When listening to Greg Regis, Executive Vice President of Ad Sales at Discovery, Inc., talk about the networks under his purview, you get the sense that for Regis, his job isn't just to negotiate with media buyers, but to also articulate how brand and environment can positively impact ad effectiveness.
For instance, during our interview, he speaks passionately about Animal Planet's Pit Bulls and Parolees, which centers around a pit bull rescue center staffed with parolees. "We were in a meeting talking about the show," Regis said. "When you think about it deeply, it's this beautiful thing -- you've got [people] on the show who from the age of five didn't fit in, and then by age eight were acting out to get attention, and then at 16 or 17 were introduced to the system. Now, as they re-enter society, the one thing that brings them peace and closure is this animal. They can love [pit bulls] and be loved by [them], when they haven't been able to love or receive love." Caring, Regis added, is strength.
Under Discovery's new ad sales organization, Regis oversees a specific bundle of networks: HGTV, Investigation Discovery (ID),Animal Planet and DIY. Some may seem more obviously related than others, but Regis sees the underlying theme that runs through all of them is the power of expertise and trust driven by all of the expert talent at the core of these networks. That expertise takes different forms, like home renovators on HGTV or detectives on Investigation Discovery, but it's always the core of each brand.
Before its purchase by Discovery, Regis was a veteran at Scripps, having worked on all the company's brands at one point or another. So, networks like HGTV and DIY were familiar territory. Though the two networks might seem to overlap one another, Regis said HGTV is about the home and all the inspiration for their lives that goes with that concept. "People see things on the network that are attainable, projects they can incorporate into their own lives,"he explained. This lends itself well to shoppable or consumerist triggers within the content, he added. Viewers say, "Oh, I like how they reimagined their living room," and even if they don't immediately rush out to purchase everything needed for their own home transformation, the seed has been planted and advertisers are seeing the conversions.
DIY, meanwhile, reflects a more artisanal focus. "The people at the network are really craftspeople," Regis said. "You've got folks who can look at a 200-year-old log and know its provenance."
To get to know Animal Planet and ID he spent months immersing himself in their programming. With Animal Planet, it wasn't just the aforementioned Pit Bulls and Parolees or the family-friendly nature of the programming, but the network's idea of caring as strength that drew Regis in. "The audiences that respond to content involving animals are interesting," he said. "In looking at the research,they care about their community, they vote more, they want to know that the products they use are responsibly made." The network just introduced a new logo to better reflect this theme: a happy, hopeful elephant.
Investigation Discovery, which regularly finds itself in the top five networks in primetime among women 25-54, was quite an eye-opener for Regis. "We say all the time that if you want to see a crime committed on TV, there are a lot of networks that can show you that in scripted primetime," he said. "We don't do that. What we show are the human and social effects of crime -- the architecture behind and around it. People forget there's a reality behind the story; you can become numb, just listening to news reports."
ID's programming removes that gauzy layer between viewer and reality, but it also provides something more lasting in its place: closure. "Justice is true power," he added. "Crime is the accelerant, but not the destination."
Regis speaks with the fervor of a social justice reformer, but he knows that working with brands that foster such intimate relationships with viewers isn't just intrinsically good -- it's also good business.
In an increasingly on-demand world, the difference between success and failure is often not just making a product that consumers want to take with them -- i.e. a streaming service -- but a brand that will pull consumers with it as it expands into the digital world.
"You take a look at our Discovery Go apps -- that's the future, for us," Regis said. "Everyone's chasing the scripted ball, which is an environment that is increasingly being built to not include ads. But at Discovery, we've created real-life brands that fans love in environments where they are willing to watch the ads."
That's music to marketers' ears.
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