Marketer's Brief: Report Reveals New Hope for Walmart Against Amazon

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Welcome to the latest edition of Marketer's Brief, a quick take on marketing news, moves and trends from Ad Age's reporters and editors. Send tips/suggestions to eschultz@adage.com.

If you want Super Bowl pizza news, we have you covered. But we start with some interesting developments in e-commerce.

Amazon isn't so scary after all

Tide: Digital Genius?
Tide: Digital Genius?

Fear of Amazon—at least, its getting together with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan to form an independent health-care company—was enough to knock $30 billion off the market caps of the top 10 health insurers alone on Tuesday. But maybe Amazon isn't so scary after all: A new report from L2 finds Walmart is actually growing twice as fast as Amazon in home-care e-commerce, despite Amazon making it a top promotional priority, particularly in voice in January. Home-care products like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes made up 10 of 13 featured voice promotions via Alexa, according to L2, as some big established brands are doing just fine. Clorox Co. overall falls just below Procter & Gamble Co., particularly its Tide, in earning a digital "genius" ranking from L2 in home care. Unilever's Seventh Generation is the industry's only other "genius." These brands are winning in gaining market share and search visibility on Amazon, including in voice, according to L2. But the report confirms fears that Amazon is favoring its own private labels, such as Presto! Toilet paper, in voice search.

Walmart corporate layoffs include marketing

Walmart may be faring better in the battle against Amazon than in years past, but layoffs at its Bentonville, Arkansas, corporate headquarters remain an annual ritual toward the end of the January fiscal year. This year's headcount reduction includes marketers, a spokesman confirms, though it's unclear how much the overall staffing in U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Tony Rogers' group will be affected. Some positions that were in Bentonville are likely to move to e-commerce offices in San Bruno, California and Hoboken, New Jersey, in the retailer's unified marketing group, the spokesman says.

It's almost pizza's biggest day

Get ready for plenty of pizza marketing. Pizza Hut will advertise during NBC's livestream of the game. But its main Super Bowl Sunday strategy, like other pizza brands, has lots of marketing leading up to the game. Pizza Hut is doubling down on promoting its Hut Rewards loyalty plan. Former Eagles player Terrell Owens might not excite Patriots fans, but he's in ads that will break during the pregame show, which is sponsored by Pizza Hut. The 30-second version shown here will run during the livestream of the game.

It shows Owens teaching a family about a faster way to earn free pizza. He also kind of mentions a key competitor by name—Domino's—perhaps an odd word for Pizza Hut and Droga5 to stick into people's minds when they're about to place their orders. Peak pizza ordering time is exactly one hour before kickoff, according to Pizza Hut. It's also explaining the rewards program through a free pizza giveaway promoted with Devin Hester that is only activated if either team scores a touchdown in record time for a Super Bowl.

It's not just restaurants stepping up game-day advertising. DiGiorno plans to run a TV spot on NBC 30 minutes before the game. It's also promoting a social experiment in which it studied the joy people had at parties where pizza was baked vs. parties where delivery or carryout pizza was ordered. It's DiGiorno's ad, so the winner isn't much of a surprise. It says joy increased by an average of 27 percent at parties where DiGiorno was baked, but fell by an average of 20 percent at the delivery parties.

And in case you're not sure what to order, The Washington Post did a pre-Super Bowl taste test of the nation's three biggest delivery chains.

A Kind giveaway

Kind's Super Bowl stunt involves it suggesting it's not good at making commercials and doesn't want to blow its budget on a Super Bowl ad. Instead, it has a new video featuring Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky supposedly making a commercial. Kind says it will give away $6 million worth of Kind bars (3 million bars) rather than spending the equivalent on air time.

Panera recall clouds clean marketing

It's the week before the Super Bowl, in case you haven't heard. Seemingly every brand is pushing its way into the conversation, even Panera Bread. The clean-food chain introduced a limited-edition 100 percent clean wing sauce. Seems buzzy, considering it doesn't even serve wings. But Panera is in the news for another reason—a nationwide voluntary cream cheese recall announced Sunday after samples of one variety tested positive for listeria. As for the wing sauce, it's meant to promote Panera's new "Clean Consultant" group available to counsel other chains trying to offer more wholesome, clean ingredients. "As the first national restaurant chain with a 100% clean food menu, we have insights and learnings that could help others," Panera Chairman Ron Shaich says in a statement.

Put your money where your mouth is

Forget spending $5 million on a Super Bowl spot—Ally Financial is trying to win interest with a customer promotion and augmented reality game. This week, the bank began rolling out TV and digital spots that are focused on the importance of saving. The campaign directs consumers to a microsite where they can download a new augmented reality game for the Super Bowl, the "Ally Big Save." On game day, users can catch virtual dollars in real-time; Ally will grant the saving wishes of the top 10 winners. Buying a Super Bowl spot "goes counter to what we value as a brand, which is getting people to think about the importance of saving," says Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing officer at Ally, which worked with Grey and MediaMonks on the offering.

Would you buy this?

Halo Top Vanilla Maple and Toasted Coconut
Halo Top Vanilla Maple and Toasted Coconut Credit: Halo Top

Hot-selling Halo Top is trying to keep its momentum with seven non-dairy and vegan flavors, including two that are new to the brand: Vanilla Maple and Toasted Coconut.

Number of the Week

$1.32 billion: The amount brands spent on sponsoring the NFL and its 32 teams this season, a 5.9 percent jump from last year, according to consultancy ESP.

Tweet of Week

Moves

MullenLowe Boston President Geoff Cottrill is headed client side to work for Coca-Cola Co., where he will take over as senior VP for strategic marketing on March 1. Ivan Pollard held the job before leaving to become General Mills CMO last year. Cottrill will oversee creative content, media planning and investment, marketing capability, digital, marketing assets and entertainment, music and gaming in the U.S.

Applebee's named former McDonald's marketer Joel Yashinsky as SVP and chief marketing officer. Yashinsky oversees all of Applebee's marketing and reports to the chain's president, John Cywinski. He fills a role that had been vacant for more than nine months. Jeannine D'Addario, Applebee's interim SVP of marketing, left last year for a role at Guitar Center. Yashinsky retired from McDonald's in early 2017. His last role at the Golden Arches was VP of brand content for McDonald's USA.

Contributing: Jessica Wohl, Jack Neff, E.J. Schultz, Adrianne Pasquarelli

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