Here’s a great profile on a few of my Data Science colleagues here at Viacom. So excited to see a few of my hires (Matthew and Preeti) profiled!
I’ve recently taken on a new role at Viacom as corporate vice president of data strategy. Here, I sit within a small group of ‘data mercenaries’ looking across the org looking for opportunity to scale how we work with data science and data platforms. It’s an fun pivot from past roles leading and building teams, and the opportunity seems enormous. In addition to taking on specific data projects / products, we’re asked to look across ALL of Viacom’s data efforts and assets and help everyone do more.
Our first step is to install a new process for defining the work each data group takes on. The benefits of this pre-work are multifold and tremendous. We now have a shared methodology for documenting the goals, expectations and ROI for each project – leveling the playing field for each team to get the understanding, buy-in and support they need. Here’s a peek into our process:
- Problem Statement – a single S.M.A.R.T. sentence that clearly defines the scope of the work at hand, the expected outcome metrics and the timeframe for delivery. Getting this right and agreed upon can take days.
- Context – the landscape and rationale why we’re taking this project on.
- Success Criteria – measurable KPIs that will allow us to prove the projects value. The project shouldn’t move forward without these.
- Scope – where do we start, what do we leave out (for now).
- Decision Makers – who’s the boss.
- Stakeholders – following a RACI approach, who ultimately owns the projects (Accountable), who’s supports this person (Responsible), who’s been Consulted and who’s been Informed.
- Constraints – what movable / immovable roadblocks have we identified before taking on the project?
We boil the above into a single page that can shared broadly across the org so that everyone from our most senior managers to the most junior data engineer know what we’re shooting for and what we’ll be measured against. This also allows us to look across projects and determine where best to spend our resources.
It’s early days, and we’re always learning how to improve the quality of our process estimates, but this big organization just got a little bit more aligned and folks are excited by the newly created clarity.
It’s been a busy inaugural year for Viacom’s Social Data Strategy team. We were founded last Fall with the mission of using advanced analytics and data science to support the growth of revenues from Viacom’s massive social footprint of about a billion fans. I’m proud to say that we’re well on our way.
One of the first new tools we’ve released is the Social Talent Platform (STP), a data driven, fit-assessment platform that helps our social casting teams identify the best social talent for a particular campaign. There are a number of great data sets in the market that follow and classify social talent, but none of them can tell you how good a specific influencer might be for a specific project – especially integrated marketing projects that include both internal Viacom content and external advertisers. Sensing this gap in the market, and knowing that our content teams and advertisers want both art + science to inform their decision making, we created a proprietary platform or unique data sets, algorithms and visualizations.
We followed the standard data product blueprint:
Data Acquisition > Data Management > Data Modeling > Data Storytelling
- Data Acquisition. Here we partnered with the best social influencer data companies, social listening data companies and machine learning toolsets in the business. As many of our deals included custom features, vendor selection and deal structure required pure-play business development and product strategy chops. For the STP we also leveraged unique data sets that are not typically consider when searching for social talent. The ingredients make the dish!
- Data Management. We connected our data together using licensed data aggregation platforms and custom data environments. In addition to building a custom database of social talent entities, we also built social profiles for content and advertisers. Mapping together entities from within disparate data sets was a challenge here, as it is in most data efforts.
- Data Modeling. Two PHD data scientists on my team built proprietary algorithms to compare these entities – influencer, content, advertiser – together to find the perfect fit for each use case. We looked across the dimensions of audience demographics, topic overlay, post emotionality and more. We consider non-social data in our models used time series data to predict increased future engagement.
The result is a patent-pending, bespoke data platform that helps create more engaging social content. Kudos to the entire team on this one!
I celebrated my first Father’s Day last weekend with a 48 hour fast. I really know how to party!
My goal was to experiment with the ketogenic diet, which is said to have numerous benefits, including weight loss, cancer management / prevention and general high performance. I am lucky to not suffer from any major ailments, but I wanted to give it a try as I’ve learned deeply over the past few years that I am truly what I eat. I cut out gluten in 2014, dairy in 2016 and, well I guess now “food” in 2017. I kid, a bit.
Keto really isn’t pure fasting, but it is a method of tricking your body into thinking it’s in a fast state. You do this by consuming ~75% of your calories from fat, ~20% from protein and ~0-5% from carbohydrates.
The theory is that the human body e volved and thrived in a state of feast and famine, which is quite opposite to today’s super constant, super high-available calorie bonanza. Further, most of the historically accessible calories were not carbohydrates (> sugar > glucose) which are processed differently by your metabolism. You can kick start keto by fasting, and then maintain it indefinitely with a super high fat, low carb diet.
Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines
I prepared for my keto experiment by enjoying a low carb, high protein, high natural wine dinner on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, I treated myself to a few coffees blended with coconut oil and medium chain triglyceride (MTC) oil.
The fast went surprisingly well. Only at 4p on day two was I slightly bothersomely hungry, and that passed within an hour. I limited my physical activity, but felt good and slept well.
I entered at ketogenic state (as measured by urine test strips) mid-day day one, with my ketone levels increasing throughout the fast.
For day two dinner, I broke my fast with a dinner of fatty bacon, mixed in with summer squash and mushrooms. Not bad at all. I thew in a ‘ dessert’ of coconut milk, avocado and a half packet of stevia (gross by darn my sweet tooth).
My break-fast mealThe amount of fat required to maintain keto is daunting. Especially as our modern western brains attempt to unpack all of the “low fat” marketing that clogs the airwaves. As I entered ketosis, I became keenly aware of all of the high sugar products marketed to us – ice cream, burgers, breads. I wanted them badly! I think the key is maintaining a diversity of lipids. Olive and coconut oils are saving my ass, especially as I find ghee a turn-off (must be from my dairy-free palette). Nuts – macadamias are the best combo of fat minus carbs – also help out a bunch. And the coffee delivery method is key – my morning recipe is 1tsp MCT oil, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 tbs ghee and a pinch of cinnamon. Delicious.
I began exercising day three and felt great. A short HIIT run felt better than average. There is research indicating that oxygen efficiency is boosted in keto. Divers particularly enjoy keto as it greatly increases their dive and breath holding times. Strength training felt good, perhaps because it felt good to move after a few days of fasting.
It’s been a less than a week, but here are some of the notable takeaways:
- I feel pretty fantastic. Euphoric really. That’s awesome
- My energy has been very good, and constant throughout the day
- My skin has improved. Sugar starvation is great for inflammation, including breakouts
- I’m rarely hungry
However, it’s nearly impossible to eat out (“I’ll have your fattiest steak please, with a side of olive oil” has been said more than once this week) and my cooking options are quite limited. As some of who loves food / cooking / taste diversity this is a problem. It’s also a bit painful to remove even more from my diet, especially after already maintaining a gluten and dairy free lifestyle.
All in all, I’m super pleased with this experience – both the fasting and the state of nutritional (non-fasting) ketosis. I’d like to continue to experiment and practice both in the future and add them to my toolset when I need a boost or change of pace. I’m already thinking about the following regimens:
- Keto Mornings: eat early the night before (6p) and mini-fast until lunch the next day, with only a MCT/coconut oil coffee in the AM. (2x a week)
- Keto Quick-Weeks: fast Sunday PM – Monday AM, and then do strict keto through Wednesday / Thursday. (1x a month – 1x a quarter)
My thinking here is that a break from our carb driven diets has to the a helpful change of pace for our metabolisms. The euphoria is a nice bonus too!
This meal meets the appropriate ratios. Watch out for those tomatoes! Carbs are hidden everywhere, sigh.
- Dr. Dom on Tim Ferriss. Ok, this guy is kinda worth the side eye, but he’s done a ton of research and self experimentation. The links in the show notes here are excellent.
- Carb Counting Spreadsheet. Good reference. You will google a lot on keto, and often find yourself disappointed. “brussels sprouts have 1.8g net carbs! man!”)
- Ruled.Me. Great overall resource, including this veggie guide.
- Keto SubReddit. Be careful.
- Eating Academy. The hard science.
The future is bright my friends.
Our kids will laugh at photos of subway cars, packed with hunch-backed phone swipers. They’ll mock our cable / dongle filled existence. They’ll pity the eye strain and radiated pockets that we burden ourselves with to ensure we don’t miss a single Instagram live story…
At least I’d like to believe the future is bright.
There are serious challenges ahead for technology and mankind in general, but there is a version where technology integrates seamlessly into our daily lives and we all become more human again. This version of the future sits next to visions of unlimited clean energy, desalinated water for all, repopulation of the earth’s lost species and the Mets gaining respectability again.
Google Glass 1.0 was a hot mess, but the ergonomics of posture-friendly wearables was on the right track. I greatly look forward to friends and strangers looking each other in the eyes again as we pass on our way to our driverless rides home.
