Leaders in the industry gather once a year at the Media Insights and Engagement Conference in San Diego. Through a series of workshops and lectures, media executives have the opportunity to share their successes and challenges, and even more importantly, learn the general trends being faced by the industry. Who better to speak on this than the chairperson of the conference herself? In this interview, Seth Adler got to sit down with Theresa Pepe, VP of Ad Sales Research for Warner Bros. Discovery. Pepe has been the chair of the conference for four years and has been involved for twelve. Adler asks for her insights about what has remained the same during her years with the conference, and what appears to be changing. In a time when everyone, from the most experienced marketing executives to newbie interns are watching the trends with rapt attention, Pepe’s analysis of the media research community is invaluable.
So what has remained the same? Firstly, the importance of research. Analytical minds will always benefit from more complete data from farther-reaching sources. Even more fundamentally, Pepe says the questions everyone has on their minds remain the same, even as the industry undergoes a period of evolution. Media executives, consultants, and creators alike all want to understand the audience. In order to facilitate audience-driven change, consumer interests, methods, and motivations must be understood.
But how is that data measured? Pepe doesn’t mince words: it’s Nielsen, at the foundation. While other sources of data are cropping up here and there, none of them have the scope that Nielsen has been offering for decades. While some brands or networks may have valid criticisms of the data Nielsen brings in, no other vendor can currently offer anything to replace it. This doesn’t mean that their data is less true or valid, just that without the Nielsen data to supplement it, it is currently incomplete (and Pepe doesn’t see that changing anytime soon). Pepe acknowledges that in order to get a larger, more thorough picture, the best course of action is to combine sources.
Adler and Pepe also discuss the reintroduction of ads into the SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) space. While the removal of ads was initially one of the things that enticed users to purchase subscriptions to their favorite networks, the trends seem to be leaning towards the use of ads to market content again in the future. As users find more ways to skip past or avoid ads, production companies find ways to make their ads “unskippable,” and hopefully allocate resources to creating advertisements engaging enough to command the consumer’s attention. The return of ads to the marketing space does offer an opportunity to, as Pepe puts it, “demystify some things that we’ve known to be true for many years.” The more data is available, the more the industry is able to overhaul the “rules” that seem to surround ads – as we are learning from platforms like TikTok, the old formulas are becoming increasingly irrelevant, and media companies will have to evolve if they are to survive.