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Tesco Media and Insight partners with GroupM as retail media gets into bed with the agency world

Tesco rolls out Gorillas to Manchester

Tesco Media and Insight Platform has announced a significant media partnership with GroupM, WPP’s media investment group, made up of brands such as Mindshare, Wavemaker and EssenceMediacom, writes Colin Lewis.

The announcement is significant for a number of reasons. As the press release says, it is “among the first of its kind focused specifically on the retail media arena” and “a major landmark in developing a large-scale strategic partnership”.

Why is this?  This is the first time that any Retail Media Network in the UK has announced any form of partnership with the agency world.

Let’s look at the back story. In the UK, Europe and Australia, the question for the past few years has always been where are the holdco agencies with respect to Retail Media and Digital Commerce? Holdcos being the label given to all the big agency holding groups such as WPP, Dentsu, Omnicom and Publicis.

In the US, the holdco agencies are part and parcel of Retail Media as ad inventory is accessible and ‘buyable’ as part of media plans across Amazon, Walmart and the like. This is not the case in the rest of the world. 

This has not been the case in the UK and the question that retail media brought up is what the role of the agencies as the Retail Media Networks are media and creative agencies in many respects.

Granted, Publicis has excellent Digital Commerce and Retail Media ‘creds’ with its purchase of Epsilon and Citrus, and Omnicom made the acquisition of 2023 by buying Flywheel from Ascential. 

For the remainder of the holdcos, the story was weak – but the Group M / Tesco Media and Insights announcement is the WPP to bridge that gap.

Uche Ofili, Agency Group Head at Tesco Media and Insight Platform described the partnership as: “A dedicated step towards more integrated retail media planning at a truly holistic, full-funnelled, strategic level”. In other words, Group M is recognising the value of Retail Media.

The devil might be in the detail, so how real is this deal? Let’s pick apart the key statements in the press announcement of the deal:

  1. Covers on-site, off-site, and connected store offerings“: Coming out with all of the major retail media channels as part of the deal shows ambition. Too many of these deals are just self-serve for sponsored products.
  2. The relationship will also see the establishment of an in-store screen partnership – as well as early access to innovations within the Platform and a direct feedback loop into the product ad propositions team to help shape future offerings”: This is very smart – instore screens are the biggest inventory growth opportunity for retailer. Secondly, within agencies, screens are not as ‘sexy’ as TV advertising. Putting screens as part of the deal will open agencies minds about the real potential that new screen tech has.
  3. “GroupM’s teams will have access to Tesco Media and Insight Platform’s Insights module via the acclaimed dunnhumby Sphere self-serve platform as well as dedicated advanced Client Success support”: First of all, what is Sphere? Sphere is the self-serve too for clients to be able to plan, execute and measure campaigns using insights from the 21 million Clubcard households to create audiences across Tesco Media channels. This is similar to how US agencies access Walmart Connect, Amazon Advertising, Kroger Media etc inventory, so this is really just catching up with the US.
  4. GroupM will also establish a Tesco Media and Insight Platform Champions programme for select individuals across the group who will act as internal ambassadors for the Platform, while joint publicity initiatives will further promote the role of retail media and help to scale its adoption by leading brands”: rather than just leave Retail Media to one department within Group M, they are actively getting the team to tune into what retail media can do. This is significant, as to date, too many marketing industry folks have looked at Retail Media as an afterthought performance marketing option that is not important.

What can we expect next from agencies in UK, Europe and Australia?

The pressure now on other holdcos in the UK to work out what their reaction to this will be. Shall we see a similar announcement from say, Omnicom and Nectar 360, given that Tesco (as the retailer Tesco) has Group M as its media agency of record and Sainsburys use PHd – part of the Omnicom Group.

The pressure is also on the other big RMNs in the UK to see who they can partner with. The reality – as the US has shown – is that while starting up or scaling up a Retail Media Network, owning the relationship with the advertisers is fine. Eventually, the need for growth means the needs for more distribution of inventory. This means agency budgets and so more agency deal are inevitable.

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