Introducing Data Science at Viacom: Where to Start?

In my new role as Corporate Vice President of Data Strategy at Viacom, I have joined a small group of data experts affectionately known as “data mercenaries.” Our primary focus is to explore opportunities for scaling data science and data platforms throughout the organization. With many areas ripe for data superpowers, a key question is what to work on and why?

This transition marks an exciting departure from my previous experiences leading and building consumer-focused teams. The potential for growth and impact is immense. In addition to taking on specific data projects and products, we are entrusted with the responsibility of optimizing Viacom’s overall data efforts and assets. In this blog post, I will provide insights into our initial steps toward achieving this goal and share the process we have implemented.

Defining Work with Precision and Consistency: Our first priority is establishing a robust process for defining the work undertaken by each data group. This pre-work phase offers numerous benefits that are both extensive and significant. By adopting a shared methodology, we can document the goals, expectations, and return on investment (ROI) for each project. This levels the playing field for all teams, ensuring a common understanding, garnering buy-in, and securing the necessary support. Now, let’s delve into the details of our process:

  1. Problem Statement: We begin by crafting a concise, S.M.A.R.T. sentence that effectively defines the scope of the project, expected outcome metrics, and delivery timeframe. Achieving consensus on this statement can be a time-consuming process, often taking several days.
  2. Context: Next, we provide an overview of the project’s landscape and rationale. This context is crucial for understanding why we have undertaken the project.
  3. Success Criteria: To validate the project’s value, we establish measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). These criteria serve as benchmarks and ensure that the project moves forward with clear objectives.
  4. Scope: We outline the project’s initial starting point and identify components that may be deferred for future consideration. This delineation helps in defining project boundaries and prioritizing tasks.
  5. Decision Makers: Identifying the individuals with decision-making authority is essential for effective project management and implementation.
  6. Stakeholders: We adopt the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) approach to clearly define roles and responsibilities. This identifies the project owner, support personnel, and those who need to be consulted or kept informed.
  7. Constraints: We identify both movable and immovable roadblocks or challenges that may impede project progress.

Condensing the Information for Widespread Understanding: We consolidate the above information into a concise, one-page document. This document is then shared widely across the organization, ensuring that it is accessible to both senior managers and junior data engineers. By doing so, we create a clear vision of our objectives and provide a measurable framework for assessing progress. This practice also enables us to analyze various projects and allocate resources efficiently.

Continuous Improvement: Although we are in the early stages of implementing this process, we are continually learning and refining our estimation methods to enhance the accuracy and quality of our work. The impact of this alignment initiative has already generated excitement within the organization, as the newfound clarity fuels enthusiasm and a shared sense of purpose.

At Viacom, our commitment to data strategy is unwavering. By implementing a comprehensive process to define project work, we are fostering alignment, clarity, and accountability across teams. Through collaborative efforts, we aim to optimize our resources and unlock the full potential of our data-driven initiatives. As we navigate this transformative journey, we remain dedicated to continuous improvement and embracing new opportunities for growth and innovation.

How I’ve Adjusted My Diet to Master My Metabolisms and (Hopefully) Prevent Disease

I’m writing this post because someone close to me was recently diagnosed with a common and treatable form of cancer.  My hope is that these thoughts are helpful for them, and others, as they reexamine their diet and lifestyle that may have contributed to their condition.

My opinions on diet change – rather, are refined – constantly.  This is what I find works for me now, as I spend more time tuning into my body and correlating my body’s response to different stimuli, whether diet, exercise, mental health, and more.

I have to mention, that working with my wife’s healthcare company, Parsley Health, can help provide a framework, data, and clinical support for making critical changes in ones diet and lifestyle.  I’ll also include some links below that I found helpful in my early education.

