Master Blaster: Arnott’s CMO Jenni Dill, Publicis CEO Mike Rebelo on powering 10% sales growth across entire portfolio via market mix modelling, media benchmarking, creative testing, going large on TV – and winning Ad Council’s Grand Effie
What you need to know:
- Arnott’s scooped the Grand Effie last month – the top award for advertising effectiveness based squarely on marketing output and investment that drives results.
- CMO Jenni Dill had to build a business case for a big, emotional TV-driven master brand campaign with private equity owners more renowned for making hard, analytical decisions.
- But she knew it was probably the best way to drive growth across the portfolio after several years of under-investment as previous owners Campbell’s readied the business for a sale.
- So she went to work with market mix modelling, media benchmarking and creative testing to be sure of the numbers – and where the growth opportunities lay – before going to the board for investment.
- They bought in, and with a relatively modest budget, Dill says Arnott’s grew sales by 10 per cent and gained market share by three quarters of a percentage point. ROI for the campaign stood at $2.60 in terms of gross profit.
- Publicis boss Mike Rebelo admits the agency was a little nervous when the new owners, management and CMO came in. But he says Dill has quickly changed the pace and commercial focus of the marketing operation – and given the agency data and analytical nirvana. Now they know what’s working, and what’s not, in hard business metrics.
- Plus, Dill has been converted from “healthy sceptic” to firm believer in the integrated creative and media model the likes of Publicis are stitching back together for large brands.
- The two think the campaign has a long way to run. So they aren’t planning to change much. But they are hoping to win another Effie or two – even against a backdrop of ever tightening household and marketing budgets.
- There’s more detail, nuance and a tale of heaving frustration turned triumph in the podcast. Listen to it here.
If you ever want to be able to submit to a case for increased investment to your exec team or board, you better have a proven return model. Because that's what you're dealing with. You are talking to people who are quite willing to invest money to drive growth and deliver results, but they've got to see the proof in the pudding. And I think the model we've now got allows us to have those conversations.
Reversing biscuit deprecation
Former McDonald’s CMO Jenni Dill joined Arnott’s just after KKR had acquired the biscuit giant from Campbell’s for $3.2bn. Within 13 days, and mid-Covid, she had to present a three-year strategic plan to the board – a plan that so far has worked so well it’s ahead of schedule. Growth is powering and the hard, rational investment types have an emotional, brand-led, TV-heavy ad campaign to thank for it. But there were hard yards, and hard numbers, behind that master brand plan.
“Whenever a business of that size and scale is up for sale, there’s usually a lengthy process that goes with it and a lot of big initiatives get put on hold,” says Dill. In other words, product innovation and brand investment had been crimped by two years of “sell mode”, marketshare had fallen into “a slow, steady decline” and the owners were keen to re-fire the thrusters. “The model was all about growth,” says Dill. “That’s when I signed up.”
The job was to grow both the core brands and sub brand portfolio while branching into new areas. Arnott’s had been slow off the mark on some consumer trends – healthier snacks, gluten-free ranges, more protein and the like – and Dill set about “playing a very fast catch-up.”
That meant doing product development and tastings over Zoom – this was mid 2020 onwards. But one positive, at least for Arnott’s, was that as Australia went into lockdown, people tended to snack more – and stock up pantries. Which provided a cornerstone of “good modest growth” on which to build the turnaround. “We just wanted to make sure we had a solid plan coming out of [Covid],” says Dill. “That sort of stuff takes time, you can’t put it on hold and then expect it to just happen overnight.”
At the same time, “we had to build belief again in marketing in the organisation,” says Dill. “We had to make sure that we had really strong commercial orientation in the marketing team.” That meant embedding a mentality that “every marketing dollar is an investment and what I am delivering as a return is an outcome … and being really clear on being able to measure that and sell it back to my peers in the c-suite, or the board for a case for further investment”.
We wanted to have that umbrella that sat across the entire portfolio that allowed you to lift everything in the portfolio versus choosing that one piece of it to support all the other pieces. Making those choices is never really a win-win scenario. You are always supporting something and then starving something else.
