Collective Intelligence: Marketing Insights & Ideas to Help Brands Thrive

CI Conversations: MAGNA and Rogers & Cowan PMK Break Down 2022 Upfronts

July 28, 2022 Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) Season 1 Episode 14
Collective Intelligence: Marketing Insights & Ideas to Help Brands Thrive
CI Conversations: MAGNA and Rogers & Cowan PMK Break Down 2022 Upfronts
Show Notes Transcript

MAGNA’s Brian Hughes and Rogers & Cowen PMK’s Lisa Vu talk about the surprising and not-so surprising trends at this year’s Upfronts, where the conversations steered away from tradition and pivoted to an exciting, if still-evolving, future of content and measurement. 

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Intro [00:00:01] Welcome to the Collective Intelligence podcast from IPG. We deliver marketing insights that help modern brands thrive. In this episode, you'll hear about the latest perspectives featured at Listen, then log on to find new opportunities for your brand to stand out. 


Jen (Host) [00:00:22] Hello, everyone, and welcome to CI Conversations part of the Collective Intelligence podcast from Interpublic. My name is Jennifer Sain. And I will be your host today. Today we will be talking about Upfronts 2022. And I am so thrilled to be joined by Brian Hughes from Magna and Lisa Vu from Rogers and Cowan PMK. Lisa, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do there at RCPMK?


Lisa V [00:00:47] Yeah, so I'm the vice president of brand integrations and content partnerships there. We lead a global client team as we service our portfolio brand clients, and connect them to the entertainment landscape. So that's everything across partnerships, sponsorships, and brand integration opportunities.


Jen (Host) [00:01:04] Fantastic. And Brian, if you could give us a bit of an introduction, that would be wonderful.


Brian H  [00:01:08] Sure, Brian Hughes here, I lead audience intelligence and strategy at Magna, we are really tasked with kind of monitoring consumer behavior around the types of media they interact with, and how, and sort of predicting where that's going to go. And it really is meant to inform our investment strategy at Magna. And on behalf of the other media brands agencies. We also cover, you know, major data partner relationships across IPG and provide guidance on, you know, measurement and where we think we should be going in that regard, particularly right now on video.


Jen (Host) [00:01:42] Great, thank you so much. And just thank you again, to both of you for being here. I read that this was an upfront like no other. One report said that this year's presentations, tore down any vestiges of how television has been traditionally programmed, consumed and transacted. And that is quite the statement. So I would love to dive right in to see if we can uncover if that's an understatement, or an overstatement. So let's start with measurement. So measurement was predicted to be the hot topic this year, of course, with many looking to a more comprehensive alternative to Nielsen. But it appears that wasn't to be and the old stalwart remains, would you say that's accurate? Just what can you tell us about measurement? And, of course, grounding that and how you would advise your clients where measurement stands right now? And then also looking forward. Lisa, would you like to start us off?


Lisa V [00:02:36] Yes, I would, overall, consumers and brands, they're concerned about the possibility of recession, and you have billions on the line at stake here. And it's understandable that buyers and sellers, they do not want to hedge their bets right now they want to go back to what's tried and true. And that's what we saw this year is up friends, the secondary measurements, the alternatives to Nielsen, I think they'll gather momentum this year, and they might make a big splash in 2023. But they're just not robust enough to help, you know, unseat those fears.


Brian H [00:03:00] Yeah, I think what we saw happen was honestly quite a lot of hype in the form of headlines around the sort of coming shift and measurement that was not really true in practice, I think, you know, we always anticipated that this was going to be a learning year that we would probably be sticking largely with, with Nielsen guarantees as and that's pretty much how it shaped up. And you know, at the same time, we're very excited about all the momentum around cross screen measurement, and the fact that there are, you know, other viable players coming into the space, we think competition is good for innovation in the measurement space, which is sorely needed, frankly, as we move to cross screen world or we've moved through across being well, but measurement is now catching up, which is a good thing. So, you know, for us, we have kind of a three year view of this. And this was year one in which we're going to be testing and learning as much as we can. And that, you know, I agree with Lisa, that I think next year, we'll probably start to see some of the alternatives gain a bit more traction in terms of actual transacting and currency type use cases.


Jen (Host) [00:03:55] Um, speaking of currency, I had also read that, you know, alternative currencies, were supposed to be another hot topic. And then I just found that interesting with the news that came out about Limewire. This week, this newly, you know, blast from the 2000s now, but operating in more of the NFT world, would you say that that was overstated, that alternative currencies was predicted to be as big of a topic as measurement? Was it or similarly, was it just kind of more buzz and less substance?


