Doug Simon is an expert in producing video for agencies and brands in both broadcast and social media. As CEO of the award-winning DS Simon Media, Doug has lengthy experience in getting clients’ spokespeople on television news. By arranging satellite media tours, providing behind the scenes video coverage, and servicing social media video production, Doug gets his clients’ positive stories out there.
In this episode of Chats with Chip, he addresses what the trends in both broadcast and social media mean for the future, as well as changes he is seeing in how clients and agencies work with firms like his own.
- Chip: “It’s no surprise that video is becoming increasingly important in the communications arsenal. And so a lot of agencies, even traditional ones that maybe didn’t engage in video as much now are needing to, and obviously the clients are demanding it.”
- Doug: “We are in process of conducting a survey of local TV news directors and it’s actually a very low percentage of their newscasts, about a quarter, that they plan on devoting to election coverage in 2020. So what that means is there’s actually more opportunity for brands to get their spokespeople on in local markets.”
- Chip: “20 or 30 years ago, it was almost impossible for agencies to do video in house unless they were really large, because of the equipment and the infrastructure that was needed. Today, you can actually produce pretty good quality video with a consumer grade technology like iPhones.”
- Doug, on the impact of local TV markets, including the 2016 election: “So if these local markets were enough to help someone get elected president, as a brand, as an organization, you probably don’t want to cede that territory, those consumers, to your competition.”
CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Doug Simon. He is the CEO of DS Simon Media, and he works with agencies and brands to produce video for broadcast and social media. Welcome to the show, Doug.
DOUG: Thanks for having me, Chip.
CHIP: So first, why don’t you share a little bit more about DS Simon Media and your background, because I know you have a ton of experience in video. And you’re going to have some great insights over the course of the next 20 minutes or so for the agency owners and executives who are listening.
DOUG: Great. So DS Simon Media started quite a long time ago. But our key function is to help clients get their experts, get their leaders, get their spokes people on television news with positive stories. We do that a couple of different ways. The most popular at this point is satellite media tours. We’ll set up between 25 and 30+ interviews within one five hour period with the brand executive organization leader with a story that’s been developed that’s been pitched to the station that they want to share with their viewers, these interviews typically last between two to four minutes on outlets all across the country. Additionally, we’ll provide at major events a behind the scenes video coverage that’s provided to news media across the country as well. Finally, a lot of times we service the social media production backbone, increasingly for Facebook, live events for events from multiple locations that are going to be transmitted anywhere in the world.
CHIP: You know, it’s no surprise that video is becoming increasingly important in the communications arsenal. And so a lot of agencies, even traditional ones that maybe didn’t engage in video as much now are needing to, and obviously the clients are demanding it. One of the things that struck me and one of the reasons why I reached out to you for this conversation is because you had a recent video blog where you talked about how how there seems to be a changing dynamic that you’re seeing in your business in the way that agencies and brands are working with video producers like you. So perhaps you could talk about that shift a little bit and what you’re seeing
DOUG: Sure, so what we’re seeing, which surprised us, because it was bout the first time this has ever happened is clients where we’ve worked on campaigns with both the agency on the brand, sort of year after year for seasonal campaigns, suddenly, we had a number of them where the agency was saying, Oh, just work with the brand directly on this and it wasn’t a function that they’d lost the account or anything like that. But that had never happened, suddenly, it started to happen more frequently. So it made us think, hmm, what’s going on here? So we actually reached out and have started a survey to get some feedback. And interestingly, what we’re seeing, and I wouldn’t even call it an agency brand disconnect as one might expect. But an alignment. So we asked both brand leaders and agency leaders, if they increasingly prefer that brands work directly with third party service providers, like our company, instead of running it through the agencies. 75% of the brands so far that they prefer that. But for agencies, it was actually a 50/50 split. So it wasn’t like they’re in opposition. So this seems to be a broader trend. And, you know, obviously we can dig deeper about what are the possible explanations for that.
CHIP: Well, exactly, you know, is this is this being driven by budget issues? By time and resource issues? Is it a control issue? What you know, what do you think is the reason for this shift?