Master brand master plan
While plotting new products and growth paths for sub brands, Arnott’s started reinvesting in its largest brands, Shapes and Tim Tams, “to make sure we had a really clear proposition, a really clear advertising campaign,” says Dill. It got the ball rolling. “We had some really good results. But we needed to do something bigger.”
Hence going all-in on a master brand campaign.
“Arnott’s is the name above the door. It’s the name that we’ve all grown up with. There’s 157 years of baking legacy in behind the Arnott’s name. It’s a true Aussie icon and it felt like if we could build a campaign that honoured both the legacy of Arnott’s – without getting stuck in the yesteryear and landed very firmly in consumers of today, and how they are consuming and engaging with our products – it would be really powerful,” says Dill.
Whereas Dill had done huge amounts of brand work in previous roles with Pepsico and McDonald’s, “it still felt quite disconnected, you had different platforms for different things”, she says of the latter.
“We wanted to have that umbrella that sat across the entire portfolio that allowed you to lift everything in the portfolio versus choosing that one piece of it to support all the other pieces,” says Dill. “Making those choices is never really a win-win scenario. You are always supporting something and then starving something else – particularly in FMCG, where you’ve got to make those tough choices.”
Plus Arnott’s had enough brand heft to get the network effects of scale.
“The maths behind it would say, if you can get it right, the payoff is huge,” says Dill. “But we had a lot of work to do.”
When Jenni came in, there was a real change of tempo. A laser sharp focus on measurement, tracking, making sure every dollar is accounted for, making sure every dollar is optimised, knowing where that dollar is going to give us the biggest return … [Without it] I don’t think we’d be sitting here talking about a Grand Effie.
The fear of a new CMO’s arrival
“It was an interesting time for an agency partner,” admits Publicis Groupe CEO, Mike Rebelo. “When you’re looking at new owners, a new management team, a new CMO… agencies get very anxious.”
But then things started to move fast.
“What we felt very quickly was a change in tempo, with Jenni’s leadership, coming in and getting very focused around fewer, bigger bets, particularly around Tim Tams and Shapes – and then the master brand portfolio.”
The other noticeable shift, per Rebelo, “was just a real laser sharp focus on measurement, tracking, making sure every dollar is accounted for, making sure every dollar is optimised, knowing where that dollar is going to give us the biggest return”.
Arnott’s subsequent investment in marketing analytics under Dill, says Rebelo, “has been enlightening for all of us.” Without it, he suggests, “I don’t think we’d be sitting here talking about a Grand Effie”.
Dill backs that view. Without doubling down on the hard numbers, she probably wouldn’t have been able to unlock the investment for a master brand push in the first place.
Business metrics or bust
“Every marketing dollar should be treated as an investment. You can have investments that pay over different time horizons on different initiatives, but you should be able to demonstrate a return, because you’re investing the company’s money on behalf of the company to drive an outcome. So being able to demonstrate what’s happened as a result is really important,” says Dill.
That’s particularly true, “when you are buying nefarious things like airtime that nobody else can see – you can’t walk out the back and count a pallet of airtime”, she adds.
“Having investors on the board that are willing to invest to drive growth, it makes it even more important to be able to show when we invested this money this happened as a result.”
Clicks and vanity metrics won’t cut it, says Dill.
“It’s about what happened into your business metrics as a result, and being able to pull those apart is becoming increasingly important. If you ever want to be able to submit to a case for increased investment to your exec team or board, you better have a proven return model. Because that’s what you’re dealing with,” she says.
“You are talking to people who are quite willing to invest money to drive growth and deliver results, but they’ve got to see the proof in the pudding. And I think the model we’ve now got allows us to have those conversations.”
We were using market mix modelling across all of our marketing investment to clearly understand what the business result was as an outcome of our marketing investment, across sales, market share and profit … And that was really important.
Market mix modelling
To get to that model and make the investment case, Dill made a beeline for hard numbers.
She hired Analytic Partners to undertake market mix modelling. Arnott’s had done “one little foray [into MMM] in the past but then had put it on the shelf and pretty much ignored it,” per Dill.
The exercise helped Arnott’s to take stock of where its marketing sat, its standing versus peers and the best in class and the opportunities to improve. “And that was really, really important,” says Dill.