Brian H [00:04:26] Yeah, I think what happens is often the terms measurement and currency get conflated incorrectly. So it's possible to measure something using a myriad of different types of data, right, but not all of those are what we transact with. So, you know, in order to be a currency, you have to actually be performing transactions on it. And then in terms of, you know, the video marketplace, we're not quite at that point yet where we're using different things to transact.


Jen (Host) [00:04:50] Lisa, did you have anything to add to that or does that that all sounds about right


Lisa V [00:04:55] no, it does, and I definitely agree with Brian especially since currencies are still in that beta testing period, they don't have that robust enough platform yet to go out.


Jen (Host) [00:05:04] Absolutely. So we're talking about measurement currencies. But I would love to talk about the audience that we are talking about measuring and reaching. And Lisa, you mentioned already inflation. And of course, with inflation, and the looming possibility of recession here in the US, times the rising cost of say, you know, SVOD, which, of course, to our audience is subscription video on demand. Do you think that the future are fast channels that is free ad supported television? Would you say that's accurate is that the track that consumers are on?


Lisa V [00:05:34] I think right now, fast channels are in their evolution phase,they there's a lot of major platforms available elsewhere. And the fact that the number of free streaming services are increasing, it's just another way to continue to build subscribers, keep their attention, keep them within your own ecosystem and wheelhouse and then how up however, best to measure them. From there, too. I think also, Netflix should embrace past channels, because they have older content. And that's a way to continue maximize our value to their subscribers too. And also, it's another way to do content monetization for brands as well, too. So it's a win win both on the consumer side and the brand side,


Brian H [00:06:15]  I would just add that we're actually seeing some evidence that it is getting traction right now. I mean, we've seen if you look at the subscribers, monthly active users, for a lot of the streaming services that are out there, it's really the ones that have and cheaper ad supported tier or a, a fast channel that's completely free, that are gaining the most in terms of subscribers right now. Whereas the, you know, the stalwarts, like Netflix that are pure as fodder, they've actually lost some subscribers at this point. And I think that's, you know, obviously playing into their decision to, you know, to opt into some ad supported options. And, by the way, that's something that we predicted at Magna, about five years ago, you know, back then they were still holding fast that they would never have an ad option. And we were saying that they eventually have to just because of the cost of, you know, of content and production is so high that, you know, they would need to have other revenue streams coming in to be able to maintain that. So yeah, I mean, I think there's, there's definitely an appetite on the part of consumers to pay less still get access to the content that they want. And, you know, having ads is a way it is the way to do that.


Jen (Host) [00:07:28]  And what I'm hearing from you from you both is things like evolution, and learning and beta. So it seems that we haven't really obvious we haven't really reached critical mass on any of these big changes that have been predicted to come. So right now, kind of while we're in this, you know, evolutionary phase, how are you advising your your clients and your daily work to kind of ride ride the wave where it is now, but also be ahead of the current?


Brian H [00:07:53] You know, we, the way that we kind of look at things, when find out a useful paradigm is to look at it in terms of time spent. And so we know, you know, people are spending more time with streaming connected TV in particular. And, you know, we know we're predicting sort of in the next five years, that's only going to increase. So, you know, what we're really advising is, you know, take stress, sort of start to think about how you shift dollars there, obviously, measurement continues to be an issue, if we don't have good measurement, it's hard to convince our clients to move their money somewhere. But you know, that's we're working on that part aspect of it. But yeah, I mean, we're trying to just kind of stay ahead of the curve here and catch up to consumer behavior. And that's definitely the track the sort of POC track we've been on for the past couple of years now.


Lisa V [00:08:29]  And then over at Rogers and Cowan PMK, we just not launched a new technology platform, it's our new end to end technology platform, we what we want to build is how do we address what the future of partnerships and branding integrations look like. And we built this is called upstream pop. And what it does is it connects brands, content creators, and media platforms all together. So you see the whole entire landscape of entertainment opportunities. We also did this in conjunction with Mediabrands. So we have their HBAs we have those audience data sets, there are behaviors that touch points, and then we connect them to the opportunities on the entertainment side to so not only do you have opportunities, you have the measurements, you have the audience data back in that as well.


Jen (Host) [00:09:08]  You know, looking at, you know, either your clients from you know, both of your worlds or just even out there in the world in general. Can you think of any brands that are kind of getting it right, or right ish right now, like who's really maximizing the landscape the way it is right now?


