The kick-off day of the first-ever Digital Content NewFronts West conference in Hollywood highlighted two trends: the expansion of digital media forms like podcasting, as well as creative approaches to advertising, especially influencer marketing.
Anna Bager, the executive VP of industry initiative at IAB, which manages the event, said the L.A. iteration was designed to be different from its New York counterpart in focusing on branded and sponsored content, as well as content creators. NewFronts West runs Oct. 9-10.
The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday announced that following the success of its narrative podcast “Dirty John,” the company will roll out similar formats through 2019 with additional podcasts. They include “Big Willie,” about drag racer and local legend Big Willie Robinson, and “Room 20,” which follows an investigative reporter’s search to uncover a hospital patient’s identity.
Gallery Media Group, the company behind PureWow and ONE37pm, announced three upcoming podcasts: “Long Story Short,” which will have makeup industry veteran and entrepreneur Bobbi Brown interviewing guests like Connie Britton and Cindy Crawford about their journey to success; “Mom Brain,” hosted by Daphne Oz and Hilaria Baldwin, the wife of Alec Baldwin, will discuss aspects of motherhood with guests like Alyssa Milano and Sheryl Crow; and “Respect Replay,” a joint collaboration between ONE37pm and Fanatics that will bring together athletes from different eras or leagues.
Popular on Variety
Mary Kate McGrath, Gallery’s chief content officer and the editor in chief of PureWow, said podcasts’ popularity have skyrocketed recently, thanks to Apple’s bevy of selections and the acclaimed podcast “Serial.” Now, one in four Americans listens to podcasts, and almost half of those people listen to up to 10 hours a week, McGrath said, which presents new opportunities for brands to acquire users and embed ads within episodes.
“Thanks to the mobility of the medium, and the amazing stories across categories, people are listening more than ever,” McGrath said. “We launched Gallery Podcast Co. because we saw attention shifting dramatically to the audio space and we saw an opportunity to connect our clients to an intimate way to connect to consumers.”
Gallery also touched on its new hero video platform, which bypasses traditional ads by creating content around advertising, rather than the opposite. The company has had success with longer videos from PureWow or ONE37pm’s handle that craft a plot around a brand, such as its recent musical short that promoted Olay, called “I Can’t Wait to Wash My Face.”
Both Gallery and FameBit by YouTube focused on new strategies in influencer marketing. Beau Avril, the global head of business operations at FameBit, said the company has developed tools like a measurement to track brand interest lift and find if searches for a brand term increases after influencers mention it in a video.
Avril said audiences are more skeptical than ever about traditional advertising and 92 percent of consumers trust product recommendations more when coming from their peers on social media, like social influencers. He says FameBit has been working with influencers to naturally implement a brand’s products in their videos, whether through the “get ready with me” format or cooking segments.
YouTuber Freddie Wong, who has worked with brands through FameBit, said brands must offer something that complements and elevates his storytelling, as a straightford promotional video would result in viewers labelling him a “sell-out.” Wong cited successful collaborations with the likes of Dodge Dart for a video about racing and the thriller film “Mile 22” for an action short about his quest to get tickets to the film’s premiere.
“In a world where we’re lacking that authenticity but also that relevance and that relatability, the epicenter of that happens on these channels, in that content,” Avril said. “Because these moments are so special and they’re so pointed, as a brand being in those conversations really gives you a chance to shape opinions and even drive decisions.”
Some 20 companies are presenting at the IAB’s NewFronts West conference at NeueHouse in Hollywood.