Data is Critical to Our Business. Q&A with Geri Wang of ABC

Geri Wang started as a physical therapy major in college but later changed to communications. Upon graduation she landed her first job working for Helen Johnston at Grey Advertising as a media research analyst. From there Wang was recruited by ABC where she excelled.

Wang is currently President of Sales and leads a team of nearly 300 and is responsible for advertising sales and integrated marketing across the entire ABC portfolio including, ABC Primetime, Daytime, News, Late-Night, Digital, Disney/ABC Domestic Television Syndication Group, Fusion and ABC Sales Development. 

She will be honored at the John A. Reisenbach Foundation on December 1, 2015.

In this fascinating interview, Wang talks about the media landscape, ABC’s portfolio of content, the importance of Research, Data and Analytics, the future of media with cross platform measurement and connected TVs and how mentoring is an important contribution to the future of the industry.

Charlene Weisler: Sales has become increasingly dependent on research and data. What is your opinion of that trend?

Geri Wang: Sales has always depended on research and data but now it is even more critical. I love the fact that data is so important. I am a self-professed research and numbers fanatic. We use data and analytical skills to help identify and activate new business metrics in the evolving media environment. 

It is a marriage of art and science. Sales has always interpreted data in order to discover who our audience is, the profile of that audience and to decide the right media choice for our advertisers. Now there is even more data available to us that is targeted and precise. Data is my first love and the foundation of everything we do.

Charlene Weisler: I have noticed that many Research Departments have been displaced by Data Analytics Departments

Geri Wang: I wouldn’t say that. Data Analytics is a complementary team to Research and they work side by side. Research has not been displaced. But we are expanding and developing a new skill set and are building our corporate muscle.

Charlene Weisler: Is there a future for traditional Research?

Geri Wang: I think that the word “traditional” has become pejorative. The ground is moving under our feet. Everything has to evolve and we all have to innovate. How we sell, research, analyze through targeting and automating allows for bigger possibilities.

Charlene Weisler: How would you say the sales function has changed since you first entered the industry?

Geri Wang: We are building an organization where everyone is expanding their skill set. We sell video on all platforms and on all screens. I’d like to think we have evolved to a more consultative, more idea-driven solution conversation with our advertisers. The best partnerships with our clients involve ideas. We started in sales as great negotiators and account people but now we are marketing partners in such diverse areas as integrated marketing, sponsorship, pro-mercials, product placement, traditional brand marketing, etc. In certain cases we get to be part of the strategic conversation about how a client is thinking about their business and included in short term activation and long term strategic roadmap of where a brand is headed.

Charlene Weisler: How important is data to your job? What data sets are most important?

Geri Wang: It is critical. Our business intelligence is based on micro and macro sets of data. We use Nielsen which is the traditional syndicated research company and now we have many, many more partners. We are getting smarter in how we are using data for both internal and external decision making.

Nielsen is the currency so we want to make sure that their measurement and methodology is keeping pace with consumer behavior. There are cool things about all of the new datasets which we can append for better and more informed decisions for clients.

Charlene Weisler: Do you think we will get to a standard cross platform measurement within the next two years? Why or why not?

Geri Wang: This is the Holy Grail – to be able to measure total impressions on every screen. We don’t care where you watch. We are selling units and impressions. I hope that we can get to a standard cross platform measurement. But hope is not a strategy. We are working closely with multiple partners to get to that goal. Also, we need much better media models that can talk about attribution. It is critical for the business. .

Charlene Weisler: How will connected TVs impact your side of the business?

Geri Wang: It is going to be a great viewer experience and value proposition because of the better user interface. High quality video companies like ABC will be the winners. The future is less about channels and more about programming services. We have cools apps for all of our properties and have been in that business since Day One.

Charlene Weisler: Where do you see programmatic going for TV – both local and national, broadcast and cable?

Geri Wang: We have the privilege and benefit of high demand. Depending on how you define programmatic – if Programmatic means dumping your low value inventory, then we are not in that business. If it means automatic buying and selling, we are in that. If it means long form video with more precise targeting, we are in it. The industry is headed there.

Charlene Weisler: Can you give me some predictions of how the media landscape will look 3-5 years from now?

Geri Wang: Our own organization has begun to prepare for the future by offering more consultative services and we will continue to expand that. We are also hyper focused on reaching the consumer in a technologically sophisticated way. As we look at consumer behavior with its infinite choices, we see a shift in traditional viewing. But we know that viewers will still seek out the best entertainment experiences.

