Joining CNN International commercial’s executive team from BBC Worldwide in March 2015, Sunita Rajan’s focus has been to oversee strategic relationships and brand partnerships across the Asia Pacific region. As VP and head of advertising sales, she is positive about the growth that the region promises across platforms.
“Asia is a pivot for growth for any company. Asia is a growth opportunity for CNN, and that is why I was given the opportunity to lead it. We would want to harness the market opportunity,” she said, in conversation with Campaign India. And this opportunity exists across screens, targeting users and advertisers, she underlined.
She listed leveraging differentiated content, scale, digital platforms, and satisfying interests and passion of C-(suite)level audience as opportunities for growth, adding that the focus on ‘half glass full’ digital was strong for CNN International.
The investments in digital are also increasing for the channel. The website was refreshed this year, while vertical CNN Style was added recently. Agreeing that CNN International still doesn’t have much content targeted towards millennials, Rajan revealed that the site will be adding newer verticals in the next six to eight months.
Rajan ceded that creating content, which is expensive, and managing RoI while creating value for advertisers, remains a challenge.
“It remains a constant battle, and challenge, the way brand marketers and advertisers view the value of screen versus the value of the content. As the market is getting more automated with the digital buying, for us as with any premium content owner, it is about the audiences, content and platforms. The mechanics of how we buy that inventory - whether it is programmatic, brand partnerships - is a mechanic. The value proposition does not change,” Rajan said.
This was one of the reasons why CNN International formed Pangaea alliance with other premium publishers (programmatic advertising system founded by CNN International, The Guardian, Financial Times and Reuters). The alliance seeks to hold and protect the value of the content.
“Data-led sales approach is the way forward, and that's the change. That's the trump card. We do have lot of data of our user journey, and we do have scale. We have been driving a data-led content solutions sales approach. We have done that very effectively on television. We are looking at extending that to solutions that go beyond that standard ad banner, which could be data-led or content-led. We could either do sponsorships, native, or data-led behavioural targeting and using data as core and central part of that,” she explained.
Talking about revenue growth from digital, she said, “TV as a medium is extremely important but it is not growing exponentially. Digital therefore presents opportunity, because of technology driving device, and therefore behaviour, to participate now. Digital revenue has been growing and will grow rapidly. In India, the real growth is in digital."
The opportunity, for CNN International, is about clearly articulating its ad sales proposition for Indian advertisers, said Rajan.
“If I have to break it down to three areas, it would be standard advertising buys, which are few and far between; content - seasons or specials or regular content, and finding brand partners to associate with that; and keeping pace with what is trending and what is new. Native is the buzzword. But every media owner is doing it differently. We have Nativo to create native ad campaigns for the brands. We just started on that journey recently. And then, there is programmatic and data," said Rajan.
Her mandate would be to explore sponsorships, branded content and partnerships, and technology-led ad solutions, surmised the spokesperson.