Podcast Transcript – Jasmine Dawson from BBC Studios

Tune in to Time for A Reset

Nick King – 00:00:01: Welcome to the Time for a Reset podcast, where we interview senior marketers on the big issues of the day and how they’re dealing with those challenges in an ever-changing landscape. We deep dive into the latest trends, strategies and tactics that will help you stay ahead of the curve and stand out in a crowded marketplace. This episode is hosted by me, Nick King, Global Practices Lead at CVE. Let’s get into it. I’d like to welcome Jasmine Dawson, who is Senior Vice President of Digital, working within the Brands and Licensing Division of BBC Studios. Jasmine leads on the global digital strategy, bringing the content and commercial arms together, with ultimate responsibility for driving audience and bottomline growth for BBC Studios’ digital brands. She’s led the digital team since 2019, and under her leadership the team has grown a digital footprint and delivered an award-winning content strategy, increasing revenue by 54%. As mentioned, she’s an award-winning digital specialist with awards from Canline, Adweek and The Shorties, and she has over 50 individuals’ experience in London and New York, both in-house and agency side, at brands such as Hulu, Revlon, Mars and AB InBev. She has substantial experience driving digital transformation and developing brands’ digital footprint, focusing on relevance, reach and revenues. So Jasmine, where do we always start? If you were to hit reset on anything within the industry, what would it be?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:01:16: It’s a great question and something that you look at. What could you do given the sort of competitive nature and where we find ourselves economically? If I could do one thing, it would be really focused around the medium hierarchy. I think there’s a huge amount of competitiveness in the market and that can always sort of help growth and innovation and that can really drive that, but sometimes it can be a distraction. And what we really try to do is not focus on sort of the end goal being sort of TV or the end goal being sort of the next most innovative social platform, but really think about what stories do we want to tell and to which audience and how are we going to tell this story on this platform? So that is sort of at the heart of what we do is figuring out the stories that we want to tell with our fab IP and making sure that we’re being relevant on the platforms.

Nick King – 00:02:04: Yeah, that makes total sense. And I think it’s something that a lot of people talk about, but then they just produce the same content for all platforms. Can you kind of give a couple of examples? I can imagine that say TikTok versus YouTube versus traditional TV or all very different, but you’ve got a couple of examples of how that actually comes to light.

Jasmine Dawson – 00:02:22: Yeah, absolutely. We have been really looking to diversify. We’ve got a really mature YouTube business and we’ve got a fantastic portfolio of channels across YouTube. We do a huge amount of original content on there, but not every original content series is right for YouTube. We’ve been looking more at exploring our Snapchat and TikTok strategy over the last few years. We’ve also been really trying to understand where we can go into new areas and whilst the BBC Studios is very well known for comedy, our digital first comedy strategy has been quite light. Something that we have over the last year really lent into is our new series Hack Attack, which is distributed on our Funny Parts channels. That does well on YouTube, but where it really sings is on Snapchat and TikTok, where the type of content that we’re putting on there and ultimately the shorter snippets work so much better than the longer form on YouTube and that is something that we’re really trying to replicate. I also think that continuing drama that we do also really resonates on Snapchat. And actually, when we first looked at our Snapchat strategy, we looked at some of our big IPs like Top Gear and BBC Earth. But the real surprise for us is that EastEnders has managed to sort of out shout them all and that sort of the constant news that’s coming out of EastEnders and the fantastic storylines really resonate on Snapchat far better than the other ones that I mentioned.

Nick King – 00:03:45: Yeah, okay, that’s interesting. Sometimes the instincts about maybe what the audience is doesn’t actually replicate, it’s as much the type of content, whether it’s drama, comedy, whatever it may be. And maybe some of those preconceptions of the audience aren’t what you initially think, maybe.

Jasmine Dawson – 00:03:59: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the preconception is that Snapchat is a, you know, and it is, it’s a younger audience and it’s a fantastic audience for us to be talking to. And I think that’s something that we have been really experimenting with, is what kind of stories from our earth and sustainability content strands do they want to hear? And some of that works well and some of that we’ve had to adapt. But EastEnders wasn’t something that we thought was going to fly, and whilst we’ve seen some others in the market adapt incredibly well to that, EastEnders is finding a new audience on Snapchat. And that is sort of bringing a new fan base into our EastEnders ecosystem, which has been really great to see. Ultimately, these are new stories, we are creating additional storylines that can transverse every medium, that really dial up the ones that are more meaningful for that platform, which has been really great to see with our Snap strategy.

