A Q&A with Netflix’s Jeremi Gorman on her New Year’s resolutions for 2023
2022 was a big year for Jeremi Gorman. The former Amazon executive stepped down as Snap’s chief business officer to become Netflix’s president of worldwide advertising roughly two months before the streaming service introduced its ad-supported tier. But for as big as this past year was for Gorman, 2023 portends to even bigger — and busier — as Netflix works to build up its advertising business.
In fact, Gorman’s life is already getting busier. In late November, she was preparing to head out on what she deemed “the world’s longest road trip” that will take her from California to New York to London to Paris “and then it’s Christmas,” she said. Before taking to the skies, Gorman shared with Digiday her New Year’s resolutions for Netflix’s advertising business, the TV ad industry overall and for herself.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is one of your resolutions for 2023?
My business resolution is to really lay the groundwork for an ad experience that is unique and different and exciting and engaging for both marketers and our members. I think we have a real opportunity to start something new while building on the foundations of a lot of great businesses that have come before us.
But when I think about what Netflix can be in the future, particularly with our engaging content and huge moments, I think about things like the Super Bowl, where people tune into commercials on purpose because of the high quality [advertising] that goes along with the high quality content, and really lay the foundations for something exciting and different that Netflix might be able to do in the same vein, where members are eager to see the ads because they’re relevant and engaging and, again, treated with the same high quality that our content is.
What do you plan to do to fulfill that resolution?
It’s a crawl-walk-run approach, as we’re calling it — as everybody says, I suppose. But really, what we launched with at the outset was essentially six months after we announced that we were doing an ad-supported launch at all. So what we launched with at the outset with 15s and 30s isn’t representative of our long-term ambitions necessarily. But getting those basics right is really important. So focusing on a lot of the year on ensuring that we can get those basics right, that we can deliver value and incremental audiences and earning our right to build more and more creative things as time goes on. And so I think that’s the important part.
In order to do that, we’ll want to continue to double-down on our partnership with Microsoft. They’ve been remarkable, getting it from nothing to where it is today, in six months launched in 12 countries. And then hiring a world-class team not only of sales talent but also product talent, as well as our partners in things like communications and marketing. And then, of course, client-facing experience team members to ensure we’re giving the best service that we can while we take their feedback and listen. That will be really important, especially in the early days, to host things like client councils and have one-on-one meetings and to do road trips like the one I’m about to embark upon, to really hear from the advertising community what it is that they want. Balancing that against the member experience and working with the teams here that has executed on member experience so well for the last 25 years.
With New Year’s resolutions, there are always obstacles to staying committed to those resolutions. If the resolution’s to lose weight, then there’s ice cream in the freezer–
I’m kind of a Dorito’s gal when it comes to that problem, but I hear you.
And so what do you see as the biggest obstacles or challenges you’ll need to address to fulfill this resolution and remain committed to it?
I think the biggest obstacles will actually be a temptation to rush into that perfect experience without laying that foundation first. I think it’s really important that we remain committed to getting things right, like measurement, delivery, all of those basics. Making sure we have the reporting necessary for advertisers. Making sure that the member experience is good, that we have the right balance of advertising to content, that it’s relevant not only to the content but to the members themselves.
And there will be a temptation, particularly because we are 25 years old and as a large as we are, to rush to the end-states, which I think can lead to mistakes across the board. And just to really maintain that focus and patience, despite getting a lot fo excitement and pressure from the external world to do something totally crazy and different right at the outset.
Do you have any work-related resolutions that are more industry-wide as opposed to Netflix-specific?
Yeah, I do. I think it’s really important that, in the TV space in general and connected TV in particular, that we all together continue to iterate on the experiences around things like frequency, cross-platform measurement, making sure the same person is not seeing that same ad over and over and over again, which surveys will tell us is particularly annoying and will turn people off from the entire industry.
And then I think even zooming out a little bit from there, in macro-economic times like the ones we’re facing right now, I think there’s a real temptation to deviate from what an overall playbook was when the macro-economy was better. And for the entire marketing industry, it’s times like this where marketing budgets tend to get cut or those deviations from the plan revert to flight to safety. And I think we were in this period for so long of innovation and excitement in the whole industry, with new formats [and] new platforms, I hope that everyone remains resolute in continuing to innovate through even the hard times and — every company included here — not just rip up the whole playbook because things are different than they were a year ago at this time, but to truly iterate step by step by step into making sure that people make it through this time but also continue to innovate on the customer experience broadly.
Do you have any non-work-related resolutions for the new year that you’d like to share?
I would like my next-door neighbor to finish construction so that I can get out of this room, which is the only quiet place. But yeah, I do. I think that, like many people, that COVID period was a period of self-reflection, not only of what life can be like when you worry about people that you love, like my parents who are getting older, and making sure they remain a priority, even thought life is getting back to busy.
And then similarly for myself, I used to be on the road 200 days a year — probably will get back to that, most realistically — but I was able to pull a lot of things into the period that I wanted to do before. I’ve been putting off a shoulder surgery for 10 years, for instance, and was able to get that done and do the physical therapy and cook for myself and work out every day and the kinds of things that are challenging to do when you have a crazy busy life. And my resolution for myself is to remember all of those things that make the right people priorities and the right activities priorities and don’t forget to take care of myself every once in a while and maybe take a nap on Saturdays.
A nap on Saturdays alone is a great resolution.
Maybe take a nap on Saturdays. I’ll add it to the “hope so” pile.
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