Greg Stuart: This is Building Better CMOs. Let’s get back to my conversation with Domenic DiMeglio, the head of marketing and data at Paramount Streaming.
How big is the marketing team for the streaming division? How big is the marketing team?
Domenic DiMeglio: A couple hundred people that we have. I mean, I don't think it's the biggest marketing team out there.
GS: I know you won't disclose the budget. I know everybody is probably waiting for me to ask you that question, you're not going to tell me. But yeah, for the budget you have 200 is not a lot of people.
DD: Yeah. I think the other thing I would say too on the budget is again, there's others in the streaming market that I think that they are able to spend a ton more, but I also think it's still formidable. I think we're out there with campaigns that are able to break through.
GS: Why do you think you're able to beat some of those with maybe our allegedly bigger budgets?
DD: You'd love to think that, hey, we're just optimizing our campaigns better. But I think the reality also is just back to something we talked about earlier. I think it's this one Paramount mindset that we're taking advantage of all our assets. Let's take a theatrical title that comes to Paramount Plus, when that movie's come into theaters, it gets a campaign from best in-class marketing team over at Paramount Pictures. They do amazing work. And so, they're creating all the awareness and excitement to support the theatrical window. And then at a fast follow from there, typically we do a home entertainment window for probably say, two weeks where you can buy the movie or rent it at a premium VOD at a 20, $25 price point for those things.
So that's in there for a couple weeks and they do another little marketing push at that moment. And then we come in with our campaign and we're taking the benefit, we're usually around the 45-day mark. We're getting the benefit of all of the work that came before from those campaigns, including the temple theatrical campaigns and really drafting off of that. And so we can be highly strategic and very efficient in terms of how we help drive home conversions from that.
GS: Standing on the shoulders of giants in some regards. You've got the work in advance, this is how you're going to sort of work out.
GS: Hey, let's go back though, you mentioned something there and I've been remiss now here to have not come back to it in four or five minutes, three minutes, whatever it's been. AI. So Don, talk to me a little about applying AI. And I think, listen, the board, we're going to have a big board meeting come up here very shortly and I'll be telling you all about an AI coalition that we are about to launch by the time this podcast goes live. It may have already launched, but tell me how Paramount Plus is looking at that, you and your team?
DD: For sure. And just speaking of the MMA, I'm also excited to be a part of the AI committee and where we're going to take that work.
GS: Yeah. We have such an opportunity to lead the industry into a whole new level of greatness. Yeah, I'm beyond ecstatic about this.
GS: Go ahead.
DD: Yeah, no, and I was just talking to our CTO, I mean I talk to our corporate CTO all the time about this. I think we are trying to be forward thinking. I think there's also a couple ways to think about it. I think there's been what I guess people are calling now traditional or core AI, which is the machine learning that we've really been deploying frankly for years, whether it's dynamic optimization of creative and copy all of the machine learning that goes into our recommendation engines and our customer journey management and that we're leveraging that.
But I do think obviously just a game changing, maybe an understatement era that's been introduced with generative AI, and so gen AI and I think we're as frankly, I think still so early days, I think we're doing a lot of learning, but there's tons of opportunity I certainly think of on the marketing and the creation side of what we're doing as well as optimization. And really we've got a lot of folks on the team that are trying to push that ball forward and want to be evangelists and experts. So again, early days, but I think we're certainly going to be pushing forward and trying to understand how to best harness the benefits and power of gen AI and what we do in both marketing and data.
GS: Well, I mean because been in the board meetings, but we found we're doing this consortium of AI personalization, probably the most powerful thing I've seen, at many levels unbelievably simple. Applying AI is still complicated. How do you even get your agency to write a creative brief against when you want multiple ad units? And you're right, nobody's doing generative AI for creative, yet none of us has much control over corporations to pull that kind of stunt yet. But it's incredible. I mean, we went into that consortium and we were trying to just for the audience, we were doing the personalization of creative, taking many creative assets, reconfirming them on the fly, and then matching them up against hundreds of thousands of contextual opportunities to see if we could personalize based on context. It was done in the light of we were expecting to lose cookies when we were first looking at this.
