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Inside look at Time Warner Cable Media's approach to social TV

Time Warner Cable, the fourth largest MSO has a national footprint that helps define the TV ecosystem. There’s often a hunger and feeling of hopeful inevitability that social TV startups will plunge into the billion dollar business that has helped create what we know as TV today for the past fifty plus years. The truth is that TV ad prices are continuing to rise and what was once just a thirty second spot is now a launching pad for a massive social TV campaign.

We were invited to interview Joan Hogan Gillman, the EVP of Time Warner Cable, Inc. and President of Time Warner Cable Media. Gillman and her team of over 1,600 work with advertisers to help them reach their marketing goals with traditional TV at the center complimented and augmented by the social TV world around it. The company’s Superbowl ad is a spot everyone in the social TV world should watch closely. CollegeHumor poked fun at them for putting an ad about TV on TV, but the ad was truly about social and how it affects TV:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vz9uiHtEE4&list=PL15F6E1D68D8EF112&index=1&feature=plcp

The fact that an executive at Gillman’s level gets social TV, wants to talk about social TV and is working social TV into the solutions they provide their advertisers is a good sign for every startup in this space trying to bite off a piece of the billions. Even today, they released a new “Enhanced iTV” offering allowing their advertisers to target time of day and demographics more thoroughly. We interviewed Gillman about her role within Time Warner Cable, how the thirty-second spot is an anchor for their clients and how TV is driving social more than the other way around.

Lost Remote: What’s your role at Time Warner Cable?

Joan Hogan Gillman: I’m the President of Time Warner Cable Media. We’re the division responsible for working with 30,000 plus businesses of all sizes, meeting their marketing needs. Roughly 1600 employees, 600 are interfacing everyday with clients who are commission sales people. We operate in clusters in the US. This has been a Time Warner Cable strategy to cluster our communities and markets. We roughly cover 20-25% of the US footprint in terms of households with really key markets like NY and LA. They’re anchor markets. They’re very, very important to the entertainment business. They’re important to Madison Avenue. They’re important to constituents and consumer groups.

LR: How has the way you’ve sold media to your clients changed?

JHG: Historically the company sold advertising to national, regional and local clients. Today, we talk to a client about what they’re marketing objectives are and we have a portfolio of services we can put together as a solution: online, traditional television, interactive television, long-form advertising, and we can package a solution to reach a very clear segment of the population geographically or demographically to meet that marketers’ needs.

The range of case studies across our footprint is vast. In some cases we have clients that we’ve staged flash mobs for and used social media because the ad went on Time Warner Cable and the ad went on YouTube. There’s nothing that’s stopping us from using all forms of media – mobile, social, to compliment TV, the anchor product. TV still is the anchor in this world of lots of conversation hype around internet advertising, display advertising and social advertising – brand awareness is the anchor. When you think about what’s important for the marketers, the first thing they need to do is connect with the consumer and make that consumer feel different. Its a fiercely competitive market out there.

LR: Why is the thirty-second spot still important?

JHG: Television is still there for the storytelling. Imprint an image of your company, your brand and in this day and age if you’re really smart your integrating that message and you’re reinforcing that message online. You’re reinforcing if that consumer reads a certain magazine, you’re reinforcing that message if they’re active in the social world and those are the conversations we have with our clients. We have this incredible canvas that we can paint. We ask our clients what picture do you want and now trust us to solve by pulling on the media we have access to. We’re becoming a strategic partner.

LR: How does social fit into the TV business?

JHG: What I love about being in the marketing industry is that in in some ways social is not changing at all. Fifty years ago people were social about TV. They were social in that they might have six people watching together in the same room and the water cooler conversation at work and when they go to the local bar. TV is an icebreaker at every cocktail party. Sex and the City, just think about how everyone talked about Sex and the City for years and years and years. People are being more social in a more public way. Now they’re being more public about their favorites, about what they like and who they like.

TV is driving social. I have a theory that no one’s proven out… it’s the TV driving the social not the social driving the TV. How do I now compete more effectively because of that social.

LR: How can advertisers leverage both traditional TV and social TV?

JHG: What are you as a restaurant trying to do? How are you trying to connect. Obviously, you want likes from your fans. You want that – but are you getting likes form your loyal fans? That’s the easy part of your job. The hard job is to get the folks that aren’t already coming in. Is Facebook helping with that? Not yet. So how do you actually use TV and other media to reach the ones that aren’t coming in yet. You hope once you’ve gotten them in you keep them coming back by using social.

If you really study what makes people develop an emotional bond with a brand it happens early in their life. You were ten years old and you didn’t realize it but you watched a Mercedes ad and so it was the coolest ad. Apple, heavy, heavy TV advertisers. A lot of people will say look how cutting edge. They probably built their brand better and faster on television than every company in the space. Steve Jobs decided to go over the top, he bought the best television advertising. He started very, very early, saying theres a reason we use TV. We use TV to build your brand, you don’t need to say a lot, it needs to be clean, it needs to be emotional. The product could sell itself but don’t underestimate the advantage he’s had against his competitors. Start with TV because thats where you start to develop the emotional brand, then absolutely if you’re a good business build loyalty, use social, use other media to compliment, because you don’t want your competitors to get the foothold.

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