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TV, Data and Omnichannel – Hot Topics at Cannes Lions

After a week spent in the French Riviera with some of the most creative execs in the market, we decided to take a look at the conversations surrounding TV and what we heard from the talent, agencies and network execs during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

On the minds of most was what’s next following the AT&T/ Time Warner merger. At Cannes, Turner President David Levy mentioned that he is ready to lean on AT&T’s data capabilities to advance TV advertising, and is looking forward to the new capabilities that will likely come along with the deal. He told Variety that he was excited about the opportunity to connect the great content created by Turner, HBO and Warner Brother’s with the incredible data that AT&T has access to which includes 100 million mobile subscribers, 25 million DirecTV subscribers, broadband subscribers and more. Advertising is going to get better and more targeted, the experience will get better — all because of data.

“Consumption and viewer habits are changing, we have to change how we target ads and how people buy advertising. I am a big believer and the industry needs to move quick about it, in audience-based targeting and addressable television and that is a big part about what we are talking about with the AT&T/ Time Warner merger are those two aspects,” said Levy.

Turner continues its focus on building fandom and creating omnichannel experiences. Jesse Redniss, EVP of Data Strategy and Product Innovation for Turner (and TV[R]EV co-founder), spoke about creating fandom and how Turner is developing content that’s engaging for all generations of fans. “We believe in the full omnichannel universe. It is no longer about being a television network, it is about being an experience ecosystem.”

“We have premium content at Turner and we are transforming that content across screens.” Regarding fandom, Redniss mentioned, “Rick and Morty Fans may vary by age, but they can all be superfans. We have an opportunity to enhance the experience and bring all of those superfans together.”

Conan sees value in short-form and social: TBS host, Conan O’Brien, said that social media has been his savior, particularly as he moved shows and networks. He cited his “ride along” videos with Ice Cube, which have been viewed more than 100 million times, as one example of its success for him. His social media approach has never been planned, he said, with O’Brien getting by on what he calls his “Field of Dreams philosophy” — if you film it, they will come.

“I’m more excited by the work I’m doing now than I have ever been,” the TBS host said of his travel segments and other viral videos.

Katie Couric announced her production company, Katie Couric Media, which will work with brands — specifically P&G — on digital content that have messages with brands that align with her own personal values. The content will be fueled by women and give female journalists new opportunities to break into the business, while also bringing back the ‘brought to you by’ approach to content and programs.

Details of which P&G products or brands will be used in advertisements are still being worked out, according to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer.

Jodie McAfee, SVP of sales and marketing for Inscape, sat with John Osborn CEO of OMD to discuss how technology, data and talent play an important role in the future of media.

“The rapid transformation in TV, entertainment and advertising is bringing about a new era of transparency, accountability, and capability,” said McAfee.

“The subject matter for the last day and a half of Cannes has been, what role is data going to play in the transformation of media? What does that mean for legacy data sets, and what new sets of data are going to power that transformation? Historically, companies have not had access to an IP address linked to a TV. So having access to that match key and the ability to use that data from a footprint of millions of TVs is compelling.”

Obsborn agreed that tracking data is absolutely necessary and imperative to have access to the data that exists and cultivate new data as it is needed. “There are more emotive forms of inputs that we also need to take into consideration to make smart decisions for our clients,” he said. “Data needs to be plugged into the system so we can act upon it.”

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCU and Joe Marchese, president of advertising of Fox Networks Group, spoke about the inflection point of advertising and storytelling and OpenAP at Variety Studios.

“The relative value of the scale of television is like no other medium marketers are able to invest in,” said Marchese. “If we worked in reverse… How good do the ads have to be so that we can have few enough of them that the audiences tolerate them?”

In talking about OpenAP, Marchese added, “Every TV network is testing new things that work for clients — those things that work, should become a standard format. This is a unique period of time where advertisers and publishers have a shared goal where long form storytelling should be ad supported. So OpenAP is the first step. When a great ad product is created, everyone should have access to it and only compete on stories and audience.”

Yaccarino shared her own perspective on OpenAP:

“This year, I am more optimistic than ever before. Efforts from NBCUniversal and Fox have surfaced the idea of innovation and we actually have permission to change this year as we move to new forms of measurement all around. The agencies and the marketers know that Nielsen is not reflective of consumer behavior and we (the networks) need to get it done.”

Hulu re-orgs: Hulu CEO Randy Freer spoke in the Variety Studios about the company’s recent reorg, and addition of its new CTO (Dan Phillips from TiVo) and Chief Data Officer (Jaya Kolhatkar, from Walmart).

In an effort to grow Hulu, which is currently at 20 million subscribers and hopes to scale to 30 million quickly and in a super competitive marketplace, the company is focused on bringing alignment to four areas of its business including: aligning tech and products, the consumer journey, acquiring and delivering great content and finally, ad revenue. “We believe that advertising, rather than being a commercial interruption, can be a strategic advantage for us,” Freer told Variety. “We can allow brands to communicate with viewers who love shows.”

In response to how Hulu tracks subscriber activity, Freer talked about the info that they have access to that helps the company know the value of shows and specific genres, and to make sure that creators have a sense of what is interesting and not interesting. “The amount of information and the amount of first party data we have access to, really drives our business.”