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THE MSOIA Video series with Mediatel: Tammy Charnley: Dealing with an explosion of data

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Suzuki has undergone a "radical" change in its media planning and buying over the last two years, the car brand's top UK marketer Tammy Charnley says.

In Episode Five of Mediatel News' "Making Sense of It All" video series, Charnley tells Crater Lake & Co's Brian Jacobs, partner at Crater Lake & Co about how the company has worked with broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 to use "talent-led creative" to engage viewers.

She says: "We've become increasingly aware of different customer journeys and how many people reach us in very different different ways and our media has had to reflect that changing nature of the way in which consumers want to seek out information about our brand and our products and our dealer network."

Making Sense of it All is weekly video interview series by Mediatel News in association with Crater Lake & Co. Each Tuesday, we publish interviews with the industry's most thought-provoking marketers, agency executives and research thinkers to find out how people working in media can make sense of this ever more complicated and fragmented ecosystem.


BRIAN JACOBS: So, Tammy, Suzuki Automobiles, it's been a great success story over the last 10 or 12 years or so indeed you won an IPA effectiveness gold in 2019. How has your media approach changed over time would you say?

TAMMY CHARNLEY: I think over that period, 10 years is a long time in any industry, but certainly over the last couple of years I think we've seen a dramatic change in the way we are approaching our media planning and buying and I think the real reason for that and change is due to the changing nature of the consumer. We've become increasingly aware of different customer journeys and how many people reach us in very different different ways and our media has had to reflect that changing nature of the way in which consumers want to seek out information about our brand and our products and our dealer network.

So therefore we've adapted that media planning and buying to reflect those changing audiences but also we've really redoubled our efforts in looking at innovative ways to get standouts with with those people in those audiences and, notably as you said, the IPA gold effectiveness that we won was as a result of a partnership strategy that we had with ITV as the broadcaster to that and a true collaboration in how we work together to reach their key audience, their prime audience and ours, and we've worked with other broadcasters, Channel 4 alongside ITV to use talent-led creative to really engage their viewers and our audience collectively and jointly. In addition to that we've also started to, and have invested more and more in, digital and media and digital channels again to reach more diverse audiences in a targeted and an engaging way.

JACOBS: Have you noticed changes in the target audience and how the type of audience has been behaving over the last couple of years? Are people easier or harder to reach?

CHARNLEY: yes in answer to your question: we have seen a change and I guess it's harder to get people to remember you and to stand out I think. That's every brand's challenge really isn't it, to be memorable? But also I think, with more channels to reach those audiences, there's more complexity of how we get that standard and where is the best place for us to invest. So yes, it has become more challenging but that's made us reflect more in in the best way for us to engage with that audience and what's the best results from which medium that we use.

JACOBS: Anyone who's ever bought a car knows that the automotive sector does collect an awful lot of data; I mean, the number of forms you fill out yes online bits of paper that you have to fill out to buy a car – everybody knows what that's like! Could you say a little bit about how Suzuki uses all the data that you collect to improve your marketing and what are some of the sort of barriers you've had to overcome to make sense of it all?

CHARNLEY: I think there is there is a lot of data in our industry but I would probably guess that everyone has the same challenge that there's been a huge data explosion in the last five years of more data from more and more channels and more complexity so we have seen an increase in the amount of data that that we can get hold of and we can use. I guess that the big thing – making sense of it all – is that actually that is the challenge.

There is so much data and really having data at our fingertips is one thing but our ambition has been to to take that data and to transform it into real insight and actions and I think that's the challenge, that's the big thing. There is lots of data but putting it into a usable format that actually drives insight and then action off the back of it is the challenge and certainly is one that we're working hard to try and address.

JACOBS: I think it's one thing having lots of data, it's quite another thing having data you can actually use and can inform what you do...

CHARNLEY: Yeah, absolutely. I think for us the ambition is to take that data and to turn it into an insight that develops an action that has the customer in mind because, like you say, anyone who's bought a car will know that they've given various information at various different stages and it's our job to make sure that that customer experience is seamless and connected and all be in a dealership or on a website. Should a customer give us that information, there's an implied understanding that we have it and that real time connection and engagement is hard to make seamless but it's a challenge and I think that's what we're working hard to to address really.

JACOBS: We're just coming out of (well, hopefully we're just coming out of) a terrible period of of change caused by obviously the pandemic. How has this affected your business? It must have presumably impacted your dealer network and the way that people even go about buying a car. Have things really changed dramatically over the last couple of years?

CHARNLEY: We've worked hard with our network during the lockdown to increase their digital capabilities and I think it's a network testimony to all testimony to them during the period of the pandemic whilst their sales operations were closed during lockdown we're obviously a business that services and looks after the safety of our customers vehicles so they were still operational and open to address those customer needs and they they did a sterling job fantastic job to to deliver that so we really had to have a blended approach during that period.

We're open for aftercare and for sales and service and repair work but we still wanted to give customers information when they wanted it, albeit remotely or online or (dare I say it in this day in age?) traditionally over the telephone! I know a lot of our dealer principals and their teams were available as in any form, in any way, that they needed to be contacted by customers during that period. But we really did work hard with them to increase their digital capabilities so that their remote offering, albeit behind the screen as opposed to physically in person, was as good as it could be during that period.

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