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Moe’s Southwest Grill Adds Programmatic To National Media Strategy

February 21, 2013

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Restaurant chain Moe’s Southwest Grill recently hired marketing agency Engauge as its media agency of record, handling a new national television campaign and the company’s foray into programmatic buying.

“Moe’s is about 12 years old and we’ve just now gotten to the point where we’re collecting marketing dollars at the national level, rather than just at the co-op level,” said Paul Macaluso, CMO of Moe’s, which has more than 420 locations in 33 states, Washington D.C., Canada, and Turkey. “For us, we’re a young brand and we have a lot of goals for increasing brand awareness.”

AdExchanger spoke to Macaluso about the new partnership and the brand’s plans in the programmatic space.

AdExchanger: Tell me more about Moe’s decision to hire Engauge as its media AOR. What specifically will they be doing?

PAUL MACALUSO: We’re starting to get a nice budget because of our growth and new restaurants, to have some money to do something with. We did a search for a media agency, and after a RFP, with about 8 or 9 agencies, we selected Engauge.

Other brands I’ve been with—I was at Burger King before, and Taco Bell and Sonic—it was about trying to stay in front of people and bring new products to market. For Moe’s, it’s different. It’s trying to increase basic awareness of the brand, so that’s what Engauge has brought us: a solution to do that, including TV. We’re going to be on national cable for the first time, in March, with them. And then geo-targeted display through the trading desk and programmatic buying. They brought a well-balanced plan to help us accomplish our objectives.

Will you focus on programmatic buying in general or more specifically RTB? And how much will you be doing mobile versus desktop?

Well, it’s really all-new for us. But we will be focusing on programmatic buying in general. We did a test in the 4th quarter with Engauge, just to understand how we should spend the money this year. Aside from that little test, Moe’s doesn’t have any experience.

We did, through the test, realize that at our budget level, we need to pick one or the other when it comes to desktop or mobile. We’re going to focus more on desktop just from an efficiency standpoint of our budget. And one of our main objectives is going to be driving people to our online ordering through desktop.

We won’t be doing a lot of mobile this year, but we want to look at mobile down the line. We have a mobile app as well for ordering, and we’re hoping to drive people to download the app and order that way, but we don’t have the budget to do both. We’ll hopefully get after that in the future.

What do you see as the pros and cons of programmatic buying?

It’s so efficient. From everything we’ve seen, even in our test, it’s an efficient way for us to buy digital media. For our brand, we’re large and we cover a large geography, but were not national. It’s good for a brand like us to have the ability to laser-focus in on our target. From different conferences I’ve attended and speaking with other CMOs in the industry, it seems that programmatic buying is working and they like the results.

The part we see as a con is being able to execute really cool, creative, and rich executions. Those are not as easy to do with programmatic. We’re still doing a few of those direct partnerships. One is with Pandora, where we’re going to get to do some cool things that fit well with us.

How will Engauge play a role in this type of programmatic advertising and what they’ll be doing?

They’re not only buying it, but they are planning it all. They are fully integrated. At Moe’s, we don’t even have a full time media person on staff on the corporate side. So they will be leading us and helping educate our team. Their programmatic buying and trade desk is powered by Mediaocean, which I have some experience with.

Mediaocean has the ability to optimize the buy and help us compete against the largest brands out there. We’re going against the Coca-Colas of the world to try to reach our target. We know that we need a level playing field to do that, but we don’t have the budget. This trading desk enables us to do that and optimize our buy and look for efficiencies and make it a level playing field for us.

Does the term “big data” mean anything to you? On an operational marketing level, how does that play out?

This is a big topic of conversation for us as a restaurant brand. We’ve got so many different ways of connecting with people. We have the email database. We have a Check-In club. We have our Facebook fans and Twitter followers. We have this online database when people order online or via an app. Finding a way to integrate all of that data and make logical sense of it, and to be deliberate about how we message people, is a challenge for us and especially for a brand of our size, in terms of our marketing staff.

The one thing that I’m hearing a lot about is a concern from consumers over who owns the data and their privacy levels, so we’re very mindful of that as well. We’re taking a slower approach in terms of that because we don’t want to make any mistakes in terms of destroying trust that our customers have put in us. It does help us to target people better, with better, more usable information about our brand, but it all starts with consumer trust with the brand.

Via Ad Exchanger