Dylen Postnikoff is a high achieving, ambitious business woman who has helped transformed the face of Canadian entertainment. As the head of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s entertainment and marketing division, Postnikoff and her hands-on approach when launching media campaigns has earned her respect and acclaim across North America, and has allowed Postnikoff the opportunity to both oversee the creative direction of content, and collaborate with a range of large media corporations including Netflix. We had the chance to ask Postnikoff about what allows her to be so successful and stay ahead given the broad nature of her work, from managing customer engagement, multi-million dollar budgets, and campaigns aiming new target markets.
Are there any strategies or skills that help you handle business relationships when working with large, international partners such as Netflix and Pop TV?
Postnikoff: I’m a huge fan of open dialogue when collaborating with stakeholders. In entertainment marketing, we’re all ultimately working towards the same goal – to build the brand and get audiences interested in the show or property we’re promoting. Having everyone on the same page and aligned with the overall launch strategy is key to making this happen and the easiest way to get there is to be upfront right from the beginning. As each stakeholder may have their own unique points of consideration, having transparent conversations helps avoid any potential misunderstandings as you dive deeper into the process. With PopTV for example, we’ve been collaborating on the outward facing launch campaign for Schitt’s Creek for the past four seasons. It’s been a huge success for both networks along with the show itself, and working alongside the producers, we’ve been able to develop a cohesive creative campaign strategy to reach both the US and Canadian market.
Given the timing of this interview, did the CBC create any specialized content or advertising campaigns for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games in order to reach new audiences tuning into the network for the first time?
Postnikoff: Yes, we did! This was the perfect opportunity for audiences who may not be regular consumers of CBC content, but tuning in to watch the games, to get a sneak peek of our winter programming and discover our amazing roster of talent.
By bringing together an impressive line-up of CBC stars to play a spirited and very Canadian game of floor hockey, we created a series of playful, comedic promotional ads that ran on broadcast, digital and social platforms. The campaign kicked off with an “epic-style” trailer to create online buzz while teasing fans with their favorite television personalities like they’ve never seen them before. The :45 second and :60 second ads dropped during the opening ceremony and played out in social with the hashtag #CBCALLSTARS. We continued to keep audiences engaged throughout the two-week window of the games by seeding out fresh content and encouraging our talent to re-share on their own social channels widening our reach in targeting new viewers.
Have you employed any marketing or business strategies that have allowed CBC to reach new target markets?
Postnikoff: Since I started at the CBC, the team has shifted from relying primarily on traditional marketing tactics in how we are promoting our shows and have moved toward a 360-degree campaign strategy to build brand awareness and reach new audiences. By doing this, we can engage the viewer at each touch point throughout the brand experience. What this means is that any marketing strategy should include a combination of mobile, digital, television, social, out of home media and publicity. From there, we create content that is specific to each platform to encourage both conversation and excitement within the target demographic.
Data is also key in reaching new audiences. By analyzing data and leveraging insights we can better predict user behavior and understand what motivates the consumer. We can then measure engagement through A/B testing to determine which content is performing best, to amplify the audience experience.
How are you able to stay organized when managing a budget that has to be dispersed between multiple marketing campaigns and TV shows?
Postnikoff: I definitely cannot take all the credit! I have an amazingly talented team who supports the Entertainment file and keeps it everything moving forward. We partner with an external media agency that helps with planning our paid media campaigns. But yes, there are many moving parts as we also have our owned media to leverage. At any given time, we are managing anywhere from fifteen to twenty properties depending on the season and that doesn’t account for shows that are in pre-production or that recently aired but still require post work and analysis. I think the trick is to take everything in stride. This industry, while exhilarating, can be unpredictable and you never know what is going to hit you on any given day so you do your best to set your priorities and stay focused and on track but you also have to roll with the punches as things constantly changing.
What would you consider to be your most impressive accomplishments over the past decade as the Head of Entertainment and Content Marketing at CBC and Hank Studios?
Postnikoff: I’d have to say launching my own creative production agency, Hank Studios, was a huge personal accomplishment. I remember the exact moment I decided to do it. At the time, I had about five years experience working in the media industry and while I still had a lot to learn, I wanted to shift my focus from CPG advertising to content marketing but I had no clue where to start. When asking a Producer I had worked with in the past for her advice, her response was “first you start at the bottom, assist in the office, get coffee, order lunch, take notes, put in your time, get to know people, prove yourself and eventually you’ll work your way up to the top.” While that might have been the path for some people, I knew right away that I needed to take another approach. I started my own agency and became a Producer. And though it was a baptism by fire, it paid off. Hank had many successes during its tenure.
From a CBC perspective and being a true super fan, I once received a note from Sarah Polley describing how much she loved the marketing campaign that my marketing team had created for Alias Grace. This was both a personal triumph and feather in my cap. I knew that these types of accolades come to those who take measured risks. And why I never succumbed to the “starting at the bottom” mentality.
Has the increasing ability to gather digital information about consumer behavior changed how you, and TV networks in general, target consumers and advertise to audiences?
Postnikoff: Access to more precise data points and targeting tools has significantly shifted the creation and distribution of promotional content. We are now better able to segment audiences based on interests, affinities and behaviours. Layering in demographic and geography data points, we then create custom creative with variations in theme, copy and visuals optimized for each platform they are distributed on. This has been a big departure since the days of creating a broad creative pieces with a singular message that would run across TV, radio, print and outdoor.
Do you see a future for marketing and/or advertising in application with virtual reality?
Postnikoff: Yes -100%. We incorporated VR into some of our marketing elements for the launch of the mini-series, Alias Grace and we’re looking ahead for upcoming promotional opportunities where we can adopt a VR strategy to heighten the viewer’s connection to the story.
VR and AR technologies allow for audiences to become fully engaged in the experience and that enables brands to build an entire world where consumers are active participants within it. It is this immersive nature of VR/AR that will elevate the impact of content and take the audience experience to new heights for brands, creators and marketers.
To what extent do you utilize what consumers are saying about TV shows or other CBC ventures across the internet in order to improve upon your products/services?
Postnikoff: In response to the change in viewing habits and consumer needs, we recently launched our OTT streaming video service. Undeniably, audiences still continue to tune in to broadcast and this won’t change for some time, but the service provides an opportunity to cast a wider net, reaching the cord cutters who want to consume content on multiple devices, on their own time. People now have the ability to catch up online or binge watch their favorite show. Viewers are also able to access our digital original properties that can’t be viewed on linear. Eventually, audiences will be able to watch not only pre-recorded shows but live programming on the mobile device of their choice.
Do you have any experience coordinating live events for CBC?
Postnikoff: We’ve had a number of screenings and premiere parties for new and returning shows at the CBC, but thankfully there is a superstar team responsible for overseeing the logistics and coordination of each event. Marketing has played a large part in this by creating digital content to reach audiences beyond the event itself, and by overseeing the social media campaign to promote the event. We’ve started to include Influencers more frequently into the promotional strategy, as a tactic to reach viewers beyond the CBC audience.
Are there any major similarities or differences you see between television culture and programming within Canada versus the United States?
Postnikoff: To summarize in a few sentences, and I’m sure we could dedicate an entire article to deconstructing the discourse on how culture impacts entertainment and content from both a regional and global perspective, but in short, while I think there are unique differences between television culture in Canada and the US, what’s shared amongst marketers and content creators is the growing competition and vying for people’s attention within a very cluttered media landscape. With so many US shows produced in Canada and vice versa, it’s not so much about the similarities and differences in programming but more about a symbiotic relationship between the two markets.