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Jarl Mohn on Insider Interviews

Jarl Mohn on Art and the Art of Media Management



Just skim the career path of my first guest for Season 2 of Insider Interviews and you’ll understand why it was worth the wait of my past year on hiatus: It’s Jarl Mohn, former President and CEO of NPR…and E! Entertainment Television, the network he also created!

Jarl’s career includes being hand-picked by former radio buddy, Bob Pittman (currently CEO of iHeart Media), to be the first EVP/GM of MTV and VH1. He also spent many years on the boards of The Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the EW Scripps Company and Scripps Networks, and KPCC Southern California Public Radio where he honed his love of public radio.
And, while Jarl hung up his pundit placard to focus on hanging art as he and his wife Pamela endow museums and support emerging artists, his 50+ years in media and venture capital have taught him a thing or two about content and management. He shares 35 minutes of brilliance and humility — from how his years in foster care sparked an escape route to radio, how quality will separate winners and losers in today’s content wars, and how art can literally change the way we think.
We go head to, literally, toe on the big picture of media, right down to why his face is on my feet. Yeah, you’ll have to keep listening for that one. Or watch the video on YouTube, since good content should span all platforms!

The following is a highly edited transcript, including a multitude of links to important resources mentioned.

Career Path – Radio to Television

E.B.: Jarl, you were my first boss in the cable industry.

You started E! Entertainment Television and I was there in the Greg Kinnear and Howard Stern days. Can you share a little chronological route to your career?

Jarl: I began my career as a disc jockey when I was 15 years old. I ended up ultimately, in New York at WNBC doing afternoons when I was 25 then got into the programming side of the business, became a general manager and  bought some radio stations. Then one of the people I had worked with at WNBC, Bob Pittman, hired me, along with Tom Preston at MTV and VH1. So, I got into the cable TV business. Then in 1986 we created E! Entertainment Television. I did a stint with John Malone at Liberty Media as CEO of Liberty Digital, which was used to invest in internet companies and some interactive companies. Then venture capital /early stage angel investing for about 16 years.

And then I had been involved in public radio in Los Angeles as a board member of KPCC and had the opportunity to become CEO of NPR nationally, for about six years. I finished up my tour of duty in 2019 and returned to Los Angeles.

Radio as Escape from Foster Care

EB: You shared with me that you had been in a group home in foster care ….

Jarl: It was a very difficult thing to experience. I spend some time with foster youth and young adults in Los Angeles County now and have a chance to talk to a number of them. Almost every one, using different language, wants to know how we survived our PTSD or our trauma. …I hated my existence in that children’s home so much that I discovered radio and listened to it nonstop and fantasized about being one of those cool disc jockeys. So, when I got out at 15, I had a chance to go to engineering school, get my FCC license and began working at a radio station.

EB: Radio is, of course we talk about it as theater of the mind. I just read an amazing memoir called A Place Called Home by David Ambroz, who actually works at Amazon now, and overcame similar challenges. You both remind us how we all need to support youth so much better and try to improve that world.

The Art of Listening

EB: Jarl, I knew you when you still used your DJ name, Lee Masters…I remember you would regularly walk the halls of E! Entertainment Television, chatting with every employee, every day. That meant the world to everyone I’m still part of the past-employee Facebook group. I even did an episode last season of Insider Interviews with Darren G. Davis who was our department coordinator then and now runs a very successful comic book company called Tidal Wave! So, you really created another family for us.

Jarl: At every company I worked at I found I learned a lot more about what was happening in the company by just walking and asking, ‘what are you working on? What are you getting the biggest kick out of? What are the challenges? And in doing that every day, cumulatively I think it informed me, really helped me do my job better, and it was also a great deal of fun.

EB: You continued that walk the hall approach, but you did it from the skies and the road. Tell us about visiting NPR stations.

Jarl: One of my good friends is also a pilot, and suggested we fly to small NPR stations that no one from corporate had ever visited. We hit 15, 17 stations and got to meet donors and listeners and the station employees and have some great local food. Then I drove from Washington, DC. to Los Angeles and I visited another 20 or more radio stations.

