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Agencies Media Planning and Buying New Business

How Carlsberg plans to ‘reset’ its media buying strategy


By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

July 11, 2023 | 5 min read

The Copenhagen beermaker wants to move away from classic brand awareness marketing.

carlsberg offices

Carlsberg, which owns dozens of beer brands, has named iProspect its media AOR / Carlsberg

Danish brewing giant Carlsberg Group is looking to revitalize its media investment after awarding its global media account to iProspect, ending a six year relationship with Initiative.

iProspect will handle media for the entire Carlsberg family of brands including Tuborg, Kronenbourg, Tetley's and Brooklyn from January 2024.

Interpublic Group (IPG) media agency Initiative previously held the account for six years. Stephen Stringer, Carlsberg’s vice-president of global marketing, says the review was prompted by a need to “re-engage with the market” rather than by cost pressures.

Stringer tells The Drum that the group was looking for a “reset” in its approach to media.

“We were very happy with Initiative, but it was six years into the partnership and we felt it was time to go into the market,” he explains, adding the team was looking for a “reset” in its approach to media.

“Six years ago things like programmatic weren’t even a thing; in that time it’s become a massive part of ours, and everyone else’s, journey. Things have moved on quite considerably.”

The Carlsberg account is the second major win in a month for iProspect, which picked up Saga’s £30m media buying, planning and strategy brief in June.

In a statement, iProspect’s global client and brand president Amanda Morrissey said: “With a shared passion for the brands and their success, an ambition to create new opportunities to create meaningful connections with the consumer and a cultural connection that united us, we felt the spirit of partnership throughout. We can’t wait to get started and work together to create some of the best media work in the industry.”

The review, Stringer says, took seven months in total; RFIs were issued back in December, before the brand put prospective partners through a thorough investigation. “We wanted to take the time to get it right,” he says.

Doubling down on digital

E-commerce sales (principally B2B, though there are some direct-to-consumer sales in certain markets) are a much bigger focus for Carlsberg than they were half a decade ago.

“We’re starting a big focus on e-commerce, but we’re also looking at how to build capabilities and competence in the whole area of digital marketing,” says Stringer. “We’re doubling down on investment in that area, and in data, and we were looking for a partner that was strong in those areas.”

The company is agnostic to which platforms it might use to expand its e-commerce business, leaving execution up to marketers at a country level.

As well as requiring a media partner that understood that business, it also has implications for its media mix. “All the markets are moving towards a 60/40 digital and traditional mix,” says Stringer.

That might mean fewer big, above-the-line campaigns for the company’s many brands. “Traditionally, that’s where we’ve focused – on the classic brand awareness marketing,” Stringer says. “Whereas, what we need to look at is the bottom end of the funnel, for transactional conversions.”

Asia is also an area of considerable focus for Carlsberg. Stringer says the company wanted a firm with a “strong footprint” there. Stringer says Carlsberg tested iProspect’s regional capabilities by giving separate briefs to iProspect teams across the globe. “We gave the global team in London one brief, ad then each of our top 10 markets also then gave separate briefs, and the feedback we got was equally strong,” he says.

The brewer then sent in its own in-house experts to “play around” with iProspect’s own data and content tools. “From our perspective, it’s really important to ensure that we’re not just buying the sell – we’ve got great chemistry but the tools need to have the ability,” he says. “Hence why [the review] took us so long.”

Agencies Media Planning and Buying New Business

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