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TikTok and a Lord of the Rings Reunion

This week, we’re talking about TikTok’s growing user base; another virtual reunion from Josh Gad; and the NHL’s original programming during the pandemic.

TikTok increases user base. The app generated “the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter” in Q1 of this year, and among the 18+ set, TikTok garnered almost 29 million mobile unique visitors in March. In April, that number soared to 39.2 million, up from 12.6 million who used the app last April. (Adweek)

The NHL creates original show in lieu of live sporting events.  Until games return, the NHL is getting creative by producing a slate of original shows (produced remotely) accessible across both TV and digital. One example, “Hat Trick Trivia,” is uploaded simultaneously to the NHL’s site and its accounts on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Soon after, the show airs on TV, including on NBCSN and NHL Network. Content includes homemade videos with star players and classic game replays with the NHL’s interest “solely to keep the NHL front of mind,” says NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer.(Digiday)

Josh Gad reunites the Lord of the Rings cast.  In the latest episode of Josh Gad’s web series, Reunited Apart, Gad is bringing the fellowship back together, including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen and Sean Astin. The full episode premieres this Sunday. (AV Club)

The marketing trends to know now. Travis Scott’s performance on Fortnight attracted 12.3 million live viewers, and Charli XCX performed at a virtual music festival for Minecraft. Marketers are embracing more raw qualities of production and thinking in out-of-the-box ways with how they’re creating experiences. Read a breakdown of the trends from Adweek.

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Why Uber Believes in the Power of Humanity in Marketing

Jamie Power, COO of Advanced TV, Cadent
Travis Freeman, Global Head of Media, Uber

Travis Freeman, Global Head of Media for Uber, and Jamie Power, COO of Advanced TV, Cadent, recently took part in a Brand Innovators Livecast Series, and their discussion touched upon several important aspects of marketing in an age of pandemic.

Read on for five thought-provoking takeaways from their chat.

The following has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Meet people wherever they’re watching content.

Jamie asserted that the current environment confirms the need for a responsive approach to marketing – simply put, brands must go where the audience is. “If this craziness has taught us anything, I think it’s that people need to work closer together and actually be more agile in their marketing,” Travis agreed. The pandemic has turned Uber’s channel mix a little bit on its head, Travis said. 

The company has previously focused on digital and out-of-home advertising, but now, it has started to lean into linear in a way that it hasn’t in the past because Uber’s research shows that’s where its audience is. “They’re watching cable news, they’re watching Prime, they’re looking for a space outside of only [thinking about COVID-19] every single day, all day long.”

Our first priority is making sure that people know that if they have to go out right now and if they have to use our services, we’re doing everything in our power to make it so that it’s a completely safe environment.”

Focus on informing and providing value to consumers.

Our first priority is making sure that people know that if they have to go out right now and if they have to use our services, we’re doing everything in our power to make it so that it’s a completely safe environment,” Travis explained. For instance, Uber is asking drivers to take a selfie before a ride starts to make sure that they’re wearing a mask.

Asked by Jamie whether a shift in messaging had been planned before the COVID-19 crisis or driven solely by it, Travis replied that both were correct. “We knew that we needed to create consistent narratives across everything that we’re doing,” he said. “We just might not have thought that we would be doing it in such an impactful way, and in such a loud way.”

Examine which KPIs are key.

Jamie looked ahead to a time when Uber could focus less on building the master brand and more on driving the actual business units. What metrics and KPIs would have the most impact on Uber’s RoAS goals as the company dives increasingly into full-funnel messaging?

“We’re starting to do a lot of work on that,” Travis explained. “Is it favorability? Is it consideration? Is it awareness? We’ve been a bit in the dark on that in the past, because a lot of it has been tied back purely to conversion lift and not necessarily correlated back to a lot of these brand KPIs. That’s the work that we’re doing now.”     

Speak to specific consumer need states, and measure effectiveness, not just efficiency. 

Jamie said that in this environment, it’s important to speak directly to consumers. With a medium like addressable, marketers can consider parameters like geography to make sure they’re speaking to specific audiences.

