Upfronts: How Viacom Velocity is working with Spredfast to sell social TV

Just a few years ago television networks began telling their advertisers about the impact social media was having on programming. Publicly this began with mentions on stage during their Upfront presentations to adverisers. In recent years the size and growth of a network’s social media audience has become a regular factor in showing advertisers why they should spend their money with a linear network.

Yesterday, as the 2015 upfront season began, Viacom’s MTV held their annual event where they reinforced their “Always On” multi-platform strategy where they “harnesses the power of its 220 million social followers to create and distribute real-time video and editorial content across on-air, online, mobile and social.”

Viacom and enterprise social media platform Spredfast have been working together over the last year to sell social TV. The two companies have shared exclusively with The Drum the impact Viacom Echo Social Graph, the social TV sales platform the two developed together has had a year into its launch.

What is Viacom Echo Social Graph and why was it developed?

We spoke with Josh Rickel the vice president of media and entertainment at Spredfast who led the efforts on this major project explained that “Viacom recognized this early on and saw a huge opportunity to more directly monetize their expansive social audience.” They decided to work together and “created a means by which Viacom could quantify the value of this audience using specific metrics, which in turn allowed their integrated marketing team to tell a value story to their sponsors.”

Sarah Iooss, senior vice president of partnerships & client strategy in Viacom’s Ad Sales group told The Drum; “We were having amazing success with any of our cross-platform campaigns that had a component of social media involved” but “in terms of workflow it was not easy to tell the story of campaign,” so she would have to beg her team to pull different social stats. They wanted a “seamless process to tell the full story of what happened in a campaign, Iooss explained.

The name was developed because of the division within Viacom Velocity, the media company’s full-service integrated marketing and creative content team called Echo. Iooss further explained that “Echo is what we call our campaign that our social by design - it launched in last year’s upfronts.” The point is she added is that they engineer “a campaign around a central idea, instead of saying lets do a television sponsorship and then create a shorter version for web and shorter version for social, it’s all about finding the shared voice of the client and working together to create a concept and make content and expressions for every platform with a cadence for what every platform does best.”

What successes have there been a year into the launch of EchoGraph?

Iooss described a campaign Viacom Velocity ran with The Maze Runner, a 20th Century Fox film that starred Dylan Obrien from MTV’s (part of the Viacom family) Teen Wolf.

“We looked at the greatest reach moment in the campaign,” she told The Drum. “We have a graph that details the reach and happened immediately following the thirty minute television special we did on the film.” She described that “television is such a core component to social and that The Maze Runner campaign was “an example where there was a Teen Wolf star in the movie” so they were able to see that Teen Wolf related content was working so they devoted more resources into MTV’s social channels for the show.

Have they been able to monetize social TV?

The key to the amazing opportunities social platforms have brought brands and television is to understand if advertisers will actually see the value in putting dollars behind these types of campaigns that have newer metrics and newer proofs of success.

Asked whether she thought social TV monetization is finally here, Iooss answered positively; “When you think about a monetization strategy you have to create accountability for our partners, this is us doing that. I used to go into client meetings and only show them we had 200 million plus fans, this is now a way to actually give them accountability around what it means for them.”

Rickel agreed; “As we roll to this Upfront season they’re going to be able to look back at all the success we’ve had over the course of the year and talk tangibly about how it performed and what it means to sponsors.”

He continued to explain that a lot of excitement was created in the space due to the success a major media company has experienced in montetizing social across all of its properties; “it’s exciting for Viacom because they can justify the dollars they’re asking for these campaigns.”

How Viacom Velocity’s “Always On” strategy for MTV was communicated at their upfront yesterday.

Below are two clips from the upfront where both Nev Schulman, the star of MTV’s Catfish and network president Stephen Friedman talking about how important using social analytics to improve content across different platforms is to the network.

What’s in store for the future?

Rickel, whose responsibilities include helping to push Spredfastforward as quickly as the TV industry moves claimed that “TV is now a pronoun for video content” and added that “2015 is the year for video.” He continued to say that, “with the moves that Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are making in this space to become first class video platforms, consumers have so many places to watch high quality content.”

“I’m looking forward to when Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Amazon (already in the mix), Netflix (also in the mix already) and YouTube are competing for Emmys in the same categories as the cable operators and broadcast networks - I also anticipate that content will continue to be more personalized and targeted because these platforms know so much about our interests and our interactions," he added.

“Spredfast has been great partners to us and we continue to be super excited about social analytics and where we can go in the future - as the landscape changes we’ll change the product with it and we have an awesome partner to do it with,” Iooss concluded.

Upfront season kicks into high gear from later this month and into May. Tune in to The Drum to hear what comes out of the sessions.

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