Unique among our Legends, Andrea’s career has crossed back and forth between leading sales teams and research teams across a career that has seen her leadership across ESPN, Vevo, Comcast Spotlight (now Effectv) and now Warner Bros Discovery. Andrea shares many of the secrets she has discovered in her truly adventurous career.
Duane: [00:00:00] Legends of Media Research is a podcast series featuring interviews with the Media Industry’s leading researchers, where we go behind the scenes, sharing stories from their greatest achievements and challenges. Brought to you by MediaScience, the leader in Media and Advertising Innovation Research.
Stay tuned at the end of the podcast for more information about MediaScience, but for now, I’m your host, MediaScience CEO, Dr. Duane Varan.
Welcome to another exciting episode of Legends of Media Research. I’m thrilled today to have as my guest Andrea Zapata. Andrea is EVP of Ad Sales Research, Measurement and Insights at Warner Brothers Discovery.
We’re going to just call that WBD. [laughs] At WBD. Andrea, welcome to Legends of Media Research.
Andrea: Duane, thank you for having me.
Duane: [00:01:00] Andrea, you have had such a fascinating career. You know, what I think is most exciting and what the audience is going to discover about you today is you’ve got this very unique blend in the industry throughout your career of crossing over between sales and research throughout your career. [laughs]
It’s such an interesting blend. It’s a blend. So let’s go back to the very beginning of it all. What did you study in college?
Andrea: I studied English at the Ohio State University. I’m originally from the Midwest. I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Right, how does one with an English focus and study in college end up in ad sales, media research and advertising?
I have no idea, Duane, but it’s working out.
Duane: What did you think you were going to do when you decided to study English of all things?
Andrea: So I’ll be really frank with you. I wasn’t quite sure. I was the first in my family to attend college and I think in the sense of it just sort of being a big accomplishment to go.
I was always [00:02:00] an avid reader throughout my childhood, through high school. My parents would joke, they were like: “You already speak English. You read English. Why are you going to school for more English?” [Duane laughs] And to be really honest, my heart’s desire was to be a professor, but that would have taken a lot, lot longer, a lot more funding.
And so I stick with English, but I love to read, still am an avid reader.
Duane: So how did you go from, you know, being this English major, how did you end up in the media sphere?
Andrea: So I kind of fell in actually. I really– I needed a J.O.B, Duane. I needed a job. [Duane laughs] So I moved back to Indianapolis, Indiana, and I got a job as a sales coordinator at the ABC RTV 6 affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana.
And I was a sales coordinator there and it was real basic, I’m not going to lie to you, right? It was basically making sure you’re running some orders, making sure that campaigns are going in. And the General [00:03:00] Sales Manager at the time, his name’s Paul Rennie. He’s still in the business. He’s wonderful. He came to me with an interesting opportunity.
After six months, he says: “So listen, our Research Director is moving into another role within our org. So if you can figure out how to do a Nielsen overnight, make a couple of one sheets and get prepared for the May sweeps”, which was like two months away. He was like, “I will give you your own office, health insurance and a TV on your desk”.
And Duane, that is how I fell into research. I literally was like sold, done. I will Google, I will figure it out. I will call the Nielsen help desk and I will figure out that overnight. I did that for about three and a half years in Indiana.
Duane: Wow. You know, we’re doing a little bit of foreshadowing here, but that’s the story.
Like that story will repeat itself over and over in your career. You just have some kind of special passion for throwing yourself in the deep end and hoping you can swim. [laughs] [00:04:00]
Andrea: Right? [laughs]
Duane: So what happened? You were in that role. How did you transition? You made the big move to New York after that. Is that right?
Andrea: I did. So I had a mid twenties crisis. I clearly made it in Indianapolis, Indiana. And I actually, for my birthday, I came to New York city. I really felt like I had met my people. I felt like the energy was so alive and like resonated with my very being. And I quickly made it my life mission to move to New York city.
So I moved within, I think, 6 to 8 weeks and I got a job. At Telerep. Telerep, for those of you who are not familiar or aware, although if you do know it, oh, you know it. It is a rep firm for local broadcast networks across the United States, really charged with doing the one sheets, talking about what the landscape looks like in a local market.
And I was there for just a couple of months. I got the great opportunity [00:05:00] to work at ESPN. I applied for a role via Cynthia Synopsys as an analyst supporting their affiliate research side of the business. And that is really what I think my career in New York started, which is with that job at ESPN.
Duane: And were you working with Artie in those days?
