Why Heineken is late to the DMP party but sees it as an advantage to win on mobile


By Natalie Mortimer | N/A

January 6, 2017 | 5 min read

While over two thirds of brands and agencies are now using a data management platform (DMP) to target consumers more effectively, Heineken is relatively slow to catch on, but is hoping to use the mistakes of more pioneering brands to its advantage in the mobile space.

Digital marketing spend still accounts for a relatively small piece of the pie at the beer brand (25%), however Heineken is hoping to double that by 2020 as the world becomes increasingly mobile centric. As part of that strategy it has started to work with a DMP to not just send out relevant mobile messages, but to link engagement with changes in purchase behaviour, something that will be a “huge focus” for the brand going forward, Ian Wilson, senior director global digital and marketing development explained to The Drum.

“We are probably a bit late on starting this now, but we have a massive ambition to go fast and the advantage of being late is we don’t make mistakes,” he said. “A lot of people have invested in things that aren’t relevant for mobile and now we are making sure because of the mobile world coming, that everything we do is relevant for targeting in mobile. [For example,] in the States you can link that to purchase data and get some fantastic links between the advertising you are putting out and their change in purchase habits. That is a huge focus for us in the future to drive that ahead.”

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Why Heineken is late to the DMP party but sees it as an advantage to win on mobile

Generating thumb-stopping creative on mobile has been a challenge for Heineken. The lion’s share of its ad spend (70%) is still on TV, so adapting the way it creates adverts for mobile has been somewhat of a challenge for a brand that "was still putting TV ads in Facebook news feeds". Heineken has already shouted about its ambition to be the “benchmark” of creativity on mobile and is working hard to realise such a lofty aim.

The brewer's focus on creativity in the digital space comes as many brands are starting to question whether they have overspent on digital. WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell last year said that he expects growth in digital ad spend to slow over the next few years as concerns over viewability, ad fraud and measurement impact budgets. Something that has already seen brands such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola try to come up with more effective ways of working.

“What we are doing is bringing together the creative agency with the media agency and with partners at the start,” said Wilson. “So Facebook is super involved with us because they are very good, they’re very helpful, they know the rules. We have also been using their creative shop as well so that is the major focus.”

On the social side, the bulk of Heineken’s work is with bloggers, particularly around football. It often works with influential bloggers, predominately in Asia, who are flown to matches such as the Champion’s League final to live stream parts of the game to their millions of followers through a Heineken lens. It’s this type of social activity that the brand prefers over social campaigns that “Don’t really get the big numbers”.

“The idea that you can launch a social campaign and it will go viral, you don’t really get the big numbers from that,” said Wilson. “I’ve seen examples from Coke when they have a really good campaign but they are maybe connecting with only 200,000 people, it’s not big enough. In a market like beer, which is FMCG, it’s all about getting the reach, so you have to advertise and that is why I question what is social nowadays and I question the agencies on it.”

Snapchat is a new area that Heineken is about to start work on to take advantage of the platform’s interactive lenses. The brewer had been hesitant in the past to create advertising for the medium given its young audience, but with 75% of users now of legal drinking age, it is interested to see what kind of engagement it can generate.


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