AM/FM Either/Both/Or Public Radio?

EB: A lot of the EV industry folks are saying that AM radio creates interference with electric cars. Are we facing the demise of AM radio?

Jarl: When I made the transition to from AM to FM radio in 1974 if you had asked me the prognosis then I would’ve said everybody had completely written off AM radio at that time. But since then, even recently, there are a number of markets, like Atlanta, where the number one radio station is WSB, an AM radio station. And there are a handful of others. They’re successful because they’re offering something not available anywhere else — whether it’s the Atlanta Braves or a morning personality. [Hear Jarl’s advice on radio programming back in the day.]

But I do think the radio business itself is very, very challenged overall. A lot of it, is self-inflicted wounds, from having commercial loads that are too high, to being very repetitive, and so forth. One of the reasons I love public radio is that it’s providing … news analysis, really audio essays on what’s going on and explaining what’s happened, providing background, some context and storytelling — something different.

I think a lot of the music formats are under siege from Spotify and from satellite radio. The problem is if a lot of people are deserting the broadcast band because of music, your pool of available listeners for an NPR station starts to decline, too. But I think they’re going to hang in a lot longer than anybody else.

EB: You became a member of all 251 NPR stations and got a mug from each one, which are as proudly displayed in your home as your renown art collection!

Mugs from 251 NPR stations

Now, Pierre Bouvard, head of research over at Cumulus Westwood One, points out the big difference in perception and reality about radio since some 86% of US adults still listen to radio regularly.  

Programming Pivot to Survive?

E.B.: Where you would advise media companies in general on how they need to pivot?

Jarl: What’s happening in the streaming world are these incredible budgets of six, seven, 12 billion a year per company — the economics right now don’t look like they’re working. However, a lot of people seem to enjoy using them. And one of the number one topics of conversations: “What are you watching?” And everybody’s exchanging their lists: “did you see Kaleidoscope on Netflix? Or Slow Horses…? A lot of people are looking at content. The challenge, of course, is how many of these services can you subscribe to?

I believe, regardless of the medium — audio or visual, broadcast radio or podcast, a cable network or on demand, whatever your format or platform, the quality and the differentiation and the uniqueness of what you’re producing is hugely important.

How do you make people aware of what’s available?  Really focus on the, the quality of what you’re producing, to make it as interesting and mouthwatering as possible. Good content wins. It’s very expensive to do. That’s why only a few people can do it. (I would also add that I’m not in the trenches every day dealing with this inside a media company like I was when I was. I view it as someone that is kind of close, but not, not in the center anymore.)

Good Content from Diverse Voices

EB: What do you think are the number one or two action steps that any media company or service can really do to help forward DEI and legitimize its brand purpose? 

Jarl: I think it’s a hugely important topic for everybody, not just media companies. It’s an issue for museums, for example, which are questioning this historical perspective on white European males in their collection. It’s a huge issue in the art world; the museums aren’t making as much progress as the art world and the galleries are. Some of the new contemporary museums are doing a much better job of doing exhibitions from women and people of color.

I’m not an expert on this, but I think there’s been progress. I think one of the big challenges for every organization has been limited number of people with background or expertise in any particular field, whether it’s broadcast or whether it’s the museum world. And there’s a huge amount of demand for  people of color in some of these roles. My personal experience at NPR was bringing people in who were terrific, with a great sensibility, intelligence, doing great work. Now, NPRs a not-for-profit and very quickly somebody comes in and snags them. We’d bring them in, train them in our ways and our sound. And in 18 months or two years, they were off to a much bigger paycheck, which was great for them. But, then you’re back to square one to fill this position. [Hear Insider Interviews Epi 15 with NPR CMO Michael Smith on this topic.]

The Art of Giving

E.B.: You’ve been working to amplify the voices of diverse artists. Can you explain the LAND grants you and your wife, Pamela, have bequeathed?