Nick King – 00:04:48: Yeah, amazing. So talked a bit about the BBC Studios, but I’d love to sort of dive in and talk about you and your career a little bit. You’ve had an illustrious career working with prestigious companies like MediaCom, the United Nations and even Revlon. What specifically attracted you to your current role at BBC Studios?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:05:04: It’s a great question. I mean, having grown up in the UK, obviously the BBC Studios has always been something that’s been part of my life and something that I’ve looked at as wouldn’t it be amazing? I think having worked all over the UK, London, Leeds, and then moving across to New York, I’ve been lucky enough, as you say, to work in very diverse areas in marketing agencies such as MediaCom, but then also working Grandside as well. I think the step change was I learned so much working in marketing agencies and it’s such a fantastic introduction to media because you do get to do so many things and work across so many different clients. But ultimately, I think being in New York and working at the UN on an international women’s campaign for International Women’s Day was something that really made me think about how do I add value? How do I sort of take what I know and what I do and make sure that I’m giving back? And that can sound a little trite, but it’s something that having had my first child in New York and then sort of working somewhere amazing like that, I really wanted to make a different choice for myself. And I think whilst the BBC Studios has a fantastic legacy, it’s also sort of in a really interesting moment in which there are lots of decisions that need to be made where relevance is a really big question and debate. And I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to be able to sort of bring everything that I have learned over my career and really sort of lean in to what I think is an incredibly interesting challenge. And having joined in 2018, I couldn’t have made a better decision for myself. I have learnt so much more being here, but I’ve also been part of some fantastic decisions and new strategies that have really pushed the business forward, but also pushed myself as well.

Nick King – 00:06:47: Yeah, no, I think that’s so important that you do it for yourself as well. I think we probably have that slightly at times old school view of companies, like how can I mould myself to the company rather than going, this is the person I am. How do we operate? I’d love to hear a little bit about how the BBC Studios sort of allows you to flourish in that way.

Jasmine Dawson – 00:07:05: I think they’re very accepting of what the current challenges are and that ultimately it is our responsibility to be able to lean into that and there’s nothing taken for granted. Having worked at lots of different places, I think everywhere I’ve been I’ve worked with fantastically intelligent people and great line managers who have really pushed me. But for me, this is the place where I found people that were really accepting of we have a problem and it’s everyone’s responsibility from the DG down to make sure that they know what they are working towards. And that happens at every level and every meeting that we talk about what can we do? What is that proposition? Value for all is an incredibly important thing for us and value for all and revenue goes hand in hand, so whilst I sit in the commercial side of the business, it is still something that we are striving for. I also think that I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic team and that’s not to say that I haven’t worked with fantastic teams across my career, but it’s the culture. It is always striving for the next big thing that I really like, as well as working with like-minded people who push me. And I think sometimes in my experience, a media agency’s hierarchy can play a big part in sort of how decisions are made. And that’s not to say that’s not the right thing in some cases and definitely senior leaders here make big decisions, but it is a place where we are encouraged to challenge. I encourage my team to challenge,I encourage everyone to be part of the decision making and that’s not just me. My line manager, Nikki Sheard, who’s president of Brands and Licensing, encourages me to challenge her. Tom Fussell, who’s a CEO as her boss, encourages everyone to challenge him and I really like that mentality.

Nick King – 00:08:46: Yeah, you talked about some of those problems. You’ve clearly overcome a number of them, you know, 54% great in revenue kind of a headline, but love to hear a little bit about what you’re doing within the digital landscape to overcome some of those problems that you’re coming up against at the moment.

