As the industry moves quickly to keep up with the shifting brand needs to update media placement, SwellShark is on the front lines.
Nick Pappas (CEO) and Mary Perhach (President) speak with Winmo CEO Dave Currie to discuss how they’re seeing brand preferences shift and how premium brands are having to adjust accordingly to maintain market share. In their conversation they also talk about the media properties, publishers and ad sellers who are standing out right now, and how those trying to get in front of media buyers and planners right now should position themselves. Brands like iHeart and Pandora are “doing it right” surfacing hard data about certain categories and digging into shifts in time of day or co-listening. Data is king right now.
Check out the full conversation below.
Table of Contents
- What kind of changes are you seeing right now? (0:55)
- How have you seen messaging in the financial service sector differ in media placement perhaps over the last couple of weeks? (5:02)
- Can you share how you have seen a shift from brick and mortar retail to e-commerce? (5:55)
- How have media properties and ad sales teams changed their messaging? (7:20)
- What would you like to see and what types of audience insights that could be valuable? (9:20)
Currie: We have Mary Perhach and Nick Pappas, the co-founders of SwellShark, an independent media buying and planning agency, a team that has been certainly on the forefront of working across a variety of different industry categories who have some pretty big blue-chip clients is AORs and in the space.
Would love just to gain some insight from you guys on what you’re seeing from clients on the front lines right now, maybe what surprised you in some of the reactions to how clients are moving media dollars around. And then, we’ll transition into sort of few questions around what you’d like to see from media properties and publishers moving forward.
Perhach: Sounds good.
Perhach: It’s definitely different by category. So, our clients in the travel space are obviously pulling back spend significantly, trying to find the right balance between keeping some money in market for in-market travelers who are planning trips for the future. There are some hopeful travelers out there who plan to go somewhere in November. And we want to make sure that our brands are out there for those folks.
Perhach: We’ve got some brands in the packaged goods space who are doing well right now, especially food brands. I think a challenge that we’re seeing right now is brands are becoming a little bit less… people are becoming a little less particular about the brands. A lot of that is a function of the fact that when… I mean, I’m sure you’ve had the same experience as a consumer because I certainly have. I like order Applegate hotdogs cause that’s the only kind of hot dog we eat as a family and I immediately get offered a substitute.
Currie: Substitute. Yeah. Absolutely.
Perhach: Yeah. So, I think people are trying lots of new brands now. So, hopefully that doesn’t change any brand preference. And I think people are also just bringing home less money right now. A lot of people are just bringing home less money than they were before. So, a premium brand, like Applegate for example, might get sacrificed for the time being.
So, trying to figure out how to make the argument not based on price, but based on ingredients, or finding the right way to tell the story so that it’s still worth it to spend the extra money for a premium product, or changing the messaging, changing the audience, changing the context, finding ways to find that person who’s willing to still go for that premium price product.
Currie: Really interesting insight there, Mary. Thinking a little bit through the opportunistic side of that, those brands that are perhaps coming into market, this could be a very opportune time for them to take of voice. And, ultimately, if they’re able to do a good job on the conversion side of things, maintain that share of market.
Perhach: Yeah. I was on a podcasts last week, I guess it was. And one of the folks who was joining had a client who was a DTC soap brand who had been trying to gain traction for a while. And suddenly they have a huge supply of things that you can’t find very readily in a grocery store. So, helping those folks who are suddenly positioned to just take off, really manage that growth, and find the right audience. Not just for right now but for the future. So, there are brands out there who this presents an enormous opportunity for.
Pappas: Our Sun Bum client, which is traditionally sunscreen, sun care is their primary business. But they also offer a wonderful smelling hand sanitizer that still gets the same sort of sense of the island and feel from the Sun Bum products. It was one of the things that sold out incredibly quickly and a really interesting and nice way for people to sort of discover the brand. You just hope that sort of carries on beyond this period as well. That they love the product, the smell, the attributes of it that will make them pick the sunscreen when they can go outside again.
Perhach: Well even we were talking to them about their sunscreen product because people are actually home more. And, for those of us who are in the suburbs, we have a backyard. So, we are actually spending a little bit more time outside. And we really shouldn’t forget about sun care. So, for them, it’s also about striking that balance because they don’t want to be seen as someone who is like capitalizing in a negative way on an opportunity.
Like they really are all about sun protection. So, finding the right way to deliver the message about how important it is to protect your skin, not to forget just the ABCs of skincare when there are bigger problems in the world. So, it’s really about navigating messages and…
Currie: So, appropriate messaging, Mary I think is a really relevant point. Clearly you have many clients in the CPG space, in retail, travel, but also in the financial services sector. How have you seen messaging in the financial service sector differ in the media placement perhaps over the last couple of weeks?
Perhach: A lot of messaging has shifted. Well, a lot has changed in general for like banking clients. Until everyone really understands what the interest rates are going to be, a lot of stuff just has to be paused. And then, other messaging is shifting to more advice-based, far less… not that it ever bought now, but much more, here’s what’s happening, here’s how we can help you. Call your advisor. Much more, we’re here for you. How can we help?