DOUG: Sure. Well, I think it might be a combination of a couple of reasons. And one of them really stems from the difficulty in earning coverage on broadcast media today. I mean, everyone feels especially with election coverage, that the cable newscasts are dominated by that and it’s impossible to break in the network newscasts are dominated by that type of discussion as well, it’s almost impossible to break in with a positive story about your organization. So it’s getting harder and harder. And that could be creating a shift in the agency world. Also, agencies and we tend to be seeing this a little more among larger agencies, because they have so much responsibility to perform under their contract. If for example, a client wants to get their spokesperson on local TV news around the country. If the agency involves itself, that might be a process where they’re taking hours away from what their core responsibility is for the client, or do they want to bill a large account the small incremental cost of project managing a project like this. So I think that could be another factor at play, they don’t want to absorb time and effort that they’re not going to be reimbursed for. But given the scale of it, it might not be something that they want to approach the client about. So it might make it more efficient.
CHIP: Are you seeing any difference in how they engage with you as far as whether it’s, you know, a satellite media tour versus event video or social video, you know, is one more likely than another, to be directly contracted by the brand instead of the agency?
DOUG: Yeah, well, one of the things we’re seeing, and that’s a very interesting point you make is sort of the level of employee at the agency level, versus the brand level, who’s getting involved on, you know, what would be considered a relatively small scale project, like a satellite media tour. So at the agency level, it can be an account executive or senior account executive, smart people, I’m not trying to make a negative comment about that this is just to illustrate it. We’ve had a number of occasions recently where a project started with an agency at say a mid level executive. And then at the brand side, it was their national director of media, for a global company that was actually getting involved with a specific project at that level. So there might be a differentiation and weighting of the value of these types of projects, where it might be significantly higher at the brand side, than it would be at the agency side, just by who they’re assigning to work on these projects.
CHIP: And that makes sense. So, you know, obviously, you’ve been in the game a long time, you’ve seen a lot of trends come and go, what are what are you seeing with regard to video overall? Now, whether it’s from a brand or from an agency, you know, how obviously, we know social is is big and important today and wasn’t 20 years ago, but it you know, what other shifts? Are you seeing? Is it, are you seeing changes in the style of video, the length, all those different things? How does that play into the video part of the communications matrix?
DOUG: Sure. And I do think that the way different types of projects between, for example, broadcast placement, and social media placement are divided, what we see is brands and agencies are way more likely to hire a third party service company for a broadcast campaign on a specific image. However, on the digital side of things in social, they’re less likely to do that. And that’s more a function of, Okay, we’ve got our digital team working on this. So what we’re seeing is holistically, they’re able to be more flexible ramping up on broadcast placement, but digital, they don’t necessarily assign it to a specific campaign. It’s more broader effort of that. So that’s definitely one change we see. And I think another big change we’re seeing really comes to the trend from working with third party experts, to brands and nonprofits, I should say, getting their own spokes people out in the media. And the flip side of there being so many challenges to getting your spokesperson on a network morning show or nightly newscast or cable newscast on a positive story. We are in process of conducting a survey of local TV news directors and it’s actually a very low percentage of their newscasts, about a quarter, that they plan on devoting to election coverage in 2020. So what that means is there’s actually more opportunity for brands to get their spokespeople on in local markets. And traditionally, those are very positive interviews, we find that about 80 to 85% of the stations that will do a media tour will actually ask the questions that we’ve provided to them. And there’s a logical explanation to that. If you’re a morning show anchor, you’re doing a two hour newscast. We’re obviously completely focused on what this three to four minutes segment is going to be. For them, they’ve pretty much done the news, they’ve taken a break for traffic and weather, that might actually be the first time the anchor has looked at the story. Oh, we’ve got this person on from XYZ company. Let’s see what they’ve got. Okay, I see it’s loaded in the teleprompter, I’m good to go. So these days, it’s very difficult to convey the idea of an interactive discussion that allows you to get your positive messaging out and reaches a key and extremely large audience.
CHIP: Well, look, I think that’s a that’s a great point that you make that it really is about packaging up what the message is from the client and making it convenient for whoever is going to be consuming it, distributing it, whether that’s a TV station or on a social network. So you really need to think about how to make sure that you’re positioning the content properly for it, so that it’s, it’s a win win for everybody.