Reposted from: https://digiday.com/sponsored/viacombcs1-008-first-data-then-vibe-how-viacom-casts-influencers-in-90-percent-of-its-campaigns/
At first glance, there’s little that sets Shaun McBride—a charismatic former skateboarder who goes by the handle “Shonduras”—apart from the millions of other social media influencers enjoying the spoils of Internet fame. But in March, Viacom’s brand studio, Velocity, anointed McBride as a creative consultant, a move based largely on his Snapchat success.
McBride is among the many influencers the unit works with, mainly on campaigns, in a given year. His prominence shows how seriously Viacom takes its digital talent strategy: Velocity uses social media influencers in 90 percent of its campaigns, an approach that has evolved over years.
“A few years ago—the good old days—we could’ve put up a social post on certain platforms on behalf of an advertiser in the hopes of getting perhaps over 50 percent of those people to actually see it organically,” said Lydia Daly, SVP of Social Media and Branded Content Strategy for Viacom Velocity. “Now it could be as little as less than five percent meaning our distribution tactics have had to evolve.”
Influencers have become a cornerstone of the unit’s distribution strategy. And while McBride puts up big numbers on Snapchat and YouTube, Daly said much more goes into the casting of influencer partners than a sizeable following. To select the perfect influencer partner, Daly deploys a five-person team that combines old-school Hollywood casting techniques with new-fangled data science.
Part one: The reach
Of course, the numbers come first. “You’re looking at the numbers,” said Daly “and that helps you to whittle down from hundreds of thousands of potential influencers in the world to the 20 or so that might make sense for the campaign and make it onto our final talent proposal list.”
Those numbers go beyond cumulative subscriber counts to include average video views, breakdown of sponsored video views versus non-sponsored video views, growth trajectory over time, audience demographics, even the engagement metrics that indicate an influencer’s active subscriber base. Viacom guarantee campaign performance, so the Velocity brand studio is just as invested in accurately calculating a social influencer’s real reach as the brands that question the tactic’s value.
“You want active fans who are likely to remain active for a particular campaign,” said David Berzin, VP of data strategy, who leads a team of data scientists, including one doctor of mathematics and neuroscience, that collects and interprets influencers’ value. “The follower count is a lifetime number which is not necessarily relevant for a campaign you’re planning for next month.”
Then there’s the audience itself. “We have ways of looking deeply at the talent’s audience to find if it’s a good fit,” said Berzin. In some cases, Viacom looks for a perfect reflection of an audience they already have, say MTV’s core viewership. For other campaigns, they’re looking for a way to extend their reach into a new niche audience.
But in all cases, the numbers are just the beginning. “We don’t try to be prescriptive with the data.”
Part two: The vibe
Once the numbers are tallied, it’s up to Daly’s social talent casting and management team to work the talent. Here, casting relies—as it always has—on keeping up with trends in the marketplace and close relationships with talent agencies and managers. The team keeps a few different wish lists of talent: “interesting influencers in certain categories, those that fit well with Viacom’s brands and ones that are on our radar… that [are] kind of at a weird tipping point.”
And, of course, there’s chemistry. Daly’s team takes the lead, looking for charisma and personal spark while disqualifying influencers based on a client’s red flags: “There are certain clients that are extremely conservative—they would not want an influencer who has ever sworn in a video,” Daly said. Although that hasn’t stopped her talent team from passionately making the case to clients for creators they have faith in.
But even in evaluating personal chemistry, the data team plays a role. “We have a patent pending social data analysis tool that examines the fit between an advertiser, a content property and social talent,” Brezin said. “Consider it a set of customized set of ranked Venn diagrams that we create for each of our campaigns.” The data team will examine what kind of content the advertiser’s preferred audience watches along with traditional data like demographics.
Then there’s emotionality. Using natural language processing, the team can extract words and phrases and “bucket them into certain emotions. That basic fingerprint of emotionality gives you a good sense of how that audience typically reacts, and might react,” to a particular content strategy.
Part three: The relevance
The perfect influencer, according to Berzin and Daly, isn’t necessarily someone big, but someone who’s about to be big. “You really want to look for ebbs and flows, and talent that’s about to peak as opposed to an inflated follower count,” Berzin said. But Viacom is also looking for someone who’s relevant.
For Trojan’s campaign at last year’s MTV awards—designed to get millennials to wear condoms—the team wanted to propose Shannon Boodram, a YouTube sexologist at the top of their wish list. Though she didn’t have the tremendous follower count that advertisers crave, her sex-positive social presence was a perfect match for the campaign. And she seemed to be at a tipping point.
