The Digital Out-Of-Home World. An Interview with Suzanne La Forgia of Captivate

Suzanne La Forgia began her media career selling for smaller, emerging and rebranded cable networks. This background placed her perfectly to help position Out of Home media in the sales marketplace through her work heading up the DPAA and now as VP Ad Sales for Captivate. Her enthusiasm for digital out of home is evident. “I’m thrilled to be part of Captivate,” she says, “It is the #1 on location video network in North America delivering 10.3 Million upscale, influential, decision makers a month in a captive environment throughout their workday.”

I sat down with her and asked her the following questions:

Charlene Weisler: What are the differences and similarities between selling cable and selling OOH?

Suzanne La Forgia: My experience in cable was always with new, emerging channels or the rebranding of established channels. I was focused on educating the ad community on the promise of the network and evangelizing about the audience and content. Similarly, our content at Captivate engages with our desirable audience every work day. They are passionate about our programming and we are building on that passion with our advertising and agency partners. At the same time, the platforms are very different, in a positive way. Cable and broadcast delivers shows and 30 second spots and everyone in the industry knows how it works. Digital video OOH is different in how content gets on the screens and how it can be activated and targeted by advertisers. The targeting and flexibility we offer is more similar to digital than linear TV.

Charlene: There have been great advancements in technology in your space. How do you use technology to measure?

Suzanne: Captivate was an early supporter of measurement. We helped to form and write the DPAA audience metrics guidelines that Nielsen uses to measure place-based video. Through the use of the latest technology and help from our partners, we invest in measuring audiences with rigor and precision beyond people just walking into the building. We conduct intercept interviews. We use beacons and cameras for observational research. We also use trusted third party data sources to identify demographics and psychographics as well measure campaign effectiveness. And then we provide this measurement back to our partners.

Charlene: What is the Captivate footprint?

Suzanne: Our digital video network is located in office buildings across the U.S. and we are represented in the top 20 markets with a concentration in the top 10. We are also in 5 Canadian markets. We have 1600 buildings, more than 10,000 screens reaching over 10 million working professionals a month in highly captivate environments, elevators and lobbies.  Our technology enables tremendous audience targeting. We can segment campaigns across 15 to 20 types of criteria including industry, geography, business size, etc. Financial services is our largest category and we can offer our partners a virtual network of people who work in the financial industry such as those buildings that have Well Fargo or Goldman Sachs as tenants. Another example is our ability to segment working affluent millennials, a very desirable segment for marketers, on a national or market by market basis. We offer a great amount of flexibility.

Charlene: How do you achieve work / life balance?

Suzanne: I am lucky to have a two year old son. Captivate has an amazing support system where we are encouraged to really focus on success, career, time with our family and our personal lives. We receive weekly reminders for us to take care of ourselves and our families. I am in the Dallas satellite office where I have to balance working with my teams across several time zones, Central,  East Coast and West Coast. I’ve created a system where I focus on East Coast/Central activities in the morning, then shift to West Coast in the afternoon. I follow the sun.  It works well for me.

Charlene: What advice would you give the next generation of media executives?

Suzanne: I figured out early in my career that I had a mantra – look on the bright side and always be learning. Decide what you are passionate about and center yourself around what you like to do. And try and say yes as often as you can. In terms of training, I am a firm believer of recruiting for passion, talent and charisma - the things that can’t be taught, then training for skill and sharing best practices.


Turner’s Upfront – More Glitz, Programming and Data with Fewer Ads

With a stage designed by Atomic, a star cast that included Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Charles Barkley, Conan O’Brien, Samantha Bee, Anthony Bourdain and even a CNN drone, the Turner Upfront was filled with energy, glitz and over 2,000 agency executives. It was quite a spectacle. 

After a crowd warm-up by Anderson Cooper, Conan O’Brien and Charles Barkley, things got down to business with a presentation by Donna Speciale, President of Turner Ad Sales. Her message was - more content integration, context, storytelling and therefore engagement and attention with less clutter. She spoke of her company’s efforts to merge the use of data and analytics with content creation, “We are offering more content, more solutions and bigger results. We are a data driven content creation company that puts consumers first.” 

