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News Plus 15 Mar 2021 - 3 min read

Winning Group CMO: Billion dollar retailer brings everything in house, builds content studio, warns media to wise up

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

Winning Group CMO Sven Lindell (second from right): “We were getting better cost per views in TV than we were getting in Youtube … so we could actually start shifting our spend away.”

Australia’s largest online appliance retailer is bringing agency arrangements in house and going direct to publishers for ad deals. But only the smart ones – too many media owners are falling woefully short, according to Winning Group CMO Sven Lindell. Meanwhile, the firm has built its own TV studio to shoot infomercials – and has found TV spot rates can be cheaper than Youtube.

Publishers are saying 'we’re doing all this stuff in our first party data world – now here’s the spots on a page’. But that’s not what we are interested in anymore.

Winning Group CMO, Sven Lindell

Winners and losers

Winning Group is lesser known than its brands, which include Appliances Online and Home Clearance. But CMO Sven Lindell said the group is getting “close to $1bn” in turnover – and as well as selling goods, also sells media.

Appliances Online, for example, allows suppliers to bid on its platform to target customers, and also runs marketing campaigns for them. Lindell said the firm guides suppliers through “multistep journeys” and formulae to provide solutions that will help them shift more goods, more effectively.

As such, Lindell, a former top marketer and ecommerce lead at the likes of Temple & Webster and Woolworths, has an inside perspective on media sales – and he thinks publishers have failed to evolve.

“The presentations that come to us are still talking buying spots on a page. But that’s not what we are interested in anymore,” he told Ashton Media’s Programmatic Summit.

“We’re interested in finding those market triggers and bringing our datasets together to have a meaningful conversation at the right time … And those are the conversations that don’t happen. It’s literally [publishers saying] ‘we’re doing all this stuff in our first party data world – now here’s the spots on a page’,” said Lindell.

“They are not solving the customer solution … which is [helping us find] those trigger points in customers minds when they say ‘I actually need that product.”

The firm is now focused on “bypassing agencies” and going direct with publishers that can deliver sharper insights and create bespoke formats, said Lindell.

“That could be [for example] an interactive renovation guide ‘brought to you by Appliances Online and Gumtree’. Within that format, we actually collect information around our customers, get that permission and we can have a conversation," he added.

“So that's where I'd really love the conversation to start heading as we go out and have these conversations directly with publishers.”

In-housing, TV

Winning Group is “probably the biggest spenders in our industry set” when it comes to media, said Lindell. It is now “on the path to bringing most of our agency resources in house” and is building an internal multimedia division.

“A big part for us is how we keep the content machine rolling. We’ve accelerated to the point where it’s a bit out of control at the moment, so we want to make sure that we are in control of that content journey,” said Lindell.

The firm has built Winning Studios, a studio set in Rosehill to shoot infomercial TV ads and digital series. While the studio set up cost some $250,000, Lindell said control and cost benefits are stacking up.

“As we brought more brands into the portfolio, the costs were getting so large working with other content providers. We needed to take control, and over the last six months we’ve been doing that. At the same time, we’ve been lucky enough to be growing quite rapidly - as a business we’re now close to a billion dollars.”

While about 80% of Winning’s media spend is on digital channels, predominantly Google, that has shifted from 90% pre-Covid, when plummeting TV prices led Winning to test the waters.

“We were seeing that we’re getting better cost per views in Television than we were getting in Youtube … so we could actually start shifting our spend away.”

Meanwhile, "our direct format, which was essentially infomercials, ended up working really well for us.”

Evergreen budget

While in-housing is designed to keep a lid on spiralling content costs, Winning has implemented ‘evergreen' budgeting strategy, something Lindell also used at Temple & Webster to help power growth.

“It was very hard for our CFO to get behind… but it's an approach used by start-up style businesses to grow super fast. We just set a goal for where we need Ebit and literally just pump the rest into marketing as we grow,” he said. “That allows us to rapidly scale where channels give us performance.”

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