Omnicom Media Group tracks shifting consumer priorities with new sentiment tool
OMD Worldwide
24 October 2022

Originally published on Digiday.

Consumers’ opinions and actions in response to the seemingly endless stream of seismic news and events — the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, the war in Ukraine, heated political rhetoric — have changed and doubled back more than Russian submarines known for their “Crazy Ivan” about-faces in The Hunt for Red October.

This new reality has made it more difficult than ever for marketers and their agencies to know where and how to more effectively reach those consumers. To solve for this, Digiday has learned, Omnicom Media Group is taking steps to try to stay ahead of their wants by launching a consumer sentiment tracking tool, named the Consumer Sentiment Tool (CST).

Embedded into the parent holding company Omnicom’s Omni marketing orchestration platform (essentially the connected data spine that all Omnicom agencies can access), the tool works through Omni Signal, a consumer polling tool that reaches 3.3 million people. It breaks down attitudes by generation, gender, income, ethnicity, region, and presence of children in the home (which Omnicom executives say is a significant variable); and can also look at behaviors within 18 specific consumer verticals.

Earlier this year, OMG first noticed consumers’ primary concern was shifting from COVID fears to worries over inflation — the latest OMG stats showing 78% of consumers cited inflation as a concern compared to 58% who cited COVID.

In total, 87% of consumers have changed their behavior in at least one category, with brand switching as the leading changed behavior on average across categories, said Renee Cassard, OMG’s chief research officer. Which led to the creation of a category volatility index. The categories that exhibited the most change since OMG implemented the CST are automotive, cable TV subscriptions, and discretionary insurance.

“We knew that not all categories were created equal when it came to inflation — some categories you cannot stop spending in, like CPG, groceries, beauty, those types of things,” said Cassard. “But those are also the categories that have the largest substitution effect, meaning that consumers are trading down (for our spirits category clients, we like to say people are drinking worse). We started to see that the majority of the population was making a change with regard to their behavior, but then we wanted to drill down into the different categories.”

Applying it to OMD’s wide client base, Cassard and team worked closely with Britt Cushing, OMD’s head of communications planning. “A lot of our clients have multiple audiences that they’re targeting for their different product lines,” said Cushing. “We were able to then parse out and understand that with some of our audiences, we might not need to make any change, but certain audiences we might need to, based on what we’re seeing in terms of an over-index or under-index.”

For example, OMD had a client (the agency declined to name it or the category) looking to launch a new product that’s more of a premium item compared to competitors in the category. Using CST, planners figured out that the core consumer was generally spending less or looking for more value, versus leaving the category because of inflation concerns. Audience targeting shifted toward private label and parity brands from which the product could take market share, while messaging shifted to multiple uses for the product to play up increased value in light of the higher cost.

“This investment makes good sense and reflects OMG’s and their brands’ commitment to continue to refine their use of data to gain insights, shape their media efforts and measure results,” said Joy Baer, a media technology advisor and entrepreneur. “This area is complicated for many agencies and brands. Sentiment is one factor in helping us understand customer behavior and while this is certainly valuable, it’s a piece of the data puzzle needed to deliver the best media plan based on the KPIs of the advertiser. It will be interesting to see how sentiment continues to develop as a data source for the new world of measurement and outcomes.”

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