Travis agreed, adding, “At the end of the day, I’m fine to pay a CPM a bit more on the premium side than not if I know that I’m going to have the creative to speak to that different segment, and it’s going to outperform what I would be doing from a broad messaging and broad marketing perspective.” What’s important, Travis said, is ensuring that proper measurement is set up to evaluate effectiveness.

I think that’s what brands really need to do, is just act like humans and not like corporate brands.”

Preparing for a time after the crisis.

Jamie pointed out that what had happened at Uber within a very brief timeframe – the amazing pivot to connect with consumers, the drive for more thoughtful messaging – had actually helped accelerate the process of innovation. “It refocused what our priorities were, even what we were measuring,” Travis agreed. “This is a huge shift for us.”

And now, Jamie said, as the COVID-19 crisis continues, consumers are longing for a bit of normalcy—and even humor—in brand messaging. Travis agreed, adding, “I think that’s what brands really need to do, is just act like humans and not like corporate brands.”

Read more about Cadent’s mission to restore simplicity to TV and serve as trusted partners to brands, agencies and the broader TV ecosystem.

Cinematic Shows and John Krasinski’s Show

This week, we’re talking about John Krasinski’s YouTube show getting picked up by ViacomCBS; the best sketches from season 45 of SNL; and shows directed by movie directors.

The best sketches from the weirdest season of SNL. The season began normally with episodes filmed live at the studio, and as shelter-in-place rules were put in place, the show pivoted to pre-recorded shorts. Check out Vulture’s list of the best SNL sketches from this unusual time. (Vulture)

John Krasinski’s show will get the multiplatform treatment. The Office star’s show, Some Good News, is coming to ViacomCBS. The show, which focuses on positive news and anecdotes, got a ton of buzz following episodes featuring the likes of Krasinski’s Office castmates and the original Broadway cast of Hamilton. The YouTube channel for the show garnered 2.57 million subscribers, with the most-viewed episode getting 17 million views. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Shows with a cinematic quality. If you love movies, you might love these shows directed by film directors. The Times rounded up 12 series by directors, including Twin Peaks from David Lynch, which ran between ’90-91, and Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” from 2014-15. (The New York Times

The story of how Anheuser-Busch adapted its message to the pandemic. With bars and sports shutting indefinitely, the beverage brand had to shift more of its focus to e-commerce. DraftLine, the brand’s in-house agency, was built to “help AB-InBev understand consumers’ behaviors to make sure that the messaging used in old and new ads isn’t tone deaf,” according to reporting from Digiday. The brand took a few key steps, including listening very closely to what consumers were saying on social media, and of course, pressure-testing all its ideas during the pandemic. (Digiday)

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How Barbie Keeps Audiences Engaged, 61 Years Later

How does a decades-old iconic brand keep multiple generations of fans engaged?

Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel, and Jim Tricarico, President of Sales and CRO, Cadent, took part in a virtual fireside chat session for Brand Innovators to discuss. The executives, both with years of experience supporting children’s properties, shared insights on connecting with audiences and staying on top of changing viewership habits. 

Read insights from Lisa and Jim’s conversation below, including Barbie’s multi-platform approach and why storytelling is a critical part of keeping multiple generations engaged with the iconic brand.

The following has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Jim: I just want to say that this is a little bit near and dear to my heart, for those who don’t know. I was the EVP of Sales for Nickelodeon for many years, and Mattel was our largest account. So thank you, Lisa, for joining us today.

Lisa: My pleasure, it’s great to be here. Jim, I want to echo what you said, obviously we’ve had such a great, long standing partnership with Nick and it’s fun that our paths have crossed.

Jim: I’m going to jump right in. I’ve always been amazed by the legacy of Barbie and how, for so many generations, Barbie has maintained its incredible place in kids’ and adults’ hearts. How have you kept a brand like Barbie so relevant for so many years?

Lisa: It’s certainly not easy. Barbie has been around for 61 years and certainly throughout the decades, we’ve had many highs, but we’ve also of course had a couple of lows. 

I would say what remains true is when we connect to culture, and when we stay true to the original vision behind the brand, which is to inspire the potential of girls, we usually are in good stead. It’s amazing and as you said, it’s really exciting that there’s a timelessness to Barbie, that we’ve spanned multiple generations. I would argue today, we’re actually more relevant than ever before.

