But they also present a tremendous challenge – namely being able to distribute and measure that content cross-platform.
As the TV upfront season approaches, Viacom sales chief Jeff Lucas said overcoming this challenge will be a priority. Viacom is working with social media marketing company Mass Relevance (which just merged with Spredfast) to launch a product during upfront season called EchoGraph for advertisers to measure the online influence of campaigns across platforms like Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Vine.
“Marketers want a combination of measurement and distribution. Impressions are great, but they want engagement and measurement,” Lucas said. “Echo, (Twitter) Amplify and Tumblr will all be a big part of the upfront packages. We approach every upfront deal with, ‘How do we provide the opportunity for clients to engage with us across all screens and get deep with this content?’”
EchoGraph essentially extends branded content division Viacom Velocity’s client-service offering Viacom Echo. According to Lucas, reach and impressions are important, but marketers are asking about engagement – a metric more commonly associated with native ad formats.
Tying content into social platforms isn’t a new concept for Viacom. The media conglomerate’s various properties, which include Comedy Central and MTV, have already partnered with Twitter and Tumblr.
“We’ve had a lot of success with Twitter Amplify (for the MTV Video Music Awards) and it kind of made us hungrier for more,” Lucas said. “We worked with Revlon, T-Mobile, and had about eight campaigns running that were really strong and we’re considering expanding.”
The "live" campaigns Lucas speaks of aired during the summer MTV Music Video Awards in conjunction with Twitter Amplify and resulted in more than 100,000 reposts "because people were really in to it," Lucas said. "There were performances they saw, liked, reflagged … and it sort of moves on its own and becomes its own product. It was great to offer advertisers and agencies to go along for the ride. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do with our social footprint with Tumblr."
More recently, Viacom concluded its first series of co-branded campaigns with Yahoo’s Tumblr, which kicked off during the 2014 MTV Movie Awards on April 13, marking Tumblr’s first programmer ad partnership. These ad packages manifested as interactive posts, animated GIFs and images that MTV posted throughout the awards show.
Some industry insiders, such as Tim Dunn, digital agency Isobar’s director of strategy and mobile, have wondered if Tumblr’s new sponsored posts have the inherent ability to scale. Jeff Bercovici of Forbes wrote that Tumblr’s recent "traffic flattening corresponds with a period of torrid growth for viral content sites, particularly BuzzFeed and Upworthy.”
According to Viacom’s Lucas, one of the challenges for sites or other social platforms, is their ability to access a continual stream of original, network-grade content. Viacom, he added, spends $3.5 billion a year on content. More importantly, he said, is creating content that can be broken into digestible formats that are shareable.
Static content does not resonate with the millennial populace, he said.
He referenced Comedy Central’s original series "Workaholics," an example of programming “(consumers) want to interact with, share, play with and then pass it on. … We make it turnkey, in one place, under one roof, so clients can … access that content and extend it out on Tumblr, Twitter and through other partners we’re inviting in, and then measure the impact."
“I’ve worked in networks and cable for a very long time and one thing that differentiates us is our audience," he added. Our audience is young and they are early adopters of every kind of technology out there. … It's not about recirculating old content. It's bringing fresh content to Tumblr's base with the ability to specifically target that content. (Tumblr) has only sold ads for about a year, so this is new for them."
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