BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Social media and shopper marketing are probably the two hottest areas in the marketing industry. Now Mars Advertising has combined them by snagging John Andrews, a former senior manager of emerging media for Walmart and organizer of its ElevenMoms mommy-blogger network to lead a new unit, Collective Bias.
Collective Bias looks to create communities of moms (not unlike Walmart's ElevenMoms) as a combination consulting firm and marketing conduit for marketers -- initially including Campbell Soup Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., Hershey Foods and Yahoo. In an interview with Advertising Age, Mr. Andrews discusses some of the details.
Ad Age: Why did you make this move?
Mr. Andrews: I really wasn't looking for a job, but knew the Mars folks [in Bentonville, Ark.] and they had asked me about social media, and we began to have a larger conversation about what an interesting combination social media and shopper marketing would make.
Ad Age: You're starting with a pretty low-key launch, why?
Mr. Andrews: The first thing we did was start a community and ask them, what would a social media/shopper marketing agency look like, and what would you call it? We don't have a website. We didn't run out and try to brand everything, because we want it to be built by a community and for people who are part of the community. It really is built on the model of how we created the ElevenMoms group. We existed a good six months before there was any public activity, because the most important thing to do out of the box in social media is to listen.
Ad Age: How are you getting this started?
Mr. Andrews: One of the things is we're producing an event called BowlHer at Lucky Strike Lanes in Chicago during [the BlogHer conference in late July there]. We're expecting 500 to 700 women there. We have a lot of suppliers participating in that project with us. The way we have communicated the value of that platform is that active participation and forming relationships with groups of bloggers who have an affinity for you rather than going out and having your public relations agency or marketing firm recruit some mom bloggers for a project.
Ad Age: What exactly are you going to do for clients?
Mr. Andrews: The real strength of social media right now, I think, is being able to listen and respond to your customers. Beyond that [the communities we build] will be platforms for innovation. The ability to work with customers in things such as product development, message development, market strategies, and then layering on the in-store connectivity, is invaluable. And then as you're building these long-term relationships, you're able to identify and interact with advocates.
We're trying to stay away from the campaign model. Long term, if I can create an advocacy group that you build a true relationship with, I can convert that into ROI and conversion at the shelf. It's not a 90-day process.
Ad Age: There's been a lot of talk and controversy about marketer compensation of bloggers through products or trips. How are you going to tackle that?
Mr. Andrews: The key issue is transparency. ... If I'm a blogger and I take a trip to Disney and Disney pays for that, that needs to be fully disclosed.