Jim: Tell us a little bit about how content has kept Barbie relevant and who you’re trying to reach.

Lisa: Content and storytelling is so critical, certainly now more than ever as everybody’s sheltering at home. We’ve made a conscious effort to be choiceful in the ways that we try to reach consumers, as well as the storytelling narrative itself. 

About six or seven years ago, we had an opportunity to make Barbie more in the front and center of our stories… We realized that what girls and consumers were really looking for was more information about Barbie herself, they wanted to get to know her, they wanted to know who her family members were, what she did for fun. 

What remains true is when we connect to culture, and when we stay true to the original vision behind the brand, which is to inspire the potential of girls, we usually are in good stead.

Today, Barbie is the number one YouTube channel for girls. We have over 11 million subscribers and one of our best pieces of content is Barbie Vlogger, where she entertains the kids and mimics what cool hip influencers are doing on YouTube. But at the same time, she also sometimes talks about important topics that are teachable moments. We’ve recently been resurfacing some of our vlogs about feeling sad because there are kids at home that are struggling with emotions right now and don’t know how to articulate how they’re feeling. And we want them to know that’s okay and that’s normal. 

Jim: Tell us a little bit more about your Thank You for Heroes program that you’re running now.

Lisa: Mattel introduced a macro program called Play It Forward, where we’re trying to bring all of our brands together to give back to certain communities in times of need. We launched Thank You Heroes as a campaign underneath Play it Forward a few weeks ago with Fisher Price. They introduced action figures, celebrating real folks out on the front lines right now like doctors and nurses and firefighters. 

Jim: How have you adjusted Mattel and Barbie’s media to meet the ever changing viewership habits of today’s kids?

Lisa: Obviously there’s been so much disruption in the media landscape, I think what we found early on is there isn’t one linear path. Kids are consuming multiple platforms almost at the same time, and there are multiple screens in front of them. We really just try to go wherever our consumer is spending their time and where their viewing habits are. 

We do a lot of analytical work, and we look at that annually to see the media levers that we’re pulling. What’s driving both short term sales, as well as a long-term sales benefit that helps us get more guidance on where we want to invest more. But it’s absolutely a combination of top of the funnel to bottom of the funnel activation. 

Jim: How important is co-viewing to you?

Lisa: We are finding more and more that there are shows where there is co-viewing. So we think about our advertising with that multi-audience in mind. We think about what’s the right messaging for those types of programs when we do media buys. And then, what I like to say is our content does have adults in mind. We think about kids, but we also think about adults. 

Again, I mentioned earlier, some of our content has teachable moments. There are moments in our Barbie blog where she’s doing fun challenges, and one is called the Baby Food Challenge. Her eyes are closed, and Ken feeds her baby food and she tries to guess what it is. That’s something that’s very appealing to the kid audience. But when she’s talking about feeling sad, one of her episodes is about why do women say they’re sorry so often, that really strikes a chord, not only with kids, but also with adults. We’re definitely always thinking about multiple audiences.

Jim: Talk a little bit about your insights team inside Mattel and how that helps direct your marketing and continue to keep Barbie so relevant.

Lisa: We’re very proud of our insights team. We talk to consumers almost every day. Now we’re doing this virtually, but when we are literally in our offices or when we’re able to go outside of our offices, we also like to go to people’s homes. 

We’ve got a really robust learning center at Mattel itself, where we invite kids and families in to test products, talk about themes and issues that are going on in their lives. I think that key to success is to always listen and be in lockstep with what’s happening, not only with consumers, but with society and culture.

Jim: Tell us what’s next for Barbie. 

Lisa: We’re actually starting to brainstorm our 2022 product line. We’re talking now about the post-COVID generation kids and what that looks like. 

What I can share is that this generation of kids not only is incredibly resilient, but really cares about the world around them. And so we’re going to be thinking more about infusing even more purpose into our product and our communication programs. This is a group of kids that has a ton of empathy. You can rest assured there’ll be more play sets and themes around the medical profession in Barbie’s world coming up. And of course we’re always looking at what’s an authentic way for us to focus on sustainability, more intently.

