Brand Integration: An Interview with Mark Owens of Corbis – Charlene Weisler

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Cover image for  article: Brand Integration: An Interview with Mark Owens of Corbis – Charlene Weisler

Mark Owens is someone who is immersed in brand affinities and integration. His background includes a stint at Pepsi where he integrated pop culture icons to help position and move the brand. He then moved to Los Angeles, expanded his client base and subsequently worked with some of the largest companies in the world to help them integrate into all types of media including television, feature films and the digital space. Now the Chief Revenue Officer at Corbis, a company wholly owned by Bill Gates, Owens is charged with matching brands with content to spur integration and consumer engagement and to measure it using a proprietary measurement system called BEN.

In this interview, Owens talks about his role in the company, how integrations work, how integrations are measured, types of algorithms used to track integration efficacy, programmatic in the agency world, television’s new role in the ecosystem, rebranding efforts and future trends for the media industry.

Charlene Weisler: Tell us about Corbis.

Mark Owens: Corbis is Bill Gates’ company. He is the sole shareholder. It was founded 25 years ago as an intellectual property company where images (now over 160 million of them) are used by either media companies or commercial brand agencies from the standpoint of their usage tied to marketing -- whether it’s websites, brochures or collateral materials. That was the core business for Corbis for many, many years. About ten years ago, Corbis started to work on the entertainment side as the image side went more into the digital era, and we morphed into a media and entertainment company.

CW: Where do you think the television business is headed?

MO: In the days of blue ray DVD, VHS, Beta, ultra disk and laser disks, we thought it would be the demise of the cinema business. Then streaming came along and we thought it would be the demise of television. What it really has meant is that content consumption has gone way up. It has gone up from five hours a day to eight hours a day, and I don’t know if our human brain is ready to tackle from an evolutionary standpoint eight hours of content a day. But people are viewing eight hours of content a day and they will start to move away from calling it television and begin to call it content. And if they are watching it on device A, B or C, it is just a device, a screen.

CW: How do you measure your different integration offerings?

MO: The most interesting thing for me, coming into a Bill Gates company, is how we use measurement and ROIs as not only a differentiator for the business but something we give to our content contributors like our photographers and videographers, or the producers who give us content for brand integration, or our brands. We are the middlemen, the liaison between those content providers and the brands and the publishers. And our job is to make sure that the data that is in the hands of who is using, following, watching -- all that -- is shared with our contributors to give them the best feedback to let them know what we need. We have made partnerships with some of the biggest agencies in the world -- Nielsen, comScore, C4 (which used to be the motion picture group) -- so we can evaluate the integrations we do and what they actually do for the brand. How did it move the needle in terms of purchase intent, affinity, recall and impressions by demographic? We want to put data and science into the mix and create algorithms and a defense-able policy of how that will really improve the bottom line of a brand.

CW: How do you put data and science into the mix?

MO: First we have a lot of really smart people who look at the 25 year history of how we have done integrations in the past and what have been the metrics that have really moved the needle. Is it the cast? Is it the distributor? Is it the time slot? Is it the social media scores? What is the composition of the data points that really help us articulate whether an opportunity on a prognostication standpoint has a really good chance for success, or on the backend, what are the drivers and the movers of the needle that really help a brand? So we have created some interesting formulas that are proprietary, but think about it as if you have a certain amount of the factors it will give you one score, if you have less of those you will have another score. We created the Branded Entertainment Network tool called BEN to become the measurement experts and be seen as Nielsen is seen in the television industry. We want our BEN product to eventually be the gold standard in terms of measurement.

Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Weisler Media LLC. She can be reached through herCharlene Weislerresearch blog or at Full disclosure: Charlene hosts a street art blog on The Starry Eye blog community.

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