Boots has enlisted in-housing specialist agency Oliver to help it set up an in-house agency, with a particular focus on in-store marketing.
While Oliver Nottingham will sit separately, it will work hand-in-hand with Walgreens Boots Alliance’s global marketing and communications agency of record, The Pharm, which comprises WPP’s VMLY&R, Ogilvy, Hogarth, and Mediacom, as well as B-Hive, Boots' internal studio.
The in-house agency went live on 17 August, with the team of 50 people recently moving into a bespoke Oliver space in Castle Marine, close to Boots' headquarters.
With the aim to “improve Boots' overall agency operating system”, Pete Markey, Boots' chief marketing officer, said he held a pitch at the beginning of the year.
He wanted to find a partner that “understood shopper marketing in order to attract and keep more people in-store”.
Markey added: “We've shifted some of our agency relationships to make that happen.”
After a competitive pitch between agencies with similar capabilities, Oliver was selected.
Sharon Whale, Oliver's chief executive, said: “What Pete and the team wanted was a partner that they could go through a longer-term transformation process with – in terms of what technology to use and what kind of automation to put across the business, so that Pete can free up his experts so they can focus on driving the business forward with less admin.”While Oliver will largely focus on in-store marketing, Markey said it will also work on other key projects, alongside producing small bits of content.
It is currently working with The Pharm on bringing Boots' Christmas campaign "Joy for all" to life in-store.
This isn’t the first time Markey and Oliver have worked together. They previously teamed up when he worked at TSB and The Post Office.
“Every time I’ve brought Oliver in, it’s been very transformational in terms of the work that they’ve been able to do. Not just helping us deliver cost savings, but also importantly to make the work more effective and more efficient as well,” Markey said.
The decision to open an in-house agency follows a number of significant changes Markey has introduced to the Boots marketing team since he took on the CMO role in February 2021, following two years as TSB's CMO.
In September 2021, Boots launched its own marketing agency, Boots Media Group, which creates ad campaigns for Boots' suppliers and partners, based on its Advantage Card loyalty scheme.
He said: “That area is seeing strong growth and great engagement from suppliers. And we’ve done a lot more on our data-driven activities, investing in technology and connected our suppliers with our customers and our data a lot more.”
Though Markey said he admires Specsavers' end-to-end in-housing department, unlike the opticians, he prefers the “hybrid model” over going “all-in”.
“I like the setup we've got. It gives us the best of everything. We have The Pharm delivering amazing strategic thought with big ideas, like our Christmas campaign. Then we have Oliver alongside us to help interpret that, but also do their own work as we deliver campaign activity.”
Markey said his top prority is getting the agencies to work brilliantly together.
He added: “That's the special formula. You don't need a one size fits all. Perspective is quite unique. Very few companies do end to end that way.”