James Kotecki (00:08):
This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki bringing you an interview that I recorded live at the C Space Studio at CES 2023. Enjoy. Hey, welcome back. You're in the C Space Studio with me, James Kotecki here at CES 2023 and joining us is Yusuf Chuku, who is of NBCUniversal, and I'm going to read your title, the Executive Vice President, Client Strategy and Insights, and I'm sure you've got a lot of great insights for us right now. Thanks for joining us.
Yusuf Chuku (00:38):
Thank you for having me.
James Kotecki (00:39):
What is the scope of your role at NBCUniversal? How do you define what you do to someone you just met?
Yusuf Chuku (00:44):
Oh, by spending about two hours trying to explain it. But it very simply, I run two teams, a team called Client Strategy and a team called Insights and Research. Together they are 55, 56 strategists, researchers, data scientists, analysts, all of whom are really just focused on ensuring that our clients that advertise with us kind of have effective advertising. It's as simple as that.
James Kotecki (01:13):
So what are some data points and trends that stand out to you at the beginning of 2023?
Yusuf Chuku (01:18):
Oh gosh. Well, I think 2023 is going to be interesting in terms of where things are going. I'm really excited about in-game advertising.
James Kotecki (01:31):
Yusuf Chuku (01:31):
I think that is, I don't want to say it's going to be big 'cause that just makes me sound like some kind of pop culture person, but I do think that in terms of finding engaged audiences, a lot of it still remains kind of untapped. There's still so much opportunity so I still feel that that's going to be huge. I think we're seeing it already, but advertising in streaming across different streaming platforms is going to continue to increase. And so yeah, it's going to be interesting.
James Kotecki (02:04):
What's the gaming play for NBCUniversal? So I think of NBC, the channels, the television channels, I think of movies, I think of theme parks with Universal, I think about Peacock, the streaming service that you have. But what's the gaming play?
Yusuf Chuku (02:18):
So there's going to be some news coming, so I'm not going to talk [inaudible 00:02:22].
James Kotecki (02:21):
Oh my, goodness. So we love [inaudible 00:02:23] C Space Studio.
Yusuf Chuku (02:23):
I certainly won't be doing that yet, but it's probably the best way to think about it is you have NBCUniversal, but also you have NBCUniversal advertising and partnerships. And so what we do as a team is we sell across numerous platforms. And so if you think about wherever our content appears, whether that be on social platforms, on YouTube, Twitter, like the opportunity for you to attach advertising to it via NBC1 platform is where we sit and so in-game advertising will be yet another opportunity that we are offering to our advertisers.
James Kotecki (03:03):
Can we talk about Peacock for a little bit?
Yusuf Chuku (03:05):
James Kotecki (03:06):
And the streaming service that, I don't know, was it a couple years ago that it actually launched? That I believe has had an ad supported tier from the beginning.
Yusuf Chuku (03:15):
James Kotecki (03:15):
Now we see other streaming services starting to add ad supported tiers. What lessons have you learned? I mean, I don't want you to give everything to your competitors, but in general, what have you learned throughout this process in terms of what advertising has done?
Yusuf Chuku (03:25):
I think it's probably that advertising gets a bad rap. People will tell you that people don't like advertising. There-
James Kotecki (03:39):
Not here in the C Space studio.
Yusuf Chuku (03:40):
Exactly. Well, I tell you a story. A number of years ago when my daughter was a little younger, a friend of hers found out I worked in advertising and what she said to my daughter was, "Oh, advertising, isn't that what poor people watch?" And what a horribly precocious thing to say for a child, but what she was getting at is she lived in a world where she was able to pay to not see it. And so the idea that lots of people are willing to pay to not see advertising was a belief that I think the industry held onto for a while and it drove the launch of the various platforms. I think what we have discovered is that, and I guess the dirty secret is that people love brands and they like advertising and advertising is done well.
What we have tried to do at NBCUniversal with Peacock is create an advertising environment that is right and so you ensure that you create pods that don't have many ads. You create these sort of prime pods that allows like one or two ads that just mean that actually the people can engage in and it gets straight to the content. You ensure that you are providing premium content that creates high emotional engagement, and that becomes a great place for advertising so there are, I guess, simple things that we've kind of known as an industry we just forget sometimes, and that that's really what's been the secret of success.
James Kotecki (05:08):
Does it come down to the creative side as well? I mean, I can rattle off probably 10 amazing commercials that still stick with me today if I think about Nike commercials or Apple... some that I'll literally go to YouTube and just search for the commercial. So it's clearly possible for this stuff to tug on our heartstrings, but how do you think about the creative side of this?