Jasmine Dawson – 00:09:02: It’s a great question and I think it also talks to the global nature of what BBC Studios do. The problems in the UK are different to the problems in the US. And whilst listening to you talk about the stats, I sort of do go, oh yeah, we have actually made a huge difference. I still see that we’re climbing up the hill, but I couldn’t be doing it without the fantastic team who are working incredibly hard and are pushing us up that hill, but we’re not quite at the top yet. I think in terms of the challenges that we face in the UK, we’ve got a fantastic set of competitors that we are really being challenged by every day. But relevance is something that we are really, really tackling across every genre, across every IP, and making sure that we’re relevant to the audiences on every platform but also making sure that we are bringing that audience in, engaging with them. But then it’s our job to also monetize that audience and monetize them in the most effective way. That is something that we’re still looking at. We have great relationships with our partners, such as YouTube and Snapchat, and we’re always looking for new partnerships as well. And we have got something on the horizon coming in, which I’m increasingly excited about in WeAre8. In the US, it’s a very different challenge, we’ve got incredible awareness in the UK, you know, we’re not having to knock on doors and go, we’re the BBC Studios, would you like to talk to us? Doors are always open, whereas in the US, the challenge is the BBC Studios is known for its news coverage. It is very much known as a news brand over there, whereas I sit in digital brands and entertainment. We want to talk to them about Bluey, we want to talk to them about Top Gear, we want to talk to them about our digital first brand, such as Funny Parts, which is our comedy brand. We’ve had an incredibly positive reception, but it’s a challenge that we need to work on, we’ve just been hiring a new US sales team. Shout out to Junie Mayville, who has joined us over the last few months, who is really giving us great insight into that market. And we are over there far more frequently now talking to advertisers and looking at sort of the interesting things that we can do with brand partnerships. And, you know, that’s going to be an exciting next quarter for us in the US. So I love the different challenges that come up globally, we’re definitely making inroads. We’ve got a lot to tackle, but I think the team are really excited about what’s coming up over the next six months.

Nick King – 00:11:12: Awesome. Yeah, to get that fame and jet the image. The term marketing is a great engine and it’s often thrown around. Given that you have a responsibility for driving audience and bottomline growth, what does this mean to you and how do you ensure that marketing serves as a driver for growth at BBC Studios?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:11:28: It’s an interesting one because we don’t necessarily delineate between what’s marketing and what’s not marketing. So we ultimately are talking about our content strategy and how are we going out and ensuring that we are not only talking to the audience that already knows us, but how are we ensuring that we’re coming out to people that have either dropped off and gone somewhere else or we have to recruit new audiences? Our content strategy is sort of data driven and audience first. And by that, I mean, we are looking at what’s going to resonate best with this particular audience segment and how can we tell something really meaningful to them? And by meaningful, I mean that they’re going to come back and they’re not just going to sort of it’s a passive view and they’re going to move on, it’s that they’re going to engage them and they want to come and connect with our brand. The way I interpret marketing as a growth engine is that it is putting our audience platforms, so whether that be social or our audio platforms or our fantastic branded websites, the audience is the growth engine and us to be using those as a sandbox and going, how can we test new factual, additional originals? How can we sort of bring new talent into our content strategy? How can we go and find new IP? We’ve never touched before as part of the BBC Studios brand portfolio. So we see the growth engine is that we are the sort of disruptors within the BBC Studios. We are finding everything that is emerging on far flung areas on the Internet and using that as the growth engine to find the next thing that’s going to resonate with our audience and tell our stories in even better and more diverse ways.

