The Buy-Side View: Q&A with GSK’s Karin Meraner

06 May, 2021 

In this edition of ‘Buy-Side View’, we speak with Karin Meraner, lead media manager DACH at GSK. In this interview, Karin Meraner discusses how the lack of consolidation in the industry can be a barrier to brands using OTT advertising. Meraner also talks about how content marketing can provide a personal connection with the consumer, and about who inspires her in the industry. 

What is your biggest bugbear when it comes to video and CTV advertising?

 This point is perhaps a little obvious, but it’s something that’s really important. Every streaming platform has its own system and there hasn’t been enough consolidation between them. We can’t yet properly track the success of each campaign, and it’s like having to collect information from every different TV station, but there’s no common currency. There still isn’t a single platform where I can have access to all streaming providers, and then also can track the campaigns with the same KPIs. So that fragmentation can be really frustrating. 

How much media buying – if any – are you carrying out in-house?

That’s an interesting question, because it’s something that generates a lot of discussion in the industry. But in the end, I don’t know a lot of companies that actually do the majority of media buying in-house. Here at GSK we are, of course, promoting good cooperation and are working alongside agencies, but we have not started bringing people in-house. Outside of that, what I would say is that it is really helpful to establish a relationship with the publishers you work with, outside of the agency connection. That allows you to get a lot of information from inside, and to scale up accordingly. 

Which ad tech solution has delivered the most impact for your business? 

That has to be the Google tech stack. It allows us to focus on all the finer details. With Google, we can really look closely at the dashboards and find out whatever insight we want to know from the campaign. Without that kind of data, you are left wondering whether you have enough insight into your campaign’s performance. 

Thinking back to standard reports, these do work if you have standard questions. But if you want to find out more, then the only way to do that will be to really look into the dashboard and see what actually happened with the campaign – I would say in terms of not only media performance, but also with regards to asset comparison and development.

What advice would you give smaller sell-side companies to help them compete with the larger platforms? 

Well as I said we use the Google tech stack, which is obviously one of the biggest companies out there, and we’re also a big company. Before I began my current role, I worked for Quantcast, which is a comparatively small company in the German and European markets. What I experienced there, and what I still see, is that the bigger the sell-side company, the less important you are as a client. Where smaller companies can really profit is by being agile and responding to the customer needs.

Smaller sell-side companies would really stand out by being able to provide quick fixes in the dashboard or developing tools together with the client. Another advantage would be if they were able to focus on a particular industry, for example, like pharmaceutical healthcare, where there are particular needs. So I would say for smaller sell-side companies, the more agile they can be and the more collaboration they can offer, the more they will be able to compete with larger players.  

Which do you think video advertising is the most effective for – generating awareness and brand-building, or driving short-term sales?

One advertising channel cannot be expected to do everything, and every channel has its own particular purpose. I see video as an awareness and brand building channel. For me, it’s an equivalent to TV, a place where consumers are having a lean back experience. Consumers are in the mood to watch content, not necessarily interact.  

That’s something we’ve seen in our campaigns over the last few years, when we try out a feature like YouTube’s ‘TrueView for action’. The German market is still not responding to that, because when consumers are watching a video, they don’t feel like they should interact.

OTT is a channel that is really perfect to establish a brand or to make someone aware of a brand, but is less suited to making a short term sales impact.

Are you investing in OTT advertising?  How will the shift towards OTT change your TV buying strategy?

Consumer behaviour has changed a lot in recent years, particularly during the pandemic. The activation touchpoints are changing along with consumer behaviour. Therefore, the buying behaviour from the advertiser is changing. So we are increasing our investment in streaming networks available in our market, like YouTube.  

But as I said before, OTT is difficult because you have to run a different campaign for every single streaming provider. That makes it really difficult to say how impactful these campaigns were because you are not able to combine the data from all of them. But while consumption is changing, it also depends on the group you are targeting. Germany is still a comparatively linear TV-focused market.

That does vary among different target groups however. For younger consumers, it’s all about streaming rather than linear TV. But I do think in the coming years, OTT will have a broader appeal, and that’s something that will be a real game-changer. 

What could brands do to help clean up the industry? 

I think it’s important to push for the industry to work together. The sooner we all collaborate effectively, the better. 

Which metrics do you value the most when it comes to video and OTT advertising?

There’s been a strong drive towards YouTube over the last two years. The brand lift studies that are available when activating campaigns on YouTube are one example of its benefits. That’s also the biggest advantage when you’re comparing OTT to linear TV. With linear, you are not getting anything back, you’re just investing and hoping for the best. But with streaming providers, you are able to see metrics like whether you reached the consumer, whether you got a brand uplift and whether other consumers are considering buying your product. 

The metrics that OTT can provide also gives you a clear picture of who is watching and when they stop watching, which is a good indicator of what’s working and what’s not. It’s immediate feedback, and feedback is always a gift for us. 

If you had £1,000,000 to spend and were forced to choose between content marketing, influencer marketing or paid advertising, which would you choose and why?

I would opt to spend the money on content marketing. Putting myself in the shoes of a consumer, if I have a need or I’m looking for something, I go looking for helpful content on the internet. As a consumer, I would like to find content that really helps me.

For me, content marketing is about being there at the right moment with the right answer. Take Voltarol as an example. A consumer might have knee or back pain and would like to find a solution for that. The consumer searches for content related to that, perhaps a doctor explaining to them what they can do or some helpful exercises. Alongside that, it would show that the consumer can use Voltarol against pain. It provides a solution to a problem.  

Which person in the industry inspires you the most today?

It took me a while to think of someone, I wanted to go for someone lesser known in the industry, but in the end I had to go for the one and only Scott Galloway. He has a great tech brain and a broad knowledge about the industry, and he was the first one to combine marketing and media with tech. I think we need more of that holistic thinking.

Out of all the video and TV advertising campaigns you’ve been involved with, which are you most proud of?

I would go for a great and well known GSK brand: Sensodyne. This year, Sensodyne’s brand was communicated in a completely new way. It essentially became a lifestyle brand, with a jingle connected to the brand, and a new logo. Ads now no longer start with the dentist explaining that you should brush your teeth and use Sensodyne. 

The new way of marketing Sensodyne really stems from consumer insights. Sensodyne is especially developed for sensitive teeth which people struggle with when enjoying a hot drink or ice cream. So the campaign focuses on that moment of realisation when you first feel that pain and wonder what has caused it. It begins with emotions, people having a good moment and that being disrupted. I think that’s something that lots of people can recognise or relate to. This was a complete change in communications strategy that made for a great campaign.


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