This month, Julia Miller, Group VP-Commerce Media, was named a winner in the Innovation category of the Path to Purchase Institute’s 7th annual Women of Excellence competition. The following is a profile of the qualities and characteristics that earned her the award.
Don’t be surprised to find Julia Miller taking a lead role in the Metaverse sometime soon.
No, Julia’s avatar won’t be emceeing a live shopping event at Walmart for one of The Mars Agency’s clients. But if an event like that does happen, it’s very likely her thought leadership will be driving the plan behind it.
That’s because Julia’s combination of strategic acumen, media and marketing expertise and technical savvy made her ideally suited to lead the agency’s development of the Metaverse and Web. 3.0 as a shopper engagement tool. She recently began sharing that knowledge with clients and exploring ways for them to activate through these rapidly emerging platforms.
Driving innovation isn’t exactly a defined role for Julia at The Mars Agency, where her “day job” centers on strategic planning for commerce media programs. But her natural inclination to explore new tools and technologies that can inform and improve this foundational work for clients has put her at the forefront of the agency’s broader innovation initiatives.
Her innovation-fueled insights and strategic direction were on full display this spring at the M&M’S Music Lounge, a program for client Mars Wrigley brought to life in both the real and virtual worlds: the former through an interactive showcase at summer music festivals and the latter with an immersive augmented reality experience.
They also were clearly evident last Halloween, when the agency teamed Mars Wrigley with SnapChat and DoorDash to create a “virtual vending machine” that let holiday shoppers order candy for home delivery in less than one hour.
Julia also leveraged her insights-driven use of innovation during the early stages of the pandemic, when stay-at-home mandates put a halt to traditional sampling and experiential events. The Mars Agency partnered with client Nestle Waters (now BlueTriton) to create a virtual mixology experience for Sanpellegrino mixers in which an augmented reality bartender taught shoppers how to make cocktails using the products.
Groundbreaking work like this earned Julia a promotion to Group Vice President-Commerce Media this spring. She’s now leading half of the agency’s media strategy team, directing all national consumer promotion work. But she still serves as primary planner for the Mars Wrigley business, where innovative ideas like the programs mentioned earlier have become critical lately due to the disruption in impulse buying and sampling caused by the pandemic.
Innovation isn’t exactly a new “hobby” for Julia, either. Before joining The Mars Agency in 2015, Julia spent 10 years at Benjamin Moore, where she led both strategy and implementation for the paint maker’s entry into direct-to-consumer eCommerce and also guided creation of its first digital color selection tool for shoppers. She ultimately was promoted to Director of Marketing to oversee all of Benjamin Moore’s omnichannel activity.
In fact, her passion for innovation began even earlier, when she started her professional career on Wall Street helping JP Morgan automate risk management processes for its trade settlement systems — a precursor to all the fintech disruption taking place today through machine learning and artificial intelligence.
At The Mars Agency, Julia is also part of a team that produces an ongoing series of reports identifying the shopper trends that should be top of mind for marketers. Last fall, she led development of the agency’s POV on social commerce. And the most recent report examined virtual influencers, livestream shopping and, yes, the Metaverse.
These deep dives into various digital tools are always undertaken through the lens of effective activation. Innovation on its own is irrelevant if it doesn’t translate into client success, and Julia’s efforts use that understanding as both a starting point and an end goal.
So if you do find Julia in the Metaverse sometime soon, rest assured that she has a very sound strategic reason for being there.