Andrea: Oh, yes. I was, I had the great privilege. So I joke, I say this a lot. I went to the school of research under Artie Bulgrin and Glenn Enoch. I was with them for about five, five and a half years. I do say research because if you’ve ever met Artie Bulgrin, that is how he pronounces it. So I shall do so until the end of time.
I learned not only the basics of how many, how often, how long, but really about the fundamentals of how you use media research and play all of your levers to ultimately help support not just an ad sales business, but a programming business, an affiliate business, that beautiful dual revenue business that was the ESPN model in the early 2000s.[00:06:00]
Duane: And what did you do at ESPN?
Andrea: Yeah, so I was, I started off, like I said, as an analyst. I was supporting their new and emerging networks. So if we hearken back to the mid 2000s, this was the glory days of launching new networks, getting distribution, turning on the Nielsen lights and then monetizing, right?
The bundle was alive and well from a cable perspective. So my remit early days was to help support specifically ESPNU, ESPN Deportes and ESPN 360. If anybody remembers the joke of like “ESPN the Ocho”, that one never came into fruition. But this was a time where putting new content into an actual channel, there was a robust business model for it.
So I worked very closely with the affiliate sales team, building value as to why a local market could turn on the lights to an ESPNU essentially wave their hand to the big Comcast or Time Warners of the world for [00:07:00] national distribution and what the value would be, say, in a Fort Wayne, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, or someplace like Pittsburgh from a local ad sales perspective to an overarching national theme. So my local experience at Indianapolis, Indiana actually translated really well for this role. Although I never would have thought in a million years that’s how it would have actually ended up being.
Duane: But it’s interesting because this is really the beginnings of you starting to cross over into the sales universe, because even though you were in a research role, you’re going on these field trips, going out there, working to persuade, you know, these local cable stations, you know, that they should be picking up the champ.
I mean, that’s really very much like a sales role that you’re stepping into. And so I guess you began developing and exercising those muscles in that role at ESPN.
Andrea: Absolutely. I was given a great opportunity to immediately almost hit the streets with a value proposition. And I say a value proposition. It was driven [00:08:00] by research. So I was clearly in a lane of comfort. So I could talk about what kind of audience would it be?
What would you be reaching? What is the value of said audience? Right? What’s the revenue opportunity potentially that could be tapped into? And I was using Nielsen, I was using ad expenditure data, right? I was putting it in a really tight narrative that I would then go along. And when you say a field trip, well, we were driving to these local markets [laughs] and we would take a small little [Daune laughs] turn to these markets and we would go and we would pitch.
And I was really fortunate to work alongside what I think is one of the best affiliate teams. I mean, with ESPN, they taught me a lot of the tricks and they gave me a lot of leeway, but also, Artie Bulgrin, who gave me the opportunity to say: “You know what? Go out there, see what you can get”.
We’re using these data sets at the time that were available to us to do what ESPN needed to get done to have that dual revenue like I’ve always– that wasn’t always done, right? So much of an affiliate to them and add sales. [00:09:00]
The beauty of it was that once you would get a network to get enough distribution, then you have to turn on the Nielsen lights, right? Then you could actually say are we getting, not even a rating, but how are we cuming in some of these local markets that will then go into a national rating that allows us to then monetize from an ad sales perspective. Once the network’s got enough coverage, that’s actually when I started moving really into the ad sales world to grow revenue.
Duane: So then you went full throttle and you actually crossed over into an actual role in the ad sales world at ESPN, leading your own ad sales team. Tell us about that.
Andrea: Yeah, so this is another sort of pull, I’d say a little bit, I still, to this day, will see myself as a researcher in my very being, but there was a leader who was running all of ESPN audio and their new and emerging networks. His name was Trump Keller. He would tell me a lot: “Listen, you’re a seller”. And I’m like, “I’m not, Trump. I’m a researcher”. He’s like, “fine, call yourself what you will, but I have a [00:10:00] role”. And so I did transition fully into an ad sales leadership role. I was their Director of Strategy and sales for ESPN Deportes. And my job was essentially to, that’s right, learn about upfront, scatter, tent-poles, CPMs, pricing, not reinventing the wheel, doing it from linear to multi platform.
We were all the things, and it was awesome because I was supported by some, again, I keep saying the best in the business, but with a group of people who understood the programming, who understood audience and the consumer.
ESPN at that time had actually made Hispanics or Latinos one of their top three priorities. And so there was a lot of eyes on this business, but there was a lot of support. And so I quickly jumped into ad sales, Duane. It was a lot of fun.
