A visitor plays a virtual reality (VR) game in front of a green screen during the second annual Consumer Virtual Reality Expo at Vancouver Convention Center in Vancouver, Canada, May, 6, 2017. (Xinhua/Liang Sen)
By Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- "With good data, everyone can know their audience," said Steven Wolfe Pereira, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Quantcast.
"AR/VR helps build tools for the future," Google's Spotlight Stories Executive Producer, Karen Dufilho, told Xinhua, in the same meeting room.
While Suzy Deering, CMO of eBay, retorted, "and the future is tomorrow."
At the industry summit hosted by Variety in Los Angeles Thursday, industry leaders shared a comprehensive and exciting vision of how AI marketing analytics and AR/VR technologies are impacting on the entertainment industry.
"The industry has changed more in the last 18 months than it had in the previous 18 years," keynote speaker, Les Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS, told attendees. "This is the Golden Age of Television. Five years ago we did 25 series. This year, with broadcast and digital combined, we're doing 66. It's really exciting to change how we do business and how we view the world."
Advertising in the Digital-AI Age
"Now we are fishing where the fish are," Kjerstin Beatty, Senior Vice President (SVP) Media of NBC Universal, told Xinhua. "Never before have we been able to tell advertisers: 'I can guarantee you will reach this specific audience demographic.' And with good data, we can."
Multiple experts explained how analytics and data-mining procedures are rocking the advertising and marketing industry and transforming entertainment and the consumer experience.
AI is delivering new hope to TV stations under pressure from Internet companies that have been causing serious cutbacks.
"200 million viewers pay for TV, and it's a 70 billion dollar business," reported Abbey Thomas of Tremor Video. "Targeting TV viewers with ads on all media platforms allows our advertising clients to make more memorable connections with their audience."
Julie DeTraglia, Head of Advertising Sales Research for Hulu, said, "TV is a very strong ad launch platform with high engagement. Thirty-four percent of our 50 million subscribers watch our shows with ads still in. Seven percent actually love ads."
"We work with our advertisers using our own data and third party partnerships, and we can now actually see if viewers bought the product advertised. This allows for very specific targeting - demographic targets, geo targets, behavioral targets..."
But some experts lamented that AI technology and data-mining technology still has a long way to go.
"Data still exists in silos. If we unified all consumer data on purchases, gaming, viewing habits, and more, into a custom data platform, we could create a seamless, direct and more personal way to serve customers," said Tim Hayden, President of Brain+Trust Partners.
AR, VR, and 360 Media
Another panel of experts explored how AR, VR and 360 technologies are impacting the creative processes of storytelling and music, and transforming the consumer experience.
"Our mission is to make the world a more playful place and VR can help us do that," chuckled Chris Young, SVP of Nickelodean Entertainment Lab.
Universal Music Group recently announced an alliance with tech-company WITHIN to create AR and VR experiences with UMG's artists for music fans.
Monica Hyacinth, SVP of Digital Marketing Innovation at UMG, told Xinhua, "the sound is better with VR, you hear the music the way it's meant to be heard. We intend to use AR and VR to reimagine our artist's music videos, augment locations, do 360 degree staging, and create a more meaningful and immersive experience between consumers and our artists."
Some networks are already actively embracing this cutting-edge technology.
Molly Swenson, humanitarian Co-Founder and Head of Brand at RYOT, thinks VR can serve a higher purpose. "Like we can use 800-lb gorilla brand advertising to make the world a better place, our VR doc on Nepal's earthquake had an almost 100 percent conversion rate from passive observers to active participants. That's transformative."
The Discovery Channel, the third largest cable channel in the U.S. and available in 409 million homes worldwide, including China, recently unveiled its first-of-its-kind, TRVLR, 360 degree VR travel series on the culture, history, traditions, and rituals of countries all around the world. Five million people have already downloaded the app to be immersed in 38 episodes of exotic foreign cultures and unique experiences from seven continents.
Discovery's Rebecca Howard, SVP of Emerging Platforms and Partnerships, enthused, "VR can immerse you in someone else's life anywhere on the planet and give you an incredible experience you've never had before."
Ted Schilowitz added, "VR is new for everyone. You can live inside it. VR's interactivity and physicality allows for a real body-soul connection to the story."
Who will control creativity?
Variety Co-Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Wallenstein, queried experts if any computer could understand human behavior and taste enough to replace human creativity.
"Analytics is a tool, not a rule," Netflix's Vice President of Content and Marketing Science and Analytics, Kelly Uphoff, responded. "Data analytics is meant to support the creative process, not replace it. We're building tools for decision-makers to use to enhance the work people do. Our filmmakers are excited to geek out with our MIT data scientists. They supply interesting insights that can inspire the creative team."
Anthony Accarado, Director of R&D for the Disney/ABC Television Group, added, "we build tools to help our creatives to better understand their stories."
This cutting edge technology could create whole new relationships between artists and customers as well.
"Music evolves no matter what. It's been a beacon of culture since we first tracked sales of sheet music. And it's the users and artists who determine the direction that music evolves, not the platform they listen on," explained Tim Ganss, Head of Music Intelligence at Spotify, the giant Swedish online music and podcast service with 60 million subscribers worldwide.
"A consumer's relationship to an artist is no longer about the number of units sold. The level of fandom can be much deeper, richer and more personal now."
Futurist in Residence at Paramount Pictures, Ted Schilowitz, told Xinhua, "I lean as far forward as I can and ask the question: What is creationism for our new digital age?"