I have seen great client collaboration in my career. We at ABC have moved beyond the broadcast model and into such things as in-season stacking, an interest in Hulu and a Sony Vue deal. At the end of the day you have to offer the consumer and the viewer the entertainment experience they want. Period.

Charlene Weisler: I know that you are involved in mentorship. Can you give me more details on your work in that area?

Geri Wang: Yes. I mentor young people through both the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communication and the ABC Media Networks programs. I have had unbelievable and supportive mentors for my entire career. Some were my peers and some were people I worked for.   It is the most generous and greatest gift, all of us should be able to give.

Charlene Weisler: What advice would you give a young graduate today regarding a career in media?

Geri Wang: Media is the most fascinating, dynamic and interesting industry and offers a big fun quotient, alongside complex challenges that are phenomenal puzzles to solve. I cannot think of another industry I would rather work for.

This article first appeared in www.MediaBizBloggers.com


Media is Like a House Full of Termites

What is the future of television? That simple question seems to roil the media market today.  Pundits weigh in and, depending upon who you talk to and where they reside in the industry, you will get a range of answers.

So I was curious when I attended the CCW this past week. The CCW is a compendium of hardware, software, intellectual property owners and distributors. It is a 360 degree view of our industry and, as such, offers many expert perspectives under one roof.

My opinion is, like house full of termites, there are a lot of challenges out there that seem to gnaw at the foundations of our business.  For MSOs, the current challenge to their business is two-fold. It is the technology that is increasingly taking viewers away from the STB to over the top. And it is also the changing demographics; cord sensitive consumers who may not see linear TV as a must- have. For networks and digital video platforms, it is the combination of DVRs, VOD and ad blockers that is squeezing potential income. For the data owners and providers it is the continued "siloization" of data streams at the end user that makes data aggregation expensive and each individual dataset less valuable. It is also the challenge of content coding where efforts to standardize externally through EIDR and Ad-ID add to internal needs that will require internal re-transcoding every few years.  Whew!

Here are some takeaways from the conference:

TV Rocks!
But is the television business really in trouble? Not according to Michael Wolff whose book, TV is the New TV has been causing waves in the industry ocean. Wolff is a cheerleader for TV … at least as he defines it. "TV was once a distribution channel.  Now it is a vastly expanded business model. The TV business is now many businesses and it is monetized in different ways," explained Wolff.

He has a point.  There has been a lot of posturing by digital media businesses. According to Wolff, “The digital media business has been saying ‘we are the future and you are the past.’ That is a powerful and debilitating thing to say. Almost everyone has come to believe that. I walk in the corridors of the media industry and they say digital is the future. I hear that from a lot of print people and they don't know what is going on. So if they say digital is the future, they are probably wrong. Digital came and said ‘We will eat TV’s lunch. We will give out free content, deliver critical mass and more eyeballs and we will sell advertising. That is the TV model and we will take it.’ But in the same period, TV was looking at certain trends such as DVR usage and said ‘Something is happening in TV marketing. We are still a good ad medium but we might look at it in different ways.’”

Digital Is Old School
Wolff said that digital is actually following the TV model from the 1960s and 1970s, “catering in every way to advertisers who pay the bill. It is a ratings and traffic business in a world where the cost of advertising goes ever lower.” Meanwhile, “TV is expanding viewing opportunities and is less dependent on advertising. Digital is more and more confronted with the existential predicament that it is wholly dependent on ads. Think ad blockers….”
He continued, “Facebook and Google are volume sellers of low cost advertising and that is one business that you don't want to be in. But they say they are the future and we are the past. TV, with its myriad of revenue streams, has become incredibly good. It is the new golden age with an extraordinarily sophisticated product. So much so that I would say that here are four words that capture every conversation and that is ‘What are you watching?’ TV has cultural currency which is an extraordinarily valuable currency.”
Measurement is a Monster Problem
So, for Wolff, the marketing model for TV has its strengths as long as TV is flexible and agile and maximizes all possible revenue aspects of its content. But measurement has not caught up to the platforming of this content.  This is where Wolff became circumspect. “Measure-ability has become a monster problem. There is no standard. We live in Nielsen world, which is not right or wrong, because everyone was measured by same standard. But now everyone has measures and there are no standards. It is impossible to know who to believe so we believe nobody.  Now it is not only incredibly complex but also deeply problematic.”

