WarnerMedia exec reveals how the company's marketing strategy has changed to keep up with the audience

  • Molly Battin explains how WarnerMedia has shifted its strategy to keep up with changes in technology and audience behavior, from her experience as its chief corporate marketing and brand strategy officer.
  • Battin says marketing efforts used to focus on big-launch campaigns to ensure a great premiere, and then they would walk away. But she says that doesn't work with they way the audience consumes content these days. Now, WarnerMedia has moved its marketing dollars to sustaining and building audiences from one episode to the next.
  • Battin says WarnerMedia relies heavily on data to target their ads and to ensure that the money it spends converts into viewers or whatever their advertising partners want.
  • When asked about the future of the industry, she warns that people should be careful not to go too far with the data that they lose the art and creativity.

Molly Battin is the chief corporate marketing and brand strategy officer at WarnerMedia. She sat down with Business Insider at Cannes Lions to talk about how the marketing industry has changed and where it is headed. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sara Silverstein: WarnerMedia has so many properties. It's such a big company, and it has such a big responsibility. How much do you care or work with what the diversity in the content and what you're showing on your programs?

Molly Battin: Yeah, it was a huge priority for us at WarnerMedia, and we talked a lot about how diversity really fuels our storytelling. At the end of the day, that's what we do we tell the world's stories. And if we're not reflecting the audiences that are out there in our casts and in our writer's room, and we're not telling the right stories then we're not going to attract the right audiences.

So it's a huge priority, both inside and outside the organization, and we've made a commitment to the production and to the creative community that we're going to hold ourselves accountable. We came out with the first commitment and really feel like we're leading the industry in this area. And we're going to have an annual report to track how we're doing both in front of, and behind the camera.

Christy Haubegger&quotLegend" award recipient Christy Haubegger at the ADCOLOR 10th Annual Awards at the Boca Raton Resort & Club on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016AP/Mitchell Zachs
And then we actually just announced last week that we hired for the first time ever, a chief diversity and inclusion officer for WarnerMedia, so that we truly hold ourselves accountable and we think about how are we building a diverse workplace within our organization because, frankly, our audiences demand it and we need to we need to do better and hold ourselves accountable.

Silverstein: How important is brand purpose to how the consumer looks at a brand, and why else is it important to WarnerMedia?

Battin: I think we hear a lot about it, it's one of the themes that you've heard this week throughout the festival, because people, and I think brands, really understand that the next generation, the younger generation are looking for brands that are making a statement that stand for something more than just the products or services that they deliver.

And so we truly are looking at what is our noble purpose and we believe that in this age of divisiveness and more and more people are lonely, living alone, feeling disconnected. We're all so connected by our social media, but we're not connecting one-on-one emotionally. And we believe that our brands and our stories can bring them together, whether it's our sports properties, the movies that bring people to the theaters to watch together, the shows that the communities that we create or experiences that we create off screen.

So for us that idea of enabling connection through fandom and creating those communities, I think it's really important for us and it's important for our employees as well, to feel like they're part of something bigger.

Silverstein: And how did a traditional powerhouse media company address that people are on their phones now and that in this new digital era, how do you take that marketing message and reach everyone where they are?

Battin: We really think about - it's no longer a one-way relationship with our viewers. And we've kind of changed the way that we market, because we know people are viewing our content differently across multiple screens, and we want to take advantage of that. I mean, we believe that the future of TV is really mobile, and it's multi-platform and so, we want to make sure that our content is everywhere where our viewers want it, need it, when they want it. And so we've taken just a completely different approach.

We're much more agile in our marketing, we used to do big launch campaigns. We would say we'd launch them and leave the show. And everything was about the premiere number, live, same day. No longer is that how people are viewing. So we have spent - we've really moved our marketing dollars into a lot more sustaining, and we think about building audiences from one episode to the next, and really carrying them from week to week and then season to season.

Silverstein: Can you give me an example to help me understand what that looks like?

Battin: One of the things we're really proud of on some of our cable networks like TBS or TNT is that we've been successful at actually growing audiences from week to week.

Tracy Morgan basketball courtTBS
So pulling them, and bringing them in, we know that people now a lot of times wait until episode four to say, "Do I even want to try this?" And so it's really important for us to create buzz, to create some momentum and build social chatter around the shows, as well as kind of really get out into the community. So we've changed and we think about our marketing campaigns now as more kind of omni-channel.

And so for shows like a Tracy Morgan, we get Tracy out into the community. We invest in the community, we create experiences that we went back and we recreated a basketball court in a playground, in an area in Brooklyn, where he grew up. And it kind of talking about that. It really brings in new audiences for us.

Silverstein: We've shifted towards more privacy but also data has become so powerful. How does that change what you've done?

Battin: We use data to really inform everything that we do now, and it's us thinking about how are we using that to create more targeted marketing campaigns, more personalized message, and hopefully, make the consumer experience better. We think about data as we're now building out our ad products and thinking about how can we create audience-based selling solutions, versus just the old demo solutions. Because that's not going to work for everyone anymore.

And we also, in our marketing, and in our advertising, are really trying to move towards this idea of attribution. So how do I know that the dollars that I spend actually converted to viewers or converted to whatever our advertising partners want? And so the more that we can use data to drive those insights and actually show that our marketing actually converted, and people took and action from it, I think the more success we'll have.

Silverstein: And how do you do that? How do you know what data to trust when everything is everywhere? Do you use in-house data or do you use external data?

Battin: We use a combination of both. And we believe in trusted premium content and really making sure that we're being extremely transparent with our partners, as well as with our viewers. And so we have a combination of data that we've collected throughout our Turner Properties as well as leveraging AT&T data to really make sure that we're being smart and targeted and respecting the viewers' privacy as well.

Silverstein: Now it seems like there are a lot of brands that are getting involved in political and social conversations and you have so many different brands. When and how is it appropriate to get involved in some of these more hot topics?

Battin: In today's age I think as I said, a lot of times, consumers in the younger generation, expect brands to get in and have a say consumers in the younger generation, expect brands to get in and have a say and have a point of view. We're very lucky within our portfolio of brands we have CNN. And CNN's mission is to lead with the facts is to lead with the facts and have fact-based conversations, so part of their mission is truly to hold those in power accountable.

And so that really is one of our lead ways into that conversation is to leverage our journalism and our journalists, to really kind of as we always say, kind of have that first conversation.

Silverstein: And looking forward, how do you think that marketing is going to change?

Battin: At the end of the day, I think we need to make sure we don't err on the extreme of trying to get too data driven and too kind of leading with science and not art. You still want to have that creativity, the story, and the emotional connection. And I think if you lose that, and you move too much towards that science, I think that we've got to find that right balance.

Silverstein: And in your history of your career, is there a moment, a mistake that you made that you really learned a lot from?

Battin: There's so many. There's so many. You know, it's been such a journey. I've been so lucky to be at Turner and now WarnerMedia for the past 19 years. And it's been fascinating to kind of see these brands change and shift over time. And I think we'll continue to see that. So we have to learn to be agile and change with it.

Years ago, when we were going very heavily into very genre-specific brands, and we had TBS, was all about funny and TNT was about drama. Now, you know as we move and the consumers are consuming content so differently, we know it's just really about the shows and we're inter-mixing because we have to change the business models.

And we have to figure out how do we continue to keep our core business strong, but really move into a new streaming service and create that one-to-one relationship with the customer. So it's really finding those balances and hopefully we won't stumble too much along the way but it's always hard to kind of protect the core while growing something new.

Silverstein: And looking back on other campaigns that other people have done, is there a campaign that you have seen that you just wish that you had thought up, that it was so smart?

Battin: I mean it's in the family, but the "Game of Thrones" campaigns over the years and just the stories that they tell, the partners that they bring, and how they kind of surprise and delight their audience. It's something that I'm proud of, part of the family. I wasn't part of the campaign, but wish I was.

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