DOUG: Yeah, and oftentimes, you know, content for these social channels are also provided to the brand and the agency, so it’s a great opportunity to get additional video content specific to an issue that can support what the digital agency is providing. And it’s also a valuable resource for internal communications. Frequently, especially with brands spokespeople, and increasingly, we’re seeing CEOs involved in even hosting and being the spokesperson for satellite media tours, they’re able to provide a message for internal communications, just about the fact that they’re saying positive things about what their team is doing on stations across the country. And that can be very powerful internally. There’s also been a change in who journalists prefer to speak to.
CHIP: And, and, and what is that change that you’re seeing?
DOUG: Sure, I mean, frequently, we saw a lot of use of third party spokespeople. We spoke to close to 200 journalists, and asked them who they preferred to interview when they were doing a positive story about either a brand or a nonprofit. And it was 82% for brand, they actually prefer to interview an in-house spokesperson rather than a third party expert. And he was even hire at 87% for a nonprofit. Now, the FTC, Federal Trade Commission has spokesperson disclosure rules. So when you are being represented by a third party spokesperson, they’re actually required by law on air to say that they’re working with the brand, it’s not just a random kind of endorsement. So that’s important too. But the stations want to hear from brands. So this is an opportunity for the brands to save money, to build up their image, increase authenticity. One of the best ways journalists said that a brand could become more authentic was by making the CEO available for interviews, and we’re seeing a number of our clients doing this in an increasing way.
CHIP: So you know, a lot of the listeners here are folks who are running their own agency or are senior execs in agencies, and obviously, you know, 20, 30 years ago, it was almost impossible for agencies to do video in house unless they were really large, because of the, you know, the equipment and the infrastructure that was needed. Today, you can actually produce pretty good quality video with a consumer grade technology, even iPhones and that sort of thing. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, how, how should agencies figure out what they should be creating in house versus what they really need to go to experts for? Because, you know, obviously, it’s with the amount of video that folks are trying to produce today, it’s very difficult to outsource all of it to a firm like yours. So how do you, how do you draw that distinction? How do you work with folks who maybe do some video in house and come to you for other things?
DOUG: Sure. And, and we actually encourage them to do video. And as I mean, if you’re on the agency side, and you have no video content creation capability, that’s clearly a mistake. And a lot of that is supporting the digital and the social. So you have to look at what’s the type of event you’re looking at. I mean, for example, tomorrow, we’re doing a Facebook Live event, we’ve got people in multiple locations, three different locations, and they want it to be professionally produced and to look good and sound good, and then go out to you know, Facebook Live and could also go to multiple sites, that might be something that you wouldn’t necessarily expect the agency to be able to pull off. But if it’s something where you’re thinking behind the scenes mode, the quality of cell phones now are such that you can literally use a phone to get a quality broadcast based on what’s expected. If you’re behind the scenes backstage, at an event as an example, for live broadcast. And live is obviously way more compelling to the user, to the consumer, than pre recorded and the benefit of any live broadcast, it can be used later as digital assets and shared as well. So it actually has an afterlife to the live event that makes it compelling. Data is that consumers will spend about three times more tuned into a live event than pre recorded content.
CHIP: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see folks making with video? And what tips would you have for agencies in order to make sure that they’re producing the best video content that they can?
DOUG: Sure, I mean, you know, I like to think and be supportive our industry that we’re doing it well. I think, I think we’ve moved away a bit from trying to earn media and get our clients on television, in part because it’s so hard. So I would really encourage agencies to be looking at opportunities to get their spokespeople on local TV. And, you know, an example of this comes from President Trump’s successful 2016 campaign and, you know, separate whether you’re a supporter or not of President Trump, they extensively made him and their surrogates available to local newscasts around the country. And the Clinton campaign was more reticent about getting her interviewed on local news, and even you know, the Sinclair markets, which from an editorial perspective had their own bias and supported President Trump. But you know, they were heavily involved in this. And that might have made the difference in rural areas in a lot of states. So if these local markets were enough to help someone get elected president, as a brand, as an organization, you probably don’t want to cede that territory, those consumers, to your competition.
CHIP: So just in some respects, just showing up is half the battle.