And we went into it and we told you all, you remember the board meeting, we told you, "We'll probably look at plus 50% give or take a little bit gains in marketing performance." And now that we find out the gains can be, we've seen anywhere from 137% for ADT to 259% for Kroger's. It's crazy, I never would've expected that. It's just astonishing. We also, and I won't name names on this one, but one of the brands got zero, but we understand, you learn as much from a failure as you do others. So I love that data point too because it guides us. And by the way, it was not enough personalization was the issue there. Personalization matters. Well, I always thought it was AI's contextual placement that did it, and that's what we've done, that kind of thing for years, good placement, but when you add personalization to it, it changes everything. Yeah, very powerful.
DD: Yeah, no, I agree. And listen, I think you're speaking to lots of different audiences, especially when you're thinking about broad-based entertainment, but even a big blockbuster movie or a tempo series that's very broad and cuts cross audience segments. I think there's still such opportunity to find those things that are going to allow different sub-segments of that audience to connect with that content because there is, it's not a one size fits all, I think that's where both the upfront research that we do as well as the ability to optimize your creative as the campaign gets going is a very powerful combination.
GS: Yeah. Tell me, and listen at some level too, I have often found it, it's offensive sometimes what we do with ads and the degree to which we run the same ad and the same pod or that we don't target ads. I mean, I don't need to see ads for so many products. I'm just never going to be in the customer set. I've often said that the problem with advertising is that we're teaching consumers to ignore advertising, not making it relevant. So it just behooves us to get much better as an industry out of respect to consumers, whether they think they want to see ads or not, or they want to understand the trade off here is that it's ads for free content, everybody, let's remember what's going on. It doesn't mean we have to be rude about it.
DD: No, I agree. I mean I look at that from two ways. Obviously the classic reach and frequency management is important, but it also goes back to something I mentioned earlier, which is customizing your creative for the platform you're on. So if somebody is engaging with you on YouTube shorts or TikTok, they're actually not getting the exact same thing.
DD: Listen, I think about that from all angles. As part of my role when I was the head of operations for the CBS interactive business for years, ad operations and ad experience were part of my remit and I still oversee the ad experience component part of the customer experience. And one of the things that we always prided ourselves on was we really wanted to replicate the ad experiences you saw on broadcast television. You didn't see the same ads, you didn't have the same categories in a pod. The number of repeat ads even within an hour long episode was managed. And so we really tried to deliver a truly phenomenal user experience because frankly, when you're streaming a full episode of content, the ad experience is part of your point of view of how well that content played. And so if you get a poor ad experience, it's going to take away from the user satisfaction. And so that's just something we can have from a user perspective and certainly want to make sure we're creating best in-class ad environment for our advertisers.
GS: Yep. Okay. So listen, let's shift here. You kind set us up for this a little bit earlier. We'll come back to it. So you and I had a really interesting conversation before on this, not to put too much pressure on either one of us, but the next part I always like to just acknowledge is, is not just the easy parts of the job, but sometimes the challenging parts of it. Like I said, what do marketers need to be better at? So my next area here is, listen, Dom, you went from a finance guy to an EVP/CMO and EVP is a pretty big title in every company in the land. And you're playing with some of the best and smartest and most driven people within the entertainment business and within your own company.
It's not necessarily easy to get there and it's not even easy to be successful within those environments. I just saw there was a reshuffling of one of the big board member companies, exec teams just today in the Wall Street Journal. Were you always driven to have a senior executive position? Is that what you were oriented? Were you always driven to do that? And how do you think you successfully got to the role you did? And by the way, just put that, you've been in Paramount a long time, right? 20 plus years?
DD: Yes, I started at what was CBS Digital Media in 2005. So coming on 18 years here at the company in one form or another. And as you noted before, I did start in finance. I was always interested in operations. I grew up in a small business. My dad came over from Italy and had a landscaping business with my uncle. It was my first job. And you learn something when you're working for a small business, family-owned business because you really care for it in that way. And I think one of the things that has served me well in my career is wherever I'm working, I kind of bring that small business mentality just in terms of about thinking about what's best for the overall business. And we've been in an industry that's been in transformation for quite some time, and I've worked in, especially at my time at this company, I've always, always worked in digital and I've been working in streaming for virtually the whole time.