Some Basic Truths (As I See Them Now)

  • Sugars and its more complex form, carbohydrates, are generally unhelpful. Unless you are living a hyperactive lifestyle (rare in the modern age).  Carbohydrates can be helpful if aggressively training, doing physical labor or want a few extra hours of pep once in a while but otherwise, they cause more harm than help.
  • Eating a high protein / fat / veg diet is generally a good fit for our predominantly sedentary (office work, driving, instagramming) lifestyle.  Historically speaking, we should probably be eating more aligned with ‘famine’ than ‘feast’.
  • Reducing sugar consumption reduces inflammation.  Inflammation, for me, reveals itself as a testy mood (and biting humor!), bad skin, depression, and joint pain.  Inflammation generally leads to really bad things, including in theory, cancer.

What I Eat

What I Eat, Anytime

Caveat: fat is more caloric than carbohydrates so you can’t go apesh*t with this stuff.  If you eat more than you burn, you will gain weight. The good news is that generally, a high-fat diet is more sating and you’ll have less of an urge to binge.

  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Oily Fish (canned sardines, smoked whitefish, and cured salmon are my favorites)
  • Low Sugar Nuts (macadamia, walnuts, almonds – cashews and other ‘sweeter’ nuts are out)
  • Tart, organic berries (blues, black, straw)
  • Healthy Fats (olive oil, grass-fed ghee, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil)
  • Organic, Grass-Fed, More Expensive, Hard to Find, Elitist-Unless-You’re-A-Small-Farmer, Meat (85% ground, bison, pastured happy bacon, dark meat poultry, low-mercury fish, etc)
  • Plant-Based Protein Supplements (pea protein is a good additive to shakes)
  • Salt
  • Spice (cumin, coriander, curry, etc)
  • Heat (fresh chilies, no-sugar hot sauces. Heat becomes a very good friend when you cut our sweetness)
  • Leafy Greens (kale, chard, etc)
  • High Acid, Low Sugar Citrus (lemons, limes, but not oranges)
  • ‘Filler’ Vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, summer squash, brussels. These guys are saviors – low calorie and often low nutrient, but terrific ‘bases’ to dishes to absorb fat and flavor and keep you full/busy eating)
  • Coffee / Tea (blend in some MCT powder or cacao butter in the AM and you’ll find it easy to delay your first meal and stay in a ‘faux fasted’ metabolic state until 11a or later)

What I Eat, Once In A While

  • No-Sugar Alcohol (dry natural zero-residual sugar wines, clear liquors like tequila mezcal vodka and gin)
  • Organic Seasonal Fruits (tomatoes, apples, peaches, etc)
  • Rice and Other Unsweetened Gluten-Free Carbs (so, I love Schezuan food, and I will half a half-helping of white rice when eating that food, but generally speaking this is a total cheat and should be done on rare occasions.  French fries also fall into this category. I’ll have them when they’re good, but mostly not. Fun tip, french fries + mayo >>> french fries + ketchup. The addition of fat to the carbs helps mute your glycemic response. That response is a double negative when you add super-sweet ketchup to the potatoes.  Again, pick your spots for this stuff – maybe 2x a week)

What I Eat, Basically Never

  • Sweet Alcohol and Other Beverages (all beers, all ciders, aperitifs, sweet vermouth, tonic water, sweet industrial wine, aka most wine)
  • Breads / Sweets / Ice Cream / Dessert (this goes out the window when I travel to France, but I absolutely feel it on the flight home)
  • Gluten Free Breads / Sweets (to be clear, these are metabolically disastrous in the same ways as gluten-full bread would be.  Avoid)
  • Sweet Veg with Hidden Starches (corn, bananas, sweet potatoes, sweet winter squash)

Things That I Also Avoid For Other Reasons

  • Gluten. I’ve tested removing this on and off over the past 4 years and am clear that I generally do better without it. I bring it back in the fold on special occasions, with good results, and I have a hunch that a low-carb diet helps me manage the occasional high-quality gluten feast.
  • Dairy. Correlates with acne, so I avoid it.
  • Mid / High Mercury Fish. Large fish like tuna, mackerel. Heavy metals stay in your body indefinitely and removing them through chelation is a pain.
  • Processed Foods. Generally speaking, there are almost always nasties hidden in here.

