In conversation with Lee Hunt

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Lee Hunt is a strategist, trainer and industry thought leader. His success in launching and positioning channel brands, in addition to his pioneering work in audience management, has set many of the standards for our industry.

At the 2018 PromaxBDA Africa conference, held at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, Hunt presented two sessions. In his first session, titled ‘New Best Practices 2018’, Hunt presented an updated version of his annual round-up of strategies, tactics and creative shorts – from portfolio promos to reverse episodics, to six-second promos in 30-second breaks.

In his second session, ‘Cross Platform Messaging’, Hunt presented the findings of his two-year study into how linear networks are moving viewers to new platforms – MVPD VOD (on demand via set top box), TVE (authenticated viewing on mobile, tablet, PC), connected devices and OTT.

He chatted to Screen Africa about industry trends, challenges and the importance of audience management.

What is your background and how has it shaped you as a thought leader in the industry?

I began my career 40 years ago working at a local television station in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. In the early 80s, I moved to New York at the beginning of the cable revolution to launch new channels. In 1990, I left the client side and started a creative services agency that specialised in branding networks. In 2000, I sold my agency to the digital services company, Razorfish, worked in Europe on digital entertainment, then came back to New York to begin my strategic consultancy.

Working as a client, vendor and consultant for broadcast, cable and digital services throughout the seismic shifts in our industry has given me a unique perspective. But more importantly, for the last 40 years I’ve listened to people who are a lot smarter than me and tried to integrate their wisdom into my thinking.

What are the current trends shaping the marketing & advertising industry in 2018?

For the television industry, it’s trying to understand not only what our viewers want to watch, but where and how they want to watch. That dynamic changes continually, as new services and platforms launch, and the amount of compelling content continues to grow.

Although, if you think about it, the goal really hasn’t changed. We are still trying to increase time spent viewing: sample new content, watch for longer periods of time, and come back more often. But the paths to reaching that goal are changing and evolving.

In relation to Africa, what in your opinion is the biggest challenge(s) facing the marketing & advertising industry?

In many ways, I believe the African market has the opportunity to leap-frog the U.S. and European markets. The outdated distribution infrastructure that we invested in isn’t a burden in Africa, and the opportunity to reach people through new technologies is greater. But the challenge is still the same:  how do you create awareness, drive acquisition, then foster conversion and retention?

What can African media practitioners do to combat these challenges?

It always comes back to the audience. You have to understand who they are, where to reach them, what drives their interest, what is of value to them and how you can satisfy them.

Youve conducted ample research into audience management & development. In Africa in particular, audience management is crucial with regards to the success of local content, yet many within our industry still dont understand the concept. In your own words, what does audience management mean?

I tend to think of audience management in narrow terms: once your marketing has got viewers to your platform, how do you keep them there for longer periods of time and coming back more often?

In either a linear or on-demand experience, it comes down to “accelerated flow”- creating psychological time that is measured by how deeply involved you are in the content, rather than by the second-by-second passing of time. The goal is to make your audience believe that time is passing more quickly than it really is and reduce the urge to sample competitive content or leave the platform.

We do that through both linear and on-demand architecture; combining all the elements that go into a viewing experience – programming, promotion, packaging, advertising and secondary events – into a holistic viewer experience that slows erosion, maximises messaging ratings, reduces internal time-shifting, builds vertical flow and strengthens viewer loyalty.

Why is audience management so important to the industry?

Simple economics. On an ad-supported platform, if I can get a viewer who has come to watch a one-hour show on my channel to stay for three hours, I’ve tripled my ratings and revenue. If I can get them to make my channel or platform a habit, I’ve eliminated my acquisition costs.

With digital platforms fast becoming the favoured way to consume content of all kinds, where does that leave traditional platforms in the marketing mix?

Some people believe that free-to-air and linear channels will become barker channels, simply pushing people to their digital platforms. But I believe the future is a hybrid, very much like the sound system in your car. You have a radio, where someone curates the content for you, but you also have the ability to integrate your own on-demand experience, whether a digital player or music streaming service, where you curate your own experience. You move seamlessly between the two depending on the experience you want. I believe our content distribution brands need to direct our viewers to the right platform for the right experience. I hate the term, but we need to market “omni-experiences” through cross-platform messaging.

You present an annual New Best Practices session at PromaxBDA. What value do you think the PromaxBDA conference and similar events hold for the development of the industry?

 

This industry changes so quickly and the transformations are so disruptive, that we need a place where we can exchange ideas, brainstorm new solutions and share our experiences with our peers. I know I take in more information at the conferences than I give out during my presentations!

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