Ron Amram, Senior Director, Global Media at Mars, will be chairing the Effective Channel Integration category of the 2021 WARC Awards for Media. Here, he talks to WARC about Mars’ agile approach to media planning during lockdowns and shares his views on what makes a successful integrated campaign.
Describe your role.
As Global Head of Media for Mars Inc., my role is to build a centre of excellence across our business units and lead the company down a path of effectiveness. Media is part of the ecosystem that looks to elevate our capabilities: we buy media in 70 countries and we’re one of largest advertisers in the world, but we have to continue to raise the bar to be even more effective. Especially as consumers change where they consume media, we need to constantly improve how we use new platforms and leverage data. In a complex organisation with hundreds of brands globally, this building of capabilities is something we need to do in an integrated way across brand teams, through measurement, CMI and data.
How has the pandemic impacted your role? What have been your biggest challenges?
COVID brought about two disruptions at once. On the one hand, the recession, which has driven some of our brands and categories down (others, though, have actually gone up – for example, because of pet adoption, our pet-care business has grown during the pandemic). Because of this, from a media perspective, budgets were challenged. We had to cut, optimise and drive efficiency. In a recession, the challenge is to be flexible: constantly measuring to ensure you are making the right decisions.
On the other hand, consumer behaviour changed quite drastically: consumption changed and e-commerce became incredibly more important. Some channels disappeared entirely: you couldn’t go to a movie theatre, so we lost a relevant touchpoint for Mars. For me, this put stress and focus on two key components: measurement and optimisation. We had to be faster and more iterative at both of those as things happened quicker and in what was pretty much uncharted territory. We had to have our ear to the ground to be able to move quickly, change and iterate.
At the same time, it’s not just about cuts. As we had cycles of lockdowns, it was important to also know when to spend up to try and win back consumers as things opened up. It was about trying to be in a growth position when the opportunity was right and to scale down when the opportunity was gone. As things started to improve, we pivoted back to investment and growth again, while remaining prepared if things were to go back the other way. Being nimble, constantly measuring – these things were important before, but they became even more important during and post-COVID.
How has Mars evolved its media strategy during lockdowns?
Many of the changes we made were about increasing our flexibility and fluidity. We were working with our business strategy teams and planning teams to decide where we should put our media to support markets opening or closing.
Despite budgets being down last year, our business leadership was not averse to spending in marketing: the challenge was to spend it where it made a difference. The front part of the year was about cutting back and ring-fencing, while the second was about finding windows of time to double down. That was our real pivot in terms of planning.
For us, the belief in the power of creativity and branded content is still there. We believe in the power of our campaigns and we’re proving that advertising still works. A recent example is our ‘Get Your Ding Back’ work for gum brand Extra, which is a celebration of when COVID will lessen its grip and people will be able to socialise again. Our goal is to be creative, get consumers excited about our brands again and put media support where we think we can have disproportionate impact.
What do you think is the key to effective integrated strategies?
Being integrated at the start is the key thing. The campaigns that stick in my mind the most are the ones that appear across as many elements of the brand journey as possible. Great integrated campaigns flow through not only TV or social, but also search, in-store, sponsorship, packaging – the entire consumer experience. Then, on top of being consistent across channels, they should also be connected with those moments when consumers think about the brand and its products.
What will you be looking for in this year's Effective Channel Integration entrants?
A combination of creativity and effectiveness. We are a creative industry, we thrive on big ideas, but those ideas ultimately have the purpose to grow our brand. In today’s world, great creativity comes from the ability to integrate campaigns across new platforms as well as using tech and innovation to drive consumer interest, attention and excitement. So, it’s not just about a new outdoor or TV ad, but about pushing the boundaries of each platform and finding new ways of engaging consumers. What we’re looking for is this kind of creativity, followed by the ability to turn it into something that is powerful for brands.
What advice would you give to those considering entering?
Whether you’re a small or large player, if you have ideas that you are proud of – ideas that are new, interesting, fun and had a positive effect on your business – go for it. We’re looking for work that is different and impactful, that leverages the power of creativity and turns it into a powerful growth driver for a brand, no matter its size or popularity.
The WARC Awards for Media are open for entries. The deadline for submission is 22nd September, 2021.
This free-to-enter, global scheme will reward effective comms planning across four categories: Effective Use of Tech, Best Use of Data, Effective Channel Integration and Effective Use of Partnerships & Sponsorships.
For more info on the competition and to submit your work, visit the Awards website.