Xandr, part of AT&T, is an ad company that offers advanced TV and addressable advertising. Econsultancy spoke to Austin Scott, Head of Video Market Development in EMEA, to find out more about her role.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
At Xandr, I am the Head of Video Market Development for EMEA. My role is to drive a better video ecosystem, as well as accelerating the development and deployment of Xandr’s video-first propositions for marketers, agencies, broadcasters and publishers while ensuring we are meeting the unique needs of EMEA markets.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
I can’t imagine anyone that could describe their current working routine as ‘normal’ these days, but I have tried to acclimatise. The productivity time shift is the most noticeable change for me. I have had to alter my peak working hours so that my partner and I balance our child’s care, but there is a new sense of focus as I was someone that was a heavy traveller and social. I am repurposing a lot of the time that would have been commuting or other obligations and finding little windows to be productive.
One of the biggest positives I’ve noticed from this pandemic and something that helps me get through the working day is the sense of camaraderie from the Xandr team. We’re more than just in it together, I’ve seen amazing content and sharing from global offices. Beyond checking in with one another to offer support we are relating to each other by laughing about over-demanding pets, the challenges of home-schooling children or openness about our own mental health as we adjust to these circumstances.
Everyone has to find their own rhythm in this, and it is important to establish a routine that works for you. I have heard many people say they have screen fatigue or don’t remember to take breaks whereas others have a set schedule. While I keep a scaled down version of my morning routine I still call it a win if I am out of my PJs in time for my first meeting! The team is good at finding ways to have fun, be creative and extend the office experience.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
It is important during this time to check in with your team to decide how everyone prefers to communicate and then use the right tools accordingly. We did a poll across the organisation and email came out top for certain information shares, especially as it lets people digest it when their available. We also use Slack which tends to lend itself better to group dialogue and I personally find it to be an amazing source of information.
A helpful technique I use is blocking off my time in my calendar to reflect family accommodations, I also send the invite to my husband and he does the same. I might use OOTO replies when I need to unplug, it ensures my team knows when I’m available, but also that I can dedicate time to my child and my well-being.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
The outbreak has really shown the generosity and positive intent of participants across the advertising industry. At Xandr, we’ve recently partnered with a number of organisations to support Covid-19 relief efforts, including Save the Children, Feeding America, the World Health Organisation and the International Rescue Committee. These four organisations in particular are having an incredible global impact, providing life-saving resources to support populations hardest hit by the coronavirus worldwide. I’ve always been engaged in my local community and it is great to see this at a global scale. I admire brands that want to do something about that and act.
What changes are you making to help your brand/clients connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
It is important to lead by example and ensure that you’re connecting with your clients on a more mindful level during this pandemic as everyone has different challenges to face. We’re helping our clients to make sure they have the best processes in place, they need to be able to optimise and adapt to this new environment.
Advertising needs to acclimatise to the new mode of consumption – ensuring it can meet the temperament of the new viewer. We’re now in a world on-demand, and both advertisers and publishers need to ensure they are able to make the necessary changes to connect with viewers during this pandemic. I don’t think we expect advertisers to give us normality back but they are uniquely positioned to speak to the nostalgia that we all retreat to, to give us hopeful energy.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
With more people in the household using devices at the same time and for extended periods, whether that’s doing work, watching a university lecture, a child’s interactive lesson or relaxing with gaming; this means content engagement is spiking. We’re seeing this across formats, whether it be via desktop, mobile, video and TV, but Connected TV is particularly seeing an uptick as well as the big screen.
In a world that is guided by one topic, buyers are hesitant to place their ads next to negative Covid-19 content. The main goal brands have beyond basic brand safety is they want to know how the content they are associated with is going to make the audience feel. To do that sophisticated tools that provide the ability to serve ads on neutral or positive Covid-19 content is critical to brand’s assurances of brand safety and confidence in spend. Xandr is offering one such tool, in partnership with Reach plc and IBM Watson. Named Mantis, it is able to filter content for positive/neutral/negative sentiment and package up positive and neutral content for purchase on our platform.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Hesitation and uncertainty around the ‘new normal’ have had an immediate impact and we are starting to see demand pick up. With that said, Xandr’s advice to brands has several facets, to ensure they’re finding an appropriate voice, that it fits with their brand and that they are comfortable with the strategy.
The first is to follow consumer behaviour – people are focusing on the essentials, buying behaviour is shifting to digital rather than in-store, and viewers are at home, engaging with more content that ever. If brands can evaluate their marketing efforts, to focus on forging connections with consumers, they can still remain engaged. All the while, advertisers should be aligning their media approach and focusing their brand voice on the current context of today’s environment. Through transparency and sincerity, brands can both drive awareness and build stronger ties with consumers – even if they’re not necessarily selling them anything at the moment there is still a value exchange that can ensure the path to loyalty.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand/clients?
It is challenging to plan too far ahead at this time as there are so many unknowns as the pandemic evolves. For now, it is important to plan for what we do know and ensure advertisers and publishers are able to provide relevant and valuable experiences for consumers. We are seeing more clients reach out and leverage us in the planning part and that when we can start to see beyond just months and help them set up for longer term success.