Viacom Synergy -- Staying Ahead of the Future

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They say that the future is not written. But it is possible, with perspective, data and innovation, to come close to what can be expected in the media market going forward.

How can a corporation stay ahead of the future? I sat down with five Viacom executives -- Valerie Bischak, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Partner Solutions; Deb Brett, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Partner Solutions; Sarah Iooss, Senior Vice President, Business Development; Gabe Bevilacqua, Senior Vice President, Data Strategy, and Kiel Berry, Senior Vice President, Co-Head, Viacom Labs -- to look ahead and answer that question from both personal and corporate perspectives. Here are some insights from the group:

Do What Has Never Been Done Before

Experimentation and curiosity are the cornerstones in navigating a successful future. When it comes to corporate success, according to Brett, it is Viacom's ability to bring advertisers "the 'bright and shinies' -- things that have never been done before" that make it an innovative leader with clients and the creative community. "We have the infrastructure for the speed to market," she added.

Viacom's (and the media industry's) ability to mine data for bright and shiny insights has never been better. "Viacom is up to some very interesting forward-thinking things in the realm of data exploring what the evolution of television looks like," Bevilacqua explained. "Data in general has gone from 'this is a test' to 'this is part of the conversation' and while not every advertiser may be executing television primarily with data, we have moved beyond the pilot phase to something that can work at scale."

Creative Hiring

Cohesion starts with the people. It used to be that companies sought new hires with specific work experience in the field of the job opening. Now, not only does one not need a strict media background to qualify for work in media, many far-flung areas of work experience can be applicable and even advantageous.

When it comes to hiring, Bevilacqua noted, "everyone I interview gets asked the question -- are you excited about solving a problem that no one has solved before? There are not going to be instructions put on your desk. If you are not excited about that, this is not the role for you."

Iooss mines for talent through social media in her own network, LinkedIn and Facebook, "to seek people with untraditional backgrounds."

Flexibility and optimism are also factors in future success. "The exciting part of our jobs is that we are going to be in something in five years that may not exist yet, and we are going to be bringing these same best practices and the same foundation to it," Brett said. "But what we will apply it to may not yet have come into the mind of the entrepreneur inventing it."

"I am excited and optimistic about change," Bevilacqua added. "It will be fun and there will be opportunity. At Viacom, we are embracing that in a big way."

Make Strategy Part of the Job Description

For some, predicting the future is part of the job description. "Viacom Labs began in Spring 2016," Berry said. "At Labs, our job is to look five years out. We are definitely grounded in the present in terms of what our brands are currently doing but we are futurists. Within five years we will be looking five years further out. We know that there will be some burgeoning trends that will materialize and we can start to work with them in our brands."

Despite the constant change, there are certain things that are everlasting and sacrosanct. "There is one constant and that is that we will still be looking for great ways to connect great advertisers to our great content wherever fans are consuming it," Bischak said.

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