Nick King – 00:13:07: Brilliant. That’s incredible to hear. With that rich area of content that you have behind you, there’s so many opportunities that you’ve got. Obviously you’ve got a huge experience in digital transformation and that background across London and New York. We often talk about marketing being at the board level and yet so often marketing can be seen as, we occasionally refer to it as the Department of Colouring, in sort of that background that people don’t have necessarily, maybe the respect that it deserves. At BBC Studios, where you manage the global digital strategy with a keen focus on both content and commercial arms, Is marketing a top agenda item at the board level? And if not, how do you make the case for it?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:13:46: I think having grown up in media agencies, I think the respect is for the audience and the audience sort of telling you about what they want to do, what they want to hear, what they want to view and engage with. And I think that’s something that sort of has always felt native to me. I’ve always worked in digital and for me it’s a changed environment from when I started in my career. But something that I feel that I have always brought to my roles and my teams is that I challenge and I want to disrupt. But disrupt with a point, not disrupt for disruption’s sake, but disrupt for growth. And perhaps sort of going back to earlier questions, disruption as a growth engine is sort of what I subscribe to as my personal career. I think that marketing is incredibly respected here because ultimately we create fantastic content across all of our divisions at BBC Studios, whether it’s content that is going on other streaming services or for the BBC Studios or across all of our direct-to-consumer channels. I think to my earlier point, we don’t delineate between sort of like this is marketing and this isn’t marketing. We subscribe to what is our content strategy and I think that that is something that has always been a really clear guiding light for us no matter whether it’s in my department or at board level. It’s amazing working for a place that the content slate and the content storytelling is prioritised so heavily and ultimately it’s in the business of telling stories on every medium anyway. When we think about BBC Studios productions, we have always been involved and we have a great relationship. We are getting earlier on in the life cycle, which is incredibly fulfilling for everyone involved because they are looking for either if they’ve got sort of continuing IP or they’re trying to find new IP, we are being brought in in the early stages to discuss what’s going to work, what can we look at coming up within your content strategy or have you seen new talent on the horizon that you think we should be engaging with? And the discussion and the sharing of experiences and expertise has definitely been richer and earlier in the content life cycle than it ever has been before, which has been fantastic.

Nick King – 00:15:56: Brilliant. To pick up on that point vassal, content marketing are so closely aligned within the organisation. The marketing field has increasingly become data and tech driven. Given you its substantial experience in digital transformation, how has this shift impacted the marketing operating model at BBC Studios?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:16:13: Yeah, the blending of art and science. I mean, that’s always the conundrum, right? So the sort of, what is the data telling you? But data can’t tell you everything. We talk about a data-driven content strategy, and that’s absolutely what we do. And we’ve got so many metrics at our fingertips, given that we sit in the digital division. We’ve really tried to prioritise metrics that we’re looking at, because otherwise you can get lost in a sea of why is it not working, why is it working, and how do we sort of make sure that we lean into the right ones. I think that we have a fantastic production team within the digital team that are informed by data, and we look at watch time as a real key measure for us to make sure that people stay with us. That passive view, a lot of times those big view numbers can be really compelling to advertisers, but we are focusing more and more, not just on video views, but watch time, so that we’re not just engaging someone for that first three seconds.We are keeping them with us, and they’re coming back and they are repeating that experience on a daily, weekly basis. I think that we also really want to understand that we can take risks, and that is something that it takes outlining parameters of sort of how we’re going to take risks, and really bringing everybody on the journey. We are really mindful of the fact that we are an organisation that can produce everything from the King’s Coronation to our digital first, to Hack Attack on funny parts. It is a wide ranging and diverse content portfolio, and we have to respect that, but we are really encouraged to take more risks, and that is something that I think there is only so far data can take you, and something that we talk about a lot, and something that we subscribe to is like, 70% of the decisions should be backed by data, 30% is going to have to be creative gut, and that is something that we talk about, and make sure that we’re not just sort of pumping out what we know works, and we do an awful lot of that, which is we do need to make sure that we hit our revenue targets, and we have done that in a phenomenal way, but the more risks that we take, the more we learn, and the more that we’re seen as relevant, which is obviously a key KPO for us as well.

Nick King – 00:18:23: Yeah, it’s brilliant to hear that a creative organisation is comfortable saying, yeah, there’ll be so many organisations that would say no, we’re 100% data driven business, which I think leads to just more of the same reproducing things. I think the arts does struggle with innovation at time. So it’s lovely to hear that that 30% is creative gut feeling.

Jasmine Dawson – 00:18:42: Yeah, it really is. And I think also what we’ve worked on is setting up a culture where it’s okay to fail. That’s something that I would say I haven’t had anywhere else. Definitely when you’re accountable to clients, I can understand an immigration state where there’s got to be a lot of accountability and we’ve got to what I would say is a good ass cover. However, I would say working for an organisation, which not only encourages you to take risks, but if you fail, as long as you learn from it and you show how you’re, you know, you can move on and reflect together. That is really why I stay because I want to be able to take more and more risks and I really want to be able to solve the challenges that we have, but you can’t do that without taking a really big risk.