And as part of that, we knew that we needed to be innovative for the future of the company, but also as we were also helping be disruptive in the right ways that we were thinking about things from an ecosystem perspective. So anything we did in those days, whether it's a new distribution model or whatever, even when we launched what was the predecessor to Paramount Plus CBS All Access, we did so in the context of what was this going to mean for the company in the aggregate like, "Hey, we can make this thing successful, but if we're pulling people from another place, is it going to be creative?" And that's a mindset we've always taken. And I think that that's what served us well as we've sort of moved to Paramount Plus and how we execute with Pluto TV. I think that both of these businesses are truly accretive to the overall Paramount global ecosystem. And we have that mindset as a team.
And then the other thing is I've had really good mentors. It was not a secret that I'd wanted to move to operations and strategy and help run businesses. And so, I had a number of good mentors along the way from my first boss at the company CFO of our business, [inaudible] when we merged with CNET. Another guy, Xander Lurie was a huge mentor of mine.
GS: Oh, I love Xander Lurie, I know him well from CNET.
DD: Yeah, he helped set me on the path towards my first crack at an operations role. He's a really good dude and was a great mentor. And then I got a chance to work for Anthony [inaudible], who had come over from his startup and gave me my first shot, in what was the Entertainment Lifestyle Group. And that's the team that's now this Paramount Plus team I started with just a handful of analysts and that handful of analysts are now the sort Paramount Plus and Pluto TV Data and Insights group. Some of that obviously came, Pluto team also had its own data team that's sort of plugged in, but now it's that combined group. And then when we were launching CVS All Access, I did the partner marketing. I was doing distribution like our home entertainment business and our distribution partner marketing for our ad supported distribution.
And so I got tapped to build the marketing team for All Access. And that's the thing we've built from the ground up that's now this Paramount Plus team. And now I'm fortunate enough to sit across both Paramount Plus and Pluto TV and we just have top notch talent and leadership. That's the other piece. It's your own hard work, it's the mentors that open the doors for you. And I would say, the last couple I'd be remiss not to mention is I got a chance for many years to work with Marc DeBevoise and Jim Lanzone, that were incredibly influential in my career and now I'm having the chance to work with Tom Ryan. It's just an incredible entrepreneur and leader. And so, I've been really lucky on the leadership side and the mentorship side and then also have been really lucky to get to work with great teams and great colleagues. So those are kind of the ingredients you need.
GS: Yeah, Marc's crazy brilliant. He's the nicest guy in the world, but crazy smart. I've talked to him, it's like, oh my God. And listen, I get to work from some pretty smart people. So if I'm calling out somebody, there's a real difference there. And Lanzone's amazing. I mean, he'd been around for years. He comes out of the whole CNET group too, isn't Jim Lanzone from there or just friends of?
DD: He's a startup guy.
DD: He had a startup clicker that was acquired by CBS Interactive to bring Jim on as the leader.
GS: I attribute a lot of these guys, Xander and others I knew through Shelby Bonnie, who was the Founder CO of CNET, who I just think one of the men amongst men to me, one of the greatest people I've ever met.
Okay, so listen, so here's the deal, Dominic, here's what I get. So part of it is that you were embedded in a caring for the business that not most people get at some level, right? And also too, when you work in a small business, you realize that your effort matters. I notice this a lot with big corporate people, is that they just don't get that what they do makes a real difference in a small business. I think it's a disservice for people from large corporate America. So you got that. You work with great people, and I suspect also too, Don, for whatever reason, they've treated you well, but also you've stayed in there with them and delivered and they trust you to do what needs to be done. And I think a lot of people, they don't appreciate that I guess at some level, that sense of trust.
DD: Well, and it's something you've got to earn over time. I built trust in me and my abilities to then give comfort in offering me new opportunities and maybe things I hadn't tried before. And so, building that trust I think is immensely important. But then going back to what you said before in terms of a lot of people in big companies not understanding their contributions matter, but I think that's such a critical part of management. I mean, it's all of our jobs as managers to ensure that our teams understand what they do matters and making sure they're getting feedback when they're making an impact. And also that we're creating a space that they feel like they can try things and fail and make mistakes, and that we're creating that room as well to foster innovation. So I do think that a lot of that falls onto management. And I do think at the company here, starting with our CEO Bob Bakish, I mean, I think he sets that environment up around the company. And I also get the sense that our brand presidents and chief content officers within their studios do the same.
