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How The J.M. Smucker Co. and Kroger are shaping the next chapter of programmatic media

March 10, 2022

Programmatic media—and all of digital advertising—is at an inflection point. Consumers are in the driver’s seat today —controlling how and when their data is shared.

In this world of increased expectations, retailers have emerged as the unexpected new standard-bearers for a more accountable media ecosystem. The closed-loop reporting of retail media—the ability to compare a media exposure to online and in-store sales—means that greater-accountability for performance is baked-in to the retail media business.

Companies like the J.M. Smucker Co. are partnering with retailers to shape this next chapter of programmatic media.

In their session at the 2022 Association of National Advertisers Media Conference, Kroger Precision Marketing's Director of Agency Partnerships Jill Smith and The J.M. Smucker Co.’s Director of Commerce Marketing Kelly Sweeney shared how brands are partnering with retailers to unlock first-party purchase data in the programmatic space.

“The next chapter of digital advertising is about bringing the performant and consumer-centric nature of retail media into the world of programmatic advertising,” Smith said.

Enter the Kroger Private Marketplace

Kroger Precision Marketing recently launched the Kroger Private Marketplace to raise the bar for programmatic media through four areas:

  • Exclusive first-party targeting: Reach incremental households through first-party data
  • Flexible activation: Transact seamlessly within existing client tech stacks
  • Secure data: Guard data privacy and brand safety
  • Meaningful measurement: Optimize performance against sales and ROAS

“But Kroger hasn’t been on this journey alone,” Smith said. “The J.M. Smucker Co. and their Publicis Groupe bespoke agency, PSOne, were close partners as we built and tested our new private marketplace solution.”

With the expansion of data, media technology and capabilities, “it really is an exciting time to be in marketing right now, especially in the full-funnel, integrated space,” Sweeney said. However, she added, “it means that media investment opportunities are expanding rapidly, and ultimately decision making is a little more challenging.”

Sweeney described how she and her Smucker colleagues often ask themselves, “If I have a dollar to spend, where do I want to put this dollar?” Answering that question has become tougher than ever. “We developed a set of media expectations that we now share with our partners, and we also use internally to guide strategic decision making.”

A crowded category

Sweeney pointed to Kroger Precision Marketing, and specifically the new Kroger Private Marketplace, as “an example of a partner that meets our expectations.” One of the first places Smucker tested out the Private Marketplace was with Meow Mix and its new Tasty Layers innovation.

“If you know the pet category, you know it’s not an easy one,” she said. “This is a highly competitive category with many brands. Pet parents come and go from the category regularly, shop a number of channels, and while some are loyal to one brand, many are switching between brands often.”

That’s why her team’s first step with testing the Kroger Private Marketplace was to create custom audiences—and deliver against their objective of driving trial for Meow Mix Tasty Layers at Kroger. “Ultimately, we wanted to not only grow our Meow Mix brand, but also the cat category at Kroger as well. We refer to this as the power-pair,” Sweeney said.

Custom targeting to achieve objectives

“Kroger’s first-party data empowered us to see a granular view of Kroger buyers,” Sweeney said. “From there we developed a custom targeting strategy to effectively drive against our objective and reach those audiences on the open web.”

In this case, the targeting strategy included:

  • Current Meow Mix buyers: Encourage trade-up to Meow Mix Tasty Layers
  • Competitive switchers: Win the switching moment of cat parents with Meow Mix
  • Lapsed Meow Mix buyers: Identify the top 3-5 brands that Meow Mix shoppers are switching to and target them to get them back to our brand through innovation (and keep them buying at Kroger).

Campaign optimizations – supercharged with sales data

The Smucker team at PSOne leveraged weekly reporting tools in the Kroger Private Marketplace to optimize results to ROAS, Sweeney said. “With weekly sales data and optimizations, we could see improvement in ROAS as the campaign progressed. This is such an important factor given our challenging landscape today, and the need to be nimble and flexible as changes are occurring.”

And because they ran campaigns against precise Kroger audiences, she added, “We could compare to see which audience segments were driving the most volume and efficiently place more of our ad spend against those targets. This gave us powerful learnings for not only the current campaign, but campaigns going forward as well.”

Results worth repeating

Having a strong partnership and being able to deliver against media expectations are important, Sweeney said. “But, obviously at the end of the campaign we must see results in order for us to consider repeating again in the future.’”

She shared that the Meow Mix brand results (8x ROAS vs. 3.5x benchmark) were very encouraging. “While I can’t reveal too many other specifics beyond that, I will say the campaign was very efficient with the near real-time reporting.”

Key learnings from this partnership

The input and early results from J.M. Smucker have influenced some key learnings:

  • Develop and share media expectations. Media should be more accountable today. Hold your media partners to a high standard of performance.
  • Partner with retailers to unlock 1P data. Retail data enables precision targeting that you can’t find in traditional programmatic environments.
  • Fuel optimizations with sales data. The agency was able to optimize audience segments and placements against actual ROAS—lifting the campaign’s overall efficiency.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done at Kroger Precision Marketing to bring this new private marketplace to life, but we couldn’t have done it without J.M. Smucker and PSOne,” Smith said. “The Kroger Private Marketplace is transformative—and together with partners like you, we’re shaping the consumer-centric future of programmatic media.”

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