Merging data driven solutions with content creation is something of a theme this upfront as other companies have also announced such initiatives. But in addition to this, Turner’s efforts also include a less cluttered environment by reducing the ad load. This is a bold and welcome move in an industry that has come to rely on more and more ads to meet their guaranteed advertiser commitments.  In addition, in a nod to the contentious issue of accurate digital content viewability, Speciale noted that when Turner talks about online views, they refer to a thirty second length, not three seconds. 

Speciale announced that “bold, engaging, less cluttered content” that are then matched to brands and “paired with smart data solutions” are all part of a new initiative at Turner called Turner Ignite. This is a powerful marketing platform where they will test, optimize and learn more about cross screen behaviors. “But,” Speciale added, “This isn’t new. We have been doing this type of targeting now resulting in $50 million in media spend. And it is a pure audience guarantee. We offer provable ROI guarantee outcomes.”
Turner is applying more digital data to TV and putting it to work with their brands. One such initiative is the roll-out of Team Coco Digital Studios for branded content. This will help in the development of native content for advertisers during breaks with branded storytelling. It is possible that such content can help in maintaining viewership through the breaks in addition to their shorter pod lengths.

The full program included sizzle reels and programming announcements for News, TBS, TNT, TruTV and Sports and highlights from other Turner properties such as Adult Swim. Highlights include a new Wyatt Cenac comedy, People of Earth, about a support group of people who have had alien encounters for TBS, Animal Kingdom, a drama starring Ellen Barkin and The Alienist, a crime drama set in late 1800s New York City for TNT. 

Delivery of quality content with a lower ad load and the ability for greater brand integration for advertisers could lead to Speciale’s hope for higher ad rates. "Branded storytelling and shorter breaks have driven significant performance lifts,” she said, “The experience is everything."

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Converging Data and Creative. Kodi Foster of Viacom at PSFK

I have been attending the PSFK conference for at least 7 years. If you have never heard of it, it is akin to a TED for advertising and branding. PSFK is a daily news site but also serves as a think tank. Piers Fawkes, founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK, describes his endeavor as a platform for ideas and innovation - And it is. 

He is an advocate of embracing change and believes, “Uncertainty or the fear of uncertainty is pointless and even poisonous. Progress gives us direction and gives us a path forward to build on tomorrow. Over the past ten years we have seen great change happens. My goal is to present to you the ideas of today so you can build on tomorrow.”

This year’s NYC conference had speakers from a range of fields from Katie Manderfield and Denise Burrell-Stinson of the New York Times who are building a branded content platform linking advertiser content with editorial, Microsoft's chief storyteller, Steve Clayton, who helps craft Microsoft's story both internally and externally to Blade Kotelly of JIBO who creates robots, Nick Horbaczewski who is creating a drone racing league and Giorgia Lupi of Accurat, a data visualization artist who turns numbers into stories.
While I am ambivalent about more native content infiltrating more media platforms, I am entranced by the use of technology to improve our lives and the use of data to provide us with more insights. Media uses larger and larger swaths of data to make business decisions. Some companies such as Viacom, are using data to also help in the creative ideation process.  

Kodi Foster, VP Data Strategy, Viacom gave a presentation on using data for storytelling. His work involves designing a creative map using data as the guide. “We create content,” he explained, “The destination is always audiences, so we use data to design a profile of the audience we are looking to reach.”  Viacom still targets broad demos, such as Millennials, but the data he uses enables more nuanced targeting with the goal of leveraging Smart Scale. He gave as an example, a profile of New Yorkers who, after looking at the data, tend to coalesce into behaviors such as having brunch, being stylish, hustling and being rude. Hmm.

“We have to kill the idea of convergence of art and science because it has always been converged,” Foster stated, “Architecture and music historically combined both disciplines. The challenge is how can we take something and interpret it through artistic expression and context.” And the age old division of left brain and right brain is a myth, according to Foster. He said, “There is no such thing. Just because you do art doesn't mean you can’t do differential equations.”  It is this thinking that has moved Viacom into a better collaborative integration of creative departments with data departments. “My team lives with the creative team at Viacom. We break apart the taxonomy of the campaign creative and marketing then puts the pieces back together,” he added.

His advice to companies looking to use of data-driven insights in content marketing is simple. “Start with the outcome,” he advised, “Function like google maps where you change directions based on guideposts around the piece of creative. Have relevancy to the moment. Cross reference against the audience. Be more of a detective. Let data drive decision making, a methodology we like to call being Fans First.” He concluded with the most important piece of advice from Viacom, “Listen to the kids.”