Example Meals


  • Nothing.
    • I don’t want to side-track us here but your body is probably designed to thrive fasted for upwards of a week, so skipping brekkie is no biggie.
    • Don’t sweat hunger.  A 3 day fast is a good way to get to terms with this feeling.  It’s really not a bad skill to master, and I don’t want/mean to sound like a sadist.  Hunger pangs pass quickly and I don’t find them to be a big deal.
    • A fatted coffee (above) can help you feel like you’ve eaten while tricking your body to think it’s in a fasted state
    • Counterpoint #1: Humans are almost certainly better designed to fast at night than in the morning.  Moving your metabolic clock off your circadian clock is generally a bad idea. That said, evening fasting is much harder to do socially, so I think an AM fast is better than nothing — anything that limits your digestive period is probably a good move.
    • Counterpoint #2: Per the circadian point above, fasting / low carb probably makes more sense in the winter than in summer (fewer available natural carbs, less sunlight)
  • Bacon & Eggs.  Pastured bacon cooked without draining the pan with absorbing veggies (cauliflower, kale, onions, summer squash), fresh chilies, garlic and topped with two pasture eggs
  • Whitefish Omelette.  Veggies cooked with a bunch of ghee, 3-4 quality pasture-raised eggs, whitefish, sage.
  • Protein Shake.  I like Parsley’s Rebuild shake but actually find it a bit too sweet for me, so I’ll make it 50% rebuild and then doctor up the fat (MCT, coconut, cacao butter) and protein (naked pea protein) content


  • Organic Buffet.  There is a conscious Korean buffet near my office that offers a bounty of healthy, low carb options.  I’ll often go with greens (both collards w/ garlic and kale with pepitas), baked salmon and some chicken salad
  • Nopal Taco Plate.  My favorite NYC taco chain, Los Tacos Numero 1, opened an awesome in midtown, even more awesome is that they offer a cactus-based plate with salsas, beans, guacamole, and meat.  I alter my order by skipping the cheese and tortillas
  • Chinese.  Schezuan dry pot.  Tons of flavor, mystery ingredients, and very little sugar/carbs outside of the rice which I eat sparingly and sometimes not at all.
  • Baked Chicken, Rice & Beans.  Ok, so this is cheating, but intentionally so.  Sometimes my body NEEDS carbohydrates and I give it some good one.  This is a rare occasion, but perhaps: I had a bit too much to drink the night before, I have a big evening ahead (physically, socially) where I know I’ll use the extra energy, or I’m simply feeling depleted and I know my fix.


  • Cauliflower and Ground Meat Stir Fry.  Cauliflower, summer squash, okra, onions, cumin, cardamom, salt, fresh chilies, a little fresh tomato if summer, ground meat.  Sometimes a bit of well-sourced chorizo goes into the pan first to add additional flavor. Top with parsley, lemon, and sea salt.  I could honestly eat this every day.
  • Baked salmon and a ton of veg.  Enough vegetables and you don’t miss the starches
  • Seafood curry.  Full-fat coconut milk plus quality curry powder and whatever vegetables and seafood look good that season.  Cauliflower or cabbage can add filler to replace rice.


  • Ha, made you look.  Help yourself to a second glass of residual sugar-free wine instead.

Thoughts? Disputes? Want to argue about nightshades? Great recipes to share? Shoot me a note.

Additional Reading

Utilizing Data Science to Identify Social Media Influencers: Viacom’s Success Story

In its inaugural year, Viacom’s Social Data Strategy team has achieved remarkable success by employing data science to discover and collaborate with social media influencers, resulting in substantial revenue growth from their massive social following of approximately one billion fans.