Jarl: We’ve had the family foundation for 25 years and to have more impact, decided to write fewer checks, but write bigger checks and really get behind projects we really believe in. I’d say 85% of what we do is LA County-based, where we live and it’s around social justice. There are a lot of issues and problems here, but there are also some beautiful things and some beautiful opportunities.

I was chair of the A C L U Southern California for 13 years so that’s a big one. We really believe in civil liberties and the rights of people that really don’t have the kind of representation that they should. We’re in the early stages of figuring out how we’re going to work with foster youth, because of my background. …especially on transition age youths, which is 18 to 24, because a lot of the system ends for them when they get out of high school.

And the arts are really important to me. The Mohn LAND grants is something we just announced with LA Nomadic Division, which does public art. We’re going to do 20 grants over the next five years for emerging artists who have not had any major institution or gallery representation, and who live and work in LA. They’ll create works that will be in their neighborhoods, publicly available, not in a gallery, that will speak to the people in the issues of that community.

Initial recipients of MOHN LAND GRANTS

We also have been involved for 11 years with the Hammer Museum’s Made in LA exhibition and the Mohn Award for LA emerging artists or under-recognized LA artists. another public not-for-profit space called LAX Art, and of course public radio.

The Art of Creativity

I find art really inspiring and I encourage anybody, regardless of how they feel about it, to try to spend some time with it because it opens up different neural pathways.

Jarl: I always have found if I’m stuck creatively on something, that if I go to a museum and I look at art. I don’t look at a piece of art and go, oh, that makes me think of this, it just, it frees up my mind. I think art is beautiful that way And I’m not just talking about the visual arts. I’m talking about film, music, dance. There are beautiful things happening in culture everywhere.

Also, if I’m really stuck, I like to go look at art that I don’t like, that I don’t understand, that the critics have said great things about, but for whatever reason, doesn’t appeal to me. Because what is it that the people that are far better educated than I am on this subject see in it that I don’t see in it? I find it opens up my mind. If not at that moment it does later. So, my pro tip, for anybody that is in anything creative or has to do problem solving, go to museums regularly and look at stuff and go out of your way to look at things that you might not like.

EB: Well, I think that you also answered one of the rationales for why we need more inclusion and more voices in media, just to bring it full circle, because looking at something that you’re not used to or that doesn’t necessarily resonate with, you could illuminate new ideas as it amplifies fresh voices.

I promised that we would bring it from the head to the toes and just to pay that off, tell everyone why I’m wearing your face on my feet!

Jarl: I don’t want anybody to think I actually had socks made with my face on them. Apparently, they the NPR staff was going to wear these socks for my going away party, but they didn’t arrive until after I had left. So, they were just sitting there. So instead of throwing them out I put it up on Instagram and Facebook and told anybody, if you want a pair let me know. And they went very quickly. I was really surprised, like, who in the world is gonna want these? But it’s just goofy enough that people loved it.

EB: And that turned into “Socktober” like a where’s Waldo and Elf on a shelf meme for a while.

I want to end with a quote from an “All Things Considered” NPR story about happiness.

It said that “if people could change one thing in their lives to be happier, what does the data say? They should choose, they should invest in their relationships with other people.”

So, Jarl, I’d like to say that you’ve made me very happy for joining me and for raising the bar on being a very “humanized” exec who’s made so many people happy.

 

Please share the podcast if you liked this episode, and follow Insider Interviews on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And to support more please add to my virtual tip jar!  https://www.buymeacoffee.com/mossappeal

You can also reach out to be considered for an episode — or suggest questions or a guest — or to have your own bespoke podcast series produced and/or hosted by E.B. Moss. Email us at podcasts@mossappeal.com. We’re “hear” for you!


Get Ready for Season 2 of Insider Interviews!



Get ready! Here’s what to expect for the next season of interviews featuring leading media, marketing and ad execs who share the “insider’s scoop” on the industry.