Building a Fempire. An Interview with A+E Network’s Amy Baker

It was wonderful to catch up with Amy Baker for this interview. We worked together at Discovery back in 1990. Since then she has scaled the heights of cable sales and is now the EVP, National Ad Sales for all female networks at A+E – Lifetime, LMN - Lifetime Movie Network and their newest brand, FYI.

Lifetime has been around since 1984 in its current incarnation and is an established cable brand. But to remain relevant to today’s women, Lifetime realized that it needed to be even more relevant in the women’s space.  To do this they embarked on an extensive cultural research study with Troika late last year which concentrated on all aspects of a woman’s day. “We recruited over 465 women over many weeks and asked them to log what they did, felt and watched the group was a highly diverse one and yet had many things in common.  We wanted to understand everything about them” Baker explained.

Charlene Weisler: What was the ultimate goal of the study and what were some conclusions?

Amy Baker: Essentially, we wanted to understand the state of womanhood today. What we found was that there is a lot of things women love about being women! – Motherhood, female friendships and the emotional intelligence associated with being a woman.  But… unfortunately there are still many things that women do not like…. Too often, women feel under-valued.  They suffer from inequality- especially in pay, which is a big conversation going on today.  Women do not stand up for themselves as much as they want to for fear of being labeled difficult or worse “bitchy”.   Our research identified a universal response regardless of age, race or socioeconomic background that women rallied around strength.  Women look to content for characters who convey strength.

Charlene: What are the next steps for Lifetime with these key learnings?

Amy:   We aim to be the aggregator and curator of the new feminist voice in entertainment. We are building our brand around strong women.  We are going to be unapologetic, fun and edgy, but never too earnest or preachy.  And it is never girl against girl.  We will always be inclusive.  Importantly our voice will speak to all women with heart and humor.   We needed a word to capture this fun attitude to our consumers and advertisers; we are calling this our Fempire!  The Fempire serves as a rallying cry for being positive, bold and fierce.   

Charlene: Why do this now?

Amy: While we were doing our study, we noticed a major cultural shift happening.  Women started to dominate in almost every category of pop culture and project images of strength from Taylor Swift to Beyonce in music, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer in comedy and Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games.  And actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Katniss Everdeen, are using their platform to advocate for equality for women.  Interesting enough, there is a fourth wave of feminism going on now that is influenced by technology and empowerment.

Charlene: How will the Lifetime brand transition to Fempire?

Amy: This has been a transition over the last four years. We now have a name to it and have deeper insights. Our audience is already there in terms of how they see us.  In fact, in recent focus groups they told us that their perception of us has changed.  They no longer see us the “damsel in distress” network of old.  They actually see us as the network that empower women and uses us as a scratch for their emotional itches. They already see us as a Fempire … the place they turn to for strength.     

Charlene: Here is a question many of us face – how do you achieve work / life balance?

Amy: I’ve always prioritized where I need to be.  I never missed my kids’ big events, but everything is a trade-off. I go to their small events where I think it will make a difference in their lives. I tell women with whom I work to take care of themselves which will make you stronger at work. Work and Life balance is a marathon, not a sprint.

Charlene: What advice can you give a young woman in college today about a career in media?

Amy: In general, choose a career that you are passionate about. Don’t worry about your first or even your second job. Just get experience and enjoy the journey. There is no book of instructions regarding a career path. College kids today may feel that they cannot afford to take any risks – they need that internship on their resume. But you need to take risks. Even if a job seems like a big detour, that is okay.

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What is State of Mind Targeting? Interview with Ted Dhanik

Ted Dhanik, CEO of engage:BDR, has worked in a range of Silicon Valley companies from Xoriant and NexTag  to LowerMyBills and MySpace. At MySpace he was involved with the social network's launch strategy and key marketing initiatives to build the brand, tastemaker-base and user-base through online and offline initiatives

His current company, founded in 2009, is in the programmatic space in display and video ad ecosystems. Ted explains, “We pioneered OutStream ad formats enabling publishers to monetize their non-Video content through the units. We auction an average of 5 BN daily Video opportunities across our RTB ecosystem, First-Impression Marketplace, and are currently inviting advertiser-direct demand partners (DSPs) to join via openRTB integrations.”