I went to the Super Bowl, I went to the World Series. I thought I was basically at the top of the world, and I [00:11:00] never saw myself leaving ESPN, if I’m gonna be really honest.
Duane:There you were, you know, getting tickets to the Super Bowl and a great job, really thriving, you know, what happened? You left there, you went to Hulu, if I remember correctly. What took you from ESPN to Hulu?
Andrea: Yeah. So it goes back to ‘what do I really love?’ Right? I really do love research.
And when Hulu called, I actually didn’t know what Hulu was. I had to Google it. [Duane laughs] And I know that sounds crazy, right? And their value proposition was interesting to me. They were basically television in a digital environment and they were offering a role that would allow me to be a hybrid between a researcher and a salesperson.
Really to walk alongside the sales organization to help recondition a marketplace or actually condition a marketplace to think about how do you buy television in a streaming [00:12:00] environment the same way you’ve been buying televisions at the beginning of time, only not using a program as a proxy, but really using an audience as your North star.
I’ll be honest with you. This goes back to that potential theme. I did not know what a pixel was. I did not know what a tag was. I was multi platform, but really had been driven by a linear environment. I was very honest with them.
And the first thing my boss said at the time, Bryon Schafer, said to me was: “Do you know what a GRP is? Do you know what a TRP is?” And I was like: “Of course”. And that was the beginning of, what I would say, is the transformation of my career and how I thought about data and research and ultimately how I thought about those two components in extracting value for revenue growth for the rest of my career. But Hulu was an absolute game changer.
It was early days Hulu. it was not a fancy office, [laughs] we had no corp cards. We booked all our travel on Expedia and we were in full [00:13:00] growth mode, but it was a really good time.
Duane:I remember those days. But Andrea, it must’ve been challenging, I mean, in your previous roles, you would have been used to walking in with, you know, Nielsen data at hand and then here in this new role at Hulu, you know, you didn’t have Nielsen. How would you go about, you know, persuading these advertisers to buy with you?
Andrea: Yeah. So, you know, here’s the deal. You don’t have to deal with Nielsen. The world becomes your oyster. And I say this in the best way. We were scrappy.
We were still scaling at the time, but we had the luxury and the beauty of first party data. And we also had the real, I’d say the thing that moves the market the most, which is conviction. So what we did is we actually went and we said: “We know how our audience is actually viewing across all of this content, and we’re not going to strictly beholden them to a piece of content”.
Why? Because Hulu at that time, and still is, we couldn’t actually sell one single piece of [00:14:00] content. That’s not the way that our licensing agreements worked. So we would use data, using first party data to simply say: “We know that you want to reach her and you want to reach her by buying The Bachelorette. But really what we know is that yes, she’s definitely watching The Bachelorette, but she’s also watching a whole lot of Gilmore Girls, a whole lot of Family Guys, and oh, this is surprising, but a bit of Alf. That’s right. Why? Because we just ingested it and the library is there and she can’t help herself”.
So the way we would position it is “we don’t judge her, we just deliver her” and we– early days, and I will say this, we did not use Nielsen in the sense of a proxy for ratings. We did not use ComScore as a ranker to up the competitive set. We did eventually though tap into Nielsen’s OCR product, which was hyper focused on the delivery of the campaign against a basic demo.
And we worked closely with Nielsen at the time to actually improve that product, but it was really game changing because it allowed [00:15:00] the buying side of the community to move and allocate dollars into an environment that felt safe to them, because ultimately we’re spitting out a report that was GRP or TRP and it’s based, or it could be impressions.
This is all media math at the end of the day. And so it was a lot, it was a lot of fun. We got to go around and do education one on ones and talk about how viewers were moving into this environment where what had once been– Hulu started off as a PC Only offering and within a quarter or two of my, at least me joining, they made Hulu Plus.
And that meant that Hulu could be watched on a television set. So we do ethnographies that would show that like, guess what? When TV is on a television set, it’s not just one to one anymore. It’s one to many. There’s, you know, multiple people in the living room or in the basement watching the show, but we also had to demonstrate the value of our experience from an ad perspective, and this is where I think we had to not only get creative, but we had to partner smartly [00:16:00] with different ways to prove that value. And you, Duane, at MediaScience, you could probably remember early days, we knew that we had one, two, three ads per pod as opposed to five to seven in a traditional linear environment.
Same content, different viewing experience, and we leverage the heck out of your lab to demonstrate that one, two ads per pod, maybe three, those ads punched above their weight in comparison to a traditional linear environment when it came to the key sort of like just brand metrics of awareness, recall, likeability and potentially intent.
