Nomad Foods, the owner of major fast food brands Birds Eye, Findus and Goodfellas, has chosen Publicis Groupe to run and “future-proof” its European media business, which will include ecommerce marketing for the first time.
The pitch process was launched and completed within just three-and-a-half months and involved submissions from all media-buying groups with major media-buying capability in the UK: Publicis, WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic Group and Dentsu.
The media account is worth £85m across the EMEA region and £23m in the UK, according to sources familiar with the business.
Publicis Groupe agencies Zenith and Performics had previously led on Nomad Foods’ offline buying and performance marketing, but the French holding company will now offer an integrated media model with capabilities across individual agencies.
The review, run by Flock Associates, tasked prospective agencies with showing how they could “future-proof” Nomad Foods’ media capabilities and run a consolidated media account for offline and online planning and buying, as well as the company’s quickly growing ecommerce business.
Steve Axe, group chief marketing director at Nomad Foods, told Campaign that the company media business would now comprise three dimensions: data and “tool-assisted decision-making”; digital media marketing; and, for the first time, shopper and ecommerce.
He explained: “Historically, [shopper and ecommerce] has been a separate, more transactional area and we wanted to make it a much more strategic growth lever for the business… Our ecommerce business is growing exponentially, and frozen over-indexes on ecommerce versus physical stores, because you don’t have the issue of being the last aisle in the supermarket and people being concerned about defrosting and having already spent all their money.
"Then we over-index as a brand [in terms of market share] because of the way we’re marketing ourselves, whether it’s ‘meal deals’ or through some of the hero products. So we were growing in ecommerce anyway – the transformation element for us was to really pull that into a much more disciplined ROI management, as well as retention, which is a new avenue of growth.”
Because people have been adjusting to working from home and spending more time eating in, Nomad Foods significantly benefitted from a rise in sales last year. “We gained three years of incremental penetration in the first three months of the pandemic,” Axe added.
However, that surge in demand has come alongside people using the internet more to shop from home, which means the company has been looking at using ecommerce platforms like Shopify to hold on to online customers. It’s a step change for a business that has, for decades, been reliant on its dealing with bricks-and-mortar retailers, such as the major grocers.
TV still 'incredibly important' for mainstream brands' reach
Nomad Foods has, like many major brand owners in recent years, ploughed more money into digital, relative to offline media, as ecommerce has risen in importance. Axe said the company went from a “standing start about five years ago”, with 99% of its budget going on offline and 1% on digital to a split of about 70/30% across Europe today.
However, Axe does not expect the company’s offline media buying will drop to below 65% of the overall media budget, due to how important TV is as a channel for its brands.
“Everybody's got a freezer and pretty much everybody buys frozen foods. So reach is incredibly important to us… Our brands are mainstream brands and TV is still incredibly effective for us to get the reach that we need.”
Axe paid tribute to Flock Associates for managing an expedited pitch process that ran for three-and-a-half months, instead of six months as was originally planned. Flock will continue to work with Nomad as the business transitions to a new model and relationship with Publicis Groupe, he added.
Running the pitch in a virtual format during the Covid-19 pandemic was “harder from a human dimension”, Axe said, because you can’t develop the same chemistry with people from agencies as you can in a live setting. However, he thinks the benefits of being more data-led through the process, and being able to pull in more people on the brand side to jump on Zoom calls with prospective agencies, made the media review more informed.
“We can have our ecommerce manager on the line, or bring in our sales director to look at the pitch from the shopper perspective. And, obviously, you can bring in the digital marketing managers, the local teams. So it was much more of a collaborative process from our end.”
'How can you keep doubling my ROI?'
Axe revealed all the prospective agency groups that submitted proposals to run the Nomad Foods account had offered group-wide solutions, but Publicis Groupe won out because it offered the most convincing transformation agenda that met the brief.
While the brand owner wanted the media agency groups to be competitive on price, Axe insisted the pitch was not merely about comparing costs.
“We've doubled our ROI in the last three years from our communications,” Axe added. My brief to my team that was in the pitch was: how can you convince me I can continue that journey of doubling my ROI?”
Nomad Foods is Western Europe’s leading frozen-foods company by a significant margin, with a 14% share of a €26bn (£24bn) market. It has its headquarters in the UK and its biggest consumer markets are the UK, France, Germany and Italy.