GS: Don, do you think it's maybe some part of setting an example? Is it setting in KPIs with people? Is it sort of being, I don't know, is it a tone or direction or input or reflection feedback you give that you think makes a difference?
DD: I would say I think it's all the above. I mean, certainly any leader, we need to lead by example. It's the classic if you're a parent, it's hard to tell your kids, "Do as I say, not as I do." Because they can't help see but what you do. So I do think leading by example is really an important element. I think leading for me personally what has worked, leading with empathy and really trying to understand people. We talked about the emotion and understanding audiences well. I think as a manager, trying to understand your team, your team members, where they're coming from, what their experiences have been, and taking that in account in the way you try to lead them and guide them, I think is really important. And I think the same goes for as you cross collaborate across a big company or with external partners, trying to understand those elements I think are really important to building successful relationships and outcomes.
GS: What does it mean to lead with empathy?
DD: I think for me, it's trying to understand where people are coming from, what's motivating them, trying to be understanding when things go wrong. Listen, we all make mistakes, we all have our bad days and trying to be understanding of those types of things. And to help give people space to really bring their best work to the table.
GS: I think some managers are a little distrusting that people are really showing up to do their best work. I don't hear that in what you're saying.
DD: I mean, maybe I've been blessed. I think we've got a team, even as it's scaled over the years, we've really had this down to earth joke. We call it the GSD sort of mentality but, "Get shit done." Nobody's too big for any task, everybody's willing to roll up their sleeves and help someone out. And so, some of that I think has also helped because we've kind of latched onto that mantra that we're really all here to get things done, try to solve problems. Like I said, we're going to make mistakes, it's how we respond in those moments that matter most.
GS: We actually did T-shirts a number of years ago for one of my companies, and it was basically that idea was "Get shit done."
GS: Yeah. Because if you don't get stuff done, and by the way, I think what people don't appreciate too sometimes is how hard it is to get things done.
GS: There's so many distractions, whether it be from your own head, from the million other things, the emails that are called the barrage of text messages that I get nowadays, or Slack messages or anything else that's coming in. Oh my God, it's just kind of unrelenting. And I'm lucky, I have a team now who watches a lot of that stuff for me, so I don't personally have to do it with the immediacy like I used to, but it feels like it's really hard for almost maybe anybody to be really successful. I don't know, maybe.
DD: Well, I think that's another component of leadership. I think part of what I see my job and the leaders on my team's jobs to be is prioritizing, helping, prioritize, and so bringing order to all of that noise, right? There's just so much coming in at any given moment. And then the other thing I tell people all the time is things are going to go wrong. Our plans aren't going to go according to plan. And again, it's how do we innovate our way? How do we problem solve our way around those things? I think those are critical elements of being successful.
GS: Funny, it feels like the kind of work at home thing that's become such a popular flashpoint, I guess at some level between employer and employee of the last few years. I think that's born out of a little bit of mistrust or that we don't create the systems or the processes to really support people to be focused. I mean, we know people are still getting distracted. I personally don't like to work from home because I find a distraction. I don't need to deal with the dishwasher repair if I can help it, so I don't, but others either have to through circumstances or desire to because of commute and it's better optimal for them. So I get that, that's fine.
GS: But then are we really helping to support them to be able to do their best work when they're isolated alone in their homes? I don't know, that feels tough.
DD: Yeah, I mean, listen, it's tough. We are in the office a couple of days a week, and I think that's helpful and I consistently get feedback when we get the teams together for events and all hands or just even doing more and more meetings in-person. I think that there is an important balance of being connected to your colleagues, but again, I think it puts a lot of pressure on managers like your direct manager to really understand how productive you were being. But I do say, I think by and large, we're seeing people really lean in to work from home and the flexibility that it provides so that if in the middle of the day you have to pick your kid up from school, that you have the time to do that that you wouldn't be able to do if you were say, in the city. But then we know you're putting in some extra time at the end of the day. So I think that flexibility is something that's immensely valuable.
GS: Hey, Dom, your wife's a psychologist, is that right?
DD: Yes, that's right.
GS: I don't know what title.
DD: Yes, she's a psychologist, Doctor of Psychology and she does clinical therapy. But one of the things that I mentioned to you that I find fascinating, she does neuropsych evaluation. So if you need your kid to have an IQ test or they potentially have learning challenges or a learning disorder or just need to be evaluated for more time on tests and those types of things, she does that and works with families and it's really fascinating work.
