5 Questions With Lydia Daly, SVP of Social & Branded Content, Viacom



SMWNYC speaker Lydia Daly shares her insights on close culture and how new levels of intimacy are affecting brands, platforms, and people.


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With the evolution of technology, brands and social platforms are setting new expectations as to what we should be sharing on social and what we expect to see shared by others. Further, the relative ease by which we are able to communicate has put greater power in our hands to shape the notion of intimacy and “closeness.”

At SMWNYC, Lydia Daly, SVP of Social Media and Branded Content Strategy at Viacom, will explore the themes of mass culture and close culture, providing insights into the pressing questions the obscured line between the two culture types has presented.

We recently sat down with Daly to get a preview of her talk and find out what the notion of “close culture” means for marketers.

SMW: Your SMWNYC talk explores the differences between mass culture and close culture. Can you share with our readers what you mean by “close” culture?

Lydia Daily: “Close culture” is defined by the culture that we create with our social contacts—think of the friends and family who surround us. It refers to what’s created just within that circle: the jokes, the languages, the interests that we form as a group. But, that culture is changing—when everyone is closer together, the lines become harder to define. We can now find emotional proximity to people from all corners of the world, which has significant implications on how we communicate and how we develop relationships.

“We can now find emotional proximity to people from all corners of the world, which has significant implications on how we communicate and how we develop relationships.”

What are the challenges and opportunities of close culture and the increasingly intimate nature of social media?

LD: The ease in which we can communicate with groups at large has made the lines between all corners of culture blur together. Now, what happens in crowd culture, deep culture, and mass culture can more intimately impact the conversations that we have with close culture.

Our social media feeds are the perfect example of the challenges and the opportunities this shift raises for brands. In one space, we follow our best friends, our favorite brands, celebrities we love to hate, and news sources we need to follow. The proximity of these corners of culture takes control away from brands, and gives control to fans to comment, share, and evolve the messaging. Now, if brands create content that resonates, they’re invited into the close culture conversations where overt brand messaging has never been welcome.

Tell us about how Viacom Velocity is structured within the broader Viacom organization. How do you work with brands to bring their stories to life in authentic ways?

LD: Velocity is an in-house branded content agency within Viacom. We offer full- service marketing with the purpose of seamlessly integrating our clients into cultural conversations with our brands. Using insight-led campaign strategy, we aim to develop the right stories to communicate our clients’ messages and help them reach the right audiences using Viacom’s proprietary data.

Can you share an example of a recent campaign or partnership that embodies the type work you produce at Velocity?

LD: Velocity used cultural and social media insights to identify dance as a high-potential social video genre and a way for MTV to find a voice in deep culture. With that insight in mind, we developed a new branded content series for MTV, called “LIT!”, which is a docu-series rooted in the viral dance culture seen throughout social media.

The series was designed to align with MTV’s brand voice and built for advertiser integration. Our strategic team tested a pilot of the new series “in the wild” to learn how to best distribute the series, identify target audiences on social, and optimize creative development. Following the success of that episode, we produced a second episode of the series. This time, we integrated Beats by Dr. Dre natively into the series, bringing our learnings and creative vision to life.

Why are brands putting more and more dollars against branded content efforts? What do you predict for this space in the future?

LD: Today’s youth signal a rapidly evolving future for video consumption. Gen Z and millennial video consumers skew wildly towards digital and social native platforms, and they’re simultaneously turning towards more premium content. With premium expectations, they’re more negatively affected by interruptive ad experiences.

Brands need to create content that more fluidly blends editorial content with brand messaging. Brands can’t ignore it. Moving forward, we’re seeing more and more brands looking for ways to beat the interruptive ad viewing cycle and carve out a niche to reach their audiences in the places that they’re naturally communicating.

“Brands need to create content that more fluidly blends editorial content with brand messaging.”


Don’t miss your chance to attend Viacom’s session at SMWNYC (April 24-27) and many others that will explore the increasingly complex relationship between community and individualism. Claim your pass today.

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