The pace of change in media and television is challenging, acknowledges Karen Phillips, Viacom executive VP, marketing and partner solutions, but she says Viacom is used to it.
“Our young and diverse audience has always forced us to think differently,” she says. “Given our fanbase, change has been a part of Viacom’s DNA. We’ve been embracing it and have turned it into a strength.”
Today, Viacom is thinking about marketing to every type of moviegoer, using data to be everywhere audiences are. The company has built out its capabilities beyond ad sales to engage diverse audiences, with campaigns that integrate creative solutions across linear, social, mobile and experiential.
Advanced advertising, an evolution beyond the legacy of broad demography, allows Viacom to target specific audiences based upon precise audience definitions, such as new parents or those in the market for pickup trucks. It also improves the customer experience of advertising.
Bryson Gordon, Viacom executive vice president of advanced advertising, explains, “Audiences aren’t averse to ads, they’re averse to irrelevant ads. Showing people ads that talk to their needs and wants—something as simple as showing a dog food commercial to a dog owner—means they’ll like the ad more. It also means a better ROI for advertisers.”
Gordon says Viacom Vantage, the company’s data-driven advanced advertising platform, is pursuing that strategy in part by enlisting talent from diverse fields, including physics, mathematics and neuroscience. One staffer has expertise in deep memory formation and driving persuasion.
In the film category, Gordon says data science helps translate the precise audience definition a studio presents into a segment that can be targeted within the TV ecosystem.
“It’s almost like cooking where everybody is given a similar set of ingredients — flour, butter, eggs, sugar — and one person makes a crappy, dried-up cookie and another person makes an incredible French pastry,” Gordon says with a laugh. “This is where it’s great having really talented data scientists, who can take that data we use to match the movie marketer and audience segment to television. We’re putting the right ad in front of the right person, in the right context. As a result we are helping [studios] sell more movie tickets.”
A partnership with data analytics firm Movio enables Vantage to reach prospective moviegoers and helps them report outcomes as well.
“We can actually see how the households we have targeted are responding, in an anonymous and privacy-compliant way,” Gordon says. “Are those households converting and buying tickets to the movie?”
Dario Spina, chief marketing officer for Viacom Velocity, the company’s inhouse branded content studio and agency, said his group offers scalable marketing and creative services, including the surging area of experiential marketing. A Viacom study found 70 percent of the youth audience chooses experiences they find more postable or shareable on social media.
Viacom’s recent acquisitions underline the company’s effort to increase its reach via social and experiences. In early 2018 it acquired VidCon, which hosts the world’s biggest conference dedicated to YouTube and online video, and influencer-marketing firm WHOSAY.
“WHOSAY gives us the ability to amplify all our social solutions,” says Sean Moran, Viacom’s head of marketing and partner solutions. “And experiential is such a huge part of how brands need to interact with their consumers. In a way we’re one of the originals to do this on MTV years ago with “Spring Break,” and we’re bringing that back and also doubling down on “Clusterfest” for a second year with Comedy Central and now “SlimeFest” with Nickelodeon.”
Moran says while others see fragmentation of eyeballs as a hurdle, Viacom turns it into a strength.
“We can take that fragmentation and bring all different touch points to our clients in ways that start to unravel the maze for them,” he says. “We’re able to measure audiences across all different touchpoints and screens. That accountability and our ability to do it in a safe way is so paramount to their goals.”
“We can’t overstate the importance that this relationship between Viacom and our clients is built on trust. They trust the Viacom brands, they trust the audience that comes with the brands and they trust the way we’re going to make their business growth our priority.”