“We were using it across all of our marketing investment to clearly understand what the business result was as an outcome of our marketing investment.”
That ran across “sales, market share and profit, all three,” says Dill. “But you can optimise that model to do different things. If you need to grow share this year or this quarter, you can swing the mix. If you need to be driving profit, you can swing it the other way. But having those data points at your fingertips allows you to make better business decisions as a marketer,” she adds.
“We used it to really ‘decomp’ our whole mix to understand what our base sales rates is. If we did no advertising, we can understand the impact of our trade – our version of performance marketing is effectively the trade that you see in store – and we can isolate that as well. So we can very clearly understand where we’re investing money and what return it’s giving us.” As a result, she says, Arnott’s is now “clear across the portfolio, what the various tools are, and the various levers we can pull to drive performance harder.”
Media benchmarking, creative testing
Next came media benchmarking.
“We bought that in to make sure we understood how we were buying our media versus a pool”, says Dill. “What elements of our mix should we be doing a bit more or a bit less of and to help us make the right choices across channels, platforms, media links, sponsorship, or free to air TV across primetime, off peak – all of those things were included as part of that,” she adds.
Critically, ahead of the campaign, Dill went large on creative testing.
Pre-testing advertising, she acknowledges, can be “ a little controversial”. But Dill had to be sure the message and brand “outtakes” would hit home.
The desired takeout was that there is no substitute for ‘life’s little moments’, and by association, no substitute for Arnott’s and the role the brand plays in bringing people together around those moments.
“Knowing what we were intending to say was landing in the right way and that the right outtakes were there was really important. Because you can make an amazing piece of art, but if no one can remember the brand name, why are you doing it?” says Dill.
“So it wasn’t about testing the their creativity. It was about making sure the message from the creative was landing.”
It’s the Holy Grail. Every agency partner wants to genuinely understand what their product, what their idea, what their output is going to do for a client's business. The bottom line is that's not always the case everywhere.
The data analytics ‘Holy Grail’
Seeing Arnott’s move from under-investment to data-hungry effectiveness machine quickly dispelled Publicis’ anxiety about the new management regime.
“It’s the Holy Grail,” says Rebelo. “Every agency partner wants to genuinely understand what their product, what their idea, what their output is going to do for a client’s business. The bottom line is that’s not always the case everywhere.”
Rebelo thinks it’s not just a case of willingness to invest, and having the vision to become genuinely data-driven and ROI focused, but the effort and resource it takes to follow through on intent “and make sure they can organise the business in a way to ingest that data,” he says. “I wouldn’t even know what Jenni has had to do at Arnott’s to make sure this could happen … Generally, not every brand or advertiser views the role marketing can play on commercial impact as highly as Jenni and Arnott’s.”
Don’t mess with brand heritage
Despite all that data-insight-commercial richness, Dill is at pains to point out that Arnott’s has not “optimised within an inch of our life.”
“I still see plenty of opportunity in what we’ve got out in front of us, and they’re all choices around how we put the portfolio together in the right way to get the right outcome. At the heart of it is starting with the creative, which is all about connecting with with your consumers in the right way.”
Plus, she says, not messing with the brand’s core assets and heritage for the sake of change.
“We’ve got such a rich legacy – created by people well before us – that we can tap into. It’s what people know and love about Arnott’s portfolio. The tagline of ‘there is no substitute’ is definitely older than any of us.”
Not even Arnott’s knows how old its tagline is, despite trawling the biscuit archives.
“We can’t actually pinpoint when it originated. We think it’s back in the early 1900s,” says Dill.
“A lot of marketers attempt to change packaging, change logos, change tag lines. We said, no, let’s tap that rich vein of connection and figure out how to bring it to life today for today’s Australians. And that connection is the heart of everything we did and allowed us to deliver the results we delivered.”
When you're looking at your audience and the broad population that Arnott’s reaches, TV is going to be your most effective [channel], even for the younger set to get started. Then we moved into YouTube as well as other formats to build that massive reach quickly. We were on air for 52 weeks – TV is still a very popular channel. So, yes, it worked.