GS: Yeah, I would think so. And you certainly would feel a strong sense of really being able to be helpful to people. I'm not sure everybody accepts help, that's a different story, but the opportunity at least potential. I don't know if you talked to her much about the business or people... Listen, I heard somebody say one time, I heard somebody say they go, "Life is just about relationships and work and by the way, work just about relationships." I thought it was a very funny way to put it. Like, okay, I get it, I got it. I hear the message. One thing that matters. So relationships are difficult. People have different goals, they have different agendas, they have different upbringings. I mean, a lot of things come in there, but different motivations, they've got different life circumstances at the moment. I don't know, does your wife help you? Do you keep that separate? I don't know.
DD: Where I always find it helpful is just I've always been fascinated with human psychology and sociology and I think we have great philosophical conversations. I do think that just what she does has helped me be better at what I do. Like I said before, as a manager and as I collaborate, I really try to understand people, what's motivating them, what they've been through and why they may be showing up in a certain way. And I think that hopefully that allows me to connect better. And then ultimately, to your point, ladders back to building good and longstanding relationships.
GS: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Listen, I mentioned it earlier until I come back to it. So Billions of Wendy, who don't know the Wendy character, I would love to have... I got that now, I have a PhD, Harvard psychologist, trained in organizational psych, and he's an independent on retainer for employees of the MMA. And I will tell you, the number of people I tell that I've got a shrink on retainer is shocking. People are always surprised when I say that, and I'm surprised that so many of them are surprised. Not that all. And then my head of people here has a Master's from Columbia in psychology. For those reasons, I think work's complicated. I think it's hard to show up and try to do your best work in an onslaught of life at some level. I don't know.
DD: I think we definitely have org design and I believe some of those folks are org psychology are having org psychology background as well, and those are incredible resources. But I also think just for us in the day-to-day, two things that really serve us well is our division has this notion of HR business partners.
DD: And our HR VPs, it's not just we're going to HR because there's some kind of issue, they truly are advisors and my HR VPs are invaluable to what we try to do and how we run the team and build the team and foster the team. And then I also have someone who's been working with me for a long time for the last two years. She's been in a chief of staff role for the team, which also I find to be immensely valuable, really helps keep a finger on the pulse of the team, and I think we've benefited a ton from the creation of that role.
GS: Being a boss is a funny role, you're the only one who sees the big picture and yet you don't see all that's going on.
DD: It's very hard, but I do think it isn't coming upon you to try to do your best to keep on top of all facets of what the team is going through and then knowing where to lean in and try to help is important.
GS: I think for me, I always look to see what can I do? I really want people to be able to do amazing work, not have to work all the time. That's a different point. To really be able to do, it does require effort so I'm not so sure the time isn't a part of that sometimes, but to be able to do am amazing work, I think that's what you feel good about. That's what you feel proud about. That's what either builds confidence or self-esteem, and I don't think we value that enough sometimes. I feel like people have a different orientation about what creates value at work or we get off distracted, we think they're giving them snacks, is what's going to make them happy. And I'm like, yeah, it's a nice showy thing, but I don't think it really helps people to feel really great about their jobs.
DD: No, it's definitely a nice thing, don't get me wrong. I mean snacks and some cold brew go a long way, but I think you got to bring it at every element. You've got to really have a good support system. You've got to really manage and help create opportunities for your teams and help them see, again, what we talked about before, see their impact to the business and let them see what paths of potential futures of growth look like within the company and within the team. I think those are obviously super important. The others are just nice to have in terms of some of the treats.
GS: As I kind of get it dumb, I think you're downstream from a bunch of really great people who have really shown you how to be a great leader, and I'm not sure everybody gets that, but I would certainly encourage that. Want to do a few quick lightning round questions here? We'll wrap things up.
DD: Yeah, yeah, sure.
GS: You ready? Okay. Who in marketing, person or company do you admire? Can't be anybody at Paramount. You got to leave Paramount out of the question. Anybody's work out there you go, "Shit, I wish we'd done that. I love that. I wonder how they did that." I don't know, anybody?