Content Identification is Mandatory, Requires Funding and is Continuous
It is no mean feat to roll out a standardize-able coding system for both programs and ads. Joe Simon, Chief Technology Officer at Univision noted, “All of us have issues with costs and look to automating the work flow. We won't be able to do that without content id.” According to Glenn Goldstein, SVP, Chief Technology Convergence Officer, Viacom, content recognition, “is a mess internally and out in the ecosystem. The efficiency needs to be improved. There are duplicative copies of content with the same ad pitched over and over to MVPDs to put in their pumps. Monetization comes from consistent reports that measure audience engagement. And it needs de-duping.” Stacey Decker, Chief Technology Officer at WGBH, added, “Unfortunately there are silos. I am not sure how we get to a standard but IDER is progress.”

It will only go so far until the money people see its value as Kurt Rao, VP Corporate IT and CTO for Time Warner, concluded, “It is not technology decision. It is a financial decision.” And apparently once coded is not enough. Goldstein added, “Be prepared to re transcode your inventory every few years. It is never going to be transcoded and done.”

There is probably no one in the industry that has all the answers. The future continues to be unscripted but by fortifying our business structure with needed reinforcements – standardized measurement solutions, industry standard program and ad identification codes – we can prepare for any dialogue

This article first appeared in www.Mediapost.com

Cross Screen Planning, Buying and Measurement. Q&A with Scott Ferber of Videology

Scott Ferber could be considered an early adopter of technology. He explains, “As a child I was interested in technology and math. I was there for the beginning of gaming, Pong and personal computers. Because of that I was attuned to technology in society and had the belief in 1996 that the world would significantly evolve because of the internet.”

Since then he has been involved in some form in the digital and data space, first launching Advertising.com which he sold to AOL in 2006 and then launching Videology in 2007.

In this interview Ferber talks about his role in the company, metrics, partnerships, global differences and challenges in the digital space. He also looks ahead to the next 3 to 5 years to predict how the video landscape will change.

CW: Tell me about your current job and your company.

SF: Back in 2007, we saw that the digitization of television and escalation in the availability of broadband was going to transform the way that viewers watched content.  We set out to develop a business to meet the unique needs of content convergence across TV and digital video. That was the genesis of Videology—a software provider that helps brand advertisers, agencies and media companies drive better results through cross-screen planning, buying and measurement. While my job as CEO is to represent the face of the company, it is also to attract and empower a team of great people. So I recruit, train, motivate and direct a highly skilled team, and ensure that we have the systems in place to make it sustainable.

CW: What type of metrics do you use? 

SF: We are integrated with over 40 third party data providers such as Nielsen, Oracle, Adobe, comScore, Experian, Axciom, BlueKai, JD Power, Rentak and Kantar Shopcom—so the range of measurement that we offer our users is broad and aligns with their overall goals.  That said, increasingly advertisers are interested in measuring for actual brand metrics ranging from brand awareness to whether a campaign actually moved product off the shelves.  Much of our innovation is focused on measuring that type of ROI.

CW: What is your opinion of the comScore acquisition of Rentrak?

SF: All efforts toward innovation in cross-screen measurement in this increasingly fragmented media landscape are positive for the industry.

CW: With whom do you partner?

SF: We are a huge systems integrator. On a high level, we provide software used by advertisers, agencies and media companies to create and measure effective ad campaigns that sell more product with greater efficiency. We count some of the largest media agencies, global brands and media companies as our partners and clients.

CW: Do you include radio, out of home and print in your cross media system?

SF: Currently we are focused on television and video.  However, our software can work with any media that can be measured through digital distribution channels. So for instance, we can measure digital radio but not terrestrial radio. Outdoor video is also of growing importance and we can include that. And of course we include digital print publications.

CW: What is your cross platform unifying metric?

SF: There is a debate going on right now about the best measurement for digital cross-screen viewing.  Some believe the solution lies with a more digitally-influenced metric, others believe it should be a more traditional TV ratings metric. What everyone does agree upon however is the need for a unifying metric.  One example of how Videology is helping to solve for that is with a direct integration with Nielsen which allows us to tie television viewing behavior to online viewing behavior.  Ultimately, in many ad categories, we are then able to help our users drive campaign results by correlating ad exposure to cross-screen return on investment (ROI) and offline sales. This type of closed-loop, cross-screen measurement is the end goal that most advertisers are looking for.