And so that was where we’d go in and say: “We know, one, how our audience is navigating this content. And two, we will demonstrate efficacy”. And those two things are inherently linked and driving value to a marketer.
Duane:You know, what I love about that era, Andrea, is that Hulu was fearless. I mean, you know, especially at that time, [00:17:00] especially in those early years, the clarity of who their audience was, their clarity of what they were doing.
I mean, it was a disruptive model, you know, to the industry, but there was a conviction, a passion, you know, that led to the pioneering really of new ad formats. You know, you talked about limited interruption, you know, Hulu was first with limited interruption, you know, you talked about the ad choice format, you know, Hulu was first, I mean, there was this courage, this willingness to kind of like go to market with new solutions.
I mean, for us, it was a joy always working with you guys, because we really felt that you were pioneering the future.
Andrea: Because you know, here’s the deal. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, Duane, right? And so we didn’t know [Duane chuckles] that no one else would know. So it was almost a responsibility to help uncover insights to share, right?
And it was, I mean, you think about this, it’s 2010, 2011, 2012, the technology was disrupting, the consumers were following, and we were just simply privileged enough to learn about what it meant and [00:18:00] potentially have some predictions for the future. But here we are 12 years later, and I think some things have changed, but some things maybe happened. Still right for learning for sure.
Duane: So you had this magical experience at Hulu, but you know, things changed. How did you end up at Vevo?
Andrea: So yes, things certainly changed. You couldn’t keep that sort of Hulu magic, and I call it Hulu 1.0, for too long. And I got an opportunity to go to Vevo and Vevo was somewhat similar to Hulu in its model in the sense that it had content that was being distributed from two major music suppliers, Universal and Sony.
And the model there was how do we become audience first data driven and platform agnostic? Three things that I learned and have learned to love over my career, but specifically that I got at Hulu. And it was a really good time. A lot of people who were at Hulu ended up going to Vevo. We were also somewhat [00:19:00] fearless in our belief that the music video could scale and cume a large audience.
We could actually inform the marketplace about how to reach persons 18 to 34 or 18 to 49 within our environment. That could be complementary to a television buy, incrementally so. But doing it in a way that was very similar to how TV planners and buyers were already buying and activating against, say, like a Hulu in the streaming environment.
So it was a natural evolution. The difference there is that it had international or global scope, and I was also able to work really closely with the product team to think about how to build new ad products and how to reach, again, different cohorts of our audience, but I was there for three years. I enjoyed every minute of it.
I mean, what’s not to like about a little Beyonce and 2 Chainz and Justin Bieber, right? But what was really interesting about that moment in time is that we were in the business of saying, how do you think about a music video in context to what other [00:20:00] people are watching? And what we knew is that when Taylor Swift dropped a premiere or Shakira, Rihanna dropped a premiere, it was going to be some of the most watched pieces of content on television or PC full stop.
And we would work very closely with Nielsen to actually demonstrate how that actually looked from a reach perspective. And if we would see Taylor Swift right there with Big Bang Theory right next to Cold Case, right next to ER. [laughs]
And we would say: “Here’s the deal. We know that Taylor Swift is sort of a moment in time, but it’s just as enduring as you are, right? And her fan base is just as rabid. And she’s not just an 18 to 24 year old play. She’s actually much broader than that”. So that was really the fun of that time period at Vevo, or it’s just, again, playing on the idea that scale and relevant content and audiences that were passionate could really be relevant to a marketer’s plan against their funnel, and where was our Vevo story within that. [00:21:00]
Duane: And then you went to Comcast Spotlight, I guess that later renamed itself and became Effectv. What was that transition about?
Andrea: I know, right? After having spent how many years on the digital side talking about a data driven audience first platform agnostic approach, I actually was really intentional on my move after Vevo.
I felt keenly that I wanted to go back to the land of television, real, like a pure play television. I didn’t necessarily though want to do it in a way that would put me back in the land of Nielsen. I wanted to think about what did different data sets look like, not only a traditional television model, but potentially where was the future going to be when it came to big data sets.
And so I ended up taking a job with Comcast, Comcast Spotlight specifically. I think many people are like, you’re going where? [laughs] I said, you know, I’m going to Spotlight because they have set top box data. That set top [00:22:00] box data is sitting in AWS and it has unlimited potential. Now, Duane, did I know what that potential really meant at the time?
I had no idea, but I understood that it was a superpower that I could actually allow not only one or two or the top 10 networks understand how viewers were consuming their content, but really the long tail of networks and a channel bundle to think about differently how our audience is not just watching those networks, but how are they cuing and navigating and ultimately has a market or tap into it from not just a person 18 to 49, but a person who are households is actually in the market for an auto.
