GE Considers Native Ad Success Online And Off

Alexa ChristonComing from the agency world three years ago, Alexa Christon brought creative rather than media experience to her evolving role at GE, where she is now head of media innovation.

And, with responsibility for GE’s US media today and an eye toward what her mega-corporation can produce globally, she’s helping to push the envelope of more standard media fare both online and off.

“GE has always positioned around the innovation idea that comes from the many businesses that GE has. It’s exciting they think about media in that way,” she said.

Paid media partnerships, such as her company’s NBC partnership, are one area for media exploration. When considering recent, successful “native advertising” campaigns, Christon nodded toward the power of integrating with television.

“Right now, in some cases, native advertising is new and in others it’s not,” she said. “For us, rather than looking at an [advertising] category and saying it’s native advertising, we’re looking at smart ways of connecting to various audiences and doing it in meaningful ways.”

At GE, success in “native” – or whatever you want to call it – depends on the program, audience and goals, which all may be different from campaign to campaign. As one might expect, Christon’s team looks at shares, reblogs and retweets for the social media side of GE’s programs. Where video is involved, success metrics such as video shares, video views and completions come in to play. Christon added, “Then overall, was this resonant? Are people talking about it amongst the target audiences and constituencies  whether that’s internal or external  in positive ways?”

With programmatic solutions still nascent within GE media strategy, Christon added that native programmatic solutions such as TripleLift’s hold promise, but that promise isn’t related exclusively to achieving scale – rather, delivering the right content in the right place to the right audience. Back in the traditional media world, this “authenticity” played out on television recently, where a promotion highlighting a GE research center engineer on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show reaped native rewards.

“From a success metric standpoint, we had over 300 million impressions earned on the last segment  which is huge. Bloomberg News picked up our engineer from the GE Research Center and asked him to do an interview,” Christon said. “We look at whether we are acquiring more followers. Is that audience growing? And, is that audience excited about what we’re talking about? There are also ‘hard’ ways of measuring such as video views, time spent watching the video, video completion and so on.”

Being at the head of a campaign with so many custom parts extending from TV, Christon pondered whether any of it could be automated someday.

“If any brand gets deep on segmentation, there could be an opportunity for automation,” she said. “But when it comes to executing a program such as the one with Jimmy Fallon, it needs to be thoughtful and ‘high-touch.’ You have to find that intersection of where the show’s brand and our brand, in this case, can intersect. A content exchange.”

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