AB InBev names Epsilon its data AOR in the U.S., as brewer builds more-granular consumer targeting model
Anheuser-Busch InBev has hired Publicis Groupe’s Epsilon as its data agency-of-record in the U.S. and a global data partner, as the brewer looks to get closer to consumers and up its analytics game.
The hiring comes after a review handled by London-based brand consultancy MediaSense that included a deep look at AB InBev’s data practices with an aim toward making better use of data to execute and measure marketing campaigns. The process did not lead to any media agency changes, so Dentsu’s Vizeum will continue to handle media planning and buying duties in the U.S.
However, Epsilon’s input will play a critical role in shaping the brewer’s media and marketing approach as it looks to move away from using a channel-oriented process to an audience-oriented one. In other words, marketing will be less informed by what platform is used—TV or digital, for instance. Instead, the brewer wants to collect more-granular data on drinkers, including from both third-party and first-party data sources, so it can reach them with the right messages at the right time, no matter the platform.
“It’s about who we want to talk to and where they are instead of what is the channel and who is available there,” says Luiz Barros, the brewer’s global VP of data and media.
With Epsilon on board, Barros will lead a new “global data center of excellence” that will be based in the U.S. and charged with data and audience strategy as well as measurement. Barros, who has played a critical role in shaping the brewer’s marketing during the pandemic, will take on the new title of VP-data center of excellence and global media, reporting to U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Marcel Marcondes.
The changes come as AB InBev, like most marketers, puts greater emphasis on using first-party data (information collected directly from its consumers) as privacy concerns lead to big changes in the digital ad ecosystem. Google Chrome is phasing out third-party cookies that brands have used to target marketing to consumers, and Apple will soon roll out pop-up prompts asking for user permission before an app can track users across different apps and websites.
Part of AB InBev’s solution is to ramp up loyalty programs in which people opt in to sharing personal data in exchange for getting the chance to earn benefits like sporting event tickets and merchandise. This was a key plank of Bud Light’s Super Bowl campaign strategy. The Big Game ad, which spotlighted the brand’s classic ad characters, plugged a new program called Bud Light Legends that promises “legendary discounts, epic experiences and exclusive merch” in exchange for people consenting to having the brewer use personal information for electronic product and marketing targeting.
Gathering such consumer intelligence will “enable us to do much better targeting, more acute measurement [and], understand if we were able to change their behavior or not with our campaigns,” Barros says. He stressed that the brewer is transparent about the data collection, saying “data ethics is fundamental to us.”
Epsilon’s pitch is that its so-called PeopleCloud allows brands to connect data gathered from consumers from various touchpoints, including loyalty programs, in apps or in store.
Barros says he is counting on Epsilon to “accelerate massively how we are able to build people-based audiences instead of research-based audiences. It’s going to give a single view and an end-to-end unique audience that we can leverage, measure [and] understand consumers, from insights to creative content.”
Bryan Kennedy, CEO of Epsilon, in a statement said “through the power of Epsilon PeopleCloud, our model positions AB InBev firmly in control of its customer relationships, driving tight connectivity between data and media to unlock growth opportunities at a global scale.”
The AB InBev client win comes as Epsilon, acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2019 for $4 billion, becomes a significant revenue driver for the ad agency holding company. Epsilon grew U.S. revenues by 5.5% in the fourth quarter, “enabling our most important country to be slightly positive,” Pubilcis Groupe stated in its earnings press release.