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DirectConnect Marketing Pulse With WarnerMedia’s Jason Baron

This is the first in a series of DirectConnect interview segments where marketing and advertising leaders provide their insights in response to topical questions.

This quarter we feature veteran advertising sales executive Jason Baron. Jason is the senior vice president of direct response for WarnerMedia Ad Sales. Within this role, he oversees all direct response advertising business across WarnerMedia’s portfolio of leading brands. Based in New York, Jason reports to Frank Sgrizzi, executive vice president of portfolio sales and client partnerships for WarnerMedia Ad Sales. He is an alumnus of Rutgers University.

DIRECTCONNECT: As we enter the current presidential political campaign cycle, we believe it is safe to say that, in the history of modern politics, there has never been a presidency quite like the current one in terms of scrutiny and coverage (e.g., every rally covered live, town halls, etc.) What impact do you think this will have on advertisers and advertising this year and next?
JASON BARON: CNN is the leader in election-related coverage. For example, while we air both sides of the political spectrum, leading into the upcoming 2020 election, the majority of the Democratic Town Hall candidates have chosen CNN as their first national platform to discuss the key issues important to them. There is so much anticipation heading into next year’s election that advertisers across all categories know they need to get their messaging on cable news and in front of viewers. During the last election cycle, demand for our political coverage was unprecedented and CNN’s political coverage was higher than ever before, bringing in the network’s most diverse set of advertisers. We saw continued demand around the recent midterm elections in the fall of 2018 and as we head into 2020, we’re already experiencing that same interest. The great thing about CNN is that it’s not just a linear network but can also be viewed cross-platform on CNNGo.

DIRECTCONNECT: Looking at the remainder of 2019, what other events besides politics could impact viewership, both positively or negatively?
JASON BARON: The global economy, terrorism, U.S. financial markets, and the immigration crisis are just a few areas that are impacting viewership. Many of these events come with breaking news and are mainly just diminishing our advertising inventory capacities.

DIRECTCONNECT: As a result of our political climate and other real time world events, it seems like there is more breaking news than ever before.
JASON BARON: Breaking news has always been a large part of what CNN is all about – whether domestically or internationally. I wouldn’t say there is more breaking news, it’s just more consistent.  Breaking news impacts our inventory because we can go long stretches without commercial breaks. Both direct response and our general ad market are affected.

DIRECTCONNECT: Live sports seem to be the one genre of programming immune to time-switching; which is to say, people still predominately watch it in real time. Do you agree?
JASON BARON: I do. Sports and news are still both primarily watched in real time. Viewers want to see the action happening live. News and sports viewership are very similar.

DIRECTCONNECT: A lot of networks are packaging their linear and over-the-top (OTT) advertising opportunities. How have advertisers been responding to these propositions?
JASON BARON: Today, viewers have so many different ways to consume content. We have a lot of clients leaning into OTT and video-on-demand (VOD), not just as a compliment to linear, but to actually follow and connect with our passionate fans. Viewership on these non-traditional platforms is growing and both publishers and clients need to keep up with the demand.

DIRECTCONNECT: What impact is this having on your ability to measure audiences?
JASON BARON: We are actively working on products and solutions that will better track and provide attribution on OTT and VOD. As a company now under the AT&T umbrella, we’re able to tap into AT&T’s data with Xandr’s insights and more accurately measure audiences, which ultimately delivers greater business outcomes.

DIRECTCONNECT: The notion that TV is dead reminds us of the quote often attributed to Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” One of the ironies is that a lot of dot com disruptors seem to realize they cannot achieve scale without television advertising. What are you seeing?
JASON BARON: Direct-to-consumers (DTC) brands have become big spenders in the direct response marketplace. Many of these brands have caused disruptions and created healthy competition in several categories like personal hygiene, food delivery, and health products. A majority of these brands don’t have brick and mortar stores and are still creating quality products with great customer service that reaches a larger, more precise group of consumers.

DIRECTCONNECT: Thank you for sharing your insights and helping to forge the way with new opportunities to reach your portfolio’s avid viewership across time, space, and devices!
JASON BARON: Thank you for the opportunity.