Yusuf Chuku (05:29):
It's interesting. As an industry, once a year when the Super Bowl comes, we suddenly decide that actually we should make engaging, entertaining advertising. And then what happens is a whole load of people are probably even more engaged in the ad break than they are the football.
James Kotecki (05:49):
Yusuf Chuku (05:50):
And then it finishes and then we forget, and then we go back to how we used to be. I think [inaudible 00:06:00] actually, one of the thing that was told to me when I first started the industry by another senior creative, and he was like, "Yusuf, consumers invite us into their homes every evening." And so what we should be is great guests and a great guest is warm. They'll tell you great stories, they'll entertain and engage you and so the best advertising does that. And when you do, people will welcome you into their lives.
James Kotecki (06:27):
And being a part of NBCUniversal must have its advantages there because obviously there's a storytelling DNA as part of the organization.
Yusuf Chuku (06:33):
Oh, absolutely. I spent my entire career, over a quarter of a century when I, so background, I used to work in advertising, in... Creative strategists in advertising agencies and so I spent a lot of my time talking to clients around how we can help them impact culture, how we can find a place for them within popular culture, and that how they kind of needed to tell stories that were culturally relevant. Fast forward to now, I sit in an organization that does that every single minute of every single day. And so I'm learning from probably the greatest storytellers in the industry on how to attract an audience and it's some of those learnings that we're passing onto clients.
James Kotecki (07:21):
It strikes me that in a world of many people cutting the cord and living an on-demand lifestyle only selecting the content that they would already want to watch or that the algorithm has really predetermined for them to watch, advertising maybe some of the only content that I didn't explicitly choose to watch. So in certain situations, is there this element, you're kind of alluding to this element of almost mission where, in certain situations, there are messages or ideas that maybe would actually be good for people and improve their lives. They would never seek it out, they would never see it any other way and advertising actually is the only way to communicate that.
Yusuf Chuku (07:54):
Yes, there's... It's probably a bad example in terms of the content, but it helps understand where advertising came from. If you think of, there were a thing called medicine shows, hundreds of years ago, and traveling snake oil salesman would enter a town and they would literally put on a show.
James Kotecki (08:15):
We're talking about the covered wagon coming [inaudible 00:08:17].
Yusuf Chuku (08:17):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly.
James Kotecki (08:18):
Doctor of medicine.
Yusuf Chuku (08:19):
Yeah. Yeah.
James Kotecki (08:21):
[inaudible 00:08:21].
Yusuf Chuku (08:20):
And for these towns that people didn't visit very often, suddenly to have this entertainer in town, they would draw on an audience, and then once they had that engaged audience, they would sell whatever they were selling. That is advertising from hundreds and hundreds of years ago but the kind of lessons remain today. And so as long as we are, and I was going to say it before, but I kind of say it a million times, as long as we are engaging, entertaining, and informative, people will listen and take on the messaging that they need.
James Kotecki (08:55):
What else inspires you beyond your industry to innovate and to do what you do?
Yusuf Chuku (09:02):
I moved into a new building in downtown Manhattan last year, and I was getting out the elevator and I bumped into basically a childhood hero. His name is Mark Gonzalez. He lives in my building. He's a skater, and he was, his credit is being kind of the father of modern day street skating. And so what he and whole generation of early street skaters is when they looked at their built environment, when they looked at a set of stairs or a wall or a handrail, they saw something that they could do tricks on. Other people walked on it, they would jump over it, they would grind it, whatever it is. But it was how they worked with what was not a skate park. This was a limited street environment, but yet somehow they turned it into a playground. There's an awesome Wells quote that I'll probably butcher now trying to remember it, but I think, oh, he said "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." And so what he meant by that is that we need constraints-
James Kotecki (10:10):
Yusuf Chuku (10:10):
... in order to innovate.
James Kotecki (10:11):
Shakespeare wrote science within a very particular framework.
Yusuf Chuku (10:14):
Exactly right, and so what's interesting for me and where I draw inspiration is that actually the constraints that maybe we sometimes think of as these limitations, the things that get in the way of creativity and innovation is like, well, no, actually embrace that because that's actually where the innovation is going to come from.
James Kotecki (10:33):
I feel like we've just scratched the surface in this conversation and I really appreciate you coming and I'm sorry we can't keep going, but we hope to have you back here in the C Space studio. Yusuf Chuku, NBCUniversal, thanks so much for coming.
Yusuf Chuku (10:42):
Thank you.
James Kotecki (10:45):
Well, I hope you enjoyed that live conversation from CES 2023. Look up the CES C Space Studio for more conversations like that and get even more CES at ces.tech. That's CES.T-E-C-H and of course, please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss a moment. I'm James Kotecki talking tech on CES Tech Talk.