Allen Debevoise – My View of the Future

Allen Debevoise, Chairman & CEO, Machinima

“You know, advertising in 2020 should look a lot more like original content, or more of an original experience that connects the idea of a brand or a transaction with what a customer cares about. We always talk a lot about the idea of content being better marketing than traditional advertising. As an example, when the Walking Dead did the season two premier, they understood that and they created these webisodes to really tune in for season two as opposed to just traditional “here’s a trailer that you could see on ESPN and everywhere else.” I think it gets to this notion of thinking about–what’s the content? What am I trying to do from a brand perspective? How am I trying to associate that with an audience that might be interested? I give some value to the audience whether it’s content itself where there’s an experience or something that I can do that delivers some value.

I think one of the things that we need to do now is really understand, from the brand’s perspective, what it is that I’m trying to do. Am I trying to create brand clearly? Am I trying to create a transaction? And how do I think about using content in a way to position that properly or using an experience in a way to engage the audience in a way that’s valuable? I think the other side of it is the segmentation of the audience.

One of the great opportunities in the online world is the ability to think about the audience in a different way. I’m using an old example of Titanic the movie. If you were marketing that to our audience you would show the action and the ship breaking up.  If you were promoting it to an audience of young women you might use the romance angle. You could even take that further in our audience where we have gamers. You have Call of Duty multiplayer guys who are real maniacs about playing the game. You don’t need to give them a trailer about the general game. You would want to show them something very specific about that particular game. Then move out there as you think about the audience that might not be engaged. Maybe they buy three video games a year or maybe they have never bought a video game and I’m trying to convince them this is the first time they should buy a video game. That’s a very different value proposition than into an audience of “Hey we love this game! If the next version’s any good we’re going to buy it in droves.” We really want you to preorder the game right now so using that same ad over there may or may not be as effective.

I think there are two sides of this, thinking about what’s the right content and experience that you can deliver and then, what is the segment.  In the online world you can target that segment and can understand how effective it was a lot better than you can in other media.

Another thing to really think about, in the future and the in present, is innovation. If we look at how fast everything has moved – Facebook, Google, Apple, the smartphone, the tablets – everything is moving so much faster than it ever did before. Things are churning.  Apple has two versions of it coming out every year and before you know it, one thing is already obsolete.

One of the things you need to think about is the idea of having a Chief Futurist or a Chief Innovation Officer. I need to constantly be looking at what’s happening out there. This is no longer a comfort zone where I can behave a certain way for 20 years and it won’t change. Just before you know it there’s a this and there’s a that and they’re all over the place.

So part of really embracing the future is putting some of your resources on the cutting edge because the cutting edge becomes mainstream so fast. You might look back and realize that you really are missing this whole opportunity. You missed the social wave and now you’re trying to get into Facebook once they’re at a billion people or you missed the online video wave that’s going on at YouTube.

I think that advertisers are in an incredible position because most of those businesses need advertising. Facebook and Google are examples of businesses that are driven by advertising, so you’re in a pretty good position to do that, but also if you work with those companies early on you’re going to get a sense of where they’re going. You would have gotten the feeling for social media early on through Facebook or Instagram or for what was happening in music or what was happening in gaming and, quite frankly, in all sorts of content areas. You would’ve seen it earlier if you had actually put a certain percentage of resources on saying, “Hey you got to put a certain amount of those dollars, ad dollars, against these categories and it can’t be companies that are worth a billion dollars. It’s got to be these new start ups, these new ideas that are being expressed out there so that we can understand what is happening and our brands can play in that field early on and be early adopters and early movers,” as opposed to way down the line when certainly you’ve missed some opportunities.