Moving Beyond Soap Operas to Reach Women

NBCU Cable Entertainment Group EVP Tarrant talks about what women want from a media perspective

Even before joining NBCUniversal as executive VP of client solutions, Alison Tarrant had developed an expertise at reaching young women. Tarrant talks to B&C business editor Jon Lafayette about the evolution of what women want, from a media perspective. An edited transcript follows.

Tell me about how young women's media habits are different from the more traditional picture of housewives watching soap operas?

I think the perception of what types of programming resonate with women has changed. If you look at the traditional soap opera, that's almost a stereotypical genre of programming. Women are consuming content in every possible genre and in all mediums, so marketing to women is actually a lot more complicated than it used to be.

Is there a way of saying there's a best way to get young women's attention?

If I look at some of the tools we're getting requests about more and more consistently, it's in the social and digital space. That is an opportunity for advertisers to become a part of a meaningful conversation with consumers in a space that has a lot of credibility with that audience and they can get a lot of traction there.

With social media, the question is, can a company like NBC monetize the conversations created that way?

I don't think there's a cookie cutter way in which we monetize it. If we can find an organic way for an advertiser to be a part of the conversation, then the audience is more likely to be receptive and it's a great opportunity for the advertisers to connect with that passionate audience.

How big is the gap between what engages young men and young women? Are they becoming more alike or more different?

As I look at what we're doing with young men, I would think that digital and social are very important. But the tactics you would use to create custom content and a more meaningful relationship would be slightly different. Women look at social and digital for sharing more, and so we're developing content opportunities for sharing. Men look at it more as entertaining or informative, and so it is slightly different how we would connect with men in that space versus women.

How is digital affecting viewing patterns? Are men and women watching together more, or are they watching more separately because they have more opportunities to watch what they want?

I think it depends on the genre and the network. I think there's some great stories where you see a lot of co-viewing. One of the areas I've been spending a lot of time focusing on since I've been here is with Modern Family, which is rolling out on USA, and which is a huge opportunity for us from a custom partnership perspective. There's a tremendous amount of co-viewing that's happening with that franchise. We will be looking at that dual audience in creative ways to create opportunities for advertisers.

Are there different product categories trying to reach women now compared to the old days when it was all laundry soap and hair color?

It's all the big spenders and advertisers. When I look over the course of last year, technology companies are focusing on women just as much as they are on men. There are the usual suspects of retail and packaged goods that are looking for that audience, but autos are still looking at women from a consumer standpoint. I don't think the lines are as clearly drawn as they once were in a straight female-vs.-male audience. Depending on the brand there are opportunities. Even video games: There are products in the video game category that are very much interested in reaching women.