A household who’s actually keen to go on a vacation, right? So using the big data, the real time viewing across 64 markets of Comcast, and to use that set top box data to then marry it to an advanced audience segment, to then give it the ad [00:23:00] exposure. To then marry it to an attribution model. I mean, Duane, like, I mean, that’s a researcher’s dream right there. [laughs]
Duane: Yeah. That’s amazing. What did you learn at your time over there?
Andrea: That’s a great question. What did I learn? From the data, specifically, I learned that that audience model is indeed something that is powerful. You should never constrict a viewer or consumer set into a proxy of a day part or a program or a specific network.
You should never do that. Why? Because they cannot be constricted. What they view and how they view it is up to them and how you reach them is where the big data can help inform, again, into a more data driven approach. What I also learned is that change takes a long time. So if you think about a very traditional local business, Spots n Dots.
Spots n Dots, very relationship driven, and all of a sudden [00:24:00] you’re bringing in this big data, this powerful data that can actually marry a tier three automotive dealers, their CRM data to ours and get much more tactical down the funnel outside of awareness. That takes education. That takes integration into systems.
That takes patience for the marketplace to actually understand what’s compelling about that to really think about television differently, right? Not just again, an upper funnel, check the box play. So, I would say at Comcast, I learned the power of big data. I learned the power of just seeing the long game.
Understanding that a small win today adds up over time, and that also senior leadership, the buy-in of senior leadership is absolutely crucial to actually changing not only the hearts and minds of the internal company, but also moving the marketplace outside of it. [00:25:00] Those are the three biggest things I took away from Comcast advertising and really helped me, even now, as I sit in my career today.
Duane: So then you did a little bit of a boomerang. You went back to Vevo. I mean, originally you were at Vevo in the, you know, Chief Research role. And now you went back into an ad sales role. How did that happen?
Andrea: Yeah. What a thing, right? [Duane laughs] So I got a call from some friends at Vevo. And so here’s the deal. They saw a lot of their audience moving into the land of CTV.
Now this is very early days COVID, okay? And what they knew then was that while only 1 to maybe 3 percent of their revenue was being derived from CTV, about 30 to 40 percent of their audience was watching the music videos in CTV. So when I was tapped to come run the West Coast sales organization, plus local and multicultural, it was with the bent of [00:26:00] “can we actually start taking revenue into a CTV environment, but doing it first with internal education?”
So the education was Media Math 101, [laughs] and a GRP and a TRP. So I took a digital sales team and taught them the very basics of day partying, co viewership, how you think about roadblocks, and ultimately, how do you move your narrative in a marketplace from being just a traditional digital play to one where we said “we know our audience better than anyone, we understand what color viewing within our environment and we’re ultimately going to give you the best experience you possibly can”.
So digital sellers education a year later, we went from less than 5 percent of our revenue at Vevo being in a living room environment to 50 percent of our revenue.
Andrea: And that was all incremental growth. [00:27:00] It was so fun, Duane. [laughs]
Duane: What an amazing story. That’s incredible.
Andrea: Yeah. And they’re still killing it over there. I mean, they’re fast now.
They’re like the OGs of fast, I think in a lot of ways because of the way in which the music video is sort of inherent to that environment, but it was a lot of fun. And I learned from some of the best, again, how do you, how you think about seeing a white space opportunity for sales and not just to grow in a new avenue, but to use education at its core in order to one, get your sales force activated because really nothing happens unless the sales team understands it, is activated and incentivized.
They’re the ones that change the marketplace, but it’s the data and the education that foundationally allows them to have the confidence to go and have a conversation with, you know, again, their marketing partner to the client and their agency.
Duane: And then you came to Warner Brothers Discovery. How did that happen?
Andrea: Yeah, that’s a great question. So remember this was the, I’ve been at Warner Brothers Discovery for a little over a year now, and when I joined it was WarnerMedia. And I knew coming in, eyes wide open, that I could potentially not have a job, but I also understood that this is the national stage, a national spotlight with the ability to take the big data that I’ve learned, understanding the traditional research that I grew up in and I steeped still in the how many, the how often, the how long that I learned with Artie Bulgrin and Glenn Enoch and ESPN, and then ultimately think about the IP.
That is just what we do every day, our storytelling, the ability again to impact a national offering, to think about the land of streaming that we were inventing at the time for HBO Max and understanding that with Discovery, because that we’re still two separate companies, they’re a long tail of networks, right?
