Andrew Saunders is head of global brand strategy at Tastemade where he oversees the strategy and development of all creative marketing and media as well as co-development of content for the company’s advertising sales and brand partnerships team. Prior to his time at Tastemade, Saunders worked as VP of content innovation and creative at NBCUniversal, where he worked overseeing creative for many of the media conglomerate’s advertising partnerships and Symphony marketing efforts across all NBCU networks, platforms and partners.
In this week’s ‘5 Questions,’ Saunders discusses brand campaigns, the strategy behind attracting a global audience of over 200 million, and the biggest trends in branded digital content.
Videoink: Tastemade has a global audience of over 200 million, streaming more than 2 billion views per month. Strategy wise, what has helped contribute to this success?
Andrew Saunders: From the beginning, Tastemade’s been a mobile-first video network. That’s provided us with an early advantage in connecting with millennials, who use their devices as the “screen of choice” when it comes to entertainment. Mobile-first distribution has also been key given our longstanding partnerships with Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube, where we optimize every piece of content specific to the platform where it appears. We also produce original programming in 7 different languages with local teams in several offices around the globe, which helps drive global viewership. Lastly, and most importantly, we’re adept at authentic storytelling and that’s at the heart of all our original programming.
Given the diverse nature of Tastemade’s brand partnerships to date, how do you see these activations and campaigns evolving?
You will see Tastemade doing more across entertainment, products and experiences as we continue to partner with top brands to define “taste” for a highly engaged, global audience of millennials.
For example, we just announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration with Smorgasburg, the largest weekly open-air food market in America that boasts over one million event visitors annually. Their community of culinary entrepreneurs and enthusiasts place them at the epicenter of the artisanal food movement, where some of the most innovative trends are happening. As a result, we’re creating amazing new ways for our brand partners to connect more directly with this combined fan base, both digitally, and in real life, where we can leverage new experiences to tell great stories.
When it comes to branded digital content, what’s the biggest trend you’ve seen emerge most recently?
The most prominent trend is that branded content has increasingly become more than the content itself; it’s about building a 360 ecosystem around it with multiple consumer touch points. The goal has always been to help brands tell stories in ways that create meaningful connections with consumers, so if we’re able to combine online connections with real world interactions and let fans physically experience them, that’s a huge win.
One of the best examples of this was when we partnered with Airbnb on their “Airbnb Open LA” initiative — a weekend-long celebration in Los Angeles that included 15,000 participants. Tastemade brought the LA food scene to life through an amazing interactive experience at our studios. We hosted over 30 of LA’s top restaurant and food purveyors representing over 12 distinct LA neighborhoods. During the event, some of our most popular Tastemakers performed a live, interactive cooking demo. These compelling moments and highlights were shared widely with the global Tastemade audience across social media, where we married digital engagement to real-life interactions.
How do you measure the success of your brand campaigns?
Our data science capabilities are strengthened by Tastemade’s close relationships with the platform partners we distribute across (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube). These partners provide vital data to us on a real-time basis that informs our strategies and enables us to measure success.
This is fortified by ongoing studies we conduct with Nielsen that provide even more insights. We’re continually enhancing best practices in measurement, and leverage new tools as they become available.
In fact, we’re both encouraged and excited that Tastemade is currently testing Nielsen’s new Digital Content Ratings (DCR), which tracks and credits views on videos distributed across Facebook and Youtube to give a more accurate sense of our overall reach. We know people are viewing and engaging with Tastemade content across many different platforms, so with DCR, we anticipate being able to capture these behaviors and share them with brand partners in deeper ways.
This is yet another sign of the shifting ecosystem as digital viewing continues to gain more and more traction, and new measurement standards are beginning to emerge. From a campaign perspective, we work closely with our brand partners throughout the process to help them achieve their specific goals. Whether it’s to determine how content is helping them drive key brand metrics and attributes through, to lower funnel objectives, we’re focused on showing the real impact of the content we’re creating together. Our collective tools and expertise empower us to do that.
What are you most excited about when it comes to working with brands at Tastemade?
The possibility. The digital media space was built on nimbleness, flexibility and collaboration, and as we enter the next phase of growth, I’m excited to help build the modern version of “television.”
I have a newfound sense of freedom at Tastemade — freedom to do what’s most exciting and innovative, freedom to do what will be most successful for partners, and freedom to do what’s truly never been done before. I encourage brands to challenge us to build products and campaigns that deliver the quality and scale they’re accustomed to from television, but optimized for mobile-first experiences where millennials live and breath. Consumer behavior has shifted, and shifted permanently. Together we can take advantage of that shift to build value for everyone.