Building on pillars of excellence

Successful advertising is seldom simple, but the narrative adopted by Verizon Media to capitalise on the future of the industry certainly is. It’s a narrative aided by a shift and rebrand of the media company

Global telecommunications group Verizon now has three pillars: its consumer mobile and wireless business; an enterprise business; and Verizon Media, previously known as Oath.
Yahoo and AOL, the two powerhouse internet companies that between them helped define the internet, merged under Verizon back in 2017.

Much has changed since then, however. In a highly regulated world, trust and transparency have never been more important. And with the imminent rollout of 5G, consumers will soon realise truly immersive content experiences wherever they are.

That’s the crux of the new strategy for Verizon Media UK managing director Anna Watkins. “We’re focused on two core pillars, innovation and trust, with one clear goal of creating better business outcomes for our customers,” she says.

“We’ve made great strides with GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] and best practices when it comes to data, as well as investing in our premium editorial brands to ensure both consumers and advertisers are in a safe, authentic and quality environment.”

And building on innovation, Watkins explained that Verizon Media’s product offering is broken down into three core elements: content, tech and data. Content with premium, editorial brands “like HuffPost, Yahoo, partnerships with Microsoft and Xbox, as well as our branded content studio RYOT that produces video and editorial partnerships, as well as AR, VR and mixed reality experiences.

Data “through our audience insights from strong first-party data. We have the ability to combine the most diverse data-sets to serve consumers the most relevant and engaging content as well as deliver seamless brand experiences.”

And finally technology, “with our unified ad platforms that use machine-learning algorithms and new, premium quality ad formats to deliver better, targeted experiences that drive performance”.

One of the key innovations the company has recently launched is its unified ad platform, which gives advertisers and agencies direct access to all its inventory, as well as premium third-party publishers.

We’re focused on two core issues, innovation and trust, with one clear goal of creating better business outcomes for our customers

“Think quality video; native, display and mobile inventory; and premium, interactive formats through one simple platform,” says Ms Watkins.

A great example of how advertisers can leverage the Verizon Media ecosystem from data to innovative, branded content is its partnership with Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, part of the Intercontinental Hotels Group.

“In partnership with the agencies and the client, we commissioned extensive research to identify key consumer insights around business travel. This informed our campaign idea of Downtime and the way in which it was brought to life through a ‘mockumentary’ video series,” Ms Watkins explains. “The series was hosted on HuffPost with a wealth of practical, informative and entertaining editorial around it. Made-for-mobile and social video edits were then distributed across our ecosystem.

“The videos have been watched 37 million times and the client saw a significant increase of 6.5% in brand awareness, their main KPI, across their target audiences as a result of seeing the campaign.”

In addition to being a trailblazer in terms of original and innovative content and advanced ad tech solutions, the culture and values of the company form an integral part of Verizon Media, how it operates and what it strives for. Diversity and inclusion are key to this.

“If you look at the 2018 McKinsey diversity study, it’s been proven that companies with a diverse executive team are 33 per cent more likely to outperform on profitability,” says Ms Watkins. “As much as it is a moral imperative, it’s also a tangible business strategy to be more diverse, and here in the UK Verizon Media has a number of initiatives to better promote the necessity of diversity and inclusion.”

This begins with its own workforce where a culture of personal empowerment has been fostered via employee resource groups. Five voluntary groups ensure that inclusion is an ethos driven from the inside out, addressing gender equality, LGBTQ rights, parents and carers, neurodiversity and BAME.

“Diversity and inclusion also comes through the content we produce,” Ms Watkins adds. “At Advertising Week Europe, we will launch a new original video series on Yahoo Finance called ‘Change Agents with Lianna Brinded’ to celebrate female business leaders, delving into all the ways women shape the world we do business in, all filmed in our brand new studio in London.”

In addition, Verizon Media partnered with the Black is the New Black exhibition by Simon Frederick at the National Portrait Gallery in late-2018, celebrating the UK’s first exhibition of iconic Afro-Caribbean Britons. Verizon Media sponsored the exhibition, as well as creating an augmented reality app to enable people to watch interviews with portrait sitters by hovering their phones over the photographs. It was a first for the National Portrait Gallery.

This brings Verizon Media back full circle to its objectives to champion the next era of content, data and tech with a core focus on trust and innovation.

“Looking at the issues with GDPR, fake news, declining consumer confidence and harmful online content, it’s more important than ever that everything we do is underpinned by trust. And that’s a fundamental philosophy of our business,” says Ms Watkins. “Innovation is our driving force, with the launch of our new TV-quality production studios, our new unified ad platform and the lead we are taking in 5G.”

She is quick to remind that 5G is just around the corner and, unsurprisingly, it’s an area where Verizon Media is already ahead of the curve in harnessing its potential.

Ms Watkins concludes: “In the UK, there will be 5G nodes in six cities by the middle of 2019 and 18 by the end of the year. We’re already helping our clients future-proof their businesses and adapt to the seismic shifts 5G will bring in terms of content experiences, advertising, production and distribution with the launch of our new 5G studio in Los Angeles.

“By maintaining a continuous drive for innovation in all that we do and remaining a beacon of trust in a complex and shifting world, with the ultimate aim of driving better business outcomes for our advertisers, we believe we are setting ourselves, and our consumers and advertisers,up for success.”

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