A pivotal achievement during this journey was the development and implementation of the Social Talent Platform (STP), an innovative and data-driven tool that has empowered Viacom’s social casting teams to identify the most suitable influencers for specific campaigns. This blog post delves into the development process of the STP, highlighting the key steps taken to ensure its outstanding results.

Data Acquisition

To build the STP, Viacom strategically partnered with leading social influencer data companies, social listening data firms, and cutting-edge machine learning toolsets. These collaborations facilitated the creation of bespoke deals that incorporated custom features, showcasing Viacom’s expertise in business development and strategic product planning. Additionally, the team harnessed unique data sets not commonly used in social talent searches, setting the STP apart as an exceptional platform.

Data Management

Viacom seamlessly consolidated data from various sources by utilizing licensed data aggregation platforms and tailor-made data environments. Alongside building a custom database for social media talent, Viacom also curated comprehensive social profiles for content and advertisers. This process presented challenges in mapping entities from diverse data sets, a common hurdle in data-driven endeavors.

Data Modeling:

Two Ph.D. data scientists on the team crafted proprietary algorithms for the STP, enabling precise comparisons between influencers, content, and advertisers. These advanced algorithms analyzed multiple dimensions, including audience demographics, topic relevance, post-emotionality, and more. Significantly, Viacom’s models integrated non-social data and harnessed time series data to predict future engagement growth.

Data Storytelling

Viacom took data visualization to the next level by developing a bespoke front-end JavaScript application. This interactive tool allows talent, content creators, and advertisers to gain meaningful insights from the results of the custom search tool. Understanding the importance of creativity at Viacom, this application has been instrumental in effectively conveying outcomes that surpass traditional spreadsheets.

Patented algorithms help Viacom’s content teams select the best social media influences.

The culmination of Viacom’s efforts is the Social Talent Platform (STP), a patent-pending data platform revolutionizing the process of identifying social media influencers and generating engaging social content. The exceptional success of the STP is a testament to the unwavering dedication and expertise of the entire team at Viacom, who have harnessed data science to drive the company’s influencer marketing to new heights.

My ketogenic experiment, aka ’empty is the new full.’

I celebrated my first Father’s Day last weekend with a 48 hour fast.  I still know how to party!

My goal was to experiment with the ketogenic diet, which is said to have numerous benefits including weight loss, inflammation reduction, cancer management / prevention and improved mental clarity / performance.  I am lucky to not suffer from any major known 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 and the idea of a “self clean” cycle is quite appealing.  I cut out gluten in 2014, dairy in 2016 and, well I guess now “food” in 2017.  I kid, a bit.

Ketosis or “keto” is a metabolic state where you body turns fat > ketones > energy, instead of the more modern use of carbohydrates > energy.  You can enter a ketogenic state by either truly fasting or tricking your body into thinking it’s in a fasted state.  You do the latter by consuming ~75% of your calories from fat, ~20% from protein and ~0-5% from carbohydrates.  With these macro ratios, you can stay in a state of ketosis indefinitely. 

Proponents of ketosis argue that the human body evolved – and thrived – in a state of feast and famine, which is quite opposite to today’s super consistent / available / non-seasonal calorie bonanza. 

Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines

Test strips – doing well

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).

Chicken Wings + Cauliflower. Awesome.

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.

Early Outcomes

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.

Next Steps

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.  Even though Dr. Dom’s built like a linebacker, he’s done some of the most thorough metabolic research in the business.  The links in the podcast’s ‘show notes’ are excellent.
  • Carb Counting Spreadsheet.  Good reference.  You will google a lot on ketosis, and often find yourself disappointed.  “brussels sprouts have 1.8g net carbs!  man!”)
  • Ruled.Me.  Great overall resource, including this veggie guide.
  • Keto SubReddit.  Dig carefully.
  • Eating Academy.  The hard science.

The Dark Ages of Tech Usability

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…

The original “wireless”

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 were 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.

First data, then vibe: How Viacom casts influencers in 90 percent of its campaigns.

Reposted from:

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.

About Steve Jobs

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.

