The Buy-Side View: Q&A with Pernod Ricard’s Thibaut Portal


Thibaut PortalIn this week’s ‘Buy-Side View’, we speak with Thibaut Portal, global head of media and content at French wine and spirits producer Pernod Ricard. In this interview, Portal discusses the need for more adoption of fraud detection tech by publisher, explains why Pernod Ricard’s investments in OTT are limited, and describes how his company decides when to bring media buying in-house.

What is your biggest bugbear when it comes to video and OTT advertising?

This isn’t so much an annoyance for us, but we’re always looking for improvement on measurement, viewability, and attention of consumers towards our video assets. We want to be sure that through the different platforms that we’re leveraging, we’re in the position of making sure, up to a certain extent, that our messages are getting traction, attention, and are being viewed by consumers. We also want to ensure that our video messages are being shown to the right targets, and then for us to optimise towards our objectives.

Today, in terms of platforms, settings and contexts we’re in a very good place when it comes to video advertising – now the question is really around the measurability and the optimisation of these elements.

There’ are certainly questions around of adoption of standards here. We leverage IAS for fraud detection and viewability measurement, and obviously there’s other tools and solutions available, but we don’t always see the same adoption from a publisher point of view – and I’m also talking about the social media networks.

How much media buying – if any – are you carrying out in-house?

We are doing in-house media buying for part of our business. We have at the local level some resources for media buying, especially in markets where our investments aren’t very big. Also in some markets, due to limitations in terms of advertising for alcohol, we do a lot of social media advertising, and because of the tools provided by the social media platforms it’s pretty easy to train local and internal resources to do that.

So we have a very pragmatic approach – when it makes sense for us to internalise, we do it, and when we require expertise from agencies, we’ll leverage that too.

Which ad tech solution has delivered the most impact for your business?

We started four years ago shifting towards programmatic trading, so the capability brought by our demand-side platforms for media buying has dramatically impacted our business – our ways of working, our ways of media buying, and our ways of analysing and targeting our consumers. The DSPs we work with are Google DV360, Adobe’s TubeMogul [now Adobe Advertising Cloud], and TabMo.

Which do you think video advertising is the most effective for – generating awareness and brand-building, or driving short-term sales?

Historically we’ve been a heavy user of video advertising because our brands are storytelling brands. To convey the story of Absolut, or an experience you can have with Chivas, that’s not something you can do on a static banner ad. So video advertising has definitely been key for us to be able to tell these stories to our consumers.

In that sense, we’ve been using video advertising a lot for awareness and brand-building. But in the past year and a half, we’ve been adding that objective of driving sales, because we also believe that if we’re doing a good job of storytelling, a consumer’s next action should be to buy the product!

Are you investing in OTT advertising?  How will the shift towards OTT change your TV buying strategy?

From the nature of our business, we’re pretty limited. TV is highly restrictive in many markets when it comes to the wines and spirits industry. So we’re investing in OTT advertising where it’s possible from a regulatory point of view.

Is it changing our TV buying strategy? Not really, again because regulation means TV is not our primary media channel. But it is an opportunity we’re looking into where it’s available.

What could brands do to help clean up the industry?

We believe in working together with other brands through trade associations and industry bodies. We are heavily involved and engaged in international organisations, so the WFA for example. And not only are we engaged, present and active at top level, but also we are part of a specific commission at the WFA which is based on wines and spirits. So here, along with other players from the industry, we are working to guarantee that advertising for wines and spirits is being delivered to consumers over the legal drinking limit, in a reputable and compliant way.

We are also very involved in, and also founding members of, a couple of other trade groups, including the IARD [International Alliance for Responsible Drinking]. The IARD maybe has the most influence, and at the beginning of this fiscal year we agreed on a strong commitment with all the main social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and so on, to create standards for avoiding alcohol adverts of any kind being shown to users who are underage, or who have said they don’t want to see ads from wines and spirits companies.

Which metrics do you value the most when it comes to video and OTT advertising?

What matters for me is the time spent by consumers on our video advertising – so how many seconds have our consumers seen our video advertising for. Again, we’re in the business of storytelling, so what matters for us is that the story lands in the consumer’s mind, and that’s not a question of three seconds, it’s a question of 15-20 seconds, so that’s the metric that really matters for us.

If you had £1,000,000 to spend and were forced to choose between content marketing, influencer marketing or paid advertising, which would you choose and why?

Although I’m a media guy, I would go for content. We’re a group with brands that have so many stories to tell, and we believe there’s a lot of potential interest from consumers in our stories. From stories of how our rum is made in Havana, to the projects Absolute is doing on sustainability, to our environmental projects. Our business is about bringing people together to enjoy good moments, so it’s definitely about content!

Out of all the video and TV advertising campaigns you’ve been involved with, which are you most proud of?

I think our ‘Nothing to Hide’ campaign for Absolut Vodka – it was pretty mind blowing. We were in charge of the media buying for that campaign, and I will always remember the day when one of my team came to me and said “Thibaut we’ve just received the media assets, and they’re all naked.” And we had to run the campaign across 25 markets! But it was super sharp, super well done, and what a challenge! It worked well from a creative point of view and from a media point of view, and we got really great results.


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