I had the opportunity to interview Mr. David Kohl who oversees all sales and advertising across the VEVO platform. Before joining VEVO, David served as Head of Sales and Publishing for Nokia Interactive Advertising, the world’s largest global mobile ad network. At Nokia, David built a team that closed the industry’s first mobile “Upfront Commitments,” and quadrupled year-over-year ad revenue in key auto, entertainment and travel categories. Formerly, David worked at Viacom, where he led the team that developed 360 ad programs for brands across MTV’s online/television channels. As a result of his efforts, major marketers such as American Express, Ford, Best Buy, Pepsi and Anheuser Busch were able to take advantage of fully integrated music programs both online and on-air. David’s background also includes being in charge of advertising sales for such Web properties as getmusic.com and farmclub.com.
RM: Was it hard for brands to buy in to VEVO ?
DK: Some brands were skeptical before we launched because we were brand new and you are selling the vision of the future of VEVO but we did have brands that understood it because the power of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group, EMI and all the independent music labels were on board.
They also saw the distribution was going to big enough and the quality of the content was going to be big enough so coming out of the gate we had 20 brand partners like McDonalds, AT&T, Colgate, MasterCard among others. I have been around the business for number of years and worked with a lot of start-ups and it was hard but not that hard. Brands want to be connected to an engaging environment and they saw that this environment with our premium content and low clutter was going to engaging. An executive at Unilever said “Let me calculate this: you have 2 to 3minutes of advertising for one hour of viewing vs. broadcast which has 16 to 19 minutes depending on the channel.”
It just speaks to a great viewing experience and very high engagement for the brands.
RM: How did VEVO get so big so quickly? It felt like it grew over night.
DK: You are so right. I can point to something that Jack Myers said “we are a sleeping giant.” He said that “VEVO is bigger than Hulu, ABC, CBS, NBC online combined with all our views.” We have over 60 million views according comScore.com We are the number 1 music and entertainment platform with 3 ½ billion video views worldwide. From a sales distribution standpoint, we are doing business in close to 30 countries around the worldwide. When think about how we grew so quickly, we as a company had an aggressive plan to distribute the VEVO brand across the web, through our own site and syndication partners like AOL, CBS Interactive Music Group, Facebook, Yahoo! Music and YouTube and on mobile and connected TV. From a growth perceptive we kept adding more and more original content which our fans have been engaged with. If you like JOHN LEGEND our platform is going to push you toward all this pieces of content that is related to JOHN LEGEND, including his music videos, interviews and a live performance from our series called American Express Unstaged. So the user keeps viewing more and more content and sharing it. So from a social media perceptive they’re sharing it with friends and pushing it out over Facebook and letting their friends know that this is a really cool piece of content. So that viral nature that exists in social media took us to the next level in combination with the production of original content, new original shows and live events.
RM: How Important is Social Media to VEVO?
DK: Social media is critical to VEVO’s growth and success. Our fans are incredibly socially engaged and want to share their favorite videos and the music they discover on VEVO with their friends and they use social media to do that. We recently launched a major update to VEVO, which more closely integrated our platform with Facebook so now we can offer viewers very personal recommendations on music programming they might like based on the recording artists they ‘like’ on Facebook or what their friends are engaging in on Facebook. So you said you like John Legend we are going to recommend artist with the similar style and similar tone close to John Legend or show you a playlist of John Legend music video programming. If you turn the social button on, the programming you are watching is instantly shared and that is going expand the VEVO platform and generate more awareness as to why VEVO is cool and why it is relevant to you and your friends. This is why brands ask “why does it work for VEVO and not for television” because it is one way communication if you’re a VJ at MTV and your pushing forth a piece of music content and I am sitting at the other end of my television and I the viewer doesn’t like this click!! Good bye I’m off that or I change the channel.
But for us we are recommending something that you like and you choose it and you are connected to it and that why we make it personal and that why it works.
We’ve found that the brands we work with are also incredibly engaged with social media and understand how important that is to their audiences. Our philosophy at VEVO is to do what’s right for the viewer and artist first, and the brands will follow. We’ve found that to be absolutely true. We recently launched a concert series with HTC called Social Sounds. The first concert in the series was a Kendrick Lamar fan event in New York City, which we filmed and will launch as on demand content on VEVO next week. Fans got into the concert itself by tweeting about the event and liking the artist, or VEVO or HTC. We didn’t even need to encourage them to do that – they were already sharing the news with their friends. That made VEVO excited and it made HTC excited.
RM: What does the future hold for VEVO and are you going to be producing original content or stay with music videos or go reality TV like MTV?
DK: Working at MTV for over 13 years I understand why MTV made the switch to reality TV, because the ratings were insignificant for music content. They had to find ways to monetize and grow their business and music videos just didn’t perform for them.
At VEVO, we are not abandoning music videos. Music videos work well online because, like I said before, fans can select what they want to watch instead of waiting for someone to program it to them. So we have higher engagement, which is critical to monetize. Music videos will always be VEVO’s foundation. For me, there are still 30 or more videos that when I watch them I get that chill and I am going to keep clicking the play button because that is always going to be something I want to watch.
But how can VEVO expand on its music experience? We’re going deeper into developing content, original series about that artist for a live event or a special programming or behind the scenes of their concert tour or something connected to lifestyle and music. Like a show we have called STYLIZED that mixes music and fashion, or SOUND + CITY, which takes viewers on a musical tour of cities across the country. So we have a lot of exciting things happening at VEVO.
RM: So it is a very exciting time for you and VEVO becoming the leader in innovative music and content. Thank you, David.
Roger Maloney is the VP of Vanguarde Consulting Group and company that prepare small business for the digital age. Roger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.