News Briefs


Cub Foods Taps AI for Improved Promotions

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Cub Foods is launching an artificial intelligence (AI) solution to better manage its promotions. The Midwest discount grocery chain tapped tech firm Cognira to help analyze historical performance, embed workflows and approvals, provide AI insights that align with the business and forecast promotional demand across all products.

The AI solution covers the life cycle of promotion planning and includes the support of in-store discounts and weekly circulars, as well as online ads and personalized offers based on AI.

“Consumers are consistently searching for promotions that are most relevant to their purchasing habits and our job as their grocer is to bring those promotions to them as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Luke Anderson, chief information officer at Cub, in a news release from Cognira. “Working with Cognira and their centralized solution for promotion planning, optimization, and personalization will give us the ability to achieve that vision.”

Cub has embraced grocery tech in other ways. In late 2021, the grocer teamed with CitrusAd to better engage shoppers through personalized online experiences powered by retail media technologies.

Owned by United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), Cub Foods operates almost 80 grocery stores and pharmacies in Minnesota and Illinois.


The Mars Agency Expands to Fourth Continent

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The Mars Agency will forge a new international partnership with Australian retail activation agency XPO Brands.

The collaboration is part of The Mars Agency's ongoing international expansion, which began in 2010 with the opening of their London office. The growth will support the agency’s blue-chip client roster with full-service capabilities in four continents across a slew of regional and local markets.

Partnering with XPO Brands sets The Mars Agency up to significantly enhance its presence in Australia and New Zealand markets, while also adding diverse new talent and specialized capabilities.

"Our global clients will value XPO's strong presence in the Australian and New Zealand commerce space, led by their local expertise across shopper, retail and experiential marketing," said Darren Keen, The Mars Agency CEO of international markets, in a recent media release. "We're excited about the way XPO helps strengthen the global TMA proposition."

Founded in 2013, XPO Brands is headquartered in Sydney, Australia, with an additional arm in Melbourne. Its integrated, below-the-line campaigns span shopper marketing, digital and content, experiential events and product sampling.

There is no change in leadership on either side. Keen will oversee the expansion as CEO of international markets. The Mars Agency, based in Southfield, Michigan, will now operate 16 offices spanning the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Oceania, employing over 700 employees.


Walmart Canada Adds Digital Audio Advertising


Walmart Canada has joined Canadian music, media and technology company Stingray Group’s retail media network. Under the agreement, Stingray is responsible for exclusive sales representation, in partnership with the Walmart Connect sales team, of all digital audio advertising within Walmart’s Canadian's stores.

The network enables brands to reach Walmart Canada shoppers through contextually relevant audio messages that are digitally ad-served (directly or programmatically) via Stingray’s proprietary streaming media technology, according to a news release announcing the partnership. Retail-based digital audio advertising enables brands to connect with “highly qualified” consumers during their in-store shopping journey.

“The Stingray team has built a powerful new model in the programmatic audio space, and their solution, combined with a focus on closed-loop measurement, aligns well with our goal of providing advertisers with innovative solutions that connect brands with customers in moments that matter,” Dana Toering, vice president, Walmart Connect Canada, said in the release.“These highly customizable audio ads are the perfect complement to our existing in-store and online offerings, providing something new to brands that are looking to boost their influence with the 1.5 million shoppers who visit Walmart stores daily across Canada.”

The network launches in 200 of Walmart Canada’s more than 400 stores in April. The remaining stores will launch by the end of the second quarter of 2022.

In January, Stingray expanded its retail-based digital audio advertising footprint in the U.S. by acquiring InStore Audio Network, an American network that reached 100 million shoppers each week in over 16,000 grocery retailers and pharmacies across the country. Under Stingray's ownership, InStore Audio Network continues to broaden its existing retail media offering with a focus on verified audience measurement, digital ad serving and programmatic monetization.


Bluebird Group Adds Walmart as Retail Partner


The Bluebird Group, an omnichannel retail service agency, has added Walmart as a partner following the acquisition of 479 Sales & Marketing, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based, omnichannel agency. The expansion adds to Bluebird's team of “strategically minded experts” and allows them to offer a larger array of services designed to help in-demand brands become retail-ready and deliver their products in-store and online, according to a news release from the agency.

"Our combined industry knowledge, data insights and analytics will provide our brand partners with the best services available," said Jason Kapsner, founder & CEO of Bluebird, in the release. "The 479 team shares our mission to be analytically forward-thinking and trusted stewards of our brand and retail partners. Their Walmart expertise is evident in their long-standing client relationships."

Bluebird has relationships with retailers including Target, Best Buy and Costco. The acquisition of 479 allows the company to expand their expertise to Walmart, and Sam's Club. All employees of 479 will transition to Bluebird and remain in Arkansas to continue to foster their Walmart relationships.

"We've been methodical in our search for the right partner,” said Kapsner. “We've been wanting to grow our relationship with Walmart, and 479 can help us do that. We're excited to bring them under the Bluebird umbrella and provide new opportunities for our brand and retail partners."


Volta Appoints Interim CEO


Volta Inc.’s board of directors has appointed Brandt Hastings, chief revenue officer at Volta, as interim CEO, effective immediately. Hastings will also retain his title as CRO. This appointment follows Scott Mercer's decision to step down as chairman and CEO of Volta last month. The board has commenced a formal search for a permanent CEO.

Hastings is a revenue executive with two decades of experience building business models and driving growth for global companies such as iHeartMedia and Clear Channel Communications. He currently leads Volta's advertising and charging solutions businesses to deliver measurable impact to international brands, agency partners, commercial properties and retail locations, according to a news release. Hastings has led Volta's revenue growth and expanded the company's site partner relationships significantly since joining the company in 2020.

"Volta is a strong company with immense opportunity as the world transitions to electric mobility," said Kathy Savitt, co-chair of the board, in the release. "We want to thank Scott Mercer, who built this company with an incredible vision. As the board conducts a complete and formal search for a permanent CEO, we are confident that [Hastings] will lead Volta's teams to realize the company's significant potential."


Cannabis Retailer Brings Tech-Savvy Destination to Los Angeles


Premium cannabis retailer HerbNJoy has opened a tech-savvy store in Beverly Hills, California. Among its features, the curated retail space includes a bespoke interactive digital wall, elevated interior design and a concierge front desk where shoppers can receive one-to-one customer service.

With this location, the cannabis retailer is doubling down on its focus of ensuring the shopping experience is “unintimidating, inclusive and informative,” according to a media release from HerbNJoy. The Beverly Hills store will launch a series of events and activations related to wellness, education, entertainment and community support through strategic partnerships and philanthropic endeavors, such as advocating for cannabis criminal justice reform.

“With so many cannabis companies either stuck in the past, or adopting the same generic models, HerbNJoy sets itself apart by operating at the intersection of cannabis, technology and lifestyle, combined with a social and cultural responsibility, seeing the importance of education, inclusivity and supporting minority groups that have been vilified by our institutions and media,” Jeff Linden, chief operating officer and co-founder of HerbNJoy, said in the release.