Brand Marketers From Hershey’s and T-Mobile Share Insights on a Data-Driven Approach to Advertising

How data is fueling outcomes for two distinct businesses

There’s no longer any doubt that data-driven advertising is a winning strategy. New research conducted by Adweek and The Trade Desk reinforced this and found, among other things, that programmatic-first marketers are significantly better at measuring performance and have higher levels of confidence in achieving optimal ROI. Those who lead with programmatic are also 15% more likely to be confident in their ROI.

With these findings in mind, Jed Dederick, SVP of client development at The Trade Desk set the stage for a panel discussion to gain insights from two leading brand marketers, Kari Marshall, VP of media at T-Mobile, and Charlie Chappell, head of media and communications planning at Hershey’s. Here are the three key takeaways from the conversation.

Let data be your guide

When the pandemic hit, it affected consumer consumption habits. T-Mobile’s Marshall said the company noticed significant increases in consumer TV streaming. At the same time, T-Mobile’s retail stores were unable to open, so the company was forced to think about servicing current and potentially new customers through new digital experiences. Marshall admits that, in the beginning, no one knew exactly what would work, but they had real-time data to inform media investments in the short term. The company had merged with Sprint in April, and it was important to send out a message that the two companies were now one cohesive entity.

For Hershey’s, the pandemic impacted Easter, the company’s biggest buying season which meant throwing their existing media playbook out of the window. New strategies emerged and carried the brand through to Halloween, the next big surge in candy consumption. “One of the use cases for some incredibly granular data was getting numbers back from retail channels almost at the store level that showed where there was excess inventory versus where there isn’t, and then leveraging things like programmatic media buys to direct more media into those locations where it wasn’t going as well as we wanted it to,” said Chappell. “That’s what got people to say, ‘Wow, if we start to dig into this data more, what other use cases can we find that can bring incremental commercial value to the company?’”

Tie the data to business goals

It’s not data for data’s sake, it’s data for solving specific business use cases. “The key to success is knowing how much to bank on the data you’re receiving immediately versus the long term,” said Marshall. She added, “Some data you look at and have patience for because it’s not something that anyone is going to act on today, or in a month.” From a technology standpoint, Marshall emphasized the importance of looking at partners that can help solve and answer questions about short- and long-term decisions, especially now that the company is starting to invest in things that are slower to burn.

Chappell agreed that ad tech solutions provide broader insights into data. “The more that we can see across an open ecosystem what’s performing, we’re able to make smarter, better decisions both in the short and long term. Once you see the power of that you get kind of hungry and you want to see more.”

New spaces like connected TV open up opportunities

Whether candy or communications, both businesses have embraced new platforms and recognize the advantages of CTV. In Marshall’s estimation, it’s not the pipes of delivery that are important, but the actual content. “Regardless of how the consumer is accessing that content, we have to try to anticipate how we would reach that consumer once they stop viewing in a more traditional linear fashion.”

Hershey’s is also paying attention to this shift away from linear. “Asking where the consumer is going led us on a journey to CTV. They’re consuming it on the same screen. The creative part is simple because you don’t change anything. It’s just a matter of now of let’s go follow that consumer,” said Chappell.

This shift also has opened up a broader and more nuanced process of driving advertising relevance for the consumer, which goes beyond a traditional age demographic approach. Connected TV allows for more sophisticated relevance with different variables. For one campaign, it allowed Hershey’s to focus on parents with kids in a similar age bracket.

Take the old thinking out, insisted Chappell. Marshall agreed; “I would say not moving into some of these new places is limiting your reach. We’re going to miss out on that ability to reach everyone if we’re not in these new spaces. There are consumers that are not watching linear TV. How are you going to reach them?”