Gunning for the Grand Effie
Dill and Rebelo watched the Effie winners take centre stage a year earlier and were spotted in animated discussions at the end of the 2022 Ad Council awards.
“Mike and I had a bit of a chat. ‘We’ve got great results, but we’ve got no Effie,’ what’s going on?’” recalls Dill.
How good were the results?
“Really good. Double digit market share growth across the portfolio,” she says, even for the monster brands like Tim Tams.
“Tim Tams has had its best year ever on record. We’ve had three years of double digit growth in a row,” says Dill. “So we said we have to figure out how we take this master brand work that we had two, three months worth of results on, could see the sales growing … and turn it into a great Effies case study.”
They had the fundamentals – the sales growth. But isolating that to marketing and capturing the data to do so is the key challenge, says Rebelo, and where many brands fall down.
“More often than not, they don’t have the data,” says Rebelo. But even those that do “aren’t willing to share it because there’s some confidentiality issue”.
Arnott’s had the emotionally-driven creative via Saatchis, the media via Spark Foundry, and crucially the analytics and a willingness to share it. Which meant they could build the case study – but they also added some extra, albeit modest, firepower.
TV did most of the heavy lifting. “That was the deliberate plan. We knew we had to have big impact quickly and we had to deliver the right weight of messaging into the marketplace to quickly drive that impact. So TV was the logical place for that,” says Dill.
“When you’re looking at your audience and the broad population that Arnott’s reaches, TV is going to be your most effective [channel], even for the younger set to get started,” says Rebelo. “Then we moved into YouTube as well as other formats to build that massive reach quickly. And we were on air for 52 weeks – TV is still a very popular channel. So, yes, it worked.”
Despite that ‘always on’ approach, Dill reckons the media investment was “probably one of the smallest budgets for a Grand Effie in recent years. But we made it look really big. We spent around $5 million on this campaign as it headed into the Grand Effie case study, which is not a huge budget by any stretch. We just made it work really hard and we were really clear where we wanted to show up.”
Either way, it worked.
We’ve seen 10 per cent sales growth and a three quarter of a share point growth. And the ROI that we put into the Grand Effie case study was $2.60 – which is gross profit ROI for every dollar we invested in marketing.
The results: Massive gains
For the case study period, says Dill, Arnott’s drove 2 per cent volume growth across the portfolio, with volume equating to kilos sold. “We’ve also seen 10 per cent sales growth and a three quarter of a share point growth. And the ROI that we put into the Grand Effie case study was $2.60 – which is gross profit ROI for every dollar we invested in marketing.”
To get an understanding of what that share gain equates to, Dill says the market is “closer to $2bn” than one.
Hence moving the market share needle by that margin is “phenomenal”, per Rebelo. “When you’ve got super brands like Tim Tams and so much market share already, to try and move those brands even a quarter of a percentage point is a really big ask.”
True to Byron Sharp’s underpinning theory, “most of the growth [came from] lighter buyers”, says Dill, and within products that were previously lower in awareness. “So we had a disproportionate lift in some of those [areas]. But because we’re appealing to more people across more of the portfolio for more of their occasions, that’s how it worked. So we got some really strong results, and I know for a fact we are going to get better results as we keep going on this.”
Which is why Dill’s not planning to change much on the campaign going into next year.
“We’ve shot some new scenes to add into the mix, new products and scenarios to add in. Not to totally change the plan, but of the 10 or so scenes that we have shot, we are probably going to roll out two, and roll-in two or three new ones, to keep the mix fresh and interesting and keep talking about more of the portfolio.”
I came in [to the integrated agency model] with a healthy scepticism. But what we found was that the more you have those media and creative conversations together, it means that anything you're doing on the media side is impacting the creative side, and vice versa. You're making decisions with that one lens … I don't know how to do it with just one or the other.
Integrated creative and media wins
Fully integrated creative and media was critical to driving results, says Dill, especially on a relatively modest budget. The experience so far with a village model, or Power of One, as Publicis calls its integrated approach, has proved instructive.
“The beauty of the model – where we’ve got creative and media in one conversation driving an outcome – allows us to get there faster in terms of the iterative decisions,” says Dill.
She last worked in an integrated model in the UK with Pepsico a decade ago.
