Are we in the golden age of television or the golden age of video, streaming and viewing? Several television, social and streaming marketers debated that topic, finding what works and what doesn’t in connected campaigns at the Always On – Masters of the Connected Entertainment Campaign panel at the Massive event put on by Variety on Wednesday (March 22).
They looked at the best ways to spread the word about their shows, with not one answer truly standing out but a lot of options presenting themselves.
Jim Underwood, global head of entertainment strategy at Facebook said right away that we are most certainly in the golden age of television. “There is a tremendous amount of content. We also know that audiences are spread across content more than ever before,” he said, adding that Facebook helps clients figure out who their audience is, “which is more complicated than it’s ever been.” For the social media giant, measuring business objectives after campaigns with data is key.
“For us, we’ve narrowed number of partners. We’re looking for bigger partnerships,” countered Darren Schillace, senior vice president, marketing strategy, ABC, representing network television at the panel. He said that the network has partnered with Google Home and Alexa and is working with YouTube and other influencers for its “TGIT” night, courting female viewers to Shonda Rhimes shows.
Jenny Wall, senior vice president and head of marketing, Hulu, said: “It’s extremely crowded out there and everyone is yelling trying to find audiences. Brand is more important than ever, now,” she said. For Hulu, it’s about connecting with viewers and making conversations through data and through traditional methods, she said and talked about the connection made from the campaign for the Hulu original, The Handmaid’s Tale, which she called “timeless yet timely.”
Part of Hulu’s successful campaign involved a stunt at SXSW. “In very high-tech world, we did a low-tech thing,” she said. The company put 30 women in handmaid’s clothing and had them walk around the SXSW grounds saying nothing. “It creeped people out but it got the conversation going.” For them, starting a conversation rather than screaming at people was more successful at creating an emotional relationship with the viewer.
There was also discussion about how the companies connected with those viewers through giving away free content, whether through short clips on social media or full episodes and even full series.
TBS and TNT have been giving away shows to help spark viewership. Michael Engleman, head of marketing and brand innovation for the two Turner networks noted that social has been a massive engagement tool for a long time, but they continue to wonder what the best stimulus could be. By testing the waters of full episodes with the TNT show Animal Kingdom, the network has worked with Facebook and YouTube to engage with viewers through a sampling of the show. “16% of people who watched in (that) sample came to us later in the season…we got a lot of goodwill,” he said.
Hulu went all out, releasing a full season of Difficult People to get people interested in season two.
Simulmedia, a company that drives business outcomes for marketers through audience targeting, helps networks, cable channels and streamers find their audiences, which is especially important in the days before a show launch.
“People are connecting at a lot of different points,” said Laurel Bernard, president, entertainment marketing, Simulmedia. “In efforts to retain that initial audience, you’re attracting a new audience that’s word of mouth and in the social space…it’s creating a continuity effect. That’s where we play a role.”
Moderator Janko Roettgers, senior Silicon Valley correspondent for Variety, asked what was challenging for the companies represented on the panel.
For ABC, it was about finding the right viewers for their respective areas. “We’re beholden to certain measurement styles, but we’re not all getting the complete picture. That’s a painful point of our business,” said Schillace.
“We don’t talk about why they watch,” added Wall. “Retain and churn is the big world... the biggest challenge (is) the data problem. We’re awash with it.” Wall continued that since clients now know how much they’re spending, they also want to know exactly what that money goes to and what it did positively. She said there is a tremendous amount of pressure that’s put on marketers now, which is daunting on the ROI front. The best thing media companies can do is be a part of the testing culture. “Put stuff out there and see what works. Then put it out at scale.”
While network, cable and streaming are all different animals, when companies like Facebook and Simulmedia work together, and when entertainment companies look to add innovative technologies (360, digital personas) and work with fan groups and influencers that connect with their audiences in the right way, television in all its forms can come out on top.