AMC Networks Showcases Innovation in Content and Data

By Legends & Leadership Archives
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A little over a year since ascending into the chief revenue role that Arlene Manos had held for several years at AMC Networks, Scott Collins has had the challenge of adapting the organization to a business in which change is more constant and unpredictable.  "Sales leaders have always been reading and anticipating the market," he commented in an exclusive MediaVillage interview.  "This is a challenging market to get a handle on in traditional ways."  As Collins (pictured above) and his team approach this year's Upfront season, he is taking a more holistic view of the economy and a realistic view of marketers' needs.  "The Upfront is a guide to the vitality of the market but we need to look at the full year," he said.  "It really is about giving clients the opportunity to dig deeper and look at a full-year of opportunities that differentiate our value and serve their unique needs.  They're looking for partners, not just inventory, and we're recognized for being a good partner."

In a traditional marketplace in which TV sellers have viewed each other as their primary competitors, Collins recognizes the need to refocus on digital media as a primary competitive force.  "We want to make sure people understand the value TV brings," he noted.  "We take for granted that clients know sight, sound and motion is very powerful.  We need to do a better job of proving that out.  Maybe after years of not necessarily hammering that home we need to do a little better job of selling -- a reeducation to prove the tremendous amount of up-funnel branding that occurs.  People don't buy a $40,000 car just because they saw six seconds of it.  They may click on something in the end that gives them information about the auto they're about to buy, but a lot of that intent most likely came from those beautiful sweeping commercials that aired in important content.  Case studies may seem archaic, but they are necessary to show how a brand's message on TV impacts sales success."

Collins also called for his colleagues at TV networks to "beat the drum louder" on the brand safety of television's controlled environment.  "We make sure brands aren't in content they don't want to be associated with and manage the architecture and flow of commercials pods."

Like most TV executives, Collins is aware that "agencies may believe in more TV but if they recommend it they may be perceived as a dinosaur. Reports from the Video Advertising Bureau and others validate the reach superiority of TV and the measurement of it.  You can't even put digital on the same playing field, yet that reality is not breaking through to marketers.  We need to constantly remind our clients that currencies are not the same.  There's a lack of third-party verification in digital media.  We don't grade our own homework.  We need to constantly be asking them, 'Is digital reach real and is it comparable to TV?'"

Acknowledging that TV executives also need to be open to new things, Collins confirmed that AMC Networks is testing new attribution models with Data+Math.  "Clients want to learn more about the value of TV networks and content for delivering more effective messages," he explained.  "Identifying new and valid measurement models is a struggle, especially in a market as complex as media has become.  But we need to come together as an industry to have more productive conversations with clients to test new ways to prove our value.  We want clients to be vested in measuring TV."  Collins said that while the Data+Math relationship includes other networks it's not a consortium in any sense; but several networks have signed on to test and try to prove out a model.  "The opportunity was presented, and many networks and agencies are jumping on board."

Asked about the role of advertising creative, Collins pointed out that AMC Networks was an early adopter of branded content opportunities in Mad Men and The Walking Dead and integrated a six-second commercial in a stand-alone unit within The Walking Dead.  "Creating short-form content surrounding content is difficult to scale but with the right execution it can deliver big wins and successful moments," he said.  "We want to offer clients innovative creative solutions and we're very good at showcasing them.  For example, what we did in The Walking Dead with Mountain Dew with short-form content and an augmented reality app generated a lot of buzz.  I think creatively clients need to generate a lot more executions of commercials.  We have a good reputation for our unique takes on storytelling.  And, in time for Upfronts we'll be announcing a differentiated product that looks at the shift toward audience vs. demo selling, enhanced creative executions, social media tie-ins and short form content opportunities.  We want to encourage advertisers to start taking advantage of the ancillary benefits of associating with our content more than we have."

Collins is looking forward to an expanded portfolio, from a second season for Brockmire and a coming third season of Documentary Now!, both on IFC, to We tv's fast-growing reality show Love After Lockup and recently returned Bridezillas ... to even more live content from the growing if unexpectedly popular BBCA Premier League Darts tournament, to making "a great cottage industry out of the Talking franchise via Chris Hardwick."  As Collins looks further toward the future, he realizes "there are no easy answers and we all need to be willing to learn.  These are interesting times and we need more smart minds focused on the world of advertising than ever before.  I hope there's not a brain-drain because of how the landscape is evolving.  Advertisers need creative solutions and smart content to break through.  I'm happy about our position in that world. We're small and nimble but large enough to matter."

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