What: We talked to Solange Curutchet, General Manager at Pulpo, about her career in content and media, the importance of content monetization, and her predictions for the future.
Why it matters: Content is becoming more and more important each day. As Curutchet explains, there should be an integrated understanding of how marketing, sales, and content are intertwined in digital in order to have an effective monetization strategy.
Solange Curutchet forged her career learning about content monetization when digital was just starting to acquire the relevance it has today. Before becoming Pulpo’s General Manager, she cleared/ a rough path to realize how profoundly intertwined web content is with sales and marketing. Simply put, everything is connected in digital. If you see an ad somewhere, you can be sure there’s a whole machinery of reasons why it’s there.
We sat down with Curutchet to discuss the evolution of content, reaching multicultural audiences, and effective content monetization.
From Traditional to Digital Media
Content marketing isn’t only about selling ads. In 1999, when she joined Univision Interactive Media, Curutchet learned that all the bricks of the house need to be well-structured. “In these early publisher-advertiser days, we really started from zero,” shared Curutchet. “Nobody knew what creating content for digital entailed. We learned together. There wasn’t a playbook that neatly laid out these rules.” It was a process, but she learned that she needed to package content according to each advertiser’s needs without “compromising its integrity“.
“We had to offer content in a way that the advertisers could showcase their brands while not diluting an online presence”, says Curutchet. The trick was finding suitable matches for both parties, not forcing either to fit with the other. Content and ads needed to be symbiotic. “In traditional media, you had a page marked with an X where the ad would go and that’s it. Now in digital, you really need to evaluate the brand and what it’s communicating to see where it fits,” she explained. “These principles of co-existing content and advertisements are still valid today.”
The trick is finding suitable matches for both parties, not forcing either to fit with the other.
The Need to Understand Content Monetization
Solange says one of the most frequent mistakes when launching content verticals is “putting someone in charge that has deep subject matter expertise in a particular content theme but lacks a holistic knowledge of how content + ads need to co-exist.” “If we’re going to launch content property”, pointed out Curutchet, “then you assign someone that comes from content a hundred percent, right? So what happens is that you have a significant gap between producing content and how to monetize that property. We see this happening all the time. There’s great intention to produce valuable content but there’s no clear vision on content monetization.”
Social Media Ties Everything Together
Social media plays an important role in closing the loop on this strategy. Today, social media plays an important role in creating the emotional connection of your brand to content, to your advertisement. It’s not either or, it’s both. Social media is a much needed emotional value component that ties everything together.
Another tricky aspect, she said, is that people tend to believe that only articles can be called “content”. In fact, digital platforms allow consumers to access and share much more than just articles. “In digital, you can participate in what you’re reading and really give your opinion.” You can weave many elements into a site to engage with the user at higher levels and increase your sponsorship opportunities. “Finance and health sites do this very well,” illustrated Solange. “They use consumers’ input to drive useful wizards, calculators and other interactive features.”
Pulpo: the Rebirth of a Company
Taking from these learnings and from the concept of real engagement as the true motor of marketing, Pulpo has gone through a full rebranding. The goal is to create “its own environment of verticals for advertisers to talk to our audience and share their brand”, according to Curutchet. “The idea is to create products around them. A vertical where you sell customizable inventory, influencers interacting with audiences and advertisers, and a big data strategy around it. A lot of newsletters, personalization, and sharing products from our advertisers”, to mention just a few.
Hispanic culture goes way beyond speaking Spanish or not, it’s in their veins.
Focus on a Cultural Dimension, Reach Their Hearts
As these strategies fall into place, what are the most important cultural nuances Pulpo will tackle with this firm set of structures? One of Pulpo’s most important findings is that it’s all about talking to consumers in their language, and that doesn’t necessarily mean Spanish. “With U.S. Hispanics it’s more a cultural thing than a question of language. [Hispanic culture] goes way beyond speaking Spanish or not, it’s in their veins. […] The priority used to be having Spanish-language sites, which is still our main focus, but not only Spanish generates engagement with U.S. Hispanics”, says Curutchet.
So, all content must be focused on reaching them at a personal, more intimate cultural dimension. And in order to create intimate content, it’s necessary to delve deep into the customer’s heart. For Pulpo, the ideal partner is the one who fosters reciprocal participation with the audiences. “It’s not the one that has the best name for Latam, it’s the one that has the best engagement for our U.S. Hispanics reach, regardless of whether it’s a small company or group”, says Curutchet. “Content will become more and more important to reach audiences. […] Getting to the audiences with the right environment, the right content and the right language is key today”.
How to Face the Future?
So, what should brands do, and where is the future taking us? How will the reborn Pulpo address the new ways in which audiences engage and consume? For Solange, the market is getting better at understanding all these new behaviors, but brands really need to engage with their audience in a deep, meaningful way. “Content will become more and more important to reach audiences,” she declared.
Pulpo’s strategy is not only about making informed decisions based on hard data pointing to the direction of the market. The company listens to the clues consumers have to offer and pay attention to their needs and desires. “When you touch their soul they react differently”, says Curutchet. “Reaching them is not the problem, the challenge is how you get to them. Engage them in a way that you end up touching their hearts.”
Time to Discuss Diversity
According to ANA Educational Foundation’s research, the marketing industry’s efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce are still not enough, as the overwhelming majority of the talent is still predominantly white. The report explores, among other factors, the documented benefits of recruiting and retaining diverse talent. Among others: higher performance standards, better team dynamics, more organizational agility, and, better business results overall.
And it’s the same when we think about the percentage of women in leadership positions. “We tend to focus on CEO positions and are alarmed about the fact that there are only 24 Women CEO’s within 2018 Fortunes top 500 companies,” said Mebrulin Francisco, Managing Partner, Director Marketing Analytics, Multicultural at GroupM, in an article that looks more closely at this issue. “But we also need to look a couple of steps lower in the corporate ladder and address the fact that women’s progress is stalling at lower levels of a company’s pipeline.” For any woman looking to break with conventions, the numbers on equality dabble on the realm of disturbing. Not just for high-management levels but onset from the very first step of the ladder as well. And the numbers get worse when we look at the presence of Hispanic or African-American women in the talent pool.
Start from little, build your personality, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
Speak Your Mind, No Matter Who You Are
Solange knows first hand what it’s like to speak your mind “in a room with 20 people that are mainly men.” She said she was probably not the best example, as she has never been afraid of saying what she thinks. But not every girl knows that they have the right to do so. That’s why she has taught her two daughters to fight for what they believe. “One of the things is to start from a young age, build your personality and don’t be afraid to speak your mind,” she suggested. “Always do it with respect, but whatever you need to say, just say it, don’t be afraid to express it.”
Just as she encourages her daughters to speak their minds, Solange firmly believes that knowledge is more important than from whom it comes from. And this is the philosophy that she brings to work every day. If you have an opinion and you have a way of doing things better, it’s welcome. “Everyone here can share his or her ideas,” she told Portada. “Titles are not important, really. I can have people that have worked here for six years and people that started two days ago in the same meeting and we all discuss how to improve things.” In fact, she concluded, “the moment they start being afraid of expressing their opinion, that’s when we stop growing.”