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Media Insights & Engagement Conference 2019 Notes & Observations: Day 3

The 2019 Media Insights and Engagement Conference in downtown Los Angeles wrapped up with a half-day session on Thursday.

After a late breakfast, the morning kicked off with the succinctly named keynote Secrets to Connecting to Gen Z: Direct from a Social Media Influencer Turned Mogul, featuring Tiffany Zhong of Zebra Intelligence and Michelle Phan of Ipsy. These young ladies covered a number of topics on Gen Z; here are a few tidbits:

  • Neverthink is a platform that offers curated videos in different “channels”
  • Michelle seems to only watch short form video; she can’t sit thought the two hours required of a film.
  • She likes the idea of interactive content like Bandersnatch that would be an open-ended experience like video games.
  • We heard a lot about the incredible stressful life of a social media influencer. But, like, it’s OK ‘cause she bought into bitcoin early.
  • Funny but warning story about a fellow influencer who took $50,000 from a brand to make content to promote the brand; the influencer basically used the money to take trips around the world (and not wear the brand’s sneakers or apparel).

Next up was Angela Courtin of YouTube discussing Getting Serious About Original Content. Courtin had a number of interesting points, including:

  • The emerging Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) economy is challenging.
  • Tries to build marketing/services on a great insight into a challenge consumers have, and how to solve it.
  • From data analysis, they can now tell how many episodes someone needs to see to commit to a series (and thus pay to continue to see it). This could be 1, 2, or 3. Thus they know to put up x number of free episodes to sample and improve conversion.
  • Marketing budgets for online video have changed to driving engagement, not premiere tune-in (TV) or first weekend attendance (movies). Former budgets were 80% geared to pre-launch; now that’s reversed.
  • What kind of data doesn’t she have that she wants? Not so much data than time to do ethnographic-type studies about the use of television – hows/whys/reasons for choosing programs or making subscription decisions.
  • To convert YouTube users from free to pay, need to show value
  • Asked about streaming-first companies going after the NFL in the next cycle, she did not give a direct answer about YouTube but made it very clear the NFL will be a big target for those companies.

After a networking break, the traditional “state of the industry”-type panel discussed The Media Industry: Behind the Curtain. The panel featured Howard Shimmel, late of Turner and now of Janus Strategy and Insights; Colleen Fahey Rush of Viacom Media Networks; and Dave Ernst of A+E Networks. As would be expected, this all-star panel had a compelling discussion.

  • HS opened up by having the room shout out “Thank you, Dave” to David Poltrack of CBS, who will be retiring this year after a long and prestigious career in media research.

What was in your early career that influenced you a lot?

  • CFR: When she moved to Viacom
  • DE: He started at Y&R when all the functions (planning and creative) were together. He learned how to apply data to problems.
  • HS: Stood up for a sales deck that he thought would be more successful, and was it was. Taught him to stand up to management for what he believed was correct.

What is different now than back then to be successful?

  • CFR: Data. Need to know the mechanics and details of digital marketing. Being able to handle the velocity of change.
  • DE: The pace of change. The need to experiment around standards. The bar for data quality was set so high that it choked off innovation.
  • HS: The greater noise around the business. The press needs to better understand research to prevent bad data from confusing the conversation even further.

What specific skills are needed to move from mid- to senior-level researcher?

  • CFR: Learning how to get a What/So What summary on an iPhone screen. How to communicate in person and in emails
  • DE: He has an issue with “research”, as it can circumscribe what we do. You need to be able to translate data and insights to what it means to the business, make recommendations.
  • CFR: Need to be a consultant, strategic advisor
  • HS: Translate data science to insights

What is the coolest thing they have to play with at the moment?

  • CFR: Fusing consumer insights work with datasets to confirm the CI work and discover new opportunities
  • DE: Consumer journeys. Data are focused on what happened. Need to layer on motivations to get at predictions

How far are we from selling on outcomes?

  • DE: A long way. It’s expensive and the current data sources aren’t designed for it.
  • CFR: Vantage helps decrease waste and to sell more inventory at higher CPMs.

How can the industry be motivated to move faster?

  • DE: Collaborate with clients in content creation – sort of back to the 1950s/60s
  • CFR: Legacy systems for buying/selling/posting are slowing us down.

What will make your company succeed in the future?

  • CFR: Viacom has made acquisitions that offer optimism and a great vibe for its team.
  • DE: Traditional media is starting to learn to compete against the ‘flixes. It’s all television – the game is about compelling content
  • CFR: It will be survival of those who can pivot, not necessarily the fittest

What can we do to remind the industry about our value?

  • CFR: We don’t do a good job of telling good stories about ourselves. The press wants to tear things down. Need to separate the story of networks from the story of the pay TV bundle.
  • DE: We are allowing someone else to control the narrative.

What one thing scares you the most?

  • CFR: We are still enabling the competition by supplying them data, and by setting up our own digital-first services.
  • DE: Giving away content. Newspapers did it when the internet first came online, and it killed them. Also, automation/AI/machine learning.
  • HS: Amazon starts to get serious in content and in advertising

The final keynote of the conference was by Magnus Lindkvist, a futurologist, who presented a very entertaining presentation about The Future is Now. For the hardy few left, he was well worth sticking around until the end of the conference. His four trends of note were…

  • #1: The same thing is happening everywhere. No longer are consumers having vastly different experiences in different regions or different countries. We are all having broadly the same experiences
  • #2: Magic. What was once magical is now common-place and dull
  • #3: We are Meaning-Seekers. In past history, we had few possibilities but had a sense of meaning (mostly received from religion); today, we have many possibilities but little meaning in our lives
  • #4: Liquid fear. Despite overwhelming statistical evidence otherwise, we have many imagined fears

Lindkvist says “the future” should be “to future” – it’s a verb not or behavior, not just a noun. How do you future?

  • 1: look elsewhere; what is nobody doing?
  • 2: Experiment. Throw away the manual. Share and innovate across departments. The cost of doing is decreasing while the cost of waiting is increasing
  • 3: Liquid optimism. Have patience – be ugly, be misunderstood

The conference was brought to a close by co-chairs Mark Loughney of Turner and Peggy Einnehmer of LRW. Kudos to them, the rest of the conference committee, and the knect365 team for another great conference. To wrap up, next year’s location was announced – New Orleans! See you next January!

About the Author: David is an award-winning media research expert and author of “The Genius Box,” a new book about the evolution of the television-audience relationship. He is principal of TiceVision LLC, a media consultancy, and can be reached at david@ticevision.com.

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