HINT: Expect to hear from renown leaders like Jarl Mohn who ran NPR and Mary Baglivo who ran Saatchi & Saatchi, to NFL marketers like Jen Kavanagh and Marissa Solis, to CMOs like Linda Bethea of Danone. Season 2 of Insider Interviews will be jam packed, so please follow now, or subscribe wherever you like to listen to #podcasts. But all of the Season 1 episodes are still informative for anyone interested in learning from major brands, publishers and media pros!

Oh, and if you’re curious, you’ll learn what E.B. was up to in 2022 while Insider Interviews was on hiatus. She’s available for more content marketing for your company, including getting you started with your own B2B podcast!


Header Image - Epi 44 of Insider Interviews with guest Anna Bager

OAAA’s Anna Bager on Out of Home Improvement



For the past several years, Out of Home advertising (OOH) had back-to-back growth. Then, like so many changes in our daily habits, travel slowed, media habits shifted and signage became less of commodity. But, as Anna Bager, the CEO of the OAAA – the trade association for outdoor advertising recently shared:

Part of that is tempering excitement over new technologies with a focus on society’s heightened need for humanity and real connections. The right strategy helps brands ensure they’re reaching consumers where they are, providing an experience that’s contextual and relevant.

This conversation with Anna expresses the “what’s old is new again” value of OOH and its ability to offer that “where they are” connection with consumers and provides an experience that’s contextual and relevant, privacy-compliant AND hyper-local!
NOTE: It’s a terrific complement to Epi 43 with the CEO of Captivate which focused on how their form of digital place-based advertising —  in-elevator media — also had to shift its “place” and pivot during the pandemic. In both cases you’ll hear about the value of both digital engagement and innovation and good old purpose driven messaging. (And if you want to learn about the IAB — Anna’s previous home before her focus on out of home — check out Epi 20 with David Cohen!)

We discuss:

  • The evolution of OOH from static hiway signs (think Burma Shave!) to interactive digital takeovers (think Times Square!)
  • How the medium survived the downturn in travel during the peak pandemic months by doubling down on its track record asa public service tool…
  • How OOH supports both “brand and demand” marketing.

We wrap with Anna’s personal preferences for cool tools of the future!
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Using Original Podcasts to Build Brand Relationships



Podcast pro Steve Pratt, VP and Co-Founder of the multi-award winning Pacific Content, told me his company no longer makes branded podcasts. They haven’t for a few years. They make “original podcasts with brands.” And win awards doing it for brands like Ford Motor Company, Rocket Mortgage, Morgan Stanley, Slack, and Red Hat.

The difference? These are no “thinly veiled infomercials. Instead, Pacific Content works together with their partners to “make a show that’s designed as something that only that brand can make; you give a gift — or create a significant amount of value — for the people that the brand wants to have relationships with.” And that, says Pratt, is how and why a brand makes a show that solves for their specific business problem, AND makes them into “media companies,” too.

But don’t forget about the marketing. Good content that isn’t salesy has to go hand in hand with good marketing that doesn’t just try to “interrupt.” So, excuse me (!), but marketers should listen to this informative conversation all about connecting the dots between business objectives and audience preferences via podcasting. Steve should know: his company of “50 passionate podcast nerds” is focused exclusively on original podcasts that promote brands with authenticity and without compromising quality.

Steve and I also discuss:
  • How Dell Technologies’ podcast, Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, became a “masterclass” on disruption and innovation, and sold listeners on Dell without selling products (and you can hear Dell Global Marketer, Rachael Henke, talk about this in Epi 6 from 5/20!) 
  • Creating a branded podcast strategy like a Venn Diagram between business goals and listener interests
  • How podcasts drive loyalty
  • Opportunities for “brands as media companies”
  • Branded podcasts vs. Advertising in another podcast: What’s the litmus test? (And when Steve suggests brands call Bart Roselli at VeritoneOne, per episode 41 on effective ad campaigns!)
  • Establishing marketing effectiveness in podcasting
  • Success measurement tactics and KPIs
And, since Pacific Content gives good content themselves, don’t miss Steve’s own musings on the future of podcasting, how he did on his 2021 predictions made in our friend James Cridland’s show…and what he’s projecting for 2022!

