Sundance M&E Roundtable: It’s All About Customers Consuming Content
When Pash Pashkow was a child, the popular TV shows that held him and his mother spellbound were markedly different. “I definitely remember losing the power of speech when “Charlie’s Angels” came on,” ABC’s VP of brand and design told a group of media and entertainment (M&E) executives gathered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. For his mother, it was “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
- 2014 was “the tipping point” for the consumption of content across devices.
- “What marketers fear the most is not knowing what the hell is going on,” said Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes.
- For advertisers, the issue is not only understanding who is viewing the content but how they are consuming it.
But what united the family was the Sunday telecast of “The Muppet Show.” “The whole family sat down to watch,” he recalled, the memory of the pleasure on his parents’ faces still vivid.
Pashkow was one of a dozen senior executives gathered for a roundtable in Park City, Utah, on the future of the digital market, reflecting—at the invitation of the host, Adobe vice president of video solutions Jeremy Helfand—on the days when television was broadcast on only a handful of channels as opposed to the proliferation of devices and screens it’s available on now.
The challenges that Pashkow and other top M&E executives face in the digital market are not only the implications of a fragmented content experience on multiple devices, but also the speed of change the market is going through. Pashkow identified a disconnect between the ease and simplicity of what consumers want in content delivery and business deals ensuring that ease of access is “getting executed in a timely fashion.” While the push to simplify recording TV programs eventually led to TiVo, “look how long it took to understand about making the user experience simple,” he said.
Hefland told the roundtable that 2014 was “the tipping point” for the consumption of content across devices. “It was the first time we saw broadcast-size audiences consuming content online,” driven initially by sports events such as the Winter Olympics and, more recently, by growth in episodic content. (For additional research on this, see Adobe Digital Index reports here, here, and here.)
Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes said video “is the most profound driver of everything, how brands are evolving as well as [for] demand,” with 29% of all online video starts taking place on mobile devices.
“What marketers fear the most is not knowing what the hell is going on,” she told the assembled executives. A business-to-business video campaign by Adobe gently satirizing that fear resulted in 130 million views, with increased traffic to Adobe’s Web site, resulting in a 32% jump in product page views and a five-times return on ad investment.
Another example of an inexpensive video reaping extraordinary returns is a piece shot by a Swedish photographer of people waiting at a bus stop while an image of them magically appeared on a nearby ad display. The video received 180 million views, 25 million of which were on YouTube. “The power of the community to be able to create, I believe, is where things are heading,” Lewnes said.
For advertisers, the issue is not only understanding who is viewing the content but how they are consuming it. Taking a 30-second spot and “jamming it all in” can be a turnoff, one executive noted: “How are you going to be relevant so that they don’t just click as soon as they get the opportunity to go to the content that they want?” Unless advertisers are aware of what consumers are looking to get from the content they view, “then you’re totally missing the opportunity.”
Personalizing consumer experience is also evident in product development, Helfand said. Coca-Cola is introducing “freestyle machines” across the United States from which consumers can download an app to design their own soft drinks. Then, when they approach a machine with their smartphones, it delivers that product. “It means the direct relationship the consumer creates with the brand adds another level of personalization and relevance,” Helfand said.
This relationship is reflected in the evolution of social media from being an add-on content experience to being an integral part of the experience itself. While discussing the ABC show “Scandal,” which developed an intense social community, Bill Roberts, Adobe’s director of product management for video, highlighted an ex-Google programmer, named Bernie Su, who developed a multiplatform Web drama on YouTube called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” which was driven in part by viewer involvement through social media.
Viewers who sought to interact with the show could submit a cover version of a new song played each week by a minor character. Advertisers noticed its success. When a character used a Samsung phone within the context of the story, Pinterest fed viewers to Samsung. “The social feed is there to amplify the linear feed,” Roberts said.
Facebook is also proving increasingly powerful, Cox Media Group vice president Leon Leavitt said, when it comes to driving Web traffic to its products. In fact, almost the entirety of Leavitt’s marketing budget is social-media focused.
Consumers who subscribe to a company’s Facebook page provide opportunities to monetize digital activity. One media company has set up a department to identify how to find Facebook subscribers and what it costs to acquire them because, by the fourth to six link back to a Web site, the company is typically making money.
The challenge marketers face today is having all of the pieces make sense, one executive said: “It’s getting the right message at the right time with the right eyeballs on the right screen.” But that doesn’t mean that a campaign can’t be woven together. Rather, “it gives you the creative opportunity for a different take on the message, to find a new way to get the message out without trying to clobber folks with the same message over and over.”