PR’s Top Pros Talk…How Brands Can Leverage Streaming Platforms – Dallas Lawrence
Dallas Lawrence, Head of Communications of Roku Platform Business
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON:
DOUG: Great, so I’m ready for the interview, I’ve got my Roku remote. That’s all I would need for this conversation. Right, Dallas?
DALLAS: That’s it! Unlocked a world of entertainment.
DOUG: Yeah, I know. But actually, one of the challenges you face and many brands face is they might have one part of the organization that’s very well-known, and other parts that aren’t as well known, which are actually more of what you’re about. Can you tell us a little about how the companies divided up and what your role is to get us started?
DALLAS: Absolutely. That that device you’re holding up is really the first side of the business, and that’s the Roku device business really to think about. That’s the sticks and the pucks and the television screens like the one you see behind me, that you can buy the really become the number one streaming platform in America. One in three TVs sold in United States today is powered by the Roku operating system. One in four in Canada, it’s number one in Canada, in the United States. And that really is the primary initial side of our business that brings the consumer into the Roku ecosystem where they wherever they may buy one of those sticks, pucks or television screens. The second half of the business is what we then do with those consumers, those over one hundred and fifty plus million people we reach in households around the world today. And that’s the platform business and that’s really the communications. And there’s really three core components of the platform business. The first is advertising: all the consumer engagement we’re doing how brands are seeking to engage these consumers as they’re shifting away in droves, really, as the bottom has fallen out of traditional television and they’re moving over to streaming. So we have a very robust partnership working with nine out of 10 of the top 200 advertisers in the world. It’s also the content partnerships side of our business. So that’s all the deals with HBO Max, or how we help Disney plus reach their five year streaming goal in less than 14 months. We have a whole very robust team that on boards. We’ve over ten thousand channels on the Roku platform today that brings those channels on and helps them be successful. And the third component of the platform side of the business is our programming side. And that’s largely comprised of our own advertising video on demand or about channel called the Roku Channel, which provides consumers with more than forty thousand free television programs and movies over one hundred and ninety channels of live linear programming, incredible original content from everything from Kevin Hart to Liam Neeson and on down. So it’s really a robust offering and those are the three components that comprise the platform business that I lead the communications for now.
DOUG: And that’s a great explanation. That’s an important piece of what communicators need to know. And given that there is this streaming boom going on, what do communicators really need to know? What should they be thinking about to fully leverage the value of it?
DALLAS: I think there’s a couple of key things that we’ve seen shift. We long believed that the this decade would be the streaming decade, that there would be a migration away from legacy television platforms into streaming. And what covid did is covered really served as an accelerant. I would call it like a leap year or two of innovation, adoption that condensed and coalesced and those first four months of being at home where millions of people cut the cord. Millions more really discover that they could really capture all of the information they wanted from a streaming device. Live people who are hungry for news all of a sudden discovered that things like NBC News and ABC News have an app on the Roku platform and you can get free news 24/7 without having to have cable. They began funding sports as well when sports started coming back. So we saw this really massive consumer migration and shift that is not temporary. It really is. All the data shows us that this is a secular shift, that consumers are walking away in large numbers from traditional television. A couple of my favorite data points from the past year or initially, it’s still number one. The number one reason why people cut the cord is because to save money, the number two reason very close behind that as they actually prefer streaming. So these folks have cut the cord. Survey data shows that. Ninety two percent are never going to go back. So from a marketer perspective or a communications person’s perspective, these are core burners. These people are never going to be reachable again via traditional mediums, traditional television mediums. They’ve moved over to streaming in a large and really engaging way.
DOUG: I was going to say they also have an opportunity to view the content on different devices wherever they happen to be a particular moment. One question that comes up is this about just taking the content that brands create, say, for their TV commercials and traditional outlets and just moving it over to streaming platforms where they have to approach it differently?
DALLAS: Yeah, it’s really interesting. If you look at the history of advertising, we won’t go back to Pompeii, but let’s just go back. One hundred years…
DOUG: I thought we were going to go to folk cave drawings.
DALLAS: But if you go back one hundred years and look at really the advent radio and the shift around radio, you begin to see the legacy cycle of how advertising happens. The eyeballs move innovations a little slow at first, and then it accelerates, so the rate the first radio ads for really just print ads that were read on the radio, the first television ads were really just those same exact radio spots with an image on the screen. The first television ads were the same way. We’re just we’re just going that way. Streaming ads really then just the 30 second ad squeezed into streaming. Now, what we’re seeing with the mass migration of consumer attention is a really almost a renaissance period in advertising where advertisers are sitting back and they’re recognizing for the first time there’s actually a medium that provides the full funnel of consumer engagement, both that top of the funnel awareness that traditional TV work for and the bottom of the funnel performance advertising that’s largely been the home of search or social or digital. They can get all of that one place. So that has led them to recognize it’s time to go beyond that traditional 30 second spot and do some really cool and engaging things. And I’ll give you two examples are my favorite shows in the past month that really turn upside down your thinking about what an advertising advertisement is or what a consumer engagement vehicle can be for a brand or a communicator out there. The first is Turbo Tax and a real challenge this year. They want to elevate visibility around the tax season. They wanted to make sure that they were reaching cord cutters to be top of mind. So they launched with Roku, an NBA final, a really bad basketball hub where you could get all the basketball information about March Madness. On our screen, you can have an interactive virtual play over where you could play basketball with your phone and make shots on your TV. A whole encompassing experience. Where drew you in? It wasn’t an ad for Turbo Tax. It was an experience around March Madness. But it drew you in, reminded you the taxes were top of mind, very successful for them for awareness.
