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Media companies can't just be media companies anymore: CNN's Rob Bradley

Rob Bradley, CNN International Commercial's global director for digital advertising revenue and data, says in a data-rich environment, the industry needs to look beyond the click-through rate

Angad Singh Thakur
Published: Jun 14, 2016 07:09:19 AM IST
Updated: Jun 14, 2016 08:32:35 AM IST
Media companies can't just be media companies anymore: CNN's Rob Bradley
Image: Joshua Navalkar

Last May, Rob Bradley was appointed as CNN International Commercial’s global director of digital advertising revenue and data. In an interview with Forbes India, he discusses the company’s evolving digital approach.

Q. What have been your fundamental areas of focus?
The first thing was to take stock of what we were doing globally, and develop a data and deep technology strategy. We launched a brand called AIM (Audience Impact Measurement), which utilises the latest data management technology that is in demand in the UK, US and Western Europe. AIM makes data targeting possible and allows our advertisers to be detailed in who they target. The second phase was launching programmatic (the use of software to buy digital advertising). We now have a global programmatic platform. The third point, where a majority of our effort goes in digital, is revamping our native advertising platform and sponsored content. That’s where we tell stories for our brands.

Q. How has programmatic changed digital advertising?
It has brought in accountability. Earlier, it was a matter of throwing in as many ads as you could against the wall and seeing what sticks. Programmatic has ensured that we’re directing the ads to the right person. Now, we’ve got great scale with about a billion ads to sell every month. That is difficult to sell through a sales team. Programmatic allows us to connect with more buyers in an efficient way. And that has freed up [our] time to do the more creative solutions on the branded content side. My sales team no longer spends time selling ads. They’re spending 99 percent of their time selling branded content, videos and infographics.

Q. In a data-rich environment, is the click-through rate (CTR) becoming redundant?

I feel very strongly about this. CTR has been the key metric in the market. But we can and should be better than that. It’s not just about how many clicks there are, but about whether they’re from the right person. This is why we developed AIM. Media companies can’t just be media companies anymore; they need to be data companies, research companies, and that means it is our responsibility to take the industry beyond CTR.

Q. How do you contend with ad blocking?
First, there are the creative and native solutions, which are not delivered as ads. The second part is a responsibility for publishers and media owners to start educating users that this content costs money and that primarily advertising is paying for that. We have a second duty of delivering to them [people] ads that aren’t annoying. So there’s a responsibility not to over-target. Ad blocking is not something that keeps us up at night yet, since we have such huge scale, but it’s something that we have been keeping an eye on.

(This story appears in the 24 June, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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