CW: What are the challenges to your business and how can you overcome them?

SF: One of the primary factors holding back convergence is legacy systems which were not built for a cross-platform world. The hard part is to bridge the old and the new worlds. To do this, we need to unify legacy technology systems, be respectful of current business models and workflows, and ensure the fluidity of data across digital and linear video channels, as well as between targeting parameters on the front end, and measurement metrics on the back end.

CW: Videology is a global company. Are there differences in the business globally?

SF: The main difference is the evolution of their convergence. The US and the UK are further along in planning, measurement and execution than many other countries. But we’re also seeing significant progress across APAC. It’s also interesting to note that as convergence spreads into new markets, the cycle for adoption is becoming faster and faster

CW: Give me some predictions of how the media landscape will look in the next three to five years.

SF: Right now about 7% of the total video ad marketplace—including TV—is automated and data-driven.  Within the next 3-5 years that will increase to around 50%.  Keep in mind that automation and data do not equate to “biddable” which only comprises about 1% of the total video marketplace today and will likely remain less than 10%.  So this means that the majority of growth will come from bringing automation and data to traditional television workflows which are primarily focused on scheduled inventory purchased in an upfront, reserved manner, not from real-time bidding.

This article first appeared on www.MediaBizBloggers.com


Research Has to Be Future Forward. Q&A with ESPN’s Artie Bulgrin

For those of us in Research, it is both the best of times and the most challenging of times; The best of times in that we have access to more unique data sets that can be used to gain greater insight into the consumer experience. The most challenging of times in that the discipline of media research is being bifurcated into Research, Analytics and Data departments, some reporting into the same departments, some operating parallel.

So it was with great interest that I spoke to Artie Bulgrin, SVP Global Research and Analytics for ESPN, who has been an advocate of cross platform measurement data and research solutions. ESPN was the driver behind Project Blueprint, a collaboration with comScore to build the industry’s first cross platform measurement solution. ESPN, through Bulgrin’s efforts, remains in the forefront of research solutions to the changing media environment.

Charlene Weisler: How has the marketplace’s interest in data impacted Research’s role in your company?

Artie Bulgrin: First party data in combination with other proprietary and third-party research has become an important part of the paradigm shift in our business – meaning that we know more about the ESPN fan than anyone else. So our clients have become much more reliant on us for trusted insights and guidance as to how to connect with our fans as consumers and better understand emerging behavior that is currently unmeasured or not measured well in the syndicated space. This is a trust we take seriously.  So for us research and data have been moving on a parallel plane at ESPN. I am responsible for ESPN’s audience research and our digital analytics, so we have been linking census data with traditional measures for a while. We have long advocated time-based measures, such as average minute audience, as a common denominator to link media usage across platforms. Our ESPN XP initiative was created in 2010 to move cross-platform measurement from custom project to standard practice because there was nothing out there to measure total reach or duplication across platforms. The ultimate result of that initiative was Project Blueprint with comScore. Blueprint is a perfect example of big data and panel-based audience measurement merging. If nothing else, Blueprint proved that the hybrid approach works and it is the future. 

Charlene Weisler: How do you use Nielsen beyond linear measurement?

Artie Bulgrin: Right now, not a lot. Mainly because we use Nielsen mostly as a TV currency and our content is mostly seen live.  We do have lots of non-linear digital content and will continue to seek out the best cross-platform solutions - so Nielsen could be a part of that in the future. Meanwhile filling audience gaps in our linear content remains a priority.  Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement approach is a good plan and we are hoping it can fill those gaps, but enabling total audience measurement and achieving it are two different things. I’ve said before that audience measurement in the digital/data world is now a team sport – meaning it requires cooperation and collaboration from the media, distributors and platforms. One of those measurement gaps  involves TV Everywhere and our Watch ESPN service. Based on our analytics, usage has grown over 60% in the past year across all platforms and over 100% on OTT platforms. OTT viewing of Watch ESPN has matched or exceeded typical TV viewing levels in terms of minutes per device and it is not a personal platform and so we need Nielsen to capture the co-viewing audience in front of the set. 

Charlene Weisler: Where you surprised by this?