Please share the podcast, and if you liked this episode, feel free to show support in my virtual tip jar at https://buymeacoffe.com/mossappeal — and please follow and engage with Insider Interviews on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Find/Follow Steve and Pacific Content at:

Reach out to be considered for an episode — or suggest questions or a guest — or to have your own bespoke podcast series produced and/or hosted by E.B. Moss.

Email us at podcasts@mossappeal.com.  We’re “hear” for you!


Cadillac CMO Melissa Grady Dias on Marketing a Maverick (with heart)



A milestone! It’s Episode 40 of Insider Interviews! And for that, who better to interview than Cadillac’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, Melissa Grady Dias, who is, herself, marketing a milestone: the launch of what will be the first all electric line of luxury brand vehicles (EVs), starting with the Lyriq!

This episode was recorded in September, and since then the new Lyriq has sold out of pre-sale reservations. So how did it get so popular? Why is Cadillac “the maverick” of the GM brands, and how does its marketing deliver on its corporate parent’s promise to be the most inclusive company in the world?

For the past two years, Melissa Grady Dias has held the key. She is a marketer’s marketer, a master of math and of insight-driven creative. With a heart. That “brand and demand” combo (as I’ll write more about in The Continuum) is what’s helped infuse those corporate cause-oriented values into everything from gaming tie-ins to 6-second ads, to experiential marketing with Michelin-rated chefs. To hear Melissa be moved by the definition of equity and inclusion is to understand what “drives” (sorry) much of the brand messaging, but messaging that is always backed by data.
As she explains:

“I try to understand how and where my audience is consuming media, and how they’re entertaining themselves. Then I try to be in those places, but to do it in a different way, so that it really breaks through.”

While always in pursuit of an advertising career, (“I used to watch Who’s the Boss and I loved Angela and I wanted to be like her,” she confesses) Melissa almost took a wrong turn. But discovering Database, Direct, and e-Commerce studies in a Masters program led her to expertise in performance marketing and technology. Her passion for good creative added the rest of the fuel.
After discussing how she “followed her career north star to OnStar” we took some deep dives into how she is marketing the 125-year old brand, including:
  • What it means to “show up differently” and how the Cadillac marketing team approaches the funnel differently, too (hint: upside down!)
  • With GM looking to go all EV and towards a 0, 0, 0 world (zero emissions, zero crashes, and zero congestion) how Cadillac, historically an innovator brand, is at the forefront of that effort:
  • Just why Cadillac overall — from the Escalade to the XT6 — is like the maverick of GM brands, while still infused with corporate cause-oriented values.

“Cadillac is also a bit of a maverick and we’ve always stood for those people who really have big dreams and bold ambitions, but really they’re the change-makers.”

  • Melissa’s reaction to CEO Mary Barra’s statement on making GM one of the most inclusive companies in the world, and how they’re doing that — on social, in a campaign or in how they’re spending money;

“Equity is treating everyone the same and fairly. So if there’s a dance everyone’s invited to the dance. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

  • Campaign development:

“When Regina King heard the brand manifesto, she could relate it to her story. And …it inspires me to be a better person, too. That’s how the “Never Stop Arriving” campaign was born: it’s about hitting a moment, celebrating yourself and then thinking ‘Now, how do I keep making the world better? How am I going to keep moving forward?’”

  • How they identify prospects and find them, starting with addressable and digital then filling in as they go up the funnel, right to tentpole events like their Oscars™ or PGA sponsorships;
  • Melissa’s perspective on audience demographics “I’m never saying, ‘where are the 25-54 year olds with a certain income’” and feelings about linear TV to podcasts…even their innovative use of gaming and AR and VR as part of the sales process;

(Note – Take a look at Cadillac Live for a unique view of how vehicles can be experienced in our showroom and supply-chain challenged times! And fun fact: More test drives happen on YouTube than in a car dealership! So hear how Cadillac Live deployed a takeover with a “first” on the video site!)