DD: What I would say is I will start out this way. I'll say, listen, I'm blessed to work with some amazing marketers within this company at every division. I've got some great partners that I get to work with day in, day out and partner with their teams. But if I'm looking outside of the company, one person that I think that I've been watching more and more, because they're an amazing partner of ours, for the last year we've been partnered with Walmart+ and Paramount Plus is now a benefit to all Walmart+ members. Just got back from spending a few days in Bentonville with the Walmart team.
GS: Is that through William White's crew or is that another part of the Walmart?
DD: It's both. There's the Walmart+ team, but the Walmart marketing team rolls into William and spend some time with him as well. And I just think what he's doing from a marketing perspective and how the success that Walmart is having as an overall company, another industry that continues to be in transformation, I think they're just doing some really great things there and I think they've been a great partner for us.
GS: Yeah, I've known Walmart marketing now through I think three or four CMOs and yes, I agree with you. I think they're a phenomenal team even beyond William, although William's also great. Done a great job. In fact, I'll put a little plug out there that the Global Board Executive Committee may has asked William if he would consider being vice chair so that we could move him up the rank. We're not convincing yet, we'll work on it. Okay. Well, listen. What do you think is most over-hyped in marketing today?
DD: I think it's the most under and over-hyped thing, but I mean AI has got to be that thing. Everybody's coming with a pitch around AI technology and tools powered by AI, and I think there's some there in some places, but there's also, I think it's ripe with some vaporware.
GS: Yeah, that's the ad tech disease here in our business, which is everybody's whatever the latest thing that mattered the most suddenly and they just had come up with that last week in marketing for their company. Yeah, I know, it's kind of annoying. It is a big opportunity and we agree. We agree. Here's the final one for you, ready?
GS: What is the one thing? Okay, so maybe if you want to give some thought, go ahead. What is the one thing, someone listening to this, do you think, if you were to advise them to be a better CMO, what do you think that might be? One thing that somebody who's listening here can do to be a better CMO?
DD: Focus as much as you can on understanding your customer.
GS: There's nothing more important is there. Understand them, see them, personalized to them as we talked about a little bit. Have the insight, know what motivates them, understand what's important to them, don't waste their time, be respectful. I think actually we'll close this time, change the front screen so I can use a QR code and I don't have to type in the email and password every time, right? Is that it?
DD: That's it.
DD: By the way, I mean the QR code that live activations too. I mean, incredibly valuable to having people be able to engage much easier.
GS: Yeah, it's like the oldest thing that's new again. QR codes were so over promoted in the early days of mobile, they were going to revolutionize everything and nobody adopt them, and now everybody wants them. It's very funny, they just kind of came up out of nowhere and became a big deal.
DD: This could be totally wrong, but I do think that the pandemic and going to paperless menus where anytime you went somewhere to get the menu had to to... Everybody seemed to learn how to use a QR code, and I have no research on this, so I could be totally wrong.
GS: I'll take that, yeah. You see the source? I said we had to train consumer habit, change a consumer habit. This is the funny thing about marketing. If you're a marketer, the one thing you really totally understand, I love people who think that marketers cannot manipulate consumers. Absolutely not. You get reminded again and again how little power, influence and knowledge and experience and exposure you have as a marketer to getting it right with consumers all the time. Oh my God, all the time they prove you wrong.
DD: That's why you got to go back, you got to listen to the customer and the consumer as best you can.
GS: There you go. I got it. I love it. Dom, you're the best. I really appreciate this and thank you for joining me today. Thanks.
DD: Thanks, Greg. This was a lot of fun. Appreciate you having me.
GS: Thanks again to Domenic DiMeglio from Paramount for coming on Building Better CMOs. Check the show notes for links to connect with Domenic. And if you want to know more about MMA's work to unlock the power of marketing, please visit MMAGlobal. com. Or you can attend any one of our 30 conferences in 15 countries where MMA operates. Or if you want, write to me, Greg@MMAglobal.com.
Now, thank you so much for listening. Tap the link in the show notes to leave us a review. And if you're new to the show, please follow or subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeart, wherever you get your podcasts. You can find links to all those places and more at betterCMOs.com.
Our producer and podcast consultant is Eric Johnson from lightningpod.fm. Building Better CMOs’ researcher is Aneta Palevska. Artwork is by Jason Chase. And a very special thanks to Lacera Smith for making this all happen. This is Greg Stuart. I'll see you in two weeks.