Truly the opportunity [00:29:00] to take big data to turn on the lights and think about an audience based approach in that environment. It just seemed like a no brainer to at least one pursue the opportunity and to say yes, the opportunity, even if it only lasts for a minute. I’m glad to say that I’m still here, but it was, this is a dream. I can’t, I couldn’t have written this situation any better.
Duane: Now, there are a couple of patterns that are quite evident in your career [laughs] that are very unique, that’s not kind of typical. The first is this appetite you have, you just gravitate to these very challenging kind of like jobs, very challenging propositions. You just seem to be so fearless, like a lot of people wouldn’t kind of dare take on those roles, they would be overwhelmed by, you know, their fear of not being able to succeed, but you’ve been able to dive in, you know, dive in the deep end, swim and thrive ultimately. [00:30:00] How, what, how do you do that?
Andrea: That’s a great question, Duane. [laughs] I joke a lot. I was born without a fear gene to some degree, but I also don’t take a damn thing for granted. I find everything to be an opportunity where the door is going to open, or even if the door isn’t open, if the door is slightly, slightly open I’m going to knock on it, right?
And I’m going to see what’s on the other side. And I do it because I want to have an impact. I want to affect change. I want to be able to say, and I say this, ‘I want’, but I feel like it’s a great privilege to learn, to transform, to roll up sleeves and get it really dirty and to figure it out.
And is it always perfect? God, no, Duane. I mean, man, have I stumbled so many times. Have I gone into rooms and been like, I have no idea what they were saying and then come back out and just like Google the crap out of every note that I took. But ultimately, it goes back to every [00:31:00] experience I’ve had being so satisfying and they built upon each other.
But at some point, I’m going to get tired. I’m not going to lie to you. [laughter] I’m going to be like, “just make your life easy!”
Duane: Well, ‘cause it is challenging. I mean, you know, that moving into new arenas all the time and having to like master a new universe. I mean, that must be exhausting work.
Andrea: It can be for sure. But you know, I guess, even as you ask me that question, Duane, I think about the fact that it’s exhausting, but it goes back to rewarding. And I love, love advertising. I love media. I love watching all the moving parts, thinking what’s possible. And ultimately, I like to tell a good story that helps derive more value for the sake of the business that I’m a part of.
And I know that sounds so corny, but it’s really about telling that story and remembering that we’re all human here. And we’re all trying to do something with that humanity, right? Whether it’s putting an ad in front of a [00:32:00] consumer and reminding them that, you know what?
Maybe they should take that vacation, right? Or maybe they should take that drive in that luxury vehicle. Or maybe they should think about X, Y, and Z. Like, that’s the end purpose of this. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a lot of fun.
Duane: You talk about story and I think that’s really one of your superpowers, right? You know, there’s always a challenge as a researcher in terms of getting to the insight, but then there’s another challenge in terms of being able to share the insight. And, you know, maybe it’s the crossover that you’ve been doing across sales and research that has given you this, but you’re very good at reading the audience and figuring out how to help the audience digest, you know, what is often a very complex or, sometimes they’re very challenging, you know, negative news is never easy to deliver. How is it that you go about this craft of story?
Andrea: So I think I start first with the premise, right? What is [00:33:00] it that we’re trying to solve for? Even if you think about the early days of going back into the land of affiliate and figuring out why does ESPNU or ESPN Deportes make sense in Portland, Indiana?
That’s the question we’re trying to answer. So if you understand why would that local market want to turn on the lights? Well, think of it from their lens, right? And then you start thinking, okay, what data can I bring to bear that actually speaks to solving some of their problems, right? Some of their challenges, some of the objections they might have to where they can get to the world of opportunity.
In doing so, now, I am a researcher, right? I have, without question, 15 to 18 points that I think are all really important in making that case. But I learned very early on that really it’s the three most salient points that they’ll remember. And if you can start off with one of them, recognizing the challenge. Number two, recognizing their need.[00:34:00]
And then the third point, potentially seeing an opportunity that we can collectively answer together. [laughs] Those tend to be the most powerful. And if you can put it into a story, even better, but I will say my ability to read a room or tell a story simply because I’ve been thrown into a lot of rooms to try to tell a lot of different stories using really dense research.
And one of the things that I think is important, and I know that because I have sort of the seller’s hat and the research hat on, the fact that I think they’re one in the same, I find it very important to never take away the rigor or the integrity of the research that has been done.
