As the TV upfront sales season enters its final week, advertisers are seeking more flexibility with their media spending amid ongoing shifts in viewing habits. Mars, the confectioner whose brands include M&M’s, Milky Way and Snickers, is keeping a close eye on those trends as traditional linear TV becomes a smaller part of the media mix.

“The upfront as a whole is changing. More and more consumption is pivoting away from traditional television,” Ron Amram, senior director of global media at Mars, said in this interview with Beet.TV. “It’s happening slowly, but it’s been more drastic, especially over the last calendar year during COVID.”

Mars is video-centric in its communications strategies for its top brands, he said, which isn’t going to change as the company seeks to reach a mass audience among a variety of linear and digital channels.

“In the world of COVID, we do need a bit more flexibility,” Amram said. “The upfront is important. I still think you’re going to see future brands commit to long-term investment for key properties, sponsorship-like elements and the highest quality inventory. But the upfront as a whole is probably going to diminish in its relative importance, especially during tricky, recession-like times that we’re facing.”

OTT and Digital Video

Mars is broadening its media investment among the over-the-top (OTT) and digital video platforms of its key broadcast networks.

“We’re pivoting toward broader video distribution platforms, whether it’s YouTube or social media or even TikTok,” he said of the social video app that’s popular with U.S. teens. “We’re matching the consumption behaviors of today’s consumers in order to get our reach right.”

A key challenge is optimizing its media investment as viewers spend more time in “walled garden” environments that don’t provide enough data to help compare performance and to avoid overexposing the same consumers to ads.

“We’re investing more and more in research to try and learn what’s working and what’s not working, and what the right balance is,” Amram said. “In the past, we didn’t need to focus on it as much, but in the evolving media consumption shifts of consumers today, and how much that’s accelerated recently, we have to have a stronger understanding of what’s working.”

He said Mars is evaluating multiple research vendors to find media metrics that are correlated to sales. He also foresees more growth in programmatic TV as advertisers seek the same kind of flexibility they have with digital media.

“It’s kind of evolving. It hasn’t hit critical mass yet, but in a world of recession where you’re trying to optimize, have flexibility, measure at speed and optimize your content and media mix in flight, the time is now for these types of things,” he said. “We’re looking at things more holistically than these siloes. The more that you can bring media and collapse it together into one strategic planning and buying tool and platform, the more effective we believe you can be.”

You are watching “Optimizing a Rapidly Converging TV & Video Marketplace: What’s Next,” a Beet.TV leadership series presented by Amobee. For more videos, please visit this page.