Town Hall: Snap’s Imran Khan with HBO’s Richard Plepler in conversation

By Erica Atkins: Partner, Associate Director Digital Investment, Mindshare North America

By Erica Atkins: Partner, Associate Director Digital Investment, Mindshare North America

The way we communicate with each other has changed drastically as technology has advanced – from actual face-to-face conversations, to text messaging, and now increasingly via visual messaging. Imran Khan, the CSO of Snap Inc., accounted his own experiences with these changing mediums over the years, from intense dinner conversations with his parents while growing up, to his constant use of Snapchat these days.

Although he may be a little biased based on his job title, he’s certainly not alone in his adoption of the platform, noting that there are 1 trillion snaps a year – a number that’s equivalent to all photos taken on every smartphone worldwide! Another staggering fact he shared about everyone’s favorite filter – there has been over seven thousand years’ worth of playtime with the dog filter on Snapchat.

So if consumers are changing the way they communicate with each other, naturally brands should follow suit, right? In a conversation moderated by Hearst’s Joanna Coles, Khan discussed brand strategy along with advice for staying innovative in a mobile world with HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler. Just like Snap, HBO saw the changing tides in communication and knew that they had to adapt their business to keