Communicate chats with Cathy Ibal, Senior Vice President, Ad Sales EMEA, CNN International Commercial, to learn more about their Audience First strategy and how they're navigating the current changes occurring in the media landscape.
Could you talk about the 'Audience First strategy' CNN uses to deliver content?
The audience is at the heart of everything that CNN does. We’re seeing record audience figures across multiple platforms as trusted news has never been more essential. This includes record audiences in the US ratings and globally we are the #1 digital news destination with 192 million unique multiplatform visitors (December 2020 data is the most current available).
With this in mind we aim to provide the best advertising experience for the audience that is complementary, rather than intrusive or disruptive, to the CNN environment.
This works with a combination of data and creativity. We really know our audience and their behavior, and use this data and insight to inform the content and campaigns that we produce so that it resonates with the audiences' interests and they see relevant ads alongside what they’re reading, watching or listening to.
We also take into consideration what platform the audience is engaging on and using our Launchpad+ tool, we can create immersive social experiences, enabling our clients to reach CNN audiences even when they are not on CNN platforms.
How do you tailor the experience for CNN and CNN Arabic?
From both the audience and the advertiser perspective, everything is tailored. Our analysis shows that our audience is influential – CNN is watched globally and our reporting is widely shared, referenced and acted upon by political leaders, CEOs, celebrities and people at the top of their industry. Advertisers work with CNN to create engaging brand experiences that reach opinion-formers, change-makers, high-spenders, travellers and business decision-makers.
Wherever you fit into the different audience profiles, the experience will be personalized to you. We understand and treat our audience as complex individuals and separate interest groups so that their experiences mirror their interests and behaviors.
For CNN Arabic, there are record high levels in consumption on mobile, which grew by 24% from 2019 – and contributed to 2020 being the highest year on record where average monthly unique visitors was up 34%. Video use is also high, so we tailor our content and brand campaigns to reflect the most compatible content, environments and formats.
Essentially, every client conversation begins with understanding their customers and how they align with our audience. Data informs the creative content to match audience interests and we use technology to distribute and optimize campaigns in real-time, and in turn we measure and present results and actionable insights.
What kind of ideas in terms of innovation are you looking at in your content delivery mechanisms?
Innovation is key, and we’ve created several proprietary tools for content delivery which enable us to identify and reach specific audience segments through sophisticated contextual targeting and semantics tools. We also have first party data and data partnerships that maintain high levels of privacy and regulatory compliance which provides a premium, safe and trusted user experience.
This technology means we can actively match brands campaigns to run adjacent to content that resonates best with the brand’s target audience’s interests and that also reflects the brand’s values. The positive and contextual targeting moves away from blocklists and helps to both protect brands and promote them in the right places to ensure brand safety and brand suitability. From an audience perspective it means that you’re seeing the ads that are most relevant to you and your interests and so you’re more likely to engage with them.
We are innovating across all platforms – TV, digital, social, audio and virtual events – in terms of ad formats and the way we produce and distribute campaigns. For example, COVID changed the way that brands needed to communicate in response to the changing world and consumer sentiment and so we increased our consultancy to clients. In addition, our branded content studio, Create, innovated in the way it filmed and produced global campaigns, adapting to changing safety regulations and reflecting consumer expectations to ensure that we were still creating high quality, relevant and engaging multiplatform campaigns.
There's been a steep rise in subscription models and paywalls globally and in the region. Simultaneously there's also been a rise in independent publishers. How does CNN plan to navigate and position themselves in such a landscape? What strategies do you plan to implement?
The media landscape and consumer behaviour are changing all the time. With this context, it’s important for media companies to establish as close a relationship with the consumer as possible. People have a strong affinity to CNN, and CNN Arabic, due to our reputable brand, editorial independence and trusted news and information, so it is important that we focus on this as our brand promise because it sets us apart from other news providers. At the same time we are continually innovating in the way that users experience CNN on our own website, with our podcasts, with our newsletters which are proving popular with our audience