This is the second part of an interview we recently conducted with Jessica Williams of Visa Global Innovation Marketing. Visa is once again a sponsor of the Winter Olympic Games so we talked with Jessica about the approach they are taking for their upcoming Olympics campaign. The first part of the interview can be found here.
Origami Logic: There has been a big shift over the last few years from television to online digital channels. How does that affect how you think of a campaign and how you will execute your Winter Olympics campaign?
Jessica Williams: A big portion of the media is still in television. We are never going to get away from the big buys that are necessary in order to break through with these kinds of sponsorships. In fact, it’s part of the package that you’re buying when you’re investing in these sponsorships. However, over the years, we have continuously shifted a major portion of our budget, where we can, into social and programmatic, as that is where the efficiency is. But each market is different, so we have to be flexible. In our Asia-Pacific markets, we have to get the right ads into WeChat and into WhatsApp, or into the channels that make sense there. Whereas here in the US, we see that our programmatic marketplaces and traditional social channels are where we have the most efficiency and can get the most eyes and actions for the least amount of dollars.
OL: This time around, NBC is going to be presenting audience numbers to their advertisers a little differently. Before, they used the TV model and focused on delivering households, and they were a little bit fuzzy in presenting audience numbers on the digital side of things. This time, they’re going lump it together and deliver what they are calling Total Audience Delivery. So, while TV is still a big chunk of it, as the eyeballs shift more to digital, does that change how you think of the creatives?
Jessica: Yes, we have to be very specific about where people are watching or are seeing our creative. We do everything in 15-second increments now. We don’t even create commercials that are longer than 15 seconds. We build from the core of the spot being 15 seconds, and then if we can tell a story on either end, to build out longer spots for television or video, we do so. Because most of our video exists in digital, we need to make sure that we can get everything we can say and convey the brand elements and the emotion in 15 seconds, which is always a challenge and something that our agencies and our internal creative teams are intensely focused on.
There are lots of interesting digital channels that we’ve been tapping into that have a great impact. Of course, Instagram is core to our strategy now, much more than it was during the last Olympics. We have phenomenal imagery and heroic stories to tell with the athletes that work well on these photo-based channels. YouTube is an effective channel, although you always run the risk of brand safety. In television you know exactly what you’re getting and a general sense of when your ads will run. On YouTube, we have had some challenges recently with our videos running in places or with ads next to them that we would not have necessarily approved had we known.
OL: Is Snapchat a bigger thought in your minds these days than just a couple years ago?
Jessica: Absolutely. I mean, Snapchat’s a great place for us. We are constantly testing these channels. We pour the core of our dollars into Instagram, Facebook, our programmatic buys, video, and television. However, Snapchat’s a phenomenal place where you can do really fun stuff by adding Olympic elements to the AR (Augmented Reality) features of Snapchat, where you can have the athletes tell their own stories in a really fun and quick way to consumers, and be on the ground. In the last Olympics, there were 2.2B replays of the Olympics via Snapchat.
OL: The Olympics Committee, historically, has had very strict guidelines on what advertisers can — and cannot — do, and a lot of content had to be pre-approved. This made sense when campaigns focused on TV commercials. Has the Olympic Committee loosen things up a little bit, recognizing the fact that social is playing a bigger role and that good social content features things that are happening at the moment?
Jessica: This is part of the reason why it’s important for us to have creative frameworks, so that once the Games begin, we are primarily dealing with the nuances of who won what and where. We work closely with the Olympic Committee and with NBC, to make sure we have frameworks that have been pre-approved well before the games. The framework includes partners, athletes, and Visa brand elements mixed with Olympic elements. When we are working within those frameworks, the time needed to get the necessary, last minute approvals becomes very short. It becomes just one person signing off on last-minute word changes, versus meeting to pre-approve the creative every time
OL: One final question…Has the shift to digital channels affect how you target audiences? Has it gone from a demographic approach to more of a psychographic one?
Jessica: We rarely focus on demographics unless we’re specifically targeting income, for our products that are income-based. We go after an ageless progressive target, which is the embodiment of psychographic. Because of the way we’re moving into digital products, we target those who want to live life to its fullest, and are willing to try new things, and live in the digital world. It is a mindset that we are targeting rather than age range or location. If you think about who uses Visa, it is really everyone, and if we want people to come along with us for the ride, the move from card-based payments to digital payments, they have to be willing to try something new. We find that there are far more people than we ever thought possible who are willing to do so, and they range from the very young to the very old, and from the underserved to the wealthy. They really cross every line.
OL: Thank you very much for your time, Jessica.
Jessica: You are welcome.