Tribeca Enterprises CEO Andrew Essex: Brands want more than ‘passive sponsorship’

The Tribeca Film Festival began as a nonprofit to bring people back downtown in the aftermath of 9/11. After evolving into a business as Tribeca Enterprises, the Tribeca Film Festival faced a challenge: Marketers wanted more than “passive sponsorship,” as CEO Andrew Essex put it.

“Brands started to question the ROI of sponsorship,” he said on the Digiday Podcast. “The question was how to solve for that. We had to productize more effectively. A live event offers access, experience and content. We have access to the world’s best storytellers and create incredible experiences brands can be part of, and then we make content for brands and we have a place to showcase that.”

Below are highlights from the episode, lightly edited for clarity.

The ad canvas is disappearing
“Most people who are watching TV are watching it without ads. There’s one canvas removed. Then, with ad blocking, one in 10 — or four in 10 Europeans — are downloading ad-blocking software. There’s another canvas removed. My thesis is the canvas is being taken from the ad creator. That creates new opportunity for the spend.”

Forced ad viewing is ‘exploitive’
“Any model where you are forced to do something to experience something is exploitive. And there are consequences. The consequences are more and behavioral. When you say you must watch this to watch something, people react viscerally.”

Much of digital advertising is the new junk mail
“With all our vaunted data, with all our algorithmic sophistication, junk mail is still junk mail. Marketers have had my home address, and they clog my mailbox. When you are followed around by a banner ad for flip-flops you bought a month ago, you might feel resentment or rage. What I want to see is measurement for irritation.”

Worlds are colliding
“Those who don’t have audiences are trying to generate audiences. Those who have audiences are trying to generate agencies. There are a lot of media people who don’t understand agencies and a lot of agencies who don’t understand media. If you have audience, it’s probably easier to snap on agency services. You can’t just snap your fingers and attract audiences. If you’re used to paying people to watch something versus earn it, you have a different muscle mass.”

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