Viacom Snags Agency Vet Zilberbrand To Ramp Up Advanced Data Strategy

viacom zilberbrandLongtime agency exec Julian Zilberbrand will join Viacom as EVP of Audience Science, the company revealed Friday.

His transition comes at a time when Viacom is renewing its emphasis on data to address the slumps in linear TV ad sales and plummeting ratings.

Zilberbrand will lead Audience Science, a Viacom unit that manages audience onboarding and segmentation, advanced analytics and data activation. His hire follows a flurry of similar appointments at the company of late.

“Audience Science feeds Viacom Vantage, which is our ad sales and market-facing team, but will also provide advanced functionality to our marketing groups to drive the way we buy,” said Kern Schireson, EVP of data strategy and consumer intelligence for Viacom.

Viacom is a big advertiser in addition to a publisher and platform, Schireson said, so the Audience Science division “is really at the heart of how we look at audiences and draw data as both a buyer and seller of media.”

Zilberbrand cut his teeth in the agency world, most recently as EVP of activation and insights for prominent Publicis Groupe agency ZenithOptimedia. He also worked at Starcom Mediavest prior.

ZenithOptimedia was instrumental in cutting Publicis’ upfront commitment for Verizon’s new millennial-focused mobile video service, Go90.

“Knowing where the market was headed from the advertiser’s perspective and the need to manage data and drive better usage of data not only for digital but eventually linear [TV] made all of Viacom’s assets more exciting,” Zilberbrand said. 

For instance, about 10 large advertisers use Viacom Vantage’s audience activation component to match first- and third-party data sets with Viacom’s programming and viewership data.

The ability to develop custom audience segments is important for networks that want to prove the value of their media to advertisers. They’ve done so through deeper audience analysis and by augmenting alternative forms of measurement.

One focus of Zilberbrand’s within the Audience Science division will be driving greater effectiveness in measurement. He predicts the competitive shift in the measurement landscape with comScore and Rentrak’s announced merger this week will facilitate more innovation.

Externally, Viacom has been a vocal critic of traditional ratings (read: Nielsen), as has NBCUniversal, which recently migrated CNBC’s measurement of choice to the more boutique competitor Cogent Reports.

That said, “We have been encouraged by some of the actions Nielsen’s taken recently [toward Total Audience measurement capabilities],” Schireson said. “They seem to be responding to demand from Viacom and others.”

He noted that Viacom is a joint comScore and Rentrak customer, so he said he was especially encouraged by the merger.

“The more we can do to accelerate more comprehensive, accurate measurement, the better off we all are – publishers, advertisers and agencies,” he said. “We’re excited to see what those two can do together to advance cross-platform measurement.”

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