Lisa Schoder, Ford Motor Company's Head of US Media, Digital Optimization and Growth Audience Marketing joined Jack Myers and MediaVillage's Motavalli on Auto Marketing columnist Jim Motavalli on Thursday May 7 for a Jack Myers Leadership Conversation covering a wide spectrum of issues relevant to automotive marketing and Ford's marketing, media and agency partners. In a pre-conversation call, Lisa shared insights on the topics we'll be discussing and the guidance she'll share with the community for enhancing relationships and growing their future business with Ford. Watch it now!
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES RIGHT NOW?
We've been taking a step back, re-planning, changing creative to be more meaningful right now. We're in the thick of looking at indicators that we can identify to start to direct towards recovery and recognizing that's going to materialize in different ways in different parts of the country. As we look across our footprint, and even if we take our dealers as a good proof point, some are still operating as normal and some were completely shut down depending upon the different restrictions put in place at the state level.
Are people changing behaviors and how are we going to be ready to activate the different triggers [to make the purchasing decisions] that are going to be very different for different people, different regions, different brands?
Web traffic at our own sites and third-party sites like Google are starting to get back to the pre-Covid-19 level. It's in the neighborhood of back to between the 70% and 80% mark if 100% was pre-pandemic.
MEDIA PARTNERS AND THE UPFRONT
For me it's been interesting to see how different partners have responded throughout the past month and a half, two months. It's probably not the best time to come in to sell me something. Some have been very supportive, empathetic, understanding. Some have come in just with, "Here's data that we have, here's what we're seeing. We want to make sure that you have as much insight as you possibly can. We're here when you're ready for us." I think that's the most appropriate response.
We've had a lot of cross advertiser conversations around, what does an Upfront even look like this year? We wouldn't even know what we would be buying right now.
This is an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at the Upfront and what it is in a modern media landscape.
This experience has demonstrated to me the need for as much flexibility as I possibly can have. Our media partners have been tremendously flexible. They say, "Okay, we understand what's happening in your world right now. Let us work with you, let us re-plan things, let us shift." There's a need for both the buy and sell side to be flexible.
TECHNOLOGY AND ADDRESSABLE: PRIORITY #1 FOR FORD MEDIA
We need to be able to take full advantage of technology that makes us collectively smarter and better about reaching our consumers. What I've been talking about a lot with our partners is how do we accelerate that conversation. I'm very data minded and so my perspective is making sure that we are fully planning against our most valuable audiences. To the degree that I can get sufficient reach in addressable channels, that's actually where I'm starting to go first. Fill that bucket first and then start to look at how do you expand into broader reach media that fills the upper funnel. Some partners are better positioned to go that route than others.
There's a lot more capability out there and from the Ford perspective how do I get out in front of that? How do I push those partners to go further with respect to being super, super focused on my priority audiences? Only a percentage of people will ever buy a new vehicle so If I can harness my media dollars towards that population, I'm going to increase my effectiveness tremendously. And that's the journey we've been on over these past several years. How do we really tailor our plans against those most highly valued audiences, have an eye towards that future state, and be able to test new platforms. When you start to eliminate some of the waste from the core plan, that's where you start to open up opportunity to go after these new test-and-learn opportunities. That's absolutely what we were doing as priority number one.
MEDIA STRATEGY AND AGENCY RESPONSIBILITY
The definition of effectiveness is reach against the audiences I care about. If [the media plan] is not delivering for me, then that's a complete waste. It's a lot more complex, clearly, to be able to identify at the end of the year if we accomplished what we planned. It's not only sales and share but did we actually [reach our goals] with a very, very smart media strategy. I work with my agency team every day to identify our currency. How are we delivering against our new vehicle buyers? And how are we demonstrating over time that we're doing so more efficiently. That's the work that the team is doing every day.
FORD'S ACTIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC AND THE FUTURE
I don't know if there's awareness of how Ford has converted some of our component plants. We're building respirators, we're making masks, shields and gowns. In a crisis like this, when you work for a company like Ford that is so foundational to the country and the manufacturing within the country, we didn't have to be told to do that. Immediately our engineers and researchers got into action. That's important because as we think about moving to the other side and what's going to happen for a company and a brand like Ford. In spite of the fact that we have absolutely no cashflow coming in, we're actually stepping up and really trying to still be doers and supporters.
There's been a tremendous transition to more remote delivery [of vehicles] across our entire dealer body. Basically every dealer now is able to support remote transactions and touchless delivery even where you drop it off, and the keys are put in a box, and everything was handled with e-signature. That whole part of the transaction marketplace has been accelerated tremendously.
Every day, obviously, we're under immense pressure. As I think about the media world and the partners who I work with, I hope that they can appreciate that. They could always call on Ford and say, hey, do you want to sponsor this, that, or the other? It breaks my heart in so many cases where there's these tremendous opportunities that are in front of... like raising money for COVID-19 relief and they're looking for a sponsor. We think Ford would be just so amazing. And I have to say no. Because right now, I can't. I have to be prepared for when people, when my dealers, when my plants are back online. When my dealers are all open and when people feel confident enough to go purchase a vehicle. I need to be ready to with the right messaging and an immediate plan to deliver it.
ON INNOVATION, TECHNOLOGY, MEASUREMENT AND PEOPLE WORKING IN MARKETING
There's always been a spirit of innovation within Ford. But it's multiplied now because of the opportunities that are in front of us. The whole automotive and transportation and mobility space is completely changing. For us, in media, what's exciting is there's never before been so much technology in this world of media as there is now. Even if you think about the folks who are on the front line of working in marketing and media, you have to have a technical mindset, otherwise you can very quickly get left behind, or just not fully be able to capitalize on what a sophisticated Martech stack can deliver today. Even if you think about the traditional broadcast partners between the mergers and acquisitions that have been taking place, now they're tech companies. There's technology running through everything.
In my world that's exciting because it unlocks this great new opportunity for us to be super smart and being able to actually do a closed loop measurement on what's actually working -- it's not just a correlation. We had this amount of weight in the marketplace and we delivered this amount of sales, therefore this equals that. We can actually piece apart this incremental action versus that, get rid of this, do more of that. I think those are the types of things that I've been able to do and demonstrate to our most senior leaders how we're really being smart about the media investment that the company is entrusting to us and we need to place into the market.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?
Smart marketers and media leaders are looking at what works for them. In order to do that though, you need to have really, really robust analytics and also a really clear understanding of what success looks like. As I think about the work I do at Ford, it covers everything all the way from primary brand messaging, to nameplate launches, to shopper marketing. You have to understand 'what is the definition of success' and then how do you build a plan to accommodate that and measure it appropriately. Those are the fundamentals of everything that I do.
We want to make sure that as we start turning things back on in the coming months, that we understand first and foremost what's on our audience's minds. What are they caring about? And in many cases, depending upon what audience you're talking about, their experience through this has been very different. Some have been shelter-in-place, working from home like I've been doing. Others still go to work every day. You have to understand the mental state of your audience and then what is the right thing for them to hear from us as a brand and we need to be really mindful of the timetable for being in market. That's going to change for different folks at different rates and in different areas of the country.
Internally, our D&I initiatives at Ford are tremendous and front and center. Diversity, equality and inclusion are a key focus as we're looking across our teams and building out development plans. Broadly across Ford, we ask how are we representative of our consumers? Marketing can only go so far. Empathy can only go so far. It's not a direct replacement for experience. That's always in my mind as I think about my team.