Gina Ballenger tells us about her role as Senior Director of Creative at Walmart Connect and how her team is harnessing creativity to help brands connect more meaningfully with customers across Walmart’s canvas. With over 25 years working in brand, experiential and social marketing, Gina is deeply experienced and passionate about working at the intersection of creativity, customer insights and brand connections.
A passion for unlocking opportunity through creativity
Throughout my career, I’ve always been passionate about building customer-centric experiences and cultivating cultures that breed creativity. The thing that excites me most about leading the Lightbox Creative team at Walmart Connect is seeing the massive potential for creativity to spark new and sustaining connections between customers and suppliers across the retail media landscape. This is a landscape that’s shifting — shopping journeys are no longer linear, and savvy brands can see the opportunity to drive impact beyond the point of purchase alone. The secret weapon for success is creative.
Introducing the Lightbox Creative team
Lightbox Creative is the in-house creative team that is helping suppliers capture Walmart customers’ attention and drive business results with Walmart Connect’s retail media solutions through best-in-class creative.
We are a diverse team of creatives, strategists and producers that bring great ideas to light, from designing for the brilliant basics to partnering on premium creative experiences. Our team is entrenched in all things Walmart. We know the Walmart canvas and what drives customer behavior, and we’re passionate about using creative to deliver engaging experiences that bring Walmart customers closer to the brands they love —in-store, online, and everywhere in-between.
Harnessing the power of insights to stand out
Capturing the attention of Walmart customers starts with understanding who they are and the evolving ways they shop. Brands can use stand-out creative to drive business results with their retail media campaigns, but it can be challenging to get it right if they’re not tailoring their creative to the audience and the environment. By partnering with Lightbox Creative, brands have an incredible opportunity to turn Walmart customer insights into action through creative that delivers the right message, at the right time, in the right place.
Through strategic consulting, concepting and creative production, our team helps brands show up across the Walmart canvas with impactful creative assets that resonate with Walmart customers. We also have a robust Creative Certification Program that gives qualifying suppliers the freedom to play a hands-on-role in designing and producing their own assets by training their in-house resources or agency team.
Keeping customers at the heart of creative
We thrive on close collaboration with our advertisers – we know Walmart, and they know their brand. That intersection is where we build impactful, compelling creative experiences. One of our biggest efforts, in partnership with the wider Walmart enterprise, was the redesign of the Walmart.com homepage. Our team helped to define what the advertising experience would look like. We improved the customer experience while also giving advertisers the unique opportunity to enhance the relevancy of their products by tying them to a timely customer-centric theme.
Beyond the homepage, we’ve done a lot of work around thematic, interest-based shopping moments that generate engagement with Walmart customers and also significant interest in brand products. One of my favorite examples is Gamer Drop, where we designed an online experience with gamers at the heart, that seamlessly integrated supplier advertising in a way that felt authentic to the gaming community.
Infusing creative with first-party insights
I’m also proud of the work that we’ve done to shift how our advertisers view us as a creative partner. Our goal is not just to meet advertisers’ needs, but to exceed them, by bringing new perspectives and out-of-the box ideas.
A great example is our partnership with an influencer-owned snack brand. The brand came to us looking for a standard set of product advertising, but we saw an opportunity to infuse more personality into their creative by using one of their best assets – their founder, who has over 100 million social followers. Knowing that Walmart customers tend to gravitate toward celebrities and influencers1, we knew that using this influencer’s social content would help the brand breakthrough in the Walmart environment and make the most impact with our customers. We built an engaging brand page and supporting ad campaign that aligned to their business goals.
Looking ahead to exceed advertisers’ expectations
Our team has grown exponentially, and we have big aspirations for the future. The expectations of advertisers have been elevated – they want a true creative partnership, custom solutions and to try things that have never been done before. That’s why we’re committed to building a culture of creative innovation, and the infrastructure to support it, so we can partner with our suppliers in new and exciting ways.
We also want to continue to drive best-in-class creative across the evolving product canvas, including with the introduction of video. In addition, we’re continuing to expand and uplevel our supplier training programs, doubling down on our work with Walmart Connect research teams to provide data-driven creative guidance. And finally, we’re streamlining processes and developing new automation tools that will help us provide premium creative services for even more suppliers.
Source: 1Walmart Spark Panel January 2022. Data was collected through an online survey distributed to customer panel members. Managed by conversation>ally, a Data Strategy & Insights team, part of Walmart Global Tech.