Viacom’s Sales Chief Uses Data to Get to Know Millennials Better

Jeff Lucas' content creation game is on point


Specs
Current gig Head of marketing and partner solutions, Viacom
Previous gig Head of sales and marketing, music and entertainment, Viacom
Age 52
Snapchat mainchair2323

Adweek: You've been in sales at Viacom for 11 years—a year in this new role. Where have you left your mark? 
Jeff Lucas: When I started with the entertainment group [in 2007], I made it client centric. And then when I got to the music group, I made that client centric. Prior to that, all the different channels [had separate sales forces]. And what I found was we had about 10 different sales forces based on whatever networks they covered competing with each other. It's not really all about competing for money; you're competing for time. And it's very hard when you're going to clients that have over 100 paid cable networks coming to them, plus radio, plus digital, which can be ad networks' platforms, plus print, newspaper.

How are your clients reaching millennials?
We put content on a constant basis every day across all those platforms. We also allow an advertiser to go for a ride along those platforms. We have a very big component called Viacom Velocity, which is our integrated marketing arm. And that is also our content creation arm—we've built an entire creative agency within our house. The No. 1 thing the clients are looking for is how to appeal to millennials in that authentic voice that will resonate with them.

How do you know what will resonate?
[Viacom has a proprietary measurement tool called Echo Social Graph] that's all about sentiment analysis. When content starts to go viral, we want to know what's what. We just created for you something to share with your friends; when you share it, you're going to get comments back, and we want to know what those comments are. So we track those comments in part with social tech platform Canvs, which measures 56 different emotions for that sentiment analysis. And of the 56 different emotions, the No. 1 emotion you want is brand love. And you want that to be true brand love. If you can resonate so much that a client loves that piece of content, wants to share it and really believes in it, that's going to be someone who's going to use that product, someone who's going to buy that product. And you're not going to get much closer to someone's heart on that product.

What's some recent millennial-geared content Viacom has produced?
The Hershey's What's Up Moms holiday campaign. We found that the What's Up Moms [a troupe of funny moms with a YouTube channel] resonate better than anybody with millennial moms. With Hershey's it was holiday cheats. So all these different ways like you can influence your decoration, your creativity for the holidays through things around the house. One was making a really cool thing with a sled and candy canes, putting the Hershey bar right on it as the part of the sled.

How is Viacom adapting to what millennials want?
MTV News is coming back, because all the research shows that millennials want to know about the news and they don't necessarily trust nor like traditional news services. They want to find news digitally.

Is Kurt Loder back?
No, it's so funny you say that, though. I did say once maybe we should do promos with him leading into the new guy—Dan Fierman, who came from Grantland.

Last question—looking toward Gen Z, what are you doing?
I think Gen Z is top of mind right now.

So millennials are over?
Well, no, no, no. But you always have to look where you're going. You have to look where you are and look where you're going. You have to look ahead.

This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.