“I’ve always tried to peek around corners and to pay attention to small things that become big things.”
Peter Naylor may just be the most enthusiastic champion of the online video industry in the ad world. Not only did he establish Hulu’s first media model, but he’s fought relentlessly to build structures, standards and systems to justify dollars moving from traditional networks to emerging media and video. Not only was he among the braintrust that set up the original Newfronts but he’s also played an important role at the iab, and in setting up the first Digital Video Board and Board of Advisors, to tackle the issues preventing forward progression in media buying and selling for video and new formats. And not only is he one of the most well-liked individuals in the business but he’s a visionary dealmaker.
Rather than tell you about Peter’s career timeline and how he’s probably among a small handful of the biggest contributors to the growth of this business, we’re going to share a story about how Peter locked in Hulu’s first deals 7 years before he officially worked for the company.
George Kliavkoff, Hulu’s first leader: “Jeff Zucker, Beth Comstock and I were getting on a plane to fly west to join Peter Chernin and his team for the announcement in Los Angeles. As we were [boarding], we were reviewing the press release going out the next morning. We had done a good job of aggregating a lot of important content and distribution partners (AOL, MSN, Yahoo) that collectively covered 96% of the US population every month. But I realized as we were stepping on the plane that we forgot to include the advertisers. So [we] called Peter Naylor and said ‘Peter is there any way we could get some anchor sponsors to announce that they are going to support this tomorrow morning?”
Peter Naylor: “NBCU leadership called and said, ‘Peter, we’re getting together with Fox. We’re forming this new company. It’s a video platform and when we announce the company I need some advertisers. And I said, ‘Sounds great. What’s the company called?’ ‘I dont know.’ ‘Who’s running it?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Well, what’s the ad model?’ ‘You’re the sales guy, you figure it out.’ ‘Great. And when do you need answers?’ ‘I told you, we’re announcing it; I need it tomorrow.’”
GK: “I’m sure Peter thought [we were] crazy but [he] ended up, during the time we were on the flight from New York to LA, securing a couple very high profile brand name sponsors to “sponsor” what, at the time, had no name, no launch date, no permanent CEO.”
PN: “So as luck would have it we were all in Los Angeles for Development (season before Upfronts) and everyone’s gathered in the “Deal or No Deal” studio to hear about the network of NBC. We were lucky enough to have a huge room of advertisers and that evening at the cocktail party, I lit up my guys. We all marched around the cocktail party and we said ‘Alright, you gotta be in this new video platform that’s being formed. I promise you there’s going to be an avalanche of publicity.’
‘What’s it called?’ ‘I don’t know.’
‘When’s it launching?’ ‘I’m not sure.’
‘Who’s running it?’ ‘We don’t know yet.’
‘What’s the ad model.’ ‘Psh, Pre-roll!’ I knew the answer to that one!
‘When do you need an answer?’ ‘Right now.’
PN: “And I’ll never forget it, some people were like ‘What do you mean right now?’ I said, ‘Look, all I need is permission to put your name in the press release going out tomorrow and I guarantee you’ll get an avalanche of publicity and I also guarantee that if you don’t do it, you’re going to regret it. It’s so easy.
GK: “If you go back to the press release you’ll see the names he was able to secure in basically 5 hours.”
PN: “I remember the no’s more than I remember the yes’s. The head of Unilever, [their previous] CMO, she looked me in the eye and said ‘You’re out of your mind.’
At that cocktail party, on March 21st, 2007, in Los Angeles, Peter Naylor locked in Cadbury Schweppes, Cisco, Esurance, Intel and General Motors as charter sponsors for what would become Hulu.
GK: “To me, that’s a reflection of a great salesperson and having relationships when you can call up someone and say [you have no details] besides that Peter Chernin and Jeff Zucker are going to be on a call and it will be good for your brand.”
PN: “The next morning the [release] hits. It’s in the Journal, the Times; it’s in every trade. It was exactly what we thought it was going to be — it was a tsunami of press. It was so much fun. It was so fast and furious. The best part was that the next morning, I’m standing with my guys and Jeff Zucker walks up and says ‘Pedro!’”
GK: “He kinda sold the first ad at Hulu a year before it was even ‘Hulu’ and before he even worked for the company. Peter Naylor gets credit for doing that in 5 hours.”
PN: “When I came to Hulu in February of 2014, it was like in one way I’m a new employee and in another way I’ve been doing this longer than anybody.”
Since that time, and his early days in digital media at Wired and iVillage, Naylor has been an advocate for innovation and standardization, which is why he’s been such a proponent of the iab, an organization for which he served as Chairman of the Board in 2012.
“I have always been in support of the trade organizations because I’ve always believed that in this ever-changing, fast-paced digital media industry that we live in, publishers are always looking for guidance,” said Naylor in a phone call.
“I thought the iab has always played a really important role. It is a standard-setting body and it is a publisher-centric role. I have always thought that the role in helping guide and lead publishers and helping them navigate is super important.”
As a Power Sixer, Naylor exemplifies the role — an advocate for the progression of the business and a true leader of innovation.