Nick King – 00:19:21: No, totally. And too many organisations talk about having a culture where failure is acceptable and you learn, but actually a lot of them are one failure and you’re practically on a yellow card and then nobody takes any more risks from there, so it’s brilliant to hear. You’ve been behind some award-winning projects, we talked about Canline and Adweek at the beginning. Is there anything that you’re working on at BBC Studios that you can sort of share with us, even if it’s just a teaser as to something that you’ve got really high hopes for and could go into that awards category one day?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:19:50: I mean, there are so many fantastic things, but I guess the thing that I would really want to focus on is Bluey. We have been astounded at what a breakaway hit Bluey has been globally and also that it not only resonates with a preschool audience, but an adult audience, a young adult audience. We have been the fastest growing BBC brand on TikTok and one of the fastest children’s brands on TikTok as well. And the stellar success that it has is absolutely down to taking that risk on something that is so beautifully written and so heartwarming, but also has multiple layers. We often sort of describe it as it’s probably not a preschool brand. It resonates just like The Simpsons does with sort of every audience and you can find something to connect to no matter who you are and where you live and your age. We are so thankful to the writing team and the fantastic animation team at Ludo who sit in Melbourne, Australia, that are the powerhouse behind it. And they also really support us on our digital content strategy that comes out of it. We’ve got some fantastic new digital shorts coming in the autumn as well as some amazing brand partnerships that we are really excited that I can’t announce now, otherwise I’ll get yelled at. There is something really, really big happening, which is a global content series that has not only the fantastic Bluey and her family and friends attached to it, but also a fantastic range of different celebrities from around the world that we should be launching in early spring next year. So suffice to say, Bluey is on an absolute steamroll of success after success after success and we’re getting some great approaches from different advertisers and brands that want to be a part of this. But it’s not the only thing that I would say that we think is coming out that’s going to be award-winning. We’ve got fantastic things coming out from our comedy team as well as some really, really exciting things from our BBC Studios Earth team as well.

Nick King – 00:21:31: Amazing. Well, on a personal level, amazing to hear that more Bluey will be out. My children are slightly aged out of it, but my niece is of that age and it’s one of the few things I generally don’t mind or actually quite enjoy watching with her, so great to hear that there’s some new stuff coming. So to wrap this up, you are in the midst of an amazing career. What’s the one piece of advice that you give to people sort of embarking, you know, in their early twenties into this industry where it’s marketing or the creative side? What’s your one piece of advice that you give to them in what is a challenging market, should we say?

Jasmine Dawson – 00:22:05: I would say I tend to overanalyze everything and that is probably sort of one of those things that is my Achilles heel, but also my super strength, because I’m always sort of very clear as to why I want to do something. But I have learned over my years of experience that I have to trust my gut more. And my gut is actually far more compelling a choice than me overanalyzing something. But I would also say that sort of trusting your gut to move towards growth. I’ve made some really big, well for me personally, some big moves over the years, you know, deciding to move to New York and go somewhere where, you know, I had to start not my career over again, but start my reputation over again, certainly and then the move back. I’ve learned something along the way, but, you know, do things that make you nervous, do things that my over analytical brain will go, are you sure you want to do this? What’s the worst that could happen? And ultimately, you’re never too young, too old to do anything. Just make that risky choice because it will pay off, because you’ll learn something. That move towards growth, it’s the left and the right brain sort of fighting. The over analytical part of me going, oh my God, what’s going to happen? But I’ve always trusted that it will eventually work itself out because you’re moving towards growth. And it has worked out for me, and I hope that I am midway through my career and that there’s still lots more to come.

Nick King – 00:23:23: Yeah, amazing. Thank you so much, Jasmine. It’s been an absolutely brilliant speech to you.

Jasmine Dawson – 00:23:25: You too, and thank you so much for having me.

Nick King – 00:23:28: Pleasure.

CTA – 00:23:29 – To find out more about BBC Studios Social and how you can get involved visit bbcstudiossocial.com

Nick King – 00:23:39:  We hope you enjoyed this episode of Time for a Reset. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll be back talking to another senior marketer very soon. Make sure to leave a review and catch you next time.

News & Blog