THE TL;DR

Crunched for time? We get it.
Here’s the topline summary of our latest Bonfire.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On Thursday, February 21st, Spark Foundry hosted Bonfire 6, “A Peek Behind the Curtain,” our first Los Angeles event. More than 120 attendees joined us at the SLS Beverly Hills to explore the world of content and entertainment. The day featured panels and presentations from experts across a range of areas – from network television to podcasts to branded content, and beyond.

TOP TAKEAWAYS

QUALITY
Above all, consumers crave quality content – regardless of platform or format.

TRUST
Throughout the Bonfire, content creators reminded attendees that trust between brand, agency, and content partners is critical. Whether it’s a broadcast network developing content on a client’s behalf or podcast talent discussing a brand during their program – storytelling is what they do, Clients should trust them to know how to be most effective within their medium.

AUTHENTICITY
Speakers agreed that having an authentic voice is imperative to success. Combining authenticity across creator, talent and brand is what can help content pack a greater punch than traditional ads.

THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER

Show the unseen. Today’s consumers love to be taken behind the scenes.

Be abundantly curious in your storytelling. Once engaged, modern consumers crave – and expect – more.

Challenge the norms. Today’s audiences have seen it all – until you defy convention and do something truly unique. Go for it.

These three guiding truths will lead you to powerful content that engages consumers.

Curious about what was covered in a specific conversation or panel? We’ve got you covered.
Here are our team’s recaps from all of the day’s sessions.

THE BRAND STAYS IN THE PICTURE

HOW MODERN CONSUMERS & NEW TECH ARE RESHAPING MEDIA CONSUMPTION HABITS

To “light” our Bonfire, NBCUniversal Chairman Mark Lazarus sat down with PMX Americas CIO John Muszynski for a discussion of how modern media companies are evolving to become true destinations for consumers. With so many choices available, consumers are opting for specific programming rather than specific networks – a movement which is making it challenging for broadcast networks to build loyalty. To combat this trend, Lazarus shared that NBC is arming itself with a better understanding of the “supply and demand” for their programming. As part of that mission, the network is rolling out myriad new measurement products, including something called “CFLIGHT,” which seeks to ensure accurate measurement of cross-screen consumption and behaviors.

FEATURING: Mark Lazarus (Chairman, NBCUniversal) & John Muszynski (CIO, PMX Americas)

YOU CAN’T SPELL CONTENT WITHOUT CULTURAL FLUENCY

OPPORTUNITIES AT THE INTERSECTION OF IDENTITY AND ENTERTAINMENT

2018 was a pivotal year for broad cultural representation in film. From Black Panther to Crazy Rich Asians, films featuring diverse casts and unique cultural lenses made their mark as critical and box office successes. Our panel on Cultural Fluency unpacked this success and delved into what this progress can mean for brands looking to engage with new audiences.  Authentic “cultural connectivity” can offer a major leg up to modern brands, but it’s hard to unlock when marketers solely focus in on the audiences and cultures they grew up within. To be more successful, modern marketers should focus on being culturally aware and curious, embracing diversity and always being in learning mode. The demographics of today’s society are fundamentally shifting, and new technology and globalization are affording previously underrepresented voices many new platforms upon which to tell authentic stories. Current box-office and sales trends demonstrate that consumers have a real hunger to see brands showcase their genuine understanding and appreciation for diverse cultures, rather than just checking a box on “diversity.”

FEATURING: E.T. Franklin (EVP/Managing Director, Strategy & Cultural Fluency, Spark Foundry), Fritz Friedman (President, The Fritz Friedman Co.), Christy Haubegger (Head of Multicultural Business Development, CAA), Jessica Mendoza (ESPN Analyst & Olympic Gold/Silver Medalist) &

Gil L. Robertson (Co-Founder & President, African American Film Critics Association)

THE BRANDED CARPET

WHAT’S IT TAKE FOR A BRAND TO MAKE IT IN SHOWBIZ?

When it comes to TV brand integrations, Jen Neal and Erin Lim from E! emphasized that trust is key. During their discussion, Neal and Lim shared that in order to produce a successful integration, the creators and brands need to build a trusting relationship. For creators, it’s important to truly understand a client’s business challenges; for brands, they need to trust the creators to know their audiences and the type of content which will resonate best. Consumers crave authenticity, so allowing creators to be their own authentic selves while working with brands is imperative.

FEATURING: Jen Neal (EVP Marketing, E! & Executive Producer, Live Events E!) & Erin Lim (Host, E! News and The Rundown on Snapchat; Correspondent, E! News)

REALLY REAL REALITY

DELIVERING AUTENTICITY IN BRANDED ENTERTAINMENT

It’s no secret the media landscape is changing – and fast. Gone are old-world models, where it was “production company versus production company.” Instead, the new world order features creators who are accessible to brands and offer an array of formats to connect brands with consumers. Plus, changing marketplace dynamics are also evolving publishers’ willingness to engage with brands. With Facebook and Google earning a significant portion of ad dollars, media companies are looking to diversify revenue streams; branded content offers a space where they can drive real differentiation for clients.

