Thanks for speaking with us, Shilpa. Tell us about your role at Turner. What is Launchpad all about?
My pleasure! Thanks for having me here. I joined Turner Ignite’s Launchpad team to build new business opportunities for the company outside of the traditional, linear ecosystem. Think of Launchpad as a startup within a massive company (that just got even bigger!). You’re probably thinking “that sounds like an oxymoron,” but acting like a startup is how we have achieved significant momentum and scale in a short period of time. The easiest way to explain Launchpad’s business model is that we take the amazing branded content developed by Turner, and distribute it in a precise way across the social landscape using our fan relationships and data-driven insights.
While your team is fairly new, it continues to evolve with the changing social advertising ecosystem. What do you think has sparked the growth in this area?
The only way to compete in today’s media landscape is to constantly evolve. Growth comes from pivoting your business model in response to market demands as often as needed. Social continues to dominate consumption patterns and advertiser spend, which has definitely helped propel our business, but we have also stayed one step ahead of the market by focusing on unmet needs and creating new products to tap into latent demand. We didn’t just create a successful business model with Launchpad and stop there – nope, we were just getting started. We continue to experiment and extend the model to other platforms and user touchpoints.
Tell us about your background before your transition to Turner. What interested you in pivoting to the media world?
On some days it feels like I’ve come from a totally different planet! I started my career as a strategic planner at creative agency Young & Rubicam way back, so I guess I was always interested in the world of media. But after that, I did a total 180 to innovation strategy consulting. Before Turner, I was an engagement manager at strategy consulting firm, Innosight, which was co-founded by Harvard Business School professor and father of disruptive innovation, Clayton Christensen. I spent about seven years helping large companies (including Turner!) find new ways to grow through business model innovation – super exciting and challenging work that dealt with the toughest questions any leadership team faces. After having worked with the C-suite of Turner while I was at Innosight, I was excited about the future of this company. I also felt like I was at the right stage of my career to move into an industry at the cusp of disruption and practice what I’d been preaching to clients for so many years!
What skill sets have you brought over from previous roles?
Having worked with leadership teams across industries such as retail, finance, healthcare, media and consumer packaged goods, I have a tested toolkit for what makes innovation work at my disposal – starting from developing business plans all the way to implementing an innovation capability with the right incentive structures to enable transformation. Innovation is really hard anywhere, but innovating in a large company is a high-quality problem of its own. So it’s no surprise perhaps that the skill I find most valuable from my consulting experience is my ability to problem-solve and structure big, hairy problems into bite-sized issues and then analyze them to get answers.
Why do you think branded content is generally so well-received by consumers today?
Nobody has ever liked being talked at by ads. Consumers have just recently expressed that if they don’t like what they see, they take themselves out of the equation. If I don’t want to watch an ad, I’ll skip forward, leave the room, navigate away from it on my browser or swipe to the next Story. Branded content changes all of that. It’s more of a conversation that I have with a brand that gets me, and I’m here for that! That’s why you see all this engagement around branded content. It’s not interruptive, and actually enhances my viewing experience.
The digital world moves so fast. How have you seen the social advertising landscape change in the past year?
Past year? Try the past 48 hours! Seriously though, the social landscape changes faster than a New York minute. Within the social world, Instagram has been huge, especially with its Stories format that creates immersive opportunities for brands to engage fans in conversations beyond the feed. In the digital world more broadly, OTT is now a part of our strategy, as we have seen tremendous growth there just this year. We’re also excited about opportunities opened to us on Addressable TV.
Let’s wrap this up with a focus on the future. What new social advertising capabilities or trends can we as an industry expect to see in the next five years?
I’ve been talking about the future the whole time! I kid, but I do believe that the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed. When things are changing so quickly, you really have to innovate and seek growth opportunities that may feel like they’re on the fringe or periphery today, but are going to get bigger in the near future. Commerce is one such trend that we’ve been closely following for the past year. Now, everyone and their moms are shopping on Instagram. Turner is really uniquely positioned, as our fans want to hear from our brands and engage with us on social, and we can create amazing content that hooks them to the product or offering our clients are trying to sell. We’re super excited about what’s to come in this space!