  • Hear how data is handled and respected and leveraged;
  • How experiential comes to life in unexpected ways, like finding inspiration in the Lyriq grill for food recipes!;
  • How future CMOs can follow a similar path to success? Melissa shares a three-point plan of action which, of course, starts with follow your passion.

Finally, hear why my heart was pounding – as with most people who experience Super Cruise for the first time – but in my case just from watching their effective long-form celebrity videos about the hands-free driving option! Melissa has described this as the “let go” moment.

As voiced by Tiffany Haddish in the video, “Sometimes you gotta grab the wheel and sometimes you just have to let it go.” It’s trust that you’ll get where you need to be. Melissa, who makes it a point to meditate daily, thinks her personal mantra – ‘I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be’ – “ties into that idea pretty well.”

Easter Egg Moment: Insider Interviews aims to give you the “insider scoop” on media, marketing and advertising, along with the personal side of execs. And you’ll catch a very human moment around 20 minutes in…. But do enjoy all 40 minutes of this informative and jam packed conversation!
If you found this helpful, feel free to help support ANOTHER 40 episodes of Insider Interviews and add to my virtual tip jar to buy me a coffee“: https://buymeacoffee.com/mossappeal
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Follow Cadillac:

  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cadillac
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cadillac

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THANK YOU for listening!

E.B.

 


Pearl Servat’s Visible Marketing Wisdom



When I met Pearl Servat three years ago, Visible was brand new in the world of wireless carriers, and Servat was generating content about it. Now she is fairly new in an elevated role as Head of Brand Marketing and Demand Gen for the disrupter division of Verizon Wireless, and gives good content herself in our conversation about driving customer connections.
Servat honed her PR chops in the entertainment and brand world under the mentorship of marketing heavy hitters like Pat Kingsley (PMK-BNC), but made the switch, as they say in the world of carriers, to helm “brand and demand” marketing. In Epi 39, she discusses both her own evolution, and that of Visible. Hear how she leverages partnerships with like-minded brand ambassadors and ensures the first all-digital wireless carrier in the US doesn’t forget its mission of kindness and transparency:

“I essentially sit at the intersection of where I’ve always loved to be.  Between brand building and conversion and acquisition, driving and growth.”

Mission First, Marketing Next.

  • Servat explains that Visible’s mission drove her to lead efforts to connect people during some of the scariest days of the pandemic.
  • Hear how a simple email campaign that Visible sent asking how customers were holding up during the pandemic had unexpected impact.
  • Staying true to its DNA, the brand launched the #VisibleActsofKindness campaign and garnered over 2 million organic interactions.
  • Hear her perspective on the importance of both brand and demand marketing, as her title implies, AND experiential marketing — such as when they turned Los Angeles bus stops into mock living rooms, and even ski lifts settings giving customers a tactical connection with the all digital brand in lieu of physical retail locations.

“It’s beyond just retaining the consumer for us…We truly try to be as intentional as we can at every touch point with the brand. So, it doesn’t just start and stop with marketing.”

Partnerships that Matter

  • Partnerships and brand ambassadorships help extend the reach of the brand.
  • Servat emphasizes the importance of partnering with people who live by the same mission as the company.
  • Potential partners have seen the work Visible is doing and reached out to the company, interested in collaboration—the mission drives these kinds of partnerships.
  • Staying on trend? Servat credits her team, modestly saying she’s not “nearly as hip and cool as they are.”
  • And on working with marquee names like Kevin Bacon and Dan Levy? Well…

“When it comes to talent partnerships, we do a significant amount of research…And we only work with talent who walk the walk when it comes to social impact, what they stand for on an ongoing basis, [and] how they connect with their own communities.”

To hear more on the early stage Visible marketing efforts, listen to Insider Interviews Epi 10 with then CMO Minjae Ormes.

Connect with Servat and Visible

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If I can help you connect your podcast/tv/content dots—or, just want help getting started with a podcast or content marketing strategy, please reach out to me at podcasts@mossappeal.com.