Charlene Weisler: What exactly is Outstream - how does it work.

Ted Dhanik: OutStream is the name for a video ad placement that is not followed or preceded by video content, often utilized by publishers who don't produce video content but want to provide video ad inventory. This can come in many forms- a player sliding in from a corner, floating at the bottom of the screen, or even showing up in the text of an article. These placements are designed to deploy only when in-view, so they help solve for two major industry problems by adding highly-viewable scale to a limited space.

Charlene: Is there a future for 30 second spots?

Ted: There is, but execution is key here- 30 second creatives are not ideal for a lot of digital inventory, but they can play a role in creating rich storytelling across devices. You don't want to run a 30 second creative in the middle of a newsfeed; 7 second spots are ideal here. That said, if you are showing a consumer a 7 second spot while they're browsing on mobile, and that user is very relevant to your campaign, they may be open to watching a 30 second spot when they get home, on a desktop computer. You might use this as an opportunity to share more information, tell a story, and create value for your highly targeted users, which can be effective in driving engagement.

Charlene: Is there a future for traditional television?

Ted: We do see smart TV as a huge area of growth that will take up some of the audience of traditional TV. Traditional TV isn't dying, but television networks and advertisers alike are going to have to learn how to take a holistic approach. Content creators will have to be savvy about a multi-screen approach- how do we keep users engaged on their device of choice, whether it be smart TV, on a computer, on a traditional TV- and advertisers will have to match that approach to reach a full audience, as well as learn the nuances of each device's audience.

Charlene: What data do you currently collect, use and find most important?

Ted Dhanik: We are not in the data management business but we do help our advertisers find the users they're looking for throughout the web. Our advertisers and demand partners tag users with our pixels to enable visibility of the users which they're looking to target. This allows us to present the appropriate users to the correct buyers at the time we see them, in real-time. Additionally, buyers may be leveraging a popular third-party data solution, like Bluekai/Oracle or Neustar; we are agnostic to data solutions, so we will work with any data providers our advertisers ask us to integrate with.

Charlene: Who is in your competitive set?

Ted: We find ourselves in a fairly unique space within the industry, since we offer solutions directly to advertisers, publishers, and platforms. Many companies we work with compete with us in one of those categories, but we are able to add value in another arena.

Charlene: Describe the different types of targeting you do.

Ted: We have quite the toolbox available to us. We offer contextual targeting (by keyword), content targeting, day and time parting, behavioral targeting, retargeting, geo-targeting down to precise points of latitude and longitude, offline targeting through a data-agnostic policy, and State-of-Mind targeting.

Charlene: What is state-of-mind targeting and how does that work?

Ted: State-of-Mind Targeting allows us to access the right person, at the right place, during the right time. Essentially, we overlay rich behavioral segments with precise geo-targeting of locations during very specific periods of time- so, for example, we might serve an Oscar Meyer ad to non-vegetarians only, who are attending a specific Dodger Game. 

Charlene: Is the ad ecosystem different from when you started in 2009? If so how?

Ted: Absolutely- this industry changes so rapidly. The introduction and adoption of programmatic has been the biggest change, and fostered the most other changes. It has really changed the way everyone does business- starting with what advertisers can expect in terms of measurement and execution, and trickling all the way to how publishers can grow their overall yield. Also, consumer behavior really changes the ecosystem. Consumers shifted to watching more video content online, and from that, a major shift happened across the ad industry. In 2009, display was a huge focus, but today, video is just as big, if not bigger. Lastly, today's ecosystem has the tools and interest to have extremely low tolerance for low quality from any point in the chain. That is a huge, driving force at present that was extremely nascent in 2009.

Charlene: Looking ahead the next 3-5 years, give me some predictions about how the media landscape will look.

Ted: I certainly predict cleanup in the space. There will be fewer players, as anyone who survives needs to add value, and there are so many players currently in the space solely focused on reselling inventory- which hurts publishers, advertisers, and users alike. 

Looking from a more consumer-focused perspective, I see personalization as a key area of growth- it's in incredible demand by advertisers. I think this will grow in sync with the ability to access users at many more points during their day-to-day. With the rise of IoT The Internet of Things), we will see some really holistic, creative executions utilizing growth in many areas- data, dynamic creative, new smart devices and more.

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