“I’d probably describe myself as a healthy sceptic when it comes to pretty much anything. So I came in eyes wide open, willing to learn but with a healthy scepticism, particularly in the first six months as we figured out what we wanted to do and how we could chart the way forward,” says Dill.
“But what we found was that the more you have those media and creative conversations together, it means that anything you’re doing on the media side is impacting the creative side, and vice versa. You’re making decisions with that one lens. So you need great creative, and you need a great media plan to make the connection that you need with consumers. I don’t know how to do it with just one or the other.”
Rebelo, naturally, agrees. Arnott’s was its “first big Power of One client” and the firm is taking a similar approach for Westpac and Toyota.
Can the integrated model work for everyone?
“Yes it does,” says Rebelo. “It brings alignment, and it takes a lot of the work out of the client’s own ecosystem. They usually have to manage multiple stakeholders, but when we self-regulate, we do all that heavy lifting, because you’ve got strategic alignment, you are sharing insights, you’ve got richness of conversation happening, you’ve got TV buyers knowing what the idea is well before it’s ever been shot – and that never happens,” says Rebelo.
“That might sound pretty simplistic, but it’s that’s what gives greater understanding. The media team can go and pitch it to the publishers knowing full well what the integration opportunities are, so you can start to do that well up front, and then you can buy that more efficiently,” he adds.
“Then the creative team and the brand strategists start to understand the media a lot better as well. So it just helps bring all that synergy together and it takes a lot of the pain out for the client. They don’t have to try and manage an ecosystem of egos and agendas.”
Either way, full service 2.0 worked as far as the Grand Effie and Arnott’s growth is concerned. Now Dill and Rebelo are gunning for another Effie win next year – maybe two.
“I would love to win another Effie,” says Dill. “I think we’re going to have the results based on what we’re seeing now. We’ll have another strong case study. We’ve taken those results and we’ve built on them even further.”
Rebelo is equally bullish.
“There are categories that will be more viable, like long-term brand performance. With two years of this [master brand campaign] I think we’re going to be in a really great position for Arnott’s to enter into that category.” He’s eyeing the ROI category too, where “continued optimisation of the campaign might put us in a better standing next year,” says Rebelo. “So let’s see.”
I think first quarter next year will really define the tone for the rest of the year … Hopefully by this time next year we're through the nail biting, the RBA interest rate reviews, and we're back to a more optimistic economy and mind-set. But I think we're going to see very similar year to this year … A flat year in terms of overall media investment.
Sober outlook as headwinds continue
Effies efforts aside, both are under few illusions about the state of broader market macros. It looks like a tough year looms.
“I think first quarter next year will really define the tone for the rest of the year,” says Rebelo. “At the moment I think people are just trying to get to the finish line, get to Christmas and take a break. After that I think people will have had a few weeks and months to understand what the interest rate environments are doing to their household budgets. You can’t underestimate the impact the last rate rise has had,” he adds.
“We’re seeing a flat year in terms of overall industry media investment. Hopefully by this time next year we’re through the nail biting, the RBA interest rate reviews, and we’re back to a more optimistic economy and mind-set. But I think we’re going to see very similar year to this year.”
Amid a cost of living crisis and people cutting back and trading down, Dill is circumspect. On one hand economic tightening means “it’s taking a bit longer to get some innovation off the ground”, as brands and consumers take fewer risks on untried products and try to make sure nothing gets wasted in both shopping and marketing budgets. “That’s what we’re seeing across the board in grocery at the moment.”
On the flip side, “what we’re seeing … is people are eating out less, they’re spending more time at home, kind of like Covid again. What we’re also seeing is a flight to the trusted loved products that the whole family enjoys.”
Which could end up driving growth for the Arnott’s portfolio as it did during the pandemic, provided it can make sure consumers understand “there is absolutely no substitute for a Tim Tam”, says Dill.
“That is our goal, to make sure we’re in the right place and that we continue to remain affordable and great value for our consumers.”
A noble goal. The world, perhaps now more than ever, needs good biscuits.
You’ll want a full packet of Tim Tams and a box of Shapes to get through the podcast. Listen to it here.