FEATURING: Eric Levin (Global Chief Content Officer, Spark Foundry), Eric Day (Co-Founder & Managing Partner, INE Entertainment.), Scott Donaton (Global Chief Creative & Content Officer, Digitas), Dustin Fleischman (Head of Brand Partnerships, Whistle) & David Freeman (Co-Head of Digital Talent & Packaging, CAA)

I SEE YOUR SCREEN, AND I RAISE YOU A SCREEN

HOW TO NAVIGATE MULTICHANNEL OPPORTUNITIES

Our multichannel panel explored the future of the OTT space, especially for brands. Featuring speakers from Roku, Hello Sunshine, and Tastemade, the group placed great emphasis on the need for brands to lean into video as a key storytelling platform – especially if their goal is to engage with Millennial audiences. Additionally, the panel affirmed that brands need to be open to telling their stories via different formats and content lengths and need to be comfortable breaking the norms if it’s what makes the most sense for the content.

FEATURING: Margo Plotkin (Agent, Digital & Brand Partnerships, CAA), David Alpert (CEO, Skybound Entertainment), Larry Fitzgibbon (Co-Founder & CEO, Tastemade), Sarah Harden (CEO, Hello Sunshine) and Rob Holmes (VP of Programming & Engagement, Roku)

HOW DID THAT MAKE IT TO AIR?

CHOOSING WHAT YOU SEE

NBC Entertainment’s Jeff Bader gave Bonfire attendees an inside look into the network’s decision-making process on what to air. Now is a uniquely pivotal time of year for the networks, as they determine which programming will make it to the Upfront – a decision that has become increasingly hard to make. Bader shared that increased fragmentation of viewing behaviors – across platforms – means that the linear TV schedule, once considered the Holy Grail, is now viewed increasingly as a starting point for the TV lineup.

When determining if a show will remain on the air, NBC not only looks at its immediate ratings, but also how the shows ratings build over time. Considering ratings over time has proven useful for NBC, who has found that that numbers continue to increase, even weeks after an episode has aired.

FEATURING: Jeff Bader (President of Program Planning, Strategy & Research, NBC Entertainment)

SOUNDS LIKE SUCCESS

ADVENTURES IN MODERN PODCASTING

Our panel – which  featured podcast executives and talent from iHeartMedia – addressed the the emerging podcast space and how clients can activate there in a way that remains true to their brand and the talent. While the podcast landscape is still relatively new, its growth has been rapid due to ease of use, especially on iOS devices. Notably, the podcasting industry has faced some growth challenges on Android devices, which offer a less-ideal listening experience compared to iOS counterparts. But once improvements are made to Android’s podcast consumption experience, the podcast realm can expect to gain even more users, and quickly.

Brands looking to engage in the space can be reassured that podcasting is not the wild, wild west of the media world. In fact, most podcast talent is more than willing to collaborate with brands to ensure integrations (product placement, host reads, etc.) feel organic.

FEATURING: Conal Byrne (President, iHeartPodcast), Carolina Barlow (Co-Host, The Ron Burgundy Podcast), Jake Brennan (Writer, Host & Producer, Disgraceland), Carter Brokaw (President of Digital Revenue & Strategy, iHeartMedia), Holly Frey (Host, Stuff You Missed In History Class)  

BEHIND THE APEX CURTAIN

HOW OUR INVESTMENTS AMPLIFY PREMIUM CONTENT

The team from APEX shared how they are forging innovations that place bigger bets on content opportunities, in order to pass the savings on to Publicis clients. Team APEX walked us through what they see as their three key areas of opportunity: Big Event TV, Social Video and Audio.

Within Big Event TV, APEX is building relationships with shows before they go live, in order to ensure seamless integration opportunities. Their approach to Social Video is centered around leveraging data to ensure that the right content is being created for the right audience. Finally, APEX is taking a similar approach to audio as it does to social video. They are concentrating on uncovering user behaviors in the audio space, which in turn can be used to insert the right spot into the right audio experience, dynamically.

FEATURING: Ben Molinari (SVP Brand Development, Publicis Investment Solutions), Rob Goldberg (Founder & CEO, Fresno) and Talia Raviv (Global President, APEX)

I’M GONNA MAKE YOU A STAR, BRAND

HOW MODERN MEASUREMENT CAN (IM)PROVE ROI

It is impossible to talk about content without touching on measurement. ROI is top of mind for brands and agencies alike. The Bonfire measurement panel, featuring folks from Spark Foundry, Xandr, NBC and Nielsen, delved into how the rapidly changing media landscape is creating an urgency to pivot on how content is measured.

Current market needs center on advancing total measurement (counting), rather than panels for outcome-based metrics. These new models also need to be fluid, as the availability of data continues to shift. And notably, challenges such as the lack of standard measurement terms (e.g., what counts as a view on one platform may not count as a view on another), make measurement extremely difficult. So, until the marketplace achieves more uniformity in its measurement standards, there will continue to be issues with fragmentation across current measurement solutions.

FEATURING: Shelby Saville (Chief Investment Officer, Spark Foundry), Jay Askinasi (VP Head of Agency & Digital Partnerships, Xandr), Pankaj Kumar (SVP Measurement & Innovation, NBCUniversal) and Nikesh Patel (Head of Attribution Products, Nielsen)