To help bolster her reach, they paired her with a comedic heartthrob,Josh Levya, said Daly. His 2 million strong subscriber base ensured Boodram’s on-brand message for Trojan cut through the social noise. The campaign for Trojan culminated in an appearance by Boodram and Leyva on the red carpet at Viacom’s MTV Video Music Awards–with Boodram wearing a dress of her own design made from Trojan condoms, naturally. The pairing resulted in an avalanche of positive press for Trojan and Boodram.
“It just speaks to how Viacom can elevate the brand of the talent.” said Berzin, “It’s a two-way street.”
The Ultimate Influencer?
Velocity has garnered some ink for its deal with influencer-turned-consultant McBride, aka Shonduras. While it might seem like Viacom’s just hedging its bets by going with the Snapchat flavor of the month, it instead found in him a kind of ideal influencer: one with the right reach, vibe, authenticity, adaptability and business savvy to be more than another distribution channel.
“There are some influencers who post content to social media that goes viral, then accidentally become famous and start doing branded content deals,” said Daly. “Shaun is not one of those.”
He’s a motivated businessman, interested not just in how to build his own platform success, but in the interplay of content between platforms. His experiments with content formats, actively tracks trending content and is tireless when it comes to engaging directly with his fans, all of which pays off handsomely in brainstorms.
“In Shaun, and other creators, we are always looking for people who can craft stories across platforms,” said Dr. Thomas De Napoli, Velocity’s senior director of content and platform strategy. “That’s what our studio aims to do, and Shaun makes sure we’re doing it in a way that means something to fans.”
Shaun has already made major contributions to creative strategy sessions both on the brand and channel side of Viacom and is increasingly becoming an in-demand contributor for such meetings.
And, according to Berzin, McBride is, in addition to a content creator, a born metrics geek. “We have data teams that crunch numbers all day, but he just observes the numbers and his insights are often directly in line with our prioritized metrics. And, he has a unique point of view as a social talent that…is just invaluable to us.”
But, as Viacom has found time and time again, the ultimate influencers may not be the folks with the biggest Snapchat following, the most liked Facebook posts, or the most fire Tweets. The ultimate influencer is situational, empowered as much by timing and authenticity as by the brute force of numeric popularity.
I stopped by the new Apple store in Williamsburg Brooklyn today in search of answers. First up was the quest for new large format display to plug my laptop in to when I’m fixed at home and need the extra space. “We no longer sell them. Here’s an LG display; this one’s great cause it has built in speakers”. Then I checked out the new 15″ laptops, as large format wins since working ergonomics beat carrying ergonomics (?), “This one has an y processor, but ram is capped at y and costs x”, “This one costs 2x and is the right call”. I asked why pick the more expensive one, and I believe the answers included better trackpad, speaker positions and a non-mobile processor. Meanwhile, my latest iPhone crapped out and required a reboot.
About Steve Jobs. This guy, from the little I’ve read – which does not include any official or unofficial biographies – was a maniac. Criticism should start with his disregard for the human condition of his workers, then perhaps move to the heavy metals used in his manufacturing (yes, Apple’s push towards recyclability and other efforts were better than most). But let’s focus on his management style – brutal, dominating, Amazon-esque and such.
All disclaimed, a question surfaces — was this a golden age for product? Shit just worked and it was elegant as fuck. Of course, my new phone takes photos with a gazillion more megapixels, but it does crash more than the dickens. I can’t open my current iPhone without “Voice Assist” (I see you Siri) offering it’s mind-numbing help. I can’t dock my laptop into my display without creating massive confusion during the next video conference. The list goes on, but it all circles back to Steve.
Does a product owner need to be maniacal to be effective? Did Steve need to be a dick to be great? Did jr. developers and sr. accounts needs to be rolled under his tires for my iPhone to simply work properly when I asked it to?
My oldest friend worked in the kitchens of some of the world’s best restaurants, and commented that the culture there was abusive and awful. I do not condone any of that, honestly, but I do recognize the context of ‘worlds best’. Do 20 unhappy campers – who get to list Noma or Apple on their resume – undo the experience of thousands or hundred of millions of impressed customers? Whats the balance?
Hard to say. I’m now open to shop for non-Apple products, but I’m fairly sure the options are meh.
David Berzin, Vice President, Social Data Strategy at Viacom Talks About Staying in Step with the Social Media Landscape
We’re lucky. Viacom has built new, bespoke office space for our Data Strategy teams. Open floors, lots of informal gathering spaces, a record player (we nearly burnt our “purple rain” when Prince passed) and more.
AdWeek featured us recently. Take a look: http://www.adweek.com/news-gallery/advertising-branding/viacom-gets-face-lift-millennial-generation-173659