Dmexco: Heineken's Soren Hagh Details Digital Spending Ambitions

In Two Years, Digital Spend Has Grown From 9% to 25% of Ad Budget

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For Heineken, marketing dollars are shifting to new digital platforms and fast, said Soren Hagh, executive dirctor of global marketing at the beer giant, during a talk with Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond at DMexco, a digital marketing and technology conference in Cologne, Germany.

Heineken in two years has grown digital spending from 9% of its budget to 25%, he said. And it's quickly approaching 50%. "We're no doubt moving to a world where most marketing spend is digital," he said.

When asked by Recode's Peter Kafka, who was moderating the discussion, from which traditional platforms those dollars are shifting, Mr. Sagh said its not necessarily TV. Rather, those dollars are coming out of channels "that are not adapting very fast," such as print, he explained.

"In the past, print had a real role in our business and rapidly it's losing out at the moment," he said. "I'm not saying everything is going mobile, but it's about creating interesting storytelling and having platforms work together. If some platform is not able to deliver value in an integrated world, we'll take money out of that channel."

But that doesn't mean the company is only moving dollars to digital channels with the most users. As ad-blocking or ad-avoidance increases, companies like Heineken may care more about constant one-on-one conversation through a platform like Twitter, which has fewer users than Facebook, for a certain kind of campaign.

For example, in a recent initiative, Heineken and agency SMG found that most men watch soccer alone, said Ms. Desmond. Twitter was the platform that would enable the beer brand to talk to those guys directly. So rather than buy traditional advertising during Champion League soccer, the company enlisted a "football legend" to host an online show every match. The "real-time football show designed for the second screen" encouraged fans to engage with the brand using the hashtag #sharethesofa. It was picked up and talked about by consumers in 94 countries, and Heineken ultimately saw a 7% boost in purchase intent.

But Twitter is still a sizeable, established platform with a large and diverse enough user base to mitigate the risk of putting it at the heart of a campaign. That doesn't mean Heineken is averse to taking risks and spending big on smaller startups.

"We have a better understanding of Snapchat than [of] two guys in Seattle in a garage," said Mr. Hagh. "That doesn't mean we won't go to the garage. It means we have to accept a higher risk and make bets that takes uncertainty into account. It's a new mindset."

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