Discovery and Marie Callender's Engage to Heat Up Frozen Entrée Sales

By Kathy Newberger Discovery Communications Archives

During last year's Upfront, Discovery Communications struck partnership deals with a handful of marketers interested in adding data components to their television buys via their Discovery Engage platform.  One of those, Conagra's Marie Callender's, has seen dramatic sales impact using targeting beyond age and gender and is the first to publicly share their campaign results.

Discovery Engage solution lets advertisers find and refine target audiences within Discovery's portfolio of networks, applying outside data, analytics and measurement more customarily found in digital campaigns, with the scale of national television.  This forward-thinking approach to data-driven marketing addresses what Erin Kuhlmann, Manager of Media for Conagra Brands, says is mission critical to the brand.

The Marie Callender's campaign goal was to improve their ability to effectively reach core customers via more refined targeting.  Mission accomplished.  "With Discovery Engage, we delivered a campaign that had a measurable improvement over earlier campaigns -- a 35% decrease in the effective CPM, combined with real sales lift," says Keith Kazerman, Discovery's Group Senior Vice President of Client Solutions.  As one of the few content companies with access to set-top data, performance was measured at the household level.

"We've been successful in securing secondary guarantees against purchase-based targets on a variety of networks for some time," Kuhlmann explains.  "But our partnership with Discovery Engage takes it a step further by not only optimizing inventory across programs and dayparts, but also across a portfolio of networks."  It is also, she notes, "a step in the right direction for television," moving it "from a mass reach media to a space that allows precision targeting at scale."

"The investment the company has made in the Engage product went well beyond data and technology," says Kazerman.  "It was about delivering return on investment.  This forced us to raise the bar.  Our goal was to optimize our client's investment and to measurably drive sales.

"We were lucky to have clients at Conagra and Mediavest | Spark who were open to new thinking ... [because] the other thing that was unique about the partnership was the level of transparency involved," he continues.  "We were doing something new, and we were willing to be very open about how we were doing it with our client."

The other goal of this food category campaign, and for the four others in the automotive, financial, QSR and travel categories, was to demonstrate results that could inform more data partnerships to be struck this Upfront.  According to Kazerman, that goal has been achieved as well.  "As we worked with customers, we learned a lot about the potential of our own data and that of our partners," he says.  "While the Conagra campaign didn't use any primary brand data, the other campaigns did, and we were able to see the flexibility and power of our data-agnostic system."

The results were sometimes surprising, Kazerman adds.  "We learned to let the data lead us, leading to learning that sometimes the shows and networks that the team initially surmised would work best for a particular target weren't the ones that ended up delivering the strongest concentrations of that audience."

And the results weren't only positive for the advertiser.  By the end of the campaign, Conagra was using nine of Discovery's eleven networks successfully, including traditionally male-skewing networks like American Heroes Channel, Destination America and Velocity versus the six they had used in earlier campaigns.

"We [used] networks we would not have traditionally purchased for the brand," explains Kuhlmann, whose background includes strategic work for other major brands while on the agency side of the business.  "The data told us to expand the network list beyond our core women 25-54 target to hit purchasers of frozen foods who have the ability to really move the needle when it comes to sales.  These learnings help us better understand the Marie Callender's consumer, [information which] we've applied to other campaigns."

Kazerman was quick to credit his colleagues at Discovery and his partners at companies like Nielsen Catalina.  "This wasn't just investment in technology and proprietary targeting data, but investment in people -- people who were in early days of addressable, data science, modeling, trials," he notes.  "Our team doesn't exist as a sales team.  We exist to help clients develop the promise of data."

Kuhlmann has a pragmatic take.  "According to the back-end sales analysis that Discovery ran, total incremental sales well exceeded our expectations and proved that the campaign was effective at increasing buy rate and penetration," she says.  "We were looking for partners that were forward thinking and thought leaders in the linear TV space to deliver on our vision.  Discovery Engage's direct link to set-top data matched with Nielsen panel information to leverage frequent-shopper card data allowed for measurement that helped us effectively prove out the value of the platform."

For Kazerman, though, "the best proof wasn't in the numbers.  It was in the continued support of clients like Conagra, which has already used the Engage platform again, and from the marketers now investing in that data-fueled television, and who will be using it in conjunction with their other television investments in the coming year."

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