Social media & measuring where fans will go next.

David Berzin, Vice President, Social Data Strategy at Viacom Talks About Staying in Step with the Social Media Landscape

Reposted from

David Berzin HeadshotV by Viacom: As marketers, how should we be thinking of social media right now?

David Berzin: We’re solving for two variables, really. We’re not just building out branded campaigns and monitoring fan response in the present – we’re also using the data we collect now to help us predict fan response in the future.

V: But social media can be extremely fickle. Is that a good or a bad thing for brands?

DB: I think it’s a good thing because it pushes us to work harder. With the evolving media landscape and its increasing audience and platform fragmentation, changing content consumption habits and new technologies have created challenges for the entire industry.  But that evolution has also created a host of new opportunities that continue to help us break new ground.

V: So what does that evolution look like in terms of social platforms and shifting behaviors in audiences?

DB: Well, considering we have the youngest demos of any major television company, we need to be nimble. Then add in the fact that 20 percent of all Millennials are now mobile-only, the growth of live social video and the impact Snapchat is having on the entertainment industry, and you begin to see all these layered nuances.

We know marketers want to reach their fans beyond linear with a scale and breadth of touch points. Our Echo campaigns do just that. To compliment that, we recently launched 3.0 version of the Echo Social Graph (ESG) – our proprietary cross-social measurement tool that helps marketers capture the true reach of our social-by-design campaigns.

The goal is to capture more social platforms than ever before with new insights on emotion, audience and social talent.  ESG data also feeds in to our campaign design and projection toolsets, giving our creative teams data-driven insights to really help inform their artistic decisions.

V: What are you trying to capture beyond page views and interactions?

DB: (laughs) Pretty much as wide and deep as you can get. The Echo Social Graph is a constantly evolving platform that, at its core, reaches outside of the traditional television footprint.  It’s a measurement of social that more accurately reflects how our fans interact with our content.  Think about it – traditionally, marketers have been limited to transacting on sampled Nielsen ratings that measure TV campaigns in isolation, without really seeing their extended reach and impact across emerging platforms.  And when you’re working with social data, where platforms emerge and evolve at lightning speed, flexibility is key. The ESG is basically able to capture all of the new interactions so that all of our fans’ snaps, loops, dubs and lip sync videos are measured.

V: That’s a lot of data – how do you derive real meaning from that?

DB:  Well, here’s a perfect example. We just did a campaign with Trojan for the 2016 MTV VMA Awards that focused on normalizing the idea of condom use. Snapchat proved to be a huge win for us – we ended up more than doubling the impressions we anticipated delivering. That’s a great key learning about where our most engaged audiences are and how Snapchat is an integral partner for live programming and branded content.

V: Do you have a sense of what marketers are asking for next?

DB: More and more, they’re really interested in identifying social influencers. It’s all about finding a good fit between talent, our advertisers and our brands.  That’s why we developed a Social Talent Search platform that we use to leverage the data on top-tier and long-tail social influencers, as well as calculated metrics that allow our casting teams at Viacom to find the perfect talent for each campaign.

V: Is there one thing you’d like to measure that nobody’s attempted yet?

DB: I’d love to dig a lot deeper into the measurement of intra-network referrals within social media networks.  For example, what actions drove users to follow, share or otherwise engage with our content on social media.  We have some visibility into this for paid campaigns, but not enough for organic activities. It’s these kind of challenges that make us constantly think about “what’s next” vs. “what’s been done before.”

Viacom’s social media “echo-system.”

At Viacom we’re hard at work at new tools to create, predict and measure our social media campaigns.

“Viacom’s data-driven ad sales unit Vantage is upping the volume on its Echo social media product.

Now, with version 3.0 of Echo, the company is offering marketing clients what it is calling an entire “Echosystem” of tools. Those tools will help create social media campaigns, predict how many people they will reach, optimize them while they are in the market, and provide a thorough analysis when they’re over…”

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