Reddit COO Jen Wong and Spotify Global VP Danielle Lee Talk Data, Diversity and Inclusion

The 2 execs interview each other ahead of CES

Jen Wong (l.) and Danielle Lee, one to one
Alex Fine

Few brands have to simultaneously navigate how to talk to users as a brand and how to talk to other brands that want access to their users. But that’s the position Spotify and Reddit find themselves in. That’s why, ahead of the Jan. 8 kickoff of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where both brands will be pitching fellow marketers, Brandweek asked Spotify’s global vp of partner solutions, Danielle Lee, and Reddit’s COO, Jen Wong, to chat about diversity and inclusion, how they work with other advertisers and more. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. Lee and Wong will also be together at CES on the “New Rules of Engagement in the Disrupted Age” panel, Jan. 9 at 11 a.m.

Jen Wong: How do you use data for both users and advertisers?

Danielle Lee: Our first-party data—our streaming intelligence—is our superpower. It’s what we use to enhance the customer experience for our 191 million users. We use it to help brands be super relevant. There are three things that help us do this. First is playlists and identity. All of our consumers are logged in when they’re streaming, so we understand who they are in those various moments. The second is ubiquity. We’ve integrated our app into lots of different devices [so] we’re able to better understand the context of the user and share those relevant experiences. Finally, curation. People create billions of playlists for all types of use cases, and that curation of playlists for these different moments helps us [become] smarter.

How do you think about data?

Wong: Reddit is focused on interests. What generated our 330 million monthly users is leading with interests and these sub-Reddits, where we have over 100,000 topics.

[We have] communities where people have self-selected interests. People come to Reddit with an expectation of quality and depth so that they are ready to actually imbibe detailed information and respond to rich questions with quality answers. We use data to make sure that we are surfacing everything that is happening on the site in a curated way so that folks can discover new areas.

Lee: We often talk about the fact that culture happens on Spotify. There are all these different macro-cultural moments here, everything from political moments to pop-culture moments. It helps us learn about them.

Wong: I’d love to pick up on that point around culture and community. Can you talk about how Spotify is using music and audio content to drive and reflect culture and build those communities?

Lee: In our consumer and b-to-b marketing effort, we have an annual campaign called Wrapped, where we show a year in review. We also surface some of those data stories in our marketing to show some of the quirkiness and curious behavior and nuanced behavior on the platform. That’s one of the ways that we reflect culture. The other way is in some of our live event[s]. One of our most-followed playlists is called RapCaviar. We expand[ed] that playlist to have experiences that exist in the real world.

Similarly, I’d love to hear how you think about creating a value exchange between brands and your users.

Danielle lee is the global vp of partner solutions at Spotify, where she oversees product and business marketing, strategic and partner marketing and creative solutions for advertisers and brand partners. Prior to Spotify, Lee spent two years at Vevo and served as the global vp of commercial marketing. She also spent seven years at AT&T.
Alex Fine

Wong: Creating mutual value is actually the foundation of Reddit. It’s not about the volume of followers. It’s about, Did you help somebody? Did you advance the conversation?

Similarly, we work with [brands] to contribute to Reddit, which adds long-term value to their brand—specifically, in communities that they care about. Each brand is also tracking their contribution, and that’s the currency on Reddit. We aren’t about volume and followership but a contribution. We have more trust between users. When you’re in an environment of trust, that’s when you see 50,000 words a minute being added to Reddit to help advance the conversation, or you see people willing to answer questions posed by brands.

How are you thinking about your business, advertising in particular, when you head into CES?

Lee: Our overall narrative is about culture, and that’s a big differentiator for us at CES, where it’s very tech- and device-focused. But going beyond devices, [we are] thinking about the people behind them and the behaviors and the motivations behind those behaviors and then how you tap into that. A lot of it will be showcasing our ad products, then leaning into our podcast strategy and what that means for creators and brands.

What are the goals for you at CES?

Wong: Reddit reset itself a couple of years ago. We are still telling that story. CES is a great place to do that. It’s a technology-driven conference, but part of Reddit’s story is about the original internet values—[that it] was built for empowerment, to enhance human interaction, not disrupt it.

The other objective at CES is similar to yours: to show how we birth culture and how it comes to life on Reddit. There’s a lot of change in the industry, a lot of anxiety. The tech industry has been faulted for disrupting or causing some concerns with misinformation. We have a different approach. We have moderators—human moderators—who make rules. There’s just no other place that has that.

Jen Wong is Reddit’s chief operating officer, overseeing business strategy and related teams from Reddit’s New York office. Previously, Wong was CCO of Time Inc. and its president of digital, where she led the company’s operations, consumer marketing and revenue teams, as well as digital and interactive strategies. Before that, she was chief business officer for PopSugar.
Alex Fine

Lee: I like what you said about the human side of it. We have algorithmically curated playlists, but there’s also a human element. It’s about marrying that art and science. It’s not enough to look at the data. It’s also important to think about the mood and the mindset of the consumer, what human need you’re trying to meet.

Wong: You have such a diverse audience. Talk about how you think about diversity and inclusiveness in your product and your company.

Lee: We recently launched our self-serve audio platform called Spotify Ad Studio. It allows a brand, an advertiser, to seamlessly create a campaign in minutes. They upload a script, fill out the background track, select a voiceover and we deliver them an audio ad to approve. Then they can select their targeting and manage their campaign. That didn’t exist before, and it’s now in [about] four markets. What we’re finding is that we’re able to diversify our customer base beyond global brands, allowing a more diverse set of brands to come onto the platform. That’s one way of diversifying our ad business.

The second area is around the artist community. In the music industry, if you weren’t on the top roster for a label, you didn’t get a lot of promotion. We’re building tools and services to help artists of all sizes manage their brand and their music. Spotify for Artists is an app that gives them access to immense amounts of data about who’s listening, so they can make business decisions about where they might want to tour or how they might want to go to market.

On the consumer side, I’ll highlight the “Black History Is Happening Now” campaign and program. The piece I want to talk about is the Sound Up Bootcamp. We hosted a weeklong intensive workshop for women creatives of color, teaching them about the facts of podcasting. At the end of the workshop, we funded the pilot of the ideas that were pitched. This is something that I am really proud of. It’s bringing in different voices onto the platform that you don’t often see get highlighted.

Wong: That’s terrific work. Reflecting on Reddit in terms of diversity, just by nature of being this big network of communities, we reflect the diversity in the world. We have 100,000 communities. One of the amazing things is that you have long-tail interests represented that are vibrant communities [of] people who may never have [otherwise] found each other. [Another thing] I’m proud [of is] that our exec team reflects many nationalities and is almost half women. In the tech world, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 7, 2019, issue of Brandweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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