first-party proprietary data. We do not use third-party data,” the company said in an e-mail statement. “We measure the impact of ads based on how consumers discover, research and buy products.”

Size matters
Walmart is clearly a large retailer, the biggest in the U.S., and it says 95 percent of U.S. shoppers buy from its stores and websites every year. Still, to make the kind of advertising commitment Walmart presents, brands need to be able to reach those shoppers online. Walmart.com hits 100 million people a month, according to comScore, and Walmart does not say publicly exactly how many viewers it can reach on Vudu.

At its NewFronts event, Walmart launched Vudu Audience Extension, a way for brands to use its data to target ads to viewers outside of its own websites. Brands need to know that if they invest in tailoring ads with specially crafted creative assets just for doing business on Walmart, that they can hit enough people to justify the commitment.

Walmart is promoting a total marketing package with brands—one that gets consumers when they watch shows online, research products, open their apps while in the store and connects all the way to the presentation of their products in the aisles. For instance, Kellogg’s is interested targeting messages in Walmart’s app when people come to the store but enough people have to open their phones to make that worthwhile.

“We need that to work at scale for that to be meaningful for us,” Horwood says. “And that’s what we need to see.”

Creative reset
Working with Walmart has already helped change Kellogg’s on its creative side. It is now literally thinking outside the box when it comes to how it presents its products online.

Kellogg’s is testing when ads lead consumers to hit that “buy” button online, and there are more enticing ads than just a box of cereal. Kellogg’s online advertising is now incorporating performance marketing, campaigns designed strictly to drive sales, with brand building.

“We’re presenting our food with more of a lifestyle angle, closer-in food images have been stronger converters for us, even though it’s a performance platform,” Horwood says. “Historically, we might have put a package with a very clear call-to-action. That’s where we’re seeing this blended experience.”

This article first appeared in www.adage.com

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Garett Sloane

Garett Sloane, Senior Reporter, Platforms

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