It’s all change in big tech, with regulators addressing tough issues, audiences making more informed choices and the major platforms hit by controversies that keep making headlines. Warc’s held an interesting webinar on this recently, The reckoning of big tech: the way forward for brands. Commissioning editor, Cathy Taylor, spoke with Venky Iyer of premium spirits group Beam Suntory, and Brian Wieser of media investment company Group M, to find out what all this means for marketers. Here are some insights we found out when we listened in.

Brands need to take control of their own destiny on tech platforms

Venky’s perspective was interesting from the point of view of a group selling drinks brands across multiple countries. He said that for Beam Suntory, the reckoning of big tech started a fairly long time ago. “We had to start taking control of our own destiny in the face of platforms switching algorithms and regulations changing overnight. Also, a lot of retailers, were becoming media platforms, and erecting walls between us and our customers. We actually had to start thinking quite deliberately about ensuring that our access to our consumers is not held hostage by these platforms and start future-proofing our consumer access.”

The endgame is pulling customers into your own ecosystem

Venky said there has been a fundamental shift on how Beam Suntory shows up on tech platforms where they don’t own the audience. Their messages are explicitly designed to pull people into Beam Suntory’s own ecosystems. They immediately start creating a value exchange when a customer shares their first party data and then start driving that closed loop. When they recruit customers for the first time, a lot of their retention efforts are within their own channels. He said a lot of the budget was not going into ad spend but into their own DTM (digital transaction management) and CRM (customer relationship management). He said the endgame was pulling the customer into their own ecosystem.

The line between marketing and sales has disappeared

Venky said for his company, about four or five years ago, brand building and e-commerce were almost standalone functions by different divisions. But now it is fundamentally one group that drives the consumer relationships all the way from awareness to consideration to purchase. Essentially there is no line between marketing and sales today.

‘Media’ has a broader definition than before

A second change Venky noted for Beam Suntory is the way they define media – it’s not just things they pay the platform for. Anything the consumer sees is a media vehicle. When people come to their distilleries that’s a rich source of first-party data – they aim to deliver a rich and immersive experience, then take them into the digital world. They are being very, very methodical and meticulous about capturing that data in the real world. They think about every touchpoint with the consumer as a data acquisition opportunity. 

It's getting harder to satisfy reach and frequency with TV advertising. 

Brian looked ahead at the increasing difficulties of accomplishing reach with TV advertising Marketers will start to question not only the utility of television advertising, but whether or not reach and frequency is even a thing that they care about as a proxy for what drives awareness. He pointed to what was happening in China where his colleagues lament how little marketers are focusing on brand building and are way more focused on pure performance metrics.

Amazon is a frenemy

Venky spoke about Amazon being a frenemy to brands. It’s highly effective, but it has downsides in that as a brand, you are not in control of your brand experience. You can show up next to things you don’t want to be seen with, and they mess around with pricing in ways you can’t control. But you may need to be there and aim to eventually bring customers into you own ecosystem.

The best way to show up on tech platforms may not be advertising

Brands are seeing that the best way to show up on these platforms may not even be advertising. Venky gave the example of a new category of Korean spirits that had burst on the scene on a wave of cultural interest in the K-pop – with zero marketing. There’s a trend for long-form content and brands trying to influence culture to become a seamless part of it, rather than investing in an ad that might annoy or interrupt consumers. It’s as much more expensive approach than ads, and a spin of the roulette, but exciting at the same time.

Don’t try to be everywhere – find the right platforms for your brand

It’s impossible to be everywhere that the consumer is, but choices can be dictated by what platforms allow you to deliver the best brand experience, collect the most data. And allow you to preserve your margin.

Individual platforms may have crises, but tech is ubiquitous

Both guest speakers agreed that big tech was not in crisis as a whole –  rather that some platforms may fall out of favour for one reason or another. But the dollars are very much staying within the broader ecosystem, and that they migrate. Brian didn't foresee a pullback in digital spend. The shifts that happen are shifts between platforms, and digital is ubiquitous.

Marketers will need to use creativity to look for signals

Brian said that if you assume as a starting point that when third-party cookies go away, privacy will only becomes more important, as a marketer you need to figure out how you're going to manage your budgets going forward. What are the ways in which you're going to look for signals? Whether it's personal data, first party data, third party data. There are plenty of signals out there, but you need to be creative in finding the right signals to assess cause and effect.


Brands are having to work harder to gain control of the right customer data. The landscape is constantly shifting through new regulations and tech platforms’ own changes as well as unplanned controversies. Marketers need to be reactive and creative in order to ensure access to their customers and deliver the best brand experience. The endgame is pulling customers into the brand’s own ecosystem.

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