Paolo Provinciali of Anheuser-Busch Talks about Buying Options, TV Metrics and Privacy

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Paolo Provinciali (pictured above) is Vice President Media & Data, U.S. at Anheuser-Busch InBev and will be a featured speaker at the upcoming ANA Media Conference, kicking off today (June 16) and continuing through June 18th in Aventura, FL. ANA's Senior Vice President Mark Stewart recently caught up with Paolo for a pre-conference interview.

Mark Stewart: Prior to AB In-Bev you spent 10 years at Google, driving global digital and programmatic best practices. How did that experience prepare you for your current role?

Paolo Provinciali: My experience in digital and performance marketing at Google gave me the technical expertise critical to navigate the increasingly complex media ecosystem and leverage technology and data to find innovative ways to connect with consumers. When combined with the creativity and drive of the Anheuser Busch marketing organization, it allows us to set new benchmarks for what is possible.

Nowadays, any head of media needs to be highly proficient in the complexities and nuances of digital, social and programmatic to reach an ever more fragmented audience. The "digitalization" of traditional channels like connected TV, digital out-of-home and podcasts makes technical expertise a requirement to drive impact through innovation. Leveraging data and advanced analytics to deliver a message with relevance and resonance becomes a critical skill to have.

The most exciting part is to bring this experience to Anheuser Busch and co-create with an incredibly talented team. For Super Bowl and Daytona this year we combined great creative with clever broadcast integrations to create a genuine connection with people's passions, and we powered everything with data and the latest technology to drive relevance, conversation and ultimately sales.

Stewart: You are quite the sage. You recently predicted there was going to be a shakeup in the TV industry, and shortly after, Amazon Prime secured a 10-year exclusive rights deal with the NFL. Is this good for advertisers?

Provinciali: First, thank you. To answer your question, more buying options are generally positive for the buy-side. Still, the reason why this announcement is particularly interesting is because it is a clear sign of changing times.

I will be bold enough to say that this is just the beginning. If you look at the rating trends, the audience dispersion, the recent privacy changes by tech players and the massive investment in content that is happening across traditional and digital players, it is easy to imagine that the industry will be fundamentally different 12 to 18 months from now.

I think it will be positive for those advertisers willing to take a bet on the industry's future and at the same time have the flexibility to adjust their strategy to the changing consumer behavior at just the right moment.

Stewart: You have been an outspoken proponent of changing the TV currency from viewer efficiency to viewer effectiveness metrics. Are the sellers receptive to going beyond delivering exposure to delivering outcomes?

Provinciali: Yes. The vast majority are open to the conversation. The question now is what metrics will become established to measure impact and how to use them. I am a big proponent of attention metrics, which are a further iteration on viewability, a very established concept in the digital advertising space.

I am an advocate of attention for two reasons. Firstly, it allows the industry to re-center around a metric that is truly indicative of consumer behavior. The second factor is that it allows us to isolate the variables that drive impact. Broadly speaking, advertising drives consumer behavior through three components:

  • Message delivery (how we transact in the industry today)
  • Message reception (which is the ability to capture attention)
  • Message resonance (the ability to persuade)

It is hard to make a solid argument to justify why the sell-side should be accountable to guarantee the overarching campaign impact when there are other influencing factors outside of their control. At the same time, I think every advertiser expects to serve their message in an attentive and receptive environment. Focusing on attention allows us to shift the conversation towards what we can do to create better consumer experiences and reward sellers that create a better advertising environment.

Many colleagues who are also part of the ANA's Media Leadership Growth Council are doing tremendous work on this front. The Council's recent whitepaper on "Media KPIs That Matter" does a great job at framing the conversation.

Stewart: In your blog you talk about the need to continuously change one's approach to the marketing discipline. What changes are you making that are having the biggest impact at AB In-Bev?

Provinciali: We constantly re-assess and change our approach to things. I need to give a shout out to my incredible media team and our team at Dentsu for always being up for the challenge. Nowadays, things are changing dramatically every week, and you need to be agile and accept that what has worked in the past may not work going forward. Our CMO Marcel Marcondes summarized our ambition by saying, "Coming out of a COVID year, we don't want to get back to normal, we want to get better." And so, we are changing the way we plan, buy, measure success, develop creative and work cross-functionally to find new opportunities. It is the combination of all these things that allow us to get better.

Stewart: Speaking of change, if you could wave your magic wand and change anything in the industry what would it be?

Provinciali: A world where privacy and advertising are not seen as polar opposites, the avoidance of an overly simplistic narrative on the topic, and better consumer education.

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