SMCNYC Keynote Highlights: Beat The BUZZR & Brand Vs. Retail

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On Tuesday, May 21, at Streaming Media NYC, a series of morning keynotes featuring leading industry figures covered a wide range of topics, including how Microsoft and Fremantle are gamifying FAST and capitalizing interactive TV, and a lively debate about brand versus retail with Crackle, Uber Advertising, IAB, and Witz About Her.

Microsoft and Fremantle Reimagine and Reinvigorate Retro Content

Nadine Krefetz, Consultant, Reality Software and Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, moderated a panel with guests Laura Florence, SVP Global FAST Channels, Fremantle, and Andy Beach, CTO, Media & Entertainment, Worldwide, Microsoft. Fremantle’s data and AI-powered Beat the BUZZR platform was developed in collaboration with Microsoft, NVIDIA, and other key technology partners. Leveraging content from the Fremantle BUZZR Network's deep reservoir of classic TV game shows from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Beat the BUZZR launches FAST viewers headlong into the game with quizzes, trivia, and personalised insights, pointing the way to revolutionary, readily monetizable opportunities for interactive FAST.

Krefetz asked how Microsoft, Fremantle, and their technology partners amassed the rich data resources to build a scalable tech stack and make this new interactive platform viable while creating a "watch party vibe" to make it irresistible to viewers. Beach said that AI was integral for the huge scale required to make the platform function, with a workflow that included transcripts, information, and metadata given to ChatGPT. They worked with Alice & Smith to build the platform over Playfab and with Prime Focus Technologies to assist with upping the resolution of these classic shows to 4K and with MediaKind for playout.

Florence highlighted the many sponsorable elements to Beat the BUZZR and said that the ROI for it is highly trackable via hours watched, with clear engagement through localised delivery. With 70% of viewers on their phones during Freemantle watching, second screen usage is advantageous for gathering first-party data. 

The Battle of Brand vs. Retail

Mike Duffy, Co-founder/CEO, YumCrunch, moderated a spirited debate addressing the ways that big tech has upset the balance between brand and performance marketing and between awareness and shopability. On “Team Brand” were Laura Sandoval, Head of Media & Entertainment, Uber Advertising and Lauren Denowitz, Founder, Witz About Her - Brand Entertainment & Marketing Consulting and Founder & Former Global Studio Head, draftLine Entertainment @ ABInBev. “Team Retail” was represented by Michele Fino, Head of Branded Entertainment, Crackle, and Pam Zucker, Chief Strategy Officer, IAB.

The questions at play: In a world of increasingly commoditised impressions and audiences, where is a marketer’s money best spent—premium TV environments for brand awareness, but less attribution, or performance marketing? Can TV publishers compete with social video on performance-based advertising? Should they, or are they risking brand damage?

The Brand vs. Retail debate

The divide between Team Brand and Team Retail was immediately clear: Fino stated outright that most people are “dumb,” and that on average it takes seven times for a consumer to retain a brand’s marketing message. Whereas Denowitz emphasised that brands are relationship-oriented, focusing on stories, partnerships, and talent, Zucker shot back “Where are the goods?” She said that brands should not just be mushy relationship-based foundations and that instead retail retains the strengths of what she calls “pre-tail,” with quantifiable attributes such as real-time optimization leading to more authentic personalization, enhanced measuring, attribution, improved ROI, localization, and specific data points directly relevant to individual consumers.

Sandoval pushed back by underscoring the need for a sense of relationship and guidance with brands, saying that people need to be taken through a journey and highlighting that on average, people need “15 touch points” before seeing a current movie in a theater. Denowitz also said that this relationship-oriented personalised approach also helps to ensure brand safety by clearly revealing what an audience wants and who they are, beyond mere data points.

Despite these different viewpoints, both teams ultimately agreed that a well-balanced mix of “brand and retail” are essential for the overall success of sales and for the satisfaction of users.

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