Gianluca Toccafondi, Global Integrated Media Manager at IKEA Retail (Ingka Group), will be judging the Effective Channel Integration category of the 2020 WARC Media Awards. Here, he talks to Chiara Manco about the impact of lockdowns on media strategy, the evolution of the media landscape and the ever-important need to balance long- and short-term efforts.

Describe your role.

In my role for IKEA Retail, part of Ingka Group (the largest IKEA franchisee in the world) – my responsibility is to ensure that media investment generates growth, in the short term – as revenue – and the long term – as equity. I’m also in charge of the integration of paid, owned and earned media, strategic approaches and measuring results through econometrics and attribution. 

How has your role been impacted by COVID-19 and lockdowns? 

As soon as lockdowns hit, we turned to thought leaders to know which direction to go: whether it would be best to switch off or keep our investment in advertising. In deciding on a media strategy, we used the learnings from a conference we had hosted with Peter Field at the end of January. At the time, while colleagues from China were entering crisis mode, we had no idea the pandemic would extend the way it did. When the crisis hit, we realised that what was discussed then – the need for balancing brand and tactical efforts to drive both short- and long-term growth – was more pertinent than ever in the current situation. 

Our chosen direction was to keep investing to maintain our share of voice. We stopped advertising on media such as cinema and OOH, and moved investment to online and TV. Some countries remained silent on TV for the first month, then started later – different choices were made according to the reopening plans of each country. 

How can brands stay relevant at this time and what can they do to support consumers? What has IKEA done in this respect?

IKEA’s purpose is to enable a better everyday life through products that are sustainable and affordable. We recognised that people in lockdown experience tensions that can be alleviated by home furnishing solutions, but we didn’t want to be tactical in our communications. Our strategy was to reassure and support people, making it easier to live their everyday life in such new and extraordinary circumstances.

As stores closed and consumers could only purchase through e-commerce, we adapted to this new behaviour by promptly transforming our stores into click-and-collect points. This was a transformation we were already planning on, but lockdowns sped it up and it was very successful in terms of results. 

How did the #StayHome ad from IKEA Spain come about? 

The ad wasn’t even produced: it was assembled. Unable to film any new material, the team collated existing footage from our video bank. At IKEA, we have a culture of sharing with pride, so when marketers from other countries saw the ad, they took it and repurposed it for their markets.

Do you think IKEA is well positioned to deal with these exceptional circumstances? 

After a drop of interest in the first two weeks, we have seen an increase in demand for home furnishing in general. People are definitely more aware of the tensions that can arise from spending a lot of time at home, plus there are new needs dictated by working from home. 

On one side, we have a refreshed interest in home furnishing, on the other an economic downturn that may result in reduction of the market itself. Then, the value-for-money formula IKEA offers will become increasingly important for people.

How do you think the retail category will change in the post-lockdown world? 

We are seeing an acceleration of what was already in the pipelines – for example, in terms of sustainability and supply chains. I think we will also reach a new normal where e-commerce will significantly boost other retail channels. People who wouldn’t dream of buying furniture online are starting to, and this extends beyond millennials.

You judged the Effective Channel Integration category in the 2018 WARC Media Awards. How do you think the media landscape has evolved since then?

Today, it’s harder to connect with audiences. For example, the attention people give to video is far bigger than before, but it is also very fragmented, which is why multi-screen integration is becoming increasingly important in planning strategies.

Another phenomenon I’ve seen emerging over these past two years is how engagement with a brand can start from every part of the media landscape. In the past, everything cascaded down from TV or video, now it can be a viral piece of user-generated content: think about TikTok. From a brand perspective, the challenge lies in leveraging these opportunities without coming across as inauthentic. If you fail to create relevance, it’s easy to not only be dismissed, but also suffer from long-lasting damage to brand health. 

Share an example of a well-integrated campaign – not from IKEA – that has impressed you recently. 

The Gold-winning easyJet campaign from the 2018 Media Awards still strikes me as a really well integrated multi-screen campaign. Beyond that, I think Nike is a great example of how you can integrate brand-love-driving work and tactical activations. Its balance of long- and short-term thinking is inspiring.

What do you expect from this year's entrants? 

Firstly, the orchestration of messages across multiple channels and secondly how this orchestration led to a business outcome. As media guys, we are always trapped in creating output: engagement, CTR, ROAS, etc. But at the end of the day, what really matters is the business outcome, measured through sophisticated econometrics modelling. 

What advice would you give to those considering entering the Media Awards' Channel Integration category?

Make sure you measure outcomes: somebody once said that if you don’t measure things, they don’t exist!

The WARC Media Awards will close for entries on 23 September. Click here to enter your work in one of the Awards' four categories: Effective Channel Integration, Effective Use of Tech, Best Use of Data and Effective Use of Partnerships & Sponsorships. Entry is free and there’s a prize fund for winning work.