Mondelēz – hungry for change

In recent times, there has been much change taking place at Mondelēz. More than just its new company name change in 2012, the organisation is taking big steps to ensure it’s at the forefront of digital and innovation. Of late, it’s not been doing too shabbily either. Its real-time digital campaigns, such as the ones around Oreo during the Super Bowl, have had the ad industry sitting up and watching. And it looks like the organisation is only hungry for more change.

The appointment of Pete Mitchell as its global media innovations director is also part of that move. Hired early this year, he is a veteran in the digital space. Before his role at Mondelēz, he led global digital channel strategies for BP at his time at Mindshare, and held senior roles at Neo@Ogilvy, Asia Pacific.

And Mitchell is looking to push the organisation quickly towards its digital ambitions.

Digital at the core

The first thing he talks about is revamping the way the company looks at digital in its communications planning. He admits the company is currently lagging behind its FMCG rivals, with the likes of P&G already long in the digital space. (The latter spends nearly 30% to 35% on digital, estimates Mitchell, most of which goes to online video.)

“Candidly, we still have an infrastructure here that is working around tried and tested ways of doing things,” he says.

At this point, his focus is on getting the Mondelēz marketers to change the way digital is viewed at the planning stage.

“Digital isn’t something that we are trying to add on. It is not something we are trying to bulk onto existing TV plans,” he says adding that despite the rapid change, Mondelēz is still heavily TV reliant, and this is the same across all markets.

“The traditional thinking goes something like this: ‘Oh, I have got print campaigns, and I’ve got this digital account that goes to the bottom and if the budget gets cut I can get rid of it [digital]’.”

But the way things should be done is by planning a core idea which drives all executions and connects the brand with its target audiences and should digital be taken out, the plan would have to be reworked from scratch, he says.

“It’s getting people to understand that internally, which is what I have been doing for a long time externally in agencies. If you have talked to any media agency – that is the battle they have with clients, especially with big FMCG clients like us. There is a need to understand that we need to build communications plans now, and not media schedules,” Mitchell says.

This requires a re-education of marketers, adds Mitchell, who has been working on training to build this mindset.

He talks about working with Ogilvy’s K1ND (pronounced One Kind), its technology driven brand innovation unit. The unit’s aim is to work like a start-up and Mondelēz was one of the first few brands to partner it.

An example of the type of digitally driven work K1ND is creating is a tweet-activated diaper for Huggies, which works by having a little plastic disk inside it with a sensor that will send a tweet to a parent when a child wets his diapers. While he does not specify any products for Mondelēz, he says this is the direction it is looking to take.

However, in reality, the experience for any marketer trying to make a big shift to the digital space is that it’s not always easy to execute – for various reasons such as justifying ROI and an openness to risk-taking from upper management.

Mitchell says Mondelēz’s robust ROI measuring tools have played a big part in helping the company with its digital ambitions because this measurement-based approach runs throughout the company’s marketing operations, down from its CMO.

“We can see that when we spend more money in digital video in particular, and spend a little less in TV, the combination of that actually gives us a higher ROI. So, the ROI element you’re getting from video actually lifts that. The marketers in Mondelēz are starting to get that message right the way up to Mary Beth (West),” he says.

Mobile and start-ups

Globally, the company has been taking bold steps in mobile.

Besides actively talking about pushing for a strong programmatic buying approach, the company is also investing in what it calls its mobile futures programme. It is looking to push its media spend in mobile to 10% by the end of next year, says Mitchell.

For this, it has reached out to start-ups, asking them to pitch ideas for its brands. This initiative has already run in the US for nine brands; and in Brazil and Australia for five brands – which Mitchell iterates, has not been cheap, but allows the company to harness the expertise of start-ups.

The company has larger ambitions for this so as to harness the mobile medium’s ubiquitous reach.

“So we start to think about mobile devices and us as a FMCG company, how do you start to tie that together in ways that actually means something?

“It is likely that within the next five years, everything bought in the supermarket will be connected directly or indirectly to the web. So, all the things that you actually have will have additional information attached to them or you will be able to interact with them in some way.

“Then that becomes all IP-connected, and that gives you an enormous amount of information about how your products are being sold and where they are being sold.”

The company sells nearly eight billion products a month.

“If they were all individual pieces of information and you could tap into that some way, what would that be like?” Mitchell says.

But it seems like no company is quite at that stage yet, and this is the same for Mondelēz.

“This is a big question: a Unilever, P&G, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft kind of question – that is, how could you IP-enable all this?”

The intention behind its mobile futures programme is the company’s way of attempting to step into that mode of operation.

“The rate of change is extremely quick within Mondelēz. Even in the few months I have been here, I have seen enormous change already. And there will be more to come. How we will look like by the end of this year will not be how we look like at the end of the year after,” he says.