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Publicis Kitchen on how it spiced up McCormick’s digital transformation

Spice maker McCormick developed a new digital hub to standardise its operations.

Publicis Kitchen won the ‘Best Digital Transformation’ category at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries 2021. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project...

The challenge

Prior to the creation of its digital hub, spice maker McCormick engaged a patchwork of technology partners across the region that were duplicating efforts. An inconsistent approach to account set-up and media deployment along with inefficient resourcing and outdated entry-level digital foundations meant that the organization was not fit for present or future consumer needs. It was time to take drastic measures.

McCormick pitched its entire European business to identify a transformational partner that would eliminate the issues that were holding it back and catapult it into the future. Spark Foundry and Leo Burnett united under the brand Publicis Kitchen to deliver a dramatic transformation strategy through a roadmap that would see the creation of central hub that streamlined marketing efforts and turbo charged digital marketing capability.

The strategy

At the start of 2020, post pitch win, agencies and client rapidly mobilized to form one seamless working group with a united mission. The immediate priority was to start up a functioning digital hub based in London that would serve the region.

This meant building a biddable media technology stack (including a new parent-child adserver, bid management platforms, verification partner and measurement capabilities), creating media playbooks for search, social and programmatic, as well as creating cross-platform audience segments in order to deliver media efficiently. While we were organizing our own operations, we also set up JBPs with key partners to ensure that learnings, workshops and betas could be applied across the business.

If this was going to work, we had to get our house in order. This meant putting the less glamourous, but essential foundations into position. We developed a regionally consistent taxonomy, determining consistent success measures and KPIs, and built a dashboard to provide our single source of truth for all owned-channel and media reporting.

However, we harbored far greater ambitions than just getting the basics into place. So while we ensured that all digital systems spoke to each other in a manner that made activation more efficient and insights gathering quicker, we also implemented a 70/20/10 innovation framework to encode an innovation mindset into every portfolio brand.

Core innovation pillars such as personalization, search, performance and production were scoped out, allowing us to pre-plan purposeful and deliberate tests for every brand in every quarter.

Given the laser focus of our endeavors, the hub took only three months to set up and was delivering media across the region by Easter – surpassing client and agency expectations for an operation of this size and magnitude.

The execution

Once the foundations were in place and successful media running across the region via the London hub, it was time to build more advanced capabilities to turn McCormick into a mature digital practitioner. We called it Transformation 2.0.

The first cornerstone of this part of the transformation was to embed GA360 capabilities into the site. Within this, the first job to be done was to link the Google stack (GA360 with SA360 & DV360) together to ensure that data could flow for attribution and to pass audiences for targeting.

This would turn the first party data from the site into a media asset and elevate D2C capabilities. A first-party data strategy was built using segmented ‘quality visitor’ website audiences (those who had taken an action on site) for product retargeting, encouraging users to complete a purchase or to consider buying similar products they had shown an interest in.

The second major cornerstone of transformation 2.0 was in advancing digital production capabilities. To do this, we created a new role of data translator who would feed data-led insights into the production process. Thanks to this new role we now knew which creatives had worked well and why. We also now knew of data derived trends that fed into the creation of new assets, which were now being produced much faster. Critically, because of the data translator role, we found that we didn’t have to produce as much content and now understood how to re-use existing assets for greater efficiencies.

Combining these two cornerstones together led to the creation of scaled dynamic content optimization that delivered the right message to the right person at the right time and in the right environment across search, social and programmatic media.

The results

Since the birth of the hub, all key measures are significantly up, or beating benchmarks:

  • Overall, the McCormick business within EMEA has seen its strongest growth in five years and has crucially stolen share from the competition

  • Enhanced media planning and buying has positively contributed to a +29% digital ROI YoY

  • Digital channels have delivered +30% v benchmarks as measured by Mediasense audits

  • Production efficiencies resulting in up to 86% of assets reused or adapted per campaign v 12% in 2019

We are continually advancing capabilities and are currently working on projects or planned them all the way into 2022. Our current priority is transition from out to in-housing digital performance elements such as PPC, social and retailer media in order to gain speed to market and a further advantage over competitors, with in-housing elements currently being assessed on efficiency, agility and effectiveness.

In conjunction with this shift, we are also leveraging our digital capabilities to increase digital investment next year across the brands within the portfolio. Marketing budgets are shifting further from TV to up to 100% digital investment in some cases.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries 2021. Find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.

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