SABMiller to take tips from Silicon Valley

Peroni and Grolsch brewer SABMiller is taking 15 of its top executives on a trip to Silicon Valley to immerse them in technology in a bid to put digital “at the top of the agenda” across all divisions within the company.

A sample of the SABMiller portfolio.

Charlie Hiscocks, SABMiller’s director for integrated activity, told delegates at The Guardian Changing Advertising Summit that he is encouraging the company’s most important employees to think about digital as a “fundamental environment in which to do business” rather than just a media issue.

He added: “’What is our digital strategy?’ is the wrong question it [should be] ‘what are you doing in this world that is digital?’, it’s much more important that they [our top executives] or on it, but it’s all a work in progress.”

Hiscocks admitted the way in which his company and others categorise digital spend as part of their budgets is “deeply unhelpful” because digital should now be present across all output.

This “slicing and dicing” of the budgets has acted as some of the impetus of the November trip, where SABMiller employees will visit companies that are wholly digital so they appreciate that online budgets need not be separated out.

As part of the company’s digital transformation, SABMiller is reassessing how its brand teams “rent eyeballs” when they buy media and to instead focus on using their budgets in a way that is true to their brands and useful to the consumer.

“If you can do that, the likelihood is less money will go to media agencies because the utility of [the marketing or advertising] will be absolutely right,” Hiscocks said.

The new approach to spending on digital media will be “stress tested” over the coming months.

Last year SABMiller appointed agency veteran Gavin Marshall to provide the brewer with a “global perspective” to digital marketing to ensure it makes the most of local and regional expertise from all the territories it operates in.

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