By Caroline Henley

September 17th, 2015

Your marketing might very well be real-time–but are you also relevant to your individual consumers?

At the recent DMEXCO Conference in Cologne, Germany, Heineken and its agency Starcom MediaVest discussed what worked best in Heineken’s evolving digital strategy at the incisive panel, “The New Brew: Data, Content and Relevancy.”  

beats adblockers

Heineken’s Executive Director of Global Marketing, Søren Hagh, and CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, Laura Desmond, sit with Re/code’s Peter Kafka and talk scaling marketing for individual relevancy.

As Heineken invests more in the digital space, how can the beverage company bypass the trend of having its ads blocked, and move into one-on-one communication with beer fans?

Heineken is going 50% digital  
Heineken currently spends 25% of its total marketing budget on digital. Two years ago it was 9%. And–“we’re going very quickly towards 50% globally,” Søren says.

That’s right–Heineken is ramping its digital spend from 9% to 50% of its total marketing in three years. A huge change for the global brand! 

The landscape is changing fast, and Heineken has been measuring on what works in each distinct market. “Understanding the digital transformation in each country defines the opportunity and your digital strategies,” says Søren.

And which media are losing out of this ad money, Peter asks? “It’s coming out of the channels that aren’t adapting very fast,” Søren says. It doesn’t mean they are investing less in TV–but print has proven to no longer be a smart option.

As more money is on the line for social media, Heineken and Starcom MediaVest need to reinvent the efficiency of their advertising in the constantly-changing social landscape.

How to get past the ad blockers  
So here’s a threat to Heineken’s rising digital budget: what to do about ad blocking? It’s become easier for consumers to block ads, particularly in light of the surge in popularity of adblocking apps in the iOS9 release.

“The advertisers who will win in the future are those who understand people can block us out,” says Søren.

So how do you create advertising that users want to consume–advertising that passes the ad blockers?

The companies that don’t think about the possibility of being blocked are the ones that are going to be left behind. “Consumers will be more and more in charge–we need to win their approval,” says Søren.

Think about the native environment of the social network that best fits with the messaging you want to communicate, Laura says. 

"You’ve got to put the audience at the center from the start. What’s the insight, what’s the brand, what are we trying to do? And then you pick the best platform."

Laura Desmond

CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group

We don’t have to spend more, Laura says. But you must tackle how to spend efficiently, how to engage efficiently.

Heineken moves to 1:1 social engagement  
As the main sponsor of Europe’s Champions League, football is very important for Heineken. But how can Søren and Laura create more value from the sponsorship?

Diving into some social data, Søren and Laura found that 75% of the Champions League viewers watch the game at home, alone, on devices. They devised a second-screen promotion called #sharethesofa, asking these solo viewers, “What does it feel like to watch the Champions League with a champion?” Football players took the hashtag one at a time, and responded to fans individually with a personal tweet.

beats adblockers

#Sharethesofa was picked up and talked about in more than 90 countries, and generated 1.2 billion impressions since its introduction. Heineken found its purchase intent grew 7% during the campaign.

beats adblockers

“What I love about #sharethesofa is that it’s based on human insights and relevancy. Football fans are looking for reasons to participate, and Twitter gave them an outlet to do so in real-time,” says Laura.

People understand the role that ads play in the world–but how do you craft messaging that hits relevant people, without being ignored? Heineken has found an answer: one-to-one engagement at scale. As companies move in the direction of hyper-targeted messages towards individual audiences, ad blocking will soon become irrelevant.

Header image credit: Flickr user jenny-pics

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