DOUG: I was going to say, and after my recent surgery, that probably might be my best shot to hit shots if I’m playing and on my phone on that. But you have a second example?.
DALLAS: Just like innovation, so we launched something called the Brand Studio a few weeks back. And what this was designed to do is it’s recognizing there’s two forces coming together. You have these content creators or talent that are saying, I have a great idea for something I want to do. Is there a brand who will sponsor this? At the same time, get these brands saying, I would love to do a show with fill in the blank Will Ferrell, or else it might be from a celebrity to do a 10 minute show about whatever is on their minds. Right. So we launched our first one of these called Roku recommends with Maria Minutos, sponsored by Wal-Mart. And the focus is really to provide consumers streamers feedback on what to watch the average streamer spend seven minutes looking for something to watch. So this is a weekly show by Maria Minutos and NFL star Andrew Hawkins, sponsored by a major brand to bring to life the great shows you should watch. What’s amazing about this from a brain perspective is it reaches the consumer that might never watch advertising supported content that might come straight in and go to Disney plus or go to Netflix. They’re going to see this have a chance to watch are the five things I should stream today and have that breadth of experience. So these are just two examples of how advertisers are really thinking outside that 30 second spot.
DOUG: And I’m going to hit you with a question about data in a moment. But also local news can be accessed through many of the streaming services. We’ve seen a lot of the Nielsen data that the numbers of viewers from local news is growing dramatically. Sixty four percent of people who work from home watch local news at least once a week. But that doesn’t mean they’re all turning on their TV. They could be streaming that content.
DALLAS: Absolutely. I mean, one of the amazing things about the Roku platform, as I mentioned, we have over ten thousand channels. A lot of these can be you might have even some local churches stream their Sunday service, and you can watch it on the Roku channel, on your local platform. So it really has democratized access to content and exciting way. And it’s done in a way that doesn’t require you to have a one hundred and fifty dollar cable bundle.
DOUG: Yeah, and it’s the leading platform. You’re obviously getting a lot of data about consumer and audience behavior. What are some of the lessons there that might make sense for communicator’s?
DALLAS: I think what’s interesting to me is even as things change, a lot has stayed the same. So one of my favorite data points from the past year or so on the Roku channel, we have one hundred and ninety five linear channels. So we have an NBC channel that’s NBC News and ABC channels, ABC News. They have a home and garden channel and so on, so forth. But what we discovered was, is that consumers really missed, believe it or not, the old school interactive programming guide and scrolling through and clicking down and seeing what’s on and a half an hour, what’s on it, two hours, what’s going to come out next, because they were familiar with that. They were accustomed to it. They didn’t want the streaming experience. They still wanted on demand in some cases. But they wanted there were days of time for they just wanted to sit down, put the TV on and have something fed to them. When we launched that guide, our streaming our spiked significantly because consumers are familiar with that. So that the really a key takeaway. Well, while the medium is changed from a platform perspective, the data is enormous. What we have the ability how we can help you understand who your audience is and where they’re spending their time. A lot of the same human elements are constant. And that’s as a communicator. One of the things that that we’ve talked about, as you and I have talked about in the past before, while all these new mediums have come, whether it was the social revolution that came up, was that came later the basic tenets of core communications, of knowing your audience, reaching them with a relevant message at the right moment, at the right time to drive the outcome you want to have haven’t changed.
DOUG: And that aligns with the seven minutes you were mentioning that it takes people where they’re searching for content. If you can make it easier to find stuff, they’re not as likely to give up on that. One of the things and this might be a twist, because you’re talking about things staying the same, COVID obviously drove a lot of people to consume more content and consume it differently. I mean, we’ve seen on the local TV news stations that overwhelmingly they’re sticking with the same way to interview brand spokespeople even after covid. Eighty five percent of them preferred. Are there things, the communication trends that happen that were spurred on or maybe accelerated because of COVID that you think will continue?
DALLAS: I think a couple of things, I think the power and attraction of live news and sports is strong. Those are things that still so capture audiences. What has shifted dramatically in the last 12 months is that those were the final two hold outs that were driving cable bundle adoption that has fallen away. We had twenty two million people watch election news coverage on the local channel on the Roku platform. We had the single largest streaming experience for sports with the Super Bowl at the same time that live television sports ratings were at an all time low. So what you’re seeing is the last two hold outs have moved over. Consumers have moved with them into the streaming environment. And that’s true for local. I mean, I know local is a really important thing that we like to talk about with you. Local advertising is becoming a really a powerful tool. If you think back to what Nielsen would give you, which was age and gender and a DMA demographic, and now we have the ability to go to the to the household level with data and insights is really a powerful and that’s what we talk about, flipping the funnel, the traditional advertising funnel on its head where you can now get the same data you might get, might have gone after for your social media buys with Facebook or your search buys with Google. You can now get that on the biggest screen and most engaged screen in the lives of your of your audience.
DOUG: There’s been a great conversation, so I guess I can just wrap it up by using my Roku remote. I guess that doesn’t really work. I just thank you for really great insights and conversation. Appreciate you joining us.
DALLAS: Great to be with you as always.