Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Q&A: VaynerMedia’s Mike Feldman on the future of Retail Media

VaynerMedia recently appointed Mike Feldman as Senior Vice President and Global Head of Retail Media. New Digital Age caught up with Feldman to find out more about his career in retail marketing and VaynerMedia’s approach to the retail media space…

How did you end up specializing in retail media?

It feels like I was born for this type of role. My dad was a consultant to major wholesale retailers for most of his career, so my brother and I grew up doing store visits and audits and visiting retailers’ headquarters. We were immersed in retail from the beginning and, of course, we both swore we would never work in the industry. Today,  I’m a retail media practice lead and my brother is a buyer for a retailer, so we didn’t fall far from the tree. 

I started my career at the agency side, working in a variety of different media roles. When I was at Zenith, one of my clients, Georgia Pacific, wanted to rethink ‘shopper marketing’. They became one of the first companies to make an upfront agreement with Amazon around shopper data and, later, they decided to really lean into retail media. Around that time, I was hired to work for Georgia Pacific directly to build out their retail media practice. 

About three months into the job, they had an Innovation Day and one of the guest speakers was a guy called Gary Vaynerchuk. His message – that shopper marketing as we knew it was dead – was both terrifying and inspiring and helped to shape my thinking around retail media moving forward. 10 years later, following time working with Dentsu in retail media roles, I was reintroduced to Gary and, when the chance arose to join the VaynerMedia team, it soon became very clear that they were my kind of people. 

Is cookie deprecation and other forms of signal loss leading more marketers to explore the data available via the retail media space?

The way I think about retail media, and the way I would define it to retailers is ‘monetizing your data and your properties’ from your real-world stores to your online sites. That is not unique to retail. It’s nothing too different from what any media practitioner or marketing practitioner should be doing, so any media can be ‘retail media’ if it’s using retail data. 

I believe it is a better way to market yourself because it is more accountable, with higher fidelity rates on matches based on thousands of attributes, including actual purchase behaviour. I don’t think retail is the only sector that will take advantage of monetizing their data and their properties, which is exciting, when you look at the sort of data collaborations that can now be enabled in clean rooms and things like that. I think the recent evolution of channels like digital out of home (DOOH) and Connected TV (CTV) offers quite a lot of scope for interesting collaborations using retail media data.

What are the areas where clients are asking for support and advice at the moment?

One of the reasons that drew me to VaynerMedia was the amount of creative content the team is producing for clients. In retail media, the volume of first party data available enables really quick feedback loops. That means we don’t have to come up with one perfect refined piece of creative. We can put a variety of different stuff out into the marketplace and quickly see what is performing via the data.

As a media nerd and practitioner, having more creative at my disposal to test and learn from is fantastic and helps to inform and optimise my targeting strategy and bidding strategy. There’s literally billions of dollars being spent on retail media but, crazy as it sounds, there’s not a lot a great retail media happening from a creative point of view. That’s something that we at VaynerMedia are focused on changing.