Getting Ahead of a Changeable News Cycle. An Interview with Videa’s Shereta Williams

Every day seems to bring a new catastrophic or controversial news crisis that charges the atmosphere. While we cannot control these events, we can control how we respond and navigate through them. Placing advertising that is sensitive to the program content through addressable is a way to demonstrate greater sensitivity as well as protect the brands’ reputation.

I sat down with Shereta Williams, President, Videa and talked with her about the risk to brands in this changeable environment and what companies can do to navigate the shoals.

Charlene Weisler: What would you say is the biggest risk to brands at this time?

Shereta Williams: The biggest risk comes in lacking the agility necessary to respond to the event at hand. If you don’t have the means to respond to a major event that everyone is talking about, you’re risking the possibility of automatically being seen by the general public as associating with the negative aspects of that given event. One wrong message, whether on social media, in a blog post or otherwise, can impact your brand in the blink of an eye.

Weisler: What are the biggest challenges that brands face today?

Williams: Brands are facing the challenge of not being able to adjust their current campaigns that may be negative considering current events, to something more positive. Social media is a perfect example of that and Twitter is an especially challenging channel. One wrong hashtag, or even one wrong “favorite,” can turn your consumers against you. Further to that, going back to a “business as usual” attitude too soon turns people off and can be seen as making light of the tragedy after the fact.

Weisler: Are there any opportunities for brands or steps that they can take in responding to news crisis cycles?

Williams: Don’t be silent. You don’t want to make too much noise, resulting in one of your messages being misconstrued but you also don’t want to sit back and say nothing. Take a stand for what you believe in and craft a message around that belief that doesn’t alienate one person or group. Also, align your marketing and communications efforts so that you can quickly adjust your message in light of current events. They can also take advantage of the opportunity to help in a very visible way. For example, AirBnB’s response during Hurricane Harvey was a perfect marketing moment to both let people know they were making homes available for free and to showcase their compassion by doing so.

Weisler: How can programmatic buying of media assist brands in maintaining their integrity?
Williams:  Data. It’s all about the proper use of quality data, measurement, and analytics. As consumer data sets become richer – beyond just typical household demographics – brands will be able to utilize those metrics in more compelling, possibly safer ways. At Videa, for instance, we use cross-indexing of data from Nielsen and comScore. Those are not complete sets of psychographics, obviously, but they are foundational data that still drive the bulk of automated selling and buying. Because of the speed of today’s news and media, brands and agencies will always have to be on-guard to some degree with messaging at the ready for when emergencies or incidents occur. Programmatic offers an expedient way  to market when a quick response is required, and when paired with intelligent use of data, can be a very powerful way to promote goodwill for your brand.

Weisler: How can brands get in front of these news crises?

Williams: It’s all about planning ahead. Unfortunately, crises are happening all the time. While brands can’t necessarily predict the future, you can craft a narrative for possible scenarios that speaks to your core values so that when the crisis hits, you can adjust that same narrative to be relative to the topic at hand. Ensuring that is communicated across your entire company from marketing to IT is just as important as the narrative itself – you don’t want one person affecting the entire integrity of the brand.

Weisler: Looking ahead to 2020, where do you see the role of media, of programmatic TV and of advertising?

Williams: We are seeing, from the programmatic TV perspective, an increased awareness and adoption of this technology to drive results and maximize engagement. There is momentum from both the buy-side and sell-sides for an easier, more transparent way to buy and sell TV advertising – less of a walled garden approach. We believe, over the next few years, there will also be a stronger movement and embrace of establishing a set of common guidelines and open standards across the industry. We expect there to be more examples of data sharing and transparent fee structures across platforms, and more openness, in terms of technical platform integrations and how business transactions take place.

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