DOUG: Absolutely. And there’s oftentimes and you know, you can look at it politically where these areas were overlooked and the damage it caused to the race, I think it’s important and there’s an expectation among consumers, that people are going to make an effort and brands included, to communicate with them. And the benefit is, it’s way easier. As an example, after the recent Democratic debate, the first one in July. nightly newscasts were 38% political news. We analyzed content from all network affiliate local stations in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Orlando, and Milwaukee, as we want to get some geographical differences, those stations combined, less than 6% of their newscasts were devoted to political news. There’s a huge amount of space out there. And I think a big mistake is to not go after it aggressively, because it’s a tremendous opportunity and a friendly environment.
CHIP: So it sounds to me like you’re saying that the digital is important and valuable, but people shouldn’t overlook the local broadcast markets that, you know, perhaps aren’t quite as sexy, but maybe at least as effective.
DOUG: Yeah, and you know, they’re definitely effective. I’m not saying do one at the expense of the other, clearly, you need a digital presence, you need a social presence, you know, when it comes to planning out your content, you have to think of it and this is something that even a small agency can do is programming a network show. I mean, imagine what, you know, Netflix has done making different types of programs available for different sectors of its audience, when you’re creating video content for a brand, you know, there are different purposes, obviously, you want to make news with it. But you want to reach prospects, you want to reach clients, you want to reach partners, what are different campaigns you can pull together. I think one area that people often overlook, as thought leadership has become so important, is engaging your prospects and your business targets, in thought leadership video conversations. That can be done pretty cost effectively, especially at a trade show, where you have an opportunity with a news style crew, and an onsite editor to do multiple interviews with people that you want to do business with, and place them on your social channels. So you’re actually doing a favor for the people you want to do business with. And you can engage with them at a very high level to create sales opportunities and the benefits of something like that can outstrip costs dramatically. Similarly, if you’re in the market with startups and folks who are looking to try and get VC money, selective use of getting their CEO interviewed on the news, and I wouldn’t advise a full satellite media tour when they’re at the stage. But why not try and set up two or three interviews with the CEO in local markets. And that way, you’ll have those as examples. So when they go to their next meeting, where they’re giving their elevator pitch, they can actually show clips of their CEO, having the idea for the firm validated on TV news casts. Very powerful and really sets you apart, doesn’t have to be an expensive spend.
CHIP: If, you know when you think about all this video that’s being created. In the old days, we used to do a ton of media training for folks who are going to be on TV and that sort of thing. Now, you know, my experience is, a lot of folks just show up to do digital video without much pre-planned media training, you know, getting them comfortable with speaking on camera and all of that entails, you know, do you think that that’s – that agencies and businesses are investing enough in that piece of the business? Or do you think that’s something that needs a little bit more attention?
DOUG: I think they are investing in that, especially the agencies they’re advocating it. Whether the clients want to put budget towards it is the second question. A key thing, especially for video in the digital or social space, is are you right-sizing it for the skill set of the people you’re engaging with? You know, there’s a different level of someone who can be the host of a show, than there is with someone who can be an expert being interviewed. So you want to set them up in a format, that they’re likely to be successful if you’re, say, talking with someone at a brand who’s helped develop the technical aspects of a new product that’s interesting. Do you want them just giving a talk? Or would you prefer that a skilled interviewer sort of ask them the questions, prompts them, so they can be seen as the expert where they’re not expected to be someone capable of hosting a TV network show.
CHIP: Well we’re, Doug, we’re creeping up on the end of the time that we have available. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that I should have or other advice that you’d like to share with the agency leaders who are listening?
DOUG: I just have to say you’ve been just outstanding, I guess it’s a trick question. You’ve been great. I think, you know, as you take a step back, as you’re planning for end of year, and next year, clearly, it’s a mix of what’s been done before and what’s on the new edge of the frontier. And you really need to be doing both well, to be successful. I think, you know, agencies are looking at how they can really be focusing on the charge that they’re given been given by clients. And I think that’s what’s feeding the trend. We’re going to see and continue to see brands playing a much larger role in the project management aspects when working with third parties, like my company, and others.
CHIP: Well, video is certainly not going away anytime soon. It’s only going to continue to increase in importance, so it’s, it’s been a very illuminating conversation with you today. Again, my guest has been Doug Simon of DS Simon Media.