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News 13 Jul 2022 - 4 min read

Treasury Wines greenlights 20-strong in-house unit: creative, content, digital media, data now core capabilities required in-house; here's what's left for agencies

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

Ben Culligan: We need to be making smarter, sharper content, faster, to grow.

Treasury Wine Estates is bidding to drive ANZ growth via premium wine brands after China's tariff hike altered its global sales mix. Category & Marketing Director ANZ & Asia, Ben Culligan, is bidding for faster, more relevant content via a 20-strong in-house agency to boost short-term sales and longer-term brand building while unlocking cost efficiency. He thinks brands can no longer outsource what have become core marketing components.

What you need to know:

  • Treasury Wine Estates has built a 20-strong in-house agency in a bid for faster, more relevant comms.
  • Marketing Director Ben Culligan said creative, content, digital media, data-driven marketing now core capabilities required in-house.
  • Bidding for cost savings, greater effectiveness, short-term sales plus brand equity gains.
  • Wine brands “doing things differently, staying fresh, staying relevant” including 19 Crimes, Squealing Pig, Pepper Jack and Wynns seeing fastest growth.
  • Remit may ultimately expand if first phase of hybrid model, built with in-housing consultancy Lution, delivers.

Whether it is creative, content, digital media, data-driven marketing – all of those things are no longer external peripheral marketing capabilities. They're now absolutely core to what we need to have as our capabilities internally.

Ben Culligan, Category & Marketing Director ANZ & Asia, Treasury Wine Estate

Treasury Wine Estates is bidding to drive both short-term sales and longer-term brand building via a 20-strong in-house agency now set for launch.

The initial remit spans data, analytics, content, production, design and digital media via a hybrid structure that retains the capabilities of WPP agencies Wunderman Thompson and Mindshare for above the line creative and media.

“[Those agencies] will continue to be a critical part of what we do, leveraging where they have true expertise and a point of difference,” said Marketing Director Ben Culligan. But the in-house agency may ultimately increase its footprint.

“We’re seeing this as a phased approach. Phase one is getting the foundations, capability and culture right at the agency, building process, structure, proving the effectiveness – and in all honesty that the model works. Then over time, the ambition would be to expand the remit more broadly, if that makes sense for us.”

For now, the aim is greater relevance and speed to market.

“When we looked at our growth agenda over the coming years, it was really clear that how we engage with consumers will require much greater agility. Much more impactful, relevant, up-to-date content is absolutely an expectation from consumers and our customers,” said Culligan.

“When we assessed our marketing capabilities, it became really clear that whether it is creative, content, digital media, data-driven marketing – all of those things are no longer external peripheral marketing capabilities. They're now absolutely core to what we need to have as our capabilities internally.”

Hence bringing “internal design, content, production, creative and digital media capabilities into one integrated function”, added Culligan. “It will also help us broaden our wider internal capabilities and reduce the reliance that we have for those core capabilities on external agencies and partners.”

Long and short

A 20-strong internal agency will likely incur an annual seven-figure wage bill, which means it has to deliver. Culligan said Treasury Wines is aiming for both cost savings and growth.

“We’re looking for value capture and efficiencies, but also value creation. We clearly expect we'll see efficiencies in the amount that we're spending externally versus having that capability within our own business,” said Culligan.

“When we look at the benefits that can drive a growth agenda – whether through being more culturally relevant, greater personalisation, agility and speed to market – we also see real benefits of improved effectiveness which flows into short-term sales but also longer-term brand health,” he added. “We are servicing this as an efficiency and effectiveness part of our growth agenda.”

Economic necessity, invention

Treasury, which was Australia’s largest wine exporter to China, has had to adapt its strategy since punitive tariffs were imposed in late 2020. But that challenge has also led to innovation – and Culligan said the brands that are growing fastest among its 40-plus stable are those that are “doing things differently, staying fresh, staying relevant.”

He cited 19 Crimes, Squealing Pig, Pepper Jack and Wynns as driving “really positive growth across all channels … Those really strong brands that are being more innovative in the way that they’re acting and operating is where we’re seeing most growth”.

Hence the focus on agility, speed and relevance.

“I think we've made some really great progress as a business in our shift moving from being agriculture-led to brand-led as an organisation. But really we see that our future is about being consumer and culture-led. Which is why we need to be much faster, much more agile, much more relevant,” said Culligan.

“A big job for us to do continually is focus on recruitment into wine, giving consumers reasons to buy into the category or not to leave the category.

“We need to continue to give consumers compelling reasons to buy a brand and that means we must continually challenge ourselves: is the content that we are creating as effective and impactful as possible?”

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