Brian H [00:09:26]  It's a tough one. I mean, I will say that one of the features of that we have at Magda, as part of our intelligence program is the media trials program. And what's cool about that is that we It enables us to bring our clients to the table to test out new ad experiences. We've done quite a few options on CTV recently studying different types of ads. You know, it's it's tough to say because I think it's it's really a lot of experimentation. Right now. What we've tried to do via our media trials program is enable clients to have the opportunity to test different types of ads, particularly ones that are interactive, which is you know, a great feature of the connected T Have a space that allows for a lot more possibilities in terms of what an ad experience could look like. So you know, we've done some tests on overlay ads and ad toppers and shown that they had can have pretty good results relative to sort of a traditional 32nd. TV commercial.


Jen (Host) [00:10:15] And Lisa, you had mentioned earlier about the entire brand landscape. So kind of looking at two other themes that were quite prevalent at this year's upfronts. In terms of virtual product placement, and shoppable. Video, can you speak to either one of those in terms of what you learned at the upfronts, or what you guys are doing? And kind of in that mean?


Lisa V [00:10:37] Yeah, we were actually pitched virtual pod placement years before Amazon made the big splash. And so it's great to see how far the technology has come and how seamless it's definitely become. It's just a way to do careful, curated, digitally implemented ads. And it's a new way for streaming platforms to build that revenue in that currency. How do you take either new content that's upcoming or content that's already been on the streaming service for many, many years and just revamp that and change that to the modern day. Also, I think Amazon mentioned a really great step because there always has to be data and proof points. And they said their m&m integrations they did had a 7% increase in brand unfavorability and 15% increase in purchase intent. So just giving advertisers the ability to insert their brands directly into their product and not having to do it months in advance. One thing I would note is that a lot of this is passive, you're not going to see a car get digitally inserted with a leading talent, that's something that's very hard to do in the current technology that's available, you're gonna see it mainly in the digital ads, you know, blank on kitchen appliances, but all those hands on hero integration moments are one that's going to be very difficult to replicate. With virtual product placement. That's why I feel like our agency has the ones that have those opportunities and connections that can get you in with those hands on moments because you need to work with them months in advance versus post production.


Jen (Host) [00:12:00] Brian, would you add anything to you know, kind of the topic of virtual product placement or shoppable video, and in terms of what you've been measuring in your work, or what you heard at the upfronts this year.


Brian H [00:12:09] shoppable video is definitely something that's been a hot topic, the last two up fronts, I would say. And so we've seen you know, a lot of the big players like NBCU and Instagram that are you know, and Tik Tok, where it's sort of a very natural fit for them to have the shoppable options in their ecosystem, kind of really, you know, continue to increase the level of sophistication in terms of the executions, and enable the consumer to you know, as easily as possible, you know, buy directly from the platform. Roku was another one that talked a lot about it, that their new front this year, you know, their whole thing was they want to have the okay button on the Roku remote that everyone's so used to using be the sort of conduit to making purchases on their platform, for example. So I definitely think, you know, sort of shortening the funnel from seeing it to buying it is a big priority for a lot of the publishers out there.


Jen (Host) [00:12:57] Great, thank you. And actually, now I kind of want to take the conversation in a different direction. Of course, diversity, equity, and inclusion has been top of mind both in kind of the cultural macro, and then also the micro in terms of our industry. Brian Magna hosted the second annual equity upfront this year invest for impact. And that was focusing on the impact of diverse audiences on media consumption and brand loyalty. Could you tell us a bit more about that?


Brian H [00:13:21] Yeah, absolutely. So we did start that in 2021, as you mentioned, and this year, we were able to do it a hybrid event sort of combination in person and virtual, which was great to have actually have people together in the room, we had really great turnout about 1500 people across the a couple of days, whether in virtual or in person and 30 part different partners were in attendance to present. And you know, the goal of it is really to first of all, you know, emphasize the fact of how important these audiences are, how influential they are, in creating US culture, and making sure that the investment is that we're making is following that phenomenon. And at the same time giving, you know, minority owned media partners that may not get the exposure of some of the big conglomerates, the opportunity to talk to our clients directly and share what they have to offer. And you know, we know that we've seen from research from Nielsen and others that you know, a lot of audiences, black audiences, in particular will go out of their way to support a black owned media business. And you know, we should really be seizing on that to connect with them in an authentic way. It's just good business for our clients. And for us, to be frank. So we, you know, we created this event to really help facilitate that. And, you know, we hope to continue to evolve it as we go forward.