I know because I have been next to very smart researchers who think out the experimental design from soup to nuts. And I recognize that I could go in, point A to Z, but at the end of the day, if I don’t give the stakeholder the three salient points, we’re never going to actually [00:35:00] get the POC off the ground.
And that is what I learned pretty early on in my career. And I will say it’s something I’ve honed in on and has been a real asset as I’ve grown in my career.
Duane: You know, I think that sales muscle that you’ve developed over your career, where it really comes in on the research side is that oftentimes as researchers were supply oriented, you know, these are the insights. You need to know these insights.
So, you know, we’re trying to kind of, like, shove these insights down people’s throats because they’re so important. We know how important they are. We understand what we have. We know what we’ve discovered and we want to impart that. But the talent of the ad sales is really being more demand oriented and really kind of understanding what the receiver wants, what the receiver needs, and figuring out how to take from this universe of possibilities that you have, these universe of insights that you have, and impart the knowledge that, you know, really speaks to what their need is, what connects with them.
Andrea: One of the things that I learned pretty early on about [00:36:00] researchers, and again, me being one of them, I think about the fact that often, it’s not that we don’t sit on information, it’s just that, you know, we think people are in our heads, this is just human nature, right? And so I often encourage researchers, listen, “I don’t know what you know, and you don’t know what I know”.
Do not sit on information. And I’m not saying don’t just sit on information as in like tell me those three data points, I’m saying, “Give me a POV”. You know more than I will ever know. So connect it, stitch it together for me. Your responsibility is actually to tell me a POV of what the data is telling you, right?
And I think that is, if anything, I encourage all researchers to really understand their craft well, but then understand how it connects to the broader business and use the superpower of the data to help transform or move that business forward. But never sit on what you know. That’s what I always say. Do not– I will never know what you know.
Duane: So what have you learned from, you know, crisscrossing across both sides. [00:37:00] Both sales and research?
Andrea: I’ve learned that they’re inherently linked. I’ve also learned though, and I think it’s something that we probably talked about a little earlier, which is that when you’re in the land of research, you can get really precious about the data points, right?
And when you’re in the land of sales, all you want to do, 9 times out of 10, is to hit on a number, right? Yes, you absolutely want to do right by your clients. But really, we’re– you’re beholden to a revenue goal. And I think the ability to impact how we hit that revenue goal– because it’s not about the short term, it’s about the long term of our business. It’s about actually not even the long term of our business, wherever it is that you’re sitting. It’s about the marketplace as a whole.
And so what research does is it brings a little bit of weight, a little bit of foundation, something that you can carry into the future and make sure that again, we’re going in with a really smart, strong sound strategy based on the current data points you have [00:38:00] today.
And if you can integrate that into your sales strategy, you’re hyper protected for what the future will bring because you’re already ahead of the game. You already are not only reactive to the marketplace, but it goes back to what I say a lot is you’re in the business of reconditioning a marketplace, bringing the marketplace along, educating said marketplace and ultimately driving upside for both your house and obviously the advertising community.
Duane: You seem driven and compelled to constantly gravitate to new types of data and new data sets. What’s up with that?
Andrea: That’s a great question. What is up with that, Duane? I guess it goes back to like, I don’t know what I don’t know. And I’m constantly curious about how to solve, between the two, because I grew up in traditional television.
But if you think about how I grew up. I grew up initially local television. Broadcast station television, right? Like that is really the [00:39:00] foundation. And then I went to the national stage at ESPN. And then I went to, oh, that’s right, streaming, before streaming was a thing. And every one of those components have taught me that it’s still always about the foundation, that local experience that I received about a program ranker and an overnight and a one sheet is actually still relevant today.
It’s just a matter of the actual technology, the advances we’ve made with data, the attribution models to prove out the efficacy of that original one sheet overnight, and you know, [laughs] a story it’s gotten more sophisticated and I’ve been really lucky to be able to be a part of learning as the marketplace has grown over time.
And while I think five or eight years ago, I would have been really frustrated with the fact that we’re not moving fast enough, I’m not a legend in the sense that I’m still in the middle of this whole thing, still learning, but it’s [00:40:00] so satisfying now and I can see it for what it is, which is the progress that has been made in the last 20, 20 plus years, not only in advertising, but media and ultimately research that helps inform that strategy. And I think the duality of all of that, right? I mean, I can have a conversation right now about multi currency, right?
This is a big deal in the marketplace right now. Multi currency, we’re moving away from the land of just only Nielsen into potentially one, two, three different options with Comscore, VideoMap, and iSpot. Because of the time I had at Comcast Advertising, where I sat front and center with set top box data, with audience segments and advanced advertising, with ad exposure data.
