iCrossing’s Chief Content Officer Says There Are Too Many Branded Content Players

Kayvan Salmanpour on new ad ties with Hearst


Specs
Current gig Chief content officer, iCrossing
Previous gig Co-founder, Novel, The New Republic's in-house agency
Age 37

Adweek: Your role at iCrossing is new. Why did you want to join the Hearst-owned agency?
Kayvan Salmanpour: When [Chris Hughes] sold The New Republic, I was approached by Hearst and iCrossing with this idea of collaborating together. ICrossing is a neutral agency [and] uses Hearst's expertise to extract insights, data and editorial knowledge that helps brands become better content marketers.

What's a typical day like for you?
A lot of my day is spent with the editorial and data teams at Hearst, not just the Hearst portfolio but also all of Hearst's investments—everyone from A+E Networks, Complex and AwesomenessTV—and figuring out their expertise on each side. [For example], AwesomenessTV understands Gen Z. Vice understands millennials and Cosmo understands women. [Then I] extract all of that knowledge and see if I can productize it as expertise to CMOs or brand marketers—that's what I think is the combination that I don't think anyone has in this market.

So then you take those insights to iCrossing clients?
We take them and approach not just iCrossing clients but any type of brand that's frustrated by their content marketing at the moment. I think the issue that a lot of CMOs are having at the moment is that there's almost too many players touching their content strategy. The message gets diluted and the data they're getting is varied according to each branded content studio. There's a trend toward consolidation. You see it when Vice closed a five-year deal with Intel. BuzzFeed is closing yearlong deals now. And I think the reason is that [brands say], "Instead of doing campaign-based programs, what we'd rather do is work with a few agencies or publishers and actually create a long-term marketing plan where we're building audiences."

What data do you have access to on the Hearst side?
They have a product called Hearst Core Audience [launching later this year], which analyzes all first-party data across the Hearst portfolio. There's another product which is a combination of Hearst Core Audience and editorial insights and iCrossing social conversation analysis. When you piece all of it together, it gives a brand a full strategy in terms of understanding their consumer and what they're reading. [It also gives us] understanding from editors about future trends. It can dictate a brand's content strategy. To give you a theoretical example: If Revlon has a campaign called "Choose Love," their inclination is to produce content around dating or tips when it comes to romance. But if you analyze all of the intelligence and see what's performing about the topic of love, the trend may be around mindfulness.

Former Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles was recently named chief content officer at Hearst. Will you two be working together?
Joanna is very much going to be involved when we go out to market. One of the things we want to understand is how an editor has evolved from the old days. Back in the day, you would just think about print, but now you're thinking about Snapchat, Facebook Live. An editor is doing so many things now, and for her to be in the room with me to tell brand marketers what an editor does in today's world is really exciting for her. There's a level of sophistication that her team has that I don't think brand marketers know.

What clients are you working with on these types of Hearst-iCrossing strategies?
We have current iCrossing clients we're about to implement a content strategy for, but we're still working on rolling out the Hearst-iCrossing specific partnerships.

Will that launch this year?
Yes, definitely.

This story first appeared in the October 17, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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