Playtime is not canceled, I think the more that we can think about ways to bring comfort to our kids in this extraordinary time, the better. 

Jim: How was Mattel planning to promote the Dream Gap project in the post-COVID world?

Lisa: We’re working on a virtual execution of a festival or a convening moment with inspiring speakers and role models and activities to celebrate the fact that girls today, now more than ever actually, need to continue to be inspired and need to see that there are many possibilities out there for them. We’re that girls in underserved communities are really struggling right now with what’s happening with COVID. So we’ll be doing a lot to raise awareness about these underserved communities and ideally raising funds to work with organizations to help give these girls the tools that they need to achieve their dreams.

Jim: With that, I just want to say thank you for spending this time with us. What’s the message you would love to leave everybody with today?

Lisa: I’d love to just remind everybody that certainly for all of us, we’re in this together. For any of you with kids at home or that have kids in your lives or in the neighborhood, now more than ever it’s important to celebrate playtime and we’ve got to get creative. Playtime is not canceled, I think the more that we can think about ways to bring comfort to our kids in this extraordinary time, the better. 

Read more about Cadent’s mission to serve as trusted partners to brands, agencies and the broader TV ecosystem.

This Week in TV News: Headspace Offers Free Resources and Brands Launch Virtual Proms

This week, we’re talking about time spent on social in light of the pandemic, virtual prom and graduation experiences, and a meditation app giving back to the unemployed.

Headspace airs its first TV ad.  Americans today are dealing with unprecedented unemployment and stress due to the pandemic, and Headspace, the app that offers guided meditation, has seen a sharp increase in interest and use of its product. The brand recently released a 30-second spot created with its agency, Gut, sharing the message that the app is free to anyone who’s unemployed. Headspace also offers resources for healthcare workers, as well as New York City and Los Angeles residents. (Ad Age)

Streaming for the Francophile. The Cannes Film Festival would’ve been happening this week if it weren’t for the pandemic, so the New York Times selected a few movies from 2014-2020 for you to get your French film fix. Among the genres included: Eccentric Postwar Extravaganza, Sociopolitical Intrigue and Bonkers Satire.

Time spent on social is way up. eMarketer estimates average time spent with social media this year will be one hour and 22 minutes per day, about seven minutes more than 2019. Prior to the pandemic, the increase from last year was forecasted to be six seconds. (Adweek)

After prom and graduation let-downs, brands create virtual experiences. Jack in the Box, Her Campus and Natural Light are some of the brands delivering virtual experiences to students who won’t get to enjoy the in-person events that usually cap off high school – prom and graduation. Jack in the Box hosted a star-studded virtual “Prom in the Box” for two California schools with Diplo DJing, along with public livestreams on its Instagram and Twitch accounts. Her Campus, a digital platform targeted toward female college students, is hosting a virtual graduation called #ImStillGraduating with speeches from celebrities like Margaret Cho, Tamron Hall, Billie Jean King, Eva Longoria and Andrew Yang. (Adweek)

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This Week in TV News: TV’s Zoom Reunions and Shows You Should Watch (According to Experts)

This week, we’re talking about new creative from insurance brand Progressive, the TV shows you should stream according to people who make and critique TV, and social distancing reunions to tune into.

Progressive’s Flo goes remote. A series of three new ds from Progressive and its agency Arnold focuses on the brand’s fictional team of insurance salespeople and their experiences working from home. Technical challenges are plentiful in the ads, which were filmed remotely by the actors on their iPhones. (Adweek)

What TV writers are streaming. With shelter-in-place orders and social distancing rules putting in-person production on hold for the foreseeable future, TV writers find themselves (like the rest of us) with more time to try shows. Here’s what 11 writers are watching, from a “Nashville” writer to a writer who worked on “Mad Men” and “Mrs. America.” (The New York Times)

What The New Yorker’s TV critics are streaming.  and 

Social distancing reunions on TV you shouldn’t miss. Vanity Fair rounded up the TV reunions you should check out, including “The Nanny,” “The Office” and “Mama Mia.” (Vanity Fair)

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