"We are not trying to reinvent ourselves; we are trying to be constant" Sunita Rajan
“With any role, it is much more about planning and preparation. I am a news junkie so there is a passion at the heart and centre of what I do. I see huge opportunity and I am looking forward to contributing to it,” says Sunita Rajan, Vice President and Head of Advertising Sales for Asia Pacific CNN International. Rajan, who has spent 17 years at BBC building the operation in Asia Pacific from scratch, took on her new role at CNN International in March 2015.
In her new role, Rajan oversees an extensive client portfolio and leads a team based in five offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Delhi and Mumbai.
In conversation with exchange4media, she talks about the brand’s focus at being consistent whilst keeping up with dynamic consumer behaviour and more. Excerpts:
What are the most important revenue generating genres for CNN?
Travel, tourism, finance, luxury, government and corporate are some of the most important segments of CNN and also bring in most of our advertising revenue.
The focus for CNN is clear and distinct—an evolution to keep pace with consumer demographic and consumer behaviour. We are not trying to reinvent ourselves. We are aiming to be consistent.
How is CNN, as a brand, creating a seamless experience for its consumer?
CNN celebrates 30 years globally. And over these past three decades, we have constantly pioneered, whether via technology or product, in the delivery of news.
This year, CNN unveiled a huge initiative which came with investment, but more importantly a new vision of what CNN Digital really means. We redesigned our website cnnnext.com which is the first responsive news website where the content is shaped and tailored to whichever screen it is viewed on.
You have to ensure that users not only have access to content 24/7, but the richness of the experience needs to be the same. This takes not just investment but also quality journalism and extremely high production value to create this kind of seamless news flow.
We will continue to launch new content for our consumers. For example, we recently launched a new vertical on the site called CNN Style. We have the opportunity to attract personalities, people who are masters in their respective fields, celebrities to talk about their craft and share unique ideas on art, fashion, design and music. It is a very high-end premium, but quality content that is easy to digest.
CNN Money which is our business vertical is a very well put together successful section of the website which comes from a table of well qualified finance journalists.
Then we have a travel segment, CNN Travel. We work with over 500 brands in the travel sector who are brand partners and advertisers.
The success of CNN Digital is that we have a growing number of users. It allows us to focus on what our consumers are looking for, from us. Social, mobile and video make up the strategic pillars in our digital presence.
How is the news genre changing to adapt to the new consumer?
What is exciting and interesting in the market is consumer behaviour in reaction to news. News as a genre is vibrant and is a category of content that continues to attract new audiences; and has a very high engagement whether that’s breaking news, broader agenda of news journalism, or a variety of subjects like fashion, technology, business, science or entertainment.
We are fortunate enough to be in an industry where the content has such huge appeal and the consumption has evolved so dramatically that you have to tailor and shape your product to suit audiences across multiple screens. Multiple screen behaviour in news is real time, the user journey is constant, you get real time feedback through social media and you are in the business of not just keeping pace with trends but your also in the business of trying to make sense of a new story—be analytical, accurate, efficient and break the story.
From the commercial point of view for advertisers, news continues to be a very popular genre in the Asia Pacific region and viewership is very high. As a business, we strongly believe it is here to stay, but we also believe that if you update and upgrade your product with technology and a user experience which is rich, interesting and of high quality, you won’t simply keep your audience but it will continue to grow as well.
What will the next wave in the industry be?
The audio visual (video) medium won’t go out of fashion. The consumption of video on mobile devices, especially, is seeing a significant increase. All the statistics on work manufacturing and purchase shows that mobile interaction is only going to grow further. This might not be the next big wave because it’s already here. But it’s growing exponentially and we all need to adapt our product offerings to suit that.
Story-telling is the key. When you are a master at it, you know what audiences expect and deliver it.
What is your view on the digital scenario in India?
Technology has served as a catalyst to traditional business models. Consumers have moved on to digital; brands and advertisers and content creators are now playing catch up.
Five to six years ago, the pace of change to digital in regards to the India market and advertisers was very slow to be embraced and adopted; especially in regards to allocation of funds towards digital platforms.
Today, there are more products and services, and corporate advertising is being seen across digital platforms. This is encouraging, especially for brands like us. Digital offers a whole plethora of services. You have audience segmentation, geo targeting, behavioural targeting, content that you can serve to suit a particular type of audience.
The narrative around the importance of the consumer journey has sealed the opportunity for digital platforms to be the front and centre of any communications plan. Creative agencies are still struggling with that. You can’t just take a TV campaign and use it on a digital platform.
The good news is that because it is moving so fast, media companies have resigned to the fact that they have to invest in tools and technology to join the digital movement. It takes consumption and consumer patterns to serve as a catalyst to brands thinking of reinventing themselves.
How do you see the role of TV impacted with the surge in digital?
The power of TV will continue to dominate. There is the attraction and value of international TV which satisfies a very specific need for brands and marketers. The amplification and adoption of that multi-platform buys are increasing. Digital is not growing at the cost of TV. It is being added on to be able to expand on an advertising campaign.
How much do you expect digital to contribute to your revenues?
Our digital growth is very much in line with the market. The power of TV will continue to dominate. There is the attraction and value of international TV satisfies a very specific need for brands and marketers. The amplification and adoption of that multi-platform buys are increasing. Digital is not growing at the cost of TV. It is being added on to be able to expand on an advertising campaign.
Focusing on the local market and the opportunity associating with our news brand is what we are working with right now.
Our typical marketing budget is usually 10 per cent of the topline spend
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