That prepared me to have the conversations now. Now, I’m not a data scientist, right? I’m not going to be the person who’s like, so exactly how are you documenting X, Y, and Z, but I know enough about the fundamentals to be able to inform not only the partnerships that we’re going to have with [00:41:00] the future of multi currency, but ultimately how to win the hearts and minds of my own internal executive leadership team so that way we’re prepared.
These are the kinds of things– and then don’t get me started with streaming, right? Because that’s the future future. [laughs] And I’m like, I remember we were doing a … factor in 2010, 2011 at Hulu. This is not a new thing. It’s just new to more people now, more businesses now.
And ultimately, it’s the same fundamentalist television since the beginning of time. TV on a TV set is watched by multiple people. Okay? [laughs] I mean, just kind of how it works, okay? So figuring out the factor of that is a little more nuanced now, but the concept is still the same.
Duane: You know, you raise a great point. We are often frustrated, like we’re looking at what we’re trying to achieve and it is frustrating. I mean, it’s hard, it’s challenging, but actually if you look in the rear view mirror and you see how far we’ve come, it is amazing. I mean, really, if you think about how much more complex our jobs, how much more challenging our jobs have [00:42:00] become to what they were before.
We didn’t think of them as simple in the past. We thought they were hard back then, but really when you look in the rear view mirror, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come.
Andrea: Absolutely. I think we have so much to be proud of. And the fact that we’re still in the middle of it and don’t know so much means that, you know, it’s only going to get that much more interesting.
Duane: Now, Andrea, on a more personal level, you have, throughout your career, been in many roles where you were either the only woman at the table or one of a very, very, very small handful of women at the table. What’s that experience been like for you?
Andrea: That’s a great question, Duane. I appreciate you bringing it up.
I will say that early in my career, there were… It was much more sort of balanced. And I think as I’ve grown throughout my career, especially after the VP title, I, yes, I was indeed one of, maybe one or one of few.[00:43:00]
Know me at all. I’m transparent. It’s all get out. But I’m also hyper aware of sort of what’s going on in that room and what needs to happen in order for us to get to a consensus or collaborative sort of end goal. And I think that for me, it’s been about not just bringing empathy into the room, but also still wearing a red lipstick because I really like a red lipstick.
That goes back to being authentic to who I am. [Duane chuckles] And then also for other women to come to that table. That is ultimately the goal is to make sure that I’m not the only female at that table or one of few. But how are we making sure that this just becomes part of our normal everyday thing? When I was at Comcast, it’s a huge company.
Spotlight was ginormous. And I would go to these local markets. And I remember I would get these notes from women [00:44:00] all throughout the, they call it the field, right? All of the sort of the local markets that we’re in. And it was humbling to just hear that, “oh, You showed up, you still look like you, you clearly knew your stuff, and you were warm and you were kind”m.
And it’s not that men don’t do this either, it’s just that they were so used to seeing men in these roles, that to see someone like me, I think, woke me up to the fact that this is a real responsibility, and I have to affect change wherever I can.
Duane: Wow, that’s so inspiring, Andrea. Alright, final question. This is a question we ask of all of our Legends. If you were giving advice to the new generation of researchers that are coming up, what would your advice be?
Andrea: Be open, be curious. Don’t be scared at the leadership table, sort of setting strategy. And what I’ve learned over time is that being true to who I am, keeping my authenticity, still being a bit vulnerable, [00:45:00] but I’ve talked to enough people to realize that the doubt is often created in your own head.
And this is such a fun game, such a fun field to be a part of. Most people don’t go to the School of Research, right? Most people don’t actually, when I say School of Research, not under Artie Bulgrin and Glenn Enoch, but no one really goes to School for Media Research. [laughs] And so if you fall into it in some way, shape, or form, find yourself to be very privileged. It’s a special field to be in to take full advantage of it.
Duane: Wow. That was fantastic. Such an inspiring story. Such an inspiring career, Andrea. Thank you once again for joining us on Legends of Media Research today.
Andrea: Oh, Duane, it’s an absolute pleasure. I appreciate you so much, everything you’ve done for the field. And thank you.
Duane: And of course, I want to thank you, our audience, for joining us today.
Don’t forget to subscribe or follow this podcast series. So you won’t miss a single episode and don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues about it. And if you’d like to learn more about [00:46:00] MediaScience, stick around after the podcast to hear more. Otherwise, I’m MediaScience CEO Dr. Duane Varan, thanking you for joining us today. I look forward to joining you again next time on Legends of Media Research.
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