Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Media Hero: Lidl Head of Media, Sam Gaunt

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their media hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Sam Gaunt, Head of Media at Lidl, joined the retailer in 2015 with 15 years of media and digital agency experience, working at agencies including Denstu, OMD and Vizeum.

Who is your media hero?

Rory Sutherland: ad agency boss, author and behavioural science guru.

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

He encourages us to trust our human instinct and think about why people behave as they do.

In the face of so much ad technology and statistical analysis techniques he tells marketeers to look behind the numbers for real human insight.

Marketing is not a science like physics where there is a right and a wrong answer, it’s more like weather forecasting — there are patterns of behaviour from which we can learn.

How has his heroism helped drive media?

Rory thinks beyond the traditional ‘paid, owned and earned’ media framework to consider the context in which brands are experienced. Sometimes business objectives can be achieved more effectively through tweaking the way a brand or product is presented rather than investing in more media.

Sometimes what data tells us is the most efficient way of investing our media money can prevent us from thinking creatively about a problem and making wiser investment decisions.

As investment in digital media and technology grows exponentially and digital analytics takes a more central role in marketing decisions, we need to think both objectively and subjectively before trusting the machines.

They are there to help us, not make our decisions for us.

What the biggest challenges in media we need another hero to solve?

Mass media is in decline. The decline is slow but inevitable as people spend less time in ad-supported environments. The days when you could achieve substantial reach, frequently and at low cost are numbered for most advertisers and already over for some.

For advertisers looking to drive offline sales, quality digital inventory is scarce and expensive and a lot of content is unregulated and unsafe for brands. Finding, targeting, buying and analysing digital media is hard work even for the biggest advertisers, and its complexity means there are many paths to go down which can end up being blind alleys!

The marketing industry needs a hero to help advertisers reach their audiences more effectively and cost efficiently in digital channels. It means making pricing fairer by removing distortions in the market caused by agency incentives, ad fraud and unnecessary or excessive technology and data costs. It means safeguarding viewers and advertisers by better regulating content.

And it means making more premium content more accessible for advertising.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in media?

I’m proud of building a fantastic team which have contributed towards Lidl’s extraordinary growth over the last 5 years. I’ve been fortunate to work beside some very talented people at Lidl and our agencies.

We’ve uncovered some powerful insights from various sources and used them to great effect in our media planning and inputting into creative development.

A real highlight for me is the work we did in measuring the effectiveness of digital channels in driving offline sales. The optimisation we’re doing on the back of that is having a demonstrable effect on driving our sales growth.