Navigating Storytelling in a Fragmented Media Landscape: Actionable Tips from WHOSAY, Showtime Networks & Marchon Eyewear



“There’s always something else you can do, but you need to figure out if it’s the right approach for your brand,” said Thomas Burkhardt, CMO & SVP of Global Brands for Marketing & Design at Marchon Eyewear.


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It’s the era of the empowered consumer.

Although the young and diverse 18-34-years-old consumers are now more hard to reach than ever before, brands must face the challenge to meet them where they are — with the content they crave.

During a #SMWNYC talk, Paul Kontonis, CMO of WHOSAY for Viacom Ad Solutions joined Thomas Burkhardt, CMO & SVP of Global Brands for Marketing & Design at Marchon Eyewear and Donald Buckley, CMO of Showtime Networks to share what it is like to build an advertising and marketing ecosystem that reaches intended consumers with stories that resonate.

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Here were their top three takeaways:

Traditional media must now make use of data

Showtime’s shows can be found on demand, streamed through their product offering, or accessed from distributors such as Hulu or Amazon. The launch of first and third party streaming by traditional networks has resulted in an influx of user data.

“We have data scientists now. We’ve never had them before,” joked Buckley.

The network now faces the challenge of reconciling differentiated pieces of data to draw conclusions that can be used throughout the organization. “It’s all about behavior now. If you can find behavior in the media ecosystem, it’s a smart place for us to be. We measure provider leads and are constantly testing and optimizing the behavior behind those clicks. It’s about replicating the behavior we see in our own platforms.”

Buckley also makes it clear that Showtime draws a line between using data to enhance user experience vs. narrating network programming. “We might test a pilot to see whether or not to go forward, but we don’t make programming decisions based on data. We try to encourage artists to come to our network and give them a home. We want to help them make the stories they want to tell.”

Storytelling should be organic

For Burkhardt, assessing brand resources can help lay a foundation for storytelling strategy. “What does my portfolio look like? What consumer verticals? Priority layers? For a brand like Calvin Klein or Nike, they have very different approaches and resources than a small B2B local brand.”

Buckley added, “Assuming we’ve properly defined our strategic goals, we let our promotional narrative define everything else. “The Chi had a full African-American cast. We made the decision to go full for the African-American audience. Our theory was that it would begin there and start growing via concentric circles to the outer regions.”

When it comes to placement strategy for social, Buckley admitted that the fragmented media landscape makes it hard to generalize. “It’s very specific to the show. Each show has its own personality. Shameless is a big Instagram show. The Chi was a Twitter extravaganza.”

With Instagram as the go-to platform for fashion consumers, placement strategy is a little more straight-forward for Bukhardt. “Our creative begins on Instagram and moves out from there because of the ecosystem our product companies already provide,” explained Bukhardt.

If you don’t have it internally, rent it externally

When Showtime launched their standalone streaming service in 2015, they officially joined new territory. “We had to figure out how to be in the subscription service. We look internally at our skill sets and honestly assessed what we were able to accomplish. We had to buy expertise very specific to the new business we were entering. That included everything from strategy to research. We surrounded ourselves with the expertise needed at the time and migrated that expertise internally.”

External agencies also bring fresh thinking. “We have award-winning creatives on staff, but the different perspectives you get from reaching out on a specific project is effective,” said Buckley.

Bukhardt summarized it best when he said, “There’s always something else you can do, but you need to figure out if it’s the right approach for your brand.”

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