David DeSocio (pictured at top) has developed a simple principle to use as a North Star for himself and his teams: ideas that work. "Not creativity for creativity's sake, but creativity in the service of business results," says DeSocio, executive vice president of ad sales marketing and partnerships at A+E Networks.
But how? "To me, the key is that you have to get it right for the consumer first," DeSocio says. "It always starts with the audience — the right audience, in the right place, at the right time, with the right message."
Discovery + Contextual Relevance + Effective Amplification = Guaranteed Growth. Those four elements are part of a marketing formula that A+E Networks has honed in recent years. In fact, the formula is so substantiated that A+E Networks is comfortable making performance guarantees based on business outcomes.
"Our portfolio allows marketers to hyper-target and find the most likely prospects and customers. The targeting expertise that we enhanced in 2018 and 2019 has made our partnerships more effective than ever," DeSocio says. "Whether that's increasing brand awareness at the top of the purchase funnel, improving purchase intent in the middle, or driving purchases," he notes. DeSocio cites work the A+E team has done with Oreo, Quicken Loans, and USAA as examples.
DeSocio has experienced the ebbs and flows in client requests and watched trends come and go over his 25 years in branded entertainment. In-show integrations, for example, boomed a few years ago, quieted down, and now, he says, they're popular again. So, to help Oreo stand out, A+E Networks turned a simple product integration into something much bigger.
Oreo had devised an ingenious product: a music box that played Oreo cookies the way a turntable plays records. The product would only be available for sale on Amazon. "Oreo is a brand that people have very warm feelings about," DeSocio says. "Couple that with holiday movies," an art form perfected by Lifetime, "and you have a receptive audience and an organic environment perfectly suited for this unique product."
So, for the Lifetime holiday movie A Twist of Christmas, a scene was scripted where the two romantic leads — a single mom and dad — "meet cute" over the last Oreo music box on sale.
But a holiday movie meet-cute moment alone is not enough. DeSocio's team created a custom spot and social creative that led viewers to the product's page on Amazon, dipping a toe in the e-commerce pool.
The results speak for themselves. The campaign won an ANA Reggie Gold Award and 78 percent of viewers liked the integrated storyline. Most important: Oreo completely sold out of the music boxes in 72 hours.
That's just one example of television driving lower-purchase-funnel activity.
Other examples abound. Take USAA, which provides insurance for military members, veterans, and their families. The obvious play would be to lean into the HISTORY audience, which includes many veterans and relatives of veterans. However, what isn't so obvious, is that myriad first responders — many of whom have a military background — flock to A&E shows like Live PD. The resulting campaign addressing that audience had a whopping 866 percent lift in brand affinity versus the prior year's campaign.
The work for Quicken Loans centered on an initiative devoted to ending homelessness among veterans. "A&E and HISTORY were able to tell this brand's unique story to a receptive audience in an environment where it was able to resonate and connect with viewers in an emotional and powerful way," DeSocio says. "There's a gravitas and built-in trust with HISTORY's programming that adds credibility and emotional resonance to advertisers' messages."
Those connections are invaluable. "We all see the best success when we marry the sensibilities of our programming with the sensibility of our partner brands. Essentially, we are marketing matchmakers — pairing brands with environments and stories that provide more relevant context for our viewers," DeSocio says. "Finding that common ground is where the magic happens."
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