Currie: I think that’s probably true as a statement across a lot of different categories right now. It’s the here to serve model versus here to sell model, which we’re seeing a lot of. Have you seen a lot, obviously, there’s a big shift towards Amazon Marketplace and other eCommerce transaction marketplaces. If you’ve got any insight that you might be able to share on how some of those projects which may have been driving traffic to an in-store, brick and mortar retail environment have shifted in your experience in the last couple weeks as well.
Perhach: Do you want to?
Pappas: I think, for a few of our clients that have their own DTC marketplace, where primarily 90% of their sales might be wholesale, they’re doing well on the direct to the consumer because they actually have the opportunity to get quick access to their inventory, to their warehouse, and they’re shipping product. Amazon has been great, but we’ve all seen, I’m sure, a slow down in the delivery, in the time that it takes to get some of the basics. And so, if they have it and they can sell it in a direct to consumer way, I think it’s important to let people out there looking for those types of brands, for those types of products know that it’s available and you can buy it directly.
Currie: So, buying intent is certainly a lot of what we’re all working within the media, properties and publisher side, and agencies driving towards working with audiences that have a greater propensity to perhaps purchase, especially in eCommerce right now. Any advice to media properties and publishers and maybe their ad sales teams on good examples of how they’ve changed their messaging to approach you guys as the planners and buyers of that media inventory?
Perhach: Sure. A lot of the information that’s been really helpful is the stuff that we can easily package up for our clients where they’re really separating insights out for us by category. Here’s what’s happening in travel. Here’s what’s happening in CPG. Here’s what’s happening in fashion. And iHeart has been doing a great job, as has Pandora, just explaining the kinds of content that people are shifting to, shifts in time of day, shifts in co-listening, shifts in the kind of mood people are in. They’re going to Audio Now instead of maybe a true-crime podcast, they’re now shifting towards uplifting music or uplifting stories.
Pappas: Yeah. That’s-
Perhach: Yeah. That kind of information is really helpful just helping us find our person who is now in a slightly different place than they were last month.
Currie: So, the different types of media they’re consuming is obviously driven by work from home environments, different dayparts, and so forth. What would you like to see differently come from media ad sales teams in terms of their approach? What I’ve heard in other conversations like these are a lot of the automated outreach cadences of email have stopped. And much more bespoke, customized messaging, as you’ve just talked about.
Currie: Talk to me a little bit about what you’d like to be able to see and the different types of perhaps audience insights that could be valuable. You’ve just got quite a broad range of ad sales teams and media properties.
Currie: Be curious to learn that.
Perhach: I feel like we’ve had a lot of really helpful outreach from our reps. The larger properties like New York Times, and Bloomberg, and FE, and Wall Street Journal, they’ve been having webinars to join to really understand the impact of COVID on their content, on their reporting, on their audience and audience behaviors. Some of the mid-sized properties have sent really great just emails that are outlined with data points, like percentages, like actual hard facts that we can share with our clients. I haven’t really seen anything that annoyed me.
Pappas: I think most of the larger properties are doing a really good job of sort of telling how their consumers’ times are shifting. I think it would be nice to actually, and again would create a little bit of collaboration, right? Like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, both have great information, great data. Is there a way for them to actually co-present something together. And here’s what’s happening in news. Here’s what’s happening on MSNBC. These are the stories that are resonating with folks here.
Perhach: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Pappas: It’s such a fast and dynamically changing environment. I think week one, everyone wanted to get as much news content as they could. And then, week two you started to see a little bit of like interest in home decor and softer things that allow you to make some changes or at least think about changes you might be able to make in the future that is a little more personal, and uplifting, and sort of calm.
Pappas: But I’d love to see some news properties or some big publishers kind of come together and say, in our space in total here’s what’s happening, versus keeping it very centric on their own property.
Currie: Right. I think that’s a great insight there because otherwise, you’re really trying to combine that and aggregate that information from all those disparate media properties into that single view yourselves to take to clients. Some collaboration on the property side would certainly seem to shortcut that process for you.
Perhach: Actually, something you said just made me think of something. So, for the New York Times, just as an example, New York times and Wall Street Journal… well, Dow Jones Group, both have the capability to do the emotional targeting. Like Dow Jones does it through Unruly. New York Times does it on their site. And what they can do is understand how people are reacting to different kinds of content. So, what would be super helpful for the industry is just to have a pulse on how people are reacting to the COVID content now? And how has it changed over time? Was it terrifying at first, and now it’s more…
Perhach: Like less so, whatever. Like they have tools in place where they can just give us a pulse in how consumers are feeling right now. And that would actually be really helpful information for everybody.
Currie: That’s great insight. So, what I hear is that, one, you do receive and read email, which is probably refreshing for a lot of people. Two, that you are attending the webcast content that’s being delivered. I think we’ve all probably been seeing more webcast content in the last two weeks, three weeks then we have in maybe the last three years.
Currie: So, we’re all consuming this information. And it’s probably very refreshing for viewers of this particular interview to hear that. So, any last words of advice or insight that you wanted to share, maybe a plug for the agency?
Perhach: We’re all in this together right now, so the more we can share information with each other, the better. So, keep it coming in and we’ll share what we’re hearing on the side too.
Currie: Fantastic. Thank you so much for the time this afternoon. Great insights. Really appreciate you sharing a little bit of your perspective on what’s happening in the market. Thanks so much.
Perhach: Absolutely. Thank you.
Pappas: Thank you.
Currie: Take care, everyone.