Viacom: Driving the Cultural Conversation Viacom Synergy - Staying Ahead of the Future

They say that the future is not written. But it is possible, with perspective, data and innovation, to come close to what can be expected in the media market going forward. How can a corporation stay ahead of the future?

I sat down with five executives - Valerie Bischak, EVP, Marketing and Partner Solutions, Deb Brett, SVP, Marketing and Partner Solutions, Sarah Iooss, SVP, Business Development, Gabe Bevilacqua, SVP, Data Strategy and Kiel Berry, SVP, Co-Head, Viacom Labs - to look ahead and explore the future from both a personal and corporate perspective. Here are some insights from the group:

Do What Has Never Been Done Before
Experimentation and curiosity are the cornerstones in navigating a successful future. When it comes to corporate success, according to Brett, it is Viacom’s ability to bring advertisers “the ‘bright and shinies’ – things that have never been done before” that make it an innovative leader with clients and the creative community. “We have the infrastructure for the speed to market,” she added.

Viacom’s (and the media industry’s) ability to mine data for bright and shiny insights has never been better. “Viacom is up to some very interesting forward thinking things in the realm of data exploring what the evolution of television looks like,” Bevilacqua explained. “The data space is changing just in the year and a half I’ve been here. Data in general has gone from ‘this is a test’ to ‘this is part of the conversation’ and while not every advertiser may be executing television primarily with data, we have moved beyond the pilot phase to something that can work at scale.”

Creative Hiring
Cohesion starts with the people. It used to be that companies sought new hires with specific work experience in the field of the job opening. Now, not only does one not need a strict media background to qualify for work in media, many far flung areas of work experience can be applicable and even advantageous. 

When it comes to hiring, Bevilacqua noted, “everyone I interview gets asked the question – are you excited about solving a problem that no one has solved before? There are not going to be instructions on what I am going to put on your desk. If you are not excited about that, this is not the role for you.” Iooss mines for talent through social media, “in my own network, Linkedin, Facebook to seek people with untraditional backgrounds.”

Flexibility and optimism are also factors in future success. “The exciting part of our jobs,” Brett said, “is that we are going to be in something in 5 years that may not exist yet. And we are going to be bringing these same best practices and the same foundation to it. But what we will apply it to may not yet have come into the mind of the entrepreneur inventing it.” Bevilacqua added, “I am excited and optimistic about change. It will be fun and there will be opportunity. At Viacom we are embracing that in a big way.”

Make Strategy Part of the Job Description
For some, predicting the future is part of the job description. “Viacom Labs began in Spring 2016. At Labs our job is to look five years out,” replied Berry. “We are definitely grounded in the present in terms of what our brands are currently doing but we are futurists. Within five years we will be looking five years further out. We know that there will be some burgeoning trends that will materialize and we can start to work with them in our brands.”

Despite the constant change, there are certain things that are everlasting and sacrosanct. Bischak explained, “There is one constant and that is that we will still be looking for great ways to connect great advertisers to our great content wherever fans are consuming it.”

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