NBCUniversal’s Alison Tarrant: ‘The value proposition model has changed’

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Two years ago, NBCUniversal restructured its sales team. Alison Tarrant, evp of client partnerships at NBCUniversal, said the change affected the cross-divisional business approach for client partnerships.

“We’re breaking down the silos across many aspects of our business to be able to serve solutions and things like theme parks, more broadly outside of our media properties,” said Tarrant on this week’s Digiday Podcast. “The leadership believes it is the key differentiator.”

Edited highlights appear below:

On competing with digital companies with data and audience insights
“We have been aggressive in building out strategic partnerships with many other companies like BuzzFeed, Snapchat, Vox, Apple News and many more. We deliver unprecedented scale on high-content engagement environments, but we also deliver great targetability. We’re building on targetability through data products and audience studio assets. Some of the big digital companies were very effective in using data and insights to engage clients, and seeing the effects of how these businesses were growing with that direct client contact, we thought, we have as much data and insights around our consumers. It was about organizing those tools and data to say we’re every bit as valuable a partner in shaping your consumer engagement plans.”

A category approach to the company’s portfolio
“Clients who really want to partner with us for the vast resources we have — insights, data, distribution and marketing — and look for innovative models to work together, that’s where we lean in, and we work with those clients in a different way. It started off with taking a category approach. We were very much organized by agencies because of the enormous power and function that the agency and holding companies had in negotiating the majority of the revenue that comes to us through our business. We started honing to a brand perspective and looking at how different brands fit with any given category. And how do we identify white space and opportunity for where we can solve business problems? Like with Chrysler Pacifica, we look at who the client needs to reach from an audience segment standpoint; we can look across from our portfolio and find the right program environment, platform and talent to engage the audience.”

On Symphony’s success
“It was an initiative by [NBCUniversal CEO] Steve Burke. It really became the culture that we were driven by across divisions. We’ve seen long-term results by working collaboratively. It happened quickly with some of our Illumination titles like ‘Despicable Me’ or the Olympic Games or a show like ‘This Is Us.’ We put the power of Symphony behind our greatest events and see the results. It helps us significantly in ad sales as well. We’re now organized to work effectively across divisions.”

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The proposition model has changed
“The value proposition model has changed. When we put together what a deal looks like, we’re looking at it beyond how much money they’re going to spend in media. We’re looking at the full value of working together in a different way. Maybe it’s exchanging value marketing assets, looking at production budgets differently around content or sourcing new parts of marketing budget from a client’s perspective.”

The upfront continues to grow
“We were thrilled with the results of upfront. We have seen results year over year. In this year’s upfront, we reported revenue of over $6 billion across multiple platforms, which exceeded our expectations. When you look at what that revenue means and where that revenue’s coming from, we’re seeing great growth in our digital platforms, leveraging our audience studios and data products, and there’s growth in our strategic partnerships. Just in our department, those accounts alone accounted for 26 percent growth in the upfront.”

Client partnerships don’t eliminate agencies
“When you hear the name ‘client partnerships,’ the initial impressions might be that we’re going directly to our clients, but our No. 1 focus is solving the business challenges and needs of our clients, which is absolutely inclusive of bringing their agency partners and key decision-makers into the conversation. We are delivering value to agency business as well as directly, the clients. We won’t be successful with the clients unless we are inclusive of the media planning team, the media buying team, the account strategy team and the creative agency. It’s not one or the other.”

Brand building is important
“How do you hit your Wall Street numbers and still build a brand and manage long-term growth? There are so many factors to consider that it can be a challenge for clients to remember the importance of building brands. A content company like NBCUniversal [provides] a brand the opportunities to stand out, not through one platform but through all touch points in the ecosystem of a consumer.”

Going beyond the big NBC property
“We have the ability to thread an approach to engaging consumers on multiple platforms. The clients are excited about that. They don’t have to choose between the innovation and creativity they see in some of these emerging platforms versus the scale and reliability of a big property that we deliver through our linear assets.”

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