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Viacom Pitches Marketing Services With Ad Time in Upfront Talks

Spongebob Nickelodeon
Courtesy of Nickelodeon
Viacom may be known best for its cable networks, but the company responsible for Trevor Noah, SpongeBob Squarepants and a revival of “The Jersey Shore” hopes Madison Avenue will soon recognize it for something else.
As the company makes the rounds of media-buying agencies in advance of TV’s annual “upfront” sales session, executives are touting a growing array of marketing services Viacom can also provide.
“We are not looking at our relationship with marketers as starting with ‘What’s your ad budget?’ but ‘What’s your issue?’ ‘What are you trying to solve for?’ And then we can offer a basket of solutions,” said Sean Moran, head of marketing and partner solutions for Viacom, in an interview.
The company made two recent acquisitions that help bolster its efforts. Its January purchase of WhoSay, an influencer-marketing agency, and its February purchase of event agency VidCon give Viacom more heft in delivering everything from shopper marketing to branded content.
Viacom has also worked out new agreements with some of its distributors that allow for it to sell a greater amount of digital media inventory to advertisers, said Moran.
“This is a complete marketing solutions approach, rather than just an ad sales approach,” he said.
Viacom may be under new pressure to demonstrate the value of its TV operations. It’s no secret the company grappled for several months with ratings drops at some of its flagship networks, and it is currently in the midst of a wrestling match with CBS Corp. over terms of a potential merger. Both companies are controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements, which has directed the two to explore a merger. CBS has suggested a price well below what Viacom thinks it deserves.
As well executives visit with agencies, they are pitching new activity at several Viacom networks. The recently launched Paramount Network is being described as a place for premium content and experimental ad formats, for instance. Executives are also touting ratings growth at VH-1 and a revived “Jersey Shore” series at MTV.
Late night TV continues to win interest from advertisers, and Moran suggested his team would win new attention for an ongoing expansion of MTV’s “TRL” into the daypart. “We will offer the youngest possible audience in that late night time frame,” Moran said, and package that with Comedy Central’s late-night schedule.
Moran said he felt current demand from
advertisers was robust, which could augur a healthy upfront. “The demand that we’ve been seeing let’s us know it will be an active marketplace and there probably will be more demand than supply,” he added.