Artie Bulgrin: Initially yes. We thought that viewing of Watch ESPN would be driven mainly by displaced audiences in terms of reach and minutes. But now we see that more than half of the minutes consumed are coming from primary or secondary residences through the use of devices like a Roku, Apple TV or XBox 360. These have become the new set top boxes filling more rooms in American homes and creating new opportunities to watch ESPN.  

Charlene Weisler: Is ESPN involved in any programmatic TV efforts?

Artie Bulgrin: Yes. We have some programmatic activity going on right now. But ESPN is still focused on our distinctive point of difference of offering live, premium content and a well-lighted (high viewability) environment.

Charlene Weisler: Knowing what you know about cross platform viewing behavior, where do you see the viewing trends going three years from now?

Artie Bulgrin: With television content overall we are seeing fragmentation of viewing driven by more non-linear consumption of TV content. Live TV is still the king of all media activity at over 4 hours per day for the average person. But in Q2, according to Nielsen, we saw live TV viewing decline about 3% or by 8 minutes in the average day. This trend will persist as options grow and as behavior among young people evolves. About half of this change is happening right at home on the TV with the proliferation of OTT connected devices and more SVOD options. In short, Americans are expanding their choices because we love TV!  The other half of the behavioral change in TV content consumption is coming from mobile apps.  Essentially there is no such thing as “least objectionable” content anymore. Most Americans can watch what they want, when they want. At ESPN, we live in a more rarefied environment where 95% of our content is consumed live and TV is typically the best available screen. As a result, we are seeing sports becoming a priority in the hierarchy of choice for live TV viewing. That principle applies to other video platforms as sports fans use the next “best available screen” to follow their favorite events live.   

Charlene Weisler: Do you think we will get to an industry standard cross platform measurement solution?

Artie Bulgrin: We are getting closer. We have more companies than ever pursuing cross-platform measurement including comScore, Nielsen, Symphony Advance Media and Reality Mine, to mention a few. I am hoping this competition will lead to innovation and speed to market. But there are different definitions of cross-platform measurement out there and I’m not sure which will be supported by the industry. In his book “Media Planning” Erwin Ephron said “… our media planning priority is media mix. For that we need good cross-platform duplication data.” That’s in line with my view of cross-platform measurement and where the big knowledge gap is -  to answer the basic measurement questions of how many, how often and how long… meaning  reach, frequency and time which can produce valuable measures of behavior and ad impressions.  Once we know how reach and exposure happens, then we can measure advertising impact more effectively. The search for a perfect solution will never stop in my opinion. We have to stay at it as an industry to keep pace with technology and the consumer. 

Charlene Weisler: What is your opinion of the comScore acquisition of Rentrak?

Artie Bulgrin: We have been partners with comScore since 2012 when they transformed from pure digital measurement to cross platform measurement. With Project Blueprint they are currently the lone national cross platform source out there for planning and content measurement. The merger with Rentrak will certainly strengthen comScore’s TV measurement capability and create some competition for Nielsen. Competition is always good for the industry – it breeds innovation.

Charlene Weisler: What is your philosophy on data and its impact on your job?

Artie Bulgrin: Big data is now transforming our business on an analytics level and helping to improve audience measurement with its granularity and real-time benefits. But data alone can create the illusion of precision which we have to be careful of. Lots of data does not mean it is meaningful or representative. It could be biased and unrepresentative. The other caution is that data can lead to compromises. For example, analytics may mean more precision in device usage, but less precision or even no data on people. So as I said before, data and measurement must run on parallel tracks - that’s where the solutions will be in media measurement. If used properly with the right standards in place, ultimately data plus measurement will lead to solutions that can measure media exposure and connect that exposure to impact at the consumer level. That’s the Holy Grail! 

Charlene Weisler: What do you see as the future of research?

Artie Bulgrin: It’s exciting and so different from when I started 34 years ago. Based on how busy we are and how quickly things are changing, I see a greater reliance on Research for strategic insights with much more reliance on technology and science. Researchers today need to be perpetual students focused on the latest innovations and studying the future in a present tense. This was the main reason we created the ESPN Lab in Austin – to bring advanced science and methods to the study of media and advertising; an approach that gives us deeper insights on how people are interacting with media and advertising right now. The future is around us. We need to find it, study it and be prepared for what will happen next. 

This article first appeared in www.MediaBizBloggers.com