Jen (Host) [00:14:33] Yeah, absolutely. Lisa, in terms of equity and inclusion, how has those topics been coming up again, in your daily work as you speak with your clients, and then also what you observed at the event this year? Yeah,


Lisa V [00:14:44]  I would say it's no longer a checkbox is no longer Oh, do we meet this XYZ? It's more like how do we make this as part of our strategy from the get go? And it's the fact that there's opportunities now that has not only the quantity of content To the quality of content, but also the diversity of content has been really important to our clients. And it's something we've always worked with in and it's not just what's on the forefront of the camera. It's not the diverse audience we're trying to reach. But who we're working on behind the scenes, the people creating the content themselves, do they come from a diverse background? are they reaching the community that we're trying to get one opportunity we're looking at for our clients is Halloween, from Hulu, that's upcoming they have their drags, kava ganza, I'm sure I butchered that. But they're what they're doing is they're trying to take pride out of June. And they're trying to make these cultural moments all year long. And how do we insert brands into those conversations, how to insert brands into ways to reach the communities that's outside of just one month out of a year.


Jen (Host) [00:15:45]  And in terms of programming with was there anything really notable in terms of programming, either in terms of the audience that it was looking to reach anything innovative, anything just surprising, or, again, was a kind of things were kind of writing the same while we're in this in between the now and the future?


Brian H [00:16:04]  One thing that we noticed that was interesting is, you know, it seems to be a pretty clear line now, where a lot of the big, you know, media companies like paramount, and Disney seems to be sort of creating this like invisible line where they're really reserving the sort of broad appeal safe sort of content for, you know, the broadcast and cable channels. And then, you know, the more sort of gritty or big swing stuff is kind of reserved for their direct to consumer streaming platforms. So that really seemed to that seemed to be a factor of this year is up front. And then of course, sports, which is one of the few, you know, genres that are really held up well on broadcast and cable TV, in terms of audience are actually, you know, a lot of the sports events that we've seen so far in 22 are up compared to the year prior, you know, really kind of doubling down on their, you know, their sports investment or sports content, because they know that that's very important to the continued vitality of those channels.


Jen (Host) [00:16:56]  Lisa, do you have anything to add to that both in terms of sports, or just in general, anything that was notable about programming,


Lisa V [00:17:04] I do agree with the sports angle and also pulls back to the conversation we had regarding the fast services because all the big fours, Amazon with freebie Fox with to be NBCU, and Peacock, Paramount, global pool TV, they all have sports there, and they all have the NFL. So you're gonna see a lot of fast channel promotions on their NFL content, because they want to push more of those eyeballs and keep people in within that ecosystem. And also with sports. You have Thursday night football moving to Amazon. So how's that going to change the playing field? You have Senator night football in conversations going to a streaming service? So how does that disrupt the ecosystem? The analysis, keep it the same, because you know, we have these big powerhouses, they keep everything in house with Disney, and their ecosystem and ECU and their ecosystem, too.


Jen (Host)  [00:17:52] And what does that mean for brands,


Lisa V [00:17:55] I would say for brands, you're gonna have more opportunity, because Amazon have freebie there's the advertising support, but this is going to be on Amazon Prime. And so Amazon also pushes opportunities, where if you have a storefront on Amazon, you can integrate into their Thursday night football, and then promote and drive viewers directly to your storefront. So again, you have that one to one, you know, data showing one view on Thursday night football, then leads you to buy on your storefront.


Brian H [00:18:23] Yeah, I can add to that, actually, I think what it's done is it's made, you know, the sports marketplace and the upfront all that much more of a hot, you know, hot thing and you know, what we found, we actually have dedicated resources within our investment team that are only focused on sports, because it's, you know, we, frankly, spend quite a bit and because it's such a an important thing for a lot of our clients that we're, you know, we're moving earlier and earlier to be able to get those deals done. You know, we're typically one of one of, if not the biggest, you know, sort of holding company in terms of the Super Bowl, and we've had to really move quickly to get that done this year. So, you know, it just makes everything much more in demand with REITs, you know, shifting to some of the big digital companies. And, you know, we we had predicted a few years back that, you know, the escalating rights fees for some of these sports franchises would have to come down at some point. But now that we have companies like Amazon and Apple, you know, in the in the fray, I don't think that's gonna happen. Now, I think they're just gonna keep going up.


Jen (Host) [00:19:17] Kind of nearing the end of our time together. But so I'd kind of like to pull away from, you know, these more, you know, focus topics and kind of look, big picture, everything that we discussed. What surprised you that we haven't talked about about this year? Or maybe maybe it didn't, again, keeping with this idea that it was kind of a transition year? Brian, was there anything that you were particularly surprised, you know, especially, you know, being so immersed in this in the data?


Brian H [00:19:44] Yeah, you know, it's funny, because you mentioned that quote, at the beginning that it was like this upfront was unlike any other before it, and I would actually disagree with that. wholeheartedly. I mean, I think in many ways, the upfront was business as usual, to a shocking degree, frankly, so I think that was that was the thing that surprised me the most, especially with all of the, you know, the sort of hype leading into it around measurement and other things that, you know, it ended up being, in a lot of ways the same old kind of situation for the upfront. So that I haven't say that was that was surprising to me.


Jen (Host) [00:20:17] And for you, Lisa?


Lisa V [00:20:18] For me, I would say it's a fact that broadcast numbers just continue to take more and more of a backseat at these up fronts. I think everyone talked about how in 2009, they showed the entire pilot for the Modern Family episode. And now there wasn't even a mention about any of the pilots that were Greenland, or even sometimes a fall broadcast schedule. And so I think it's all about streaming all about s VOD, and a VOD for these big media brands going into up fronts.


Jen (Host) [00:20:45] With that in mind, and then with also, I'm, you know, with Brian, as you were saying kind of business as usual, and not this, you know, big explosive year, if you were both to look in your crystal ball, what do you predict for next year? What do you think might be a big topic or theme? Or maybe, if not, you know, maybe if you don't want to predict what do you think should be?


Brian H [00:21:07] Well, I think, you know, coming back to kind of where we started, I think, you know, the, the measurements conversation will advance next year, and we'll we may actually see some movement towards having a multicurrency marketplace. I mean, I think there's still quite a bit we have to figure out around, how does that get funded? And how do we get all the data, you know, flowing through our systems so that we can we can transact as seamlessly as possible, but I think we'll be closer to knowing who the real contenders are. And, you know, understanding kind of where the industry is going to be going into in terms of cross screen measurement.


Lisa V [00:21:36] And for me, I would advise clients on looking towards flexibility and cross portfolio investments, you know, you have broadcast sports, cable, streaming digital, and so they need to invest across the portfolio, you can't rely on just broadcasts anymore, and then having the flexibility within their discussions and agreements. Because with the environment with a climate, things can change at the drop of a hat and understanding how that is going to affect their investment in buying. Having that flexibility is also going to be important for clients. I'm sure everyone is on pins and needles to see what Netflix does and 2023, where they sit at the new fronts where they sit at the upfronts. And another one is where does football go? With the increase a sports into streaming? You know, who's going to hold the iron grip on the football and and NFL and Super Bowl?


Jen (Host) [00:22:31] Yeah, so is there is there anything else that we didn't talk about that we would just be remiss in not including about this year?


Brian H [00:22:39] I mean, I would just add, you know, we, in addition to sort of our own efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion, you know, that a lot of the big publishers have also made commitments to improve their representation both in front of and behind the camera. And, you know, we actually have a means of evaluating that now, with Nielsen has a dataset called grace note, inclusion analytics, and we can actually see how they're doing in terms of representation across different communities. And we have definitely seen some movement in some areas. But, you know, we've noticed that there's still some areas for improvement as well. So hopefully, you know, that will that work will continue. And we'll continue to see a more sort of representative video landscape in the future.


Jen (Host) [00:23:14] Are there any examples that you can think of off the bat that are, are ahead?


Brian H [00:23:19] I don't know, because I don't have the data in front of me. But you know, I know that they Disney, for example, and pretty much every other major publisher has programs in place to make sure that they are, you know, that these minority voices are being heard. And they have different programming tracks and production tracks to make sure that they are increasing their investment in that area. So which is great, you know, because it obviously gives our clients more opportunities to be able to connect with those audiences as well.


Jen (Host) [00:23:42] Absolutely, Lisa, is there anything that you've identified, or any any particular companies or brands that are ahead of the curve,


Lisa V [00:23:49] you want to be able to serve these communities and provide them with quality content? Because we know, advertisers and our brands are hungry for it, and also the transparency that the network's are allowing us into that, to understand who's watching the content? How are the ads being served to each of these different communities is definitely something I've seen.


Jen (Host) [00:24:07] Great. And I know Brian had brought that up in terms of, you know, in response to my question about what would we be remiss in not covering? Lisa, is there anything that we haven't covered that you think would be really important for our clients to know, before we wrap up our time together?


Lisa V [00:24:19] I think right now, where we're at now, we're in a moment of massive disruption when it comes to the earth, the currencies, the technology, the measurement and the tracking. And so whether we're at the beginning of the wave, or the peak of the wave has yet to be known. And so for clients, having that transparency and the flexibility into the process will be important.


Jen (Host) [00:24:39] Great. Well, thank you so much. And thank you so much to you both for sharing your expertise and your insights and, and giving us this window into your work and also what went down at upfronts 2022. And thank you so much to our audience for listening. And of course, the Collective Intelligence podcast is available on all the major streaming players, as well, along with a trove of other thought leadership and insights and expertise from around the IPG Network.


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