Modern Marketing Agency Models Brand Strategy

Boots CMO: New in-house agency will be ‘central’ to retailer’s marketing strategy

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

September 22, 2021 | 6 min read

This week, high street retailer Boots announced its expansion into adland with the launch of Boots Media Group, its own in-house agency, to make creative work for its suppliers. Chief marketer Pete Markey tells The Drum why the initiative is ’central’ to Boots’s marketing strategy.

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Boots chief marketer Pete Markey tells The Drum why it has launched its own ad agency

British beauty retailer Boots is a ubiquitous presence on British high streets, with over 2,300 stores throughout the nation. Though it’s best known as a purveyor of beauty products and the occasional meal deal, its launch this week of its own ad agency – Boots Media Group (BMG) – takes it into new territory.

”The creation of Boots Media Group is going to be game-changing,” according to Paula Bobbett, vice-president, director of Boots.com. ”We can now create truly integrated end-to-end marketing campaigns to maximize cut-through and keep Boots at the forefront of our customers’ minds.”

The basic idea is simple. BMG‘s clients will be Boots‘s existing suppliers, and its brief will be to help them create campaigns for Boots customers, powered by exclusive insights from rich first-party data gleaned from the Boots Advantage Card loyalty scheme.

Why has Boots launched its own agency?

Pete Markey, chief marketing officer of Boots, tells The Drum the agency was in development for the last nine months and will carry a full-service offering.

While the principal opportunity is for Boots to work more closely with suppliers, Markey says its motivation was also about reorganizing its marketing operation. Previously, brands wanting to activate through Boots shops and Boots.com would have dealt with separate teams – but now Boots Media Group will handle everything.

“The alternative is we keep going the way we were, where [we] weren’t fully meeting the needs of suppliers,“ says Markey. “We went out and spoke to suppliers, we could see there was a real need for a service like this. We know suppliers want this, we know we could get even better at it.“

Behind Boots Media Group is an involved partnership with retail media agency Threefold, which won a competitive tender process for the business. Markey tells The Drum that Boots staff from its partnership marketing team have transferred to the company, though all staff will be either based remotely or at Boots’s Nottingham headquarters. “It’s a true partnership,“ he says.

The Advantage Card grants Boots a treasure trove of data on its customers and their behavior. Though it already shared some of this information with suppliers – Boots maintains a partnership with data startup InfoSum – it‘s ramping up access to its first-party data through BMG.

“We’ve got 17 million active Advantage Card holders ... it’s a 24-year-old loyalty program and it’s one of the strongest, in my view, still in the UK. We’ll be celebrating the 25th birthday next year, which is a big milestone for a loyalty program like that.“

How will BMG benefit Boots suppliers?

Though Boots will be encouraging clients to use its own channels in-store and on Boots.com, this isn‘t a closed ecosystem; suppliers can use its data to ground their advertising elsewhere.

“We have for many years been talking to our customers about supplier products. But what we wanted to do is work with them in a more detailed way to access not just our own channels, but also to go into paid media together.

“This was about extending the opportunity to talk to customers or lookalikes to boost customers through not just our own channels, but also through more paid-for channels as well.“

According to Markey, BMG will be a crucial cog in the Boots marketing engine, but it’s also set to deepen relationships with suppliers.

“It’s central to our marketing strategy. If you look at what we want to do in connecting better with suppliers, and with our customers to build loyalty and affinity, this is a really important part of our marketing strategy and in what we’re planning to do over the next three years and beyond.

“Our brand is about delivering a great customer experience, and putting the right message with the right product in our customers’ hands at the right moment is what this is all about. Actually, closer working with suppliers means we’re at the forefront of great new launches, great innovations, and we’re able to put those in our customers’ hands very quickly and properly in the right way.“

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