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Digital Transformation Media Measurement Google

How Cadbury, Odeon and Vodafone are putting AI to work for creative, media & measurement


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

July 8, 2024 | 9 min read

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If 2023 was the year that AI captured people’s imagination, 2024 is the year for practical action - here’s how three brands are putting Google AI to work to drive effectiveness, growth and reach.

 How Cadbury, Odeon & Vodafone are putting AI to work

Leaders from Google, Vodafone, Odeon and Cadbury on stage at Advertising Week Europe

Every day, 15% of the searches on Google are completely new; searches Google has never seen before in its 25 years. And they’re not just searching through text - but voice, circle, highlight, scribble, and even humming. We know that consumer behaviors are complex and ever-changing. With more media touchpoints and creative formats than ever, it’s more than any marketing team can manage manually. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) can shine.

But while AI can do a lot, it can’t do everything. It’s still the marketers who tell the stories, determine the messaging strategy, and build connections with customers. Where AI helps is by putting it all into action, to achieve personalized relevance at scale, to create real value and drive growth - as proven by three UK brands Cadbury, Odeon and Vodafone, who shared how during a recent panel discussion at Advertising Week Europe.

Creative: how do you scale yours?

Cadbury’s most successful YouTube campaign of all time.

The Cadbury creme egg. Everyone has their own way of eating one, in varied and unique ways. But in re-introducing its iconic slogan, ‘How do you eat yours?’ for the next generation of creme egg enthusiasts, Cadbury’s shifted its strategy from hero-style ads to a platform-first approach to creative development to help maximize reach (by 200% year-on-year on YouTube).

“At Cadbury, we try to be very consumer centric, showing up with the right product, at the right place and time for consumers - our approach to creative is no different,” says Simon Crowther, marketing director of seasonal confectionery, Mondelez International. “When we have a compelling story to tell, we can’t always do that in the way we’ve done so in the past. If consumers are consuming media differently, we have to approach it differently.”

Cadbury’s used AI - not to create the assets - but to serve the assets. “We created and shot rich media assets to feed into the AI machine, then without us touching it, Google’s AI was able to serve up and auto-optimize the media assets to different people, in different ways, through different times of the day in a way that was suitable for them to consume.”

As a result, reach grew by 200% year-on-year through the platform; its CPM 40% better than the consumer packaged goods benchmark. But the best measurement of the power of creative and turning up in the right way for its consumers, Crowther says, is that view-through rates on YouTube assets were 13% ahead of other CPG brands and 10% ahead of the Mondelez benchmark. It became Cadbury’s most successful campaign ever on YouTube, “truly underpinned by getting partners on board early in the journey and not building for one type of media delivery of our creative but across the whole media landscape,” says Crowther.

Media: viewing value over volume

Odeon uses AI to understand individual nuance at scale.

The cinema landscape has changed enormously post-pandemic. Odeon Cinemas, which used to rely on walk-ins for the majority of ticket sales, now sees half of its movie-goers pre-booking online. The massive spike in streaming and the 2023 actor strike has led to a general decline in marketing spend for today’s releases. This meant, for Pippa Ward, senior marketing manager at Odeon Cinemas UK & Ireland, that “we really needed to make sure our marketing channels worked as hard as possible for us with search as a key player to put Odeon at the forefront of everyone’s mind in their booking journey.”

Odeon’s strategy was previously built on trying to target as much as possible, while spending as little as possible with granular and manual campaigns. Working with its agency, Manning Gottlieb, it transitioned to a much simpler, more streamlined AI-powered structure, turning the focus to value rather than volume.

“By using Google AI smart bidding, then integrating first-party data and contextual signals, we reach higher value customers and move away from broad keyword targeting,” says Ward. “Our AI understands nuance at scale - for example if someone is looking for a movie after work versus a family day out on the weekend.”

This led to an almost immediate spike in performance. Using AI-optimized location mentions in ads, Odeon reduced ad groups from 600 to 60 while seeing its conversion rate jump by 43%. “People are looking at AI like it’s quite a scary thing but our results show that we should definitely listen, be bold and give it a try,” says Ward.

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Measurement: MMMs dial up ROI

Vodafone used the YouTube deep dive to uncover insights and double down on the creative, formats, and devices that performed best.

As all companies adapt to the post-cookie era, one brand at the forefront of driving a more “precise and effective” measurement strategy is Vodafone. “As media leaders, we are ultimately being asked to drive more for less in the context of flat year-on-year budgets, increased sales targets and inflation - so understanding accurate measurement is essential in today’s market,” says Vanisha Vaghela, media lead at Vodafone.

To drive more bang for its buck, Vodafone has prioritized ensuring it has the right adtech in place by integrating its own first-party data. It uses marketing mix modeling (MMM) to unearth the impact its marketing has across all media channels with a holistic view of measurement. Evaluating these insights, Vaghela says, “helps in understanding the granular detail behind what’s driving a channel’s performance so that we’re optimizing our spend in a meaningful way.”

Alongside its partners Ebiquity and YouTube, Vodafone has developed a sophisticated framework in addition to high level MMM studies, with the resulting insights around different formats and frequency fundamentally changing how it plans its YouTube campaigns. For example, for its Sam Ryder campaign for Vodafone Evo, it found that using six-second bumper ads throughout campaigns rather than only at the beginning was driving twice the ROI of longer formats.

“With regard to frequency, we were operating at half of the optimal level, so therefore had room to scale our investment, drive extra sales and still generate a more efficient ROI,” explains Vaghela. And the proof is in the numbers, with Vodafone growing ROI over the last three years by 223%. “It’s important for us to understand the ad stocks, the diminishing returns and the fact that consumers are changing their behaviors and platforms they are consuming on. Continuing to understand that will be fundamental to help us shape our investment today and in the future.”

As Sophie Neary, managing director for retail and consumer goods at Google, sums up: “You cannot manage what you do not measure. Measurement is what makes digital marketing so powerful. It gives marketers the confidence to know what’s working - and do more of it. However, with established methods like third-party cookies on the way out, marketers must look to new measurement approaches for the privacy-first future.

“With new AI-powered tools, marketers can reach customers and measure the success of their campaigns - while respecting user privacy. The payoff is improved experiences for your customers, and stronger bottom-line results.”

If the past 25 years have taught us anything, it’s that the next 25 years will change everything. But one thing is certain: “AI will help marketers be better marketers,” says Neary. “It will help save you time to focus on creativity, or big-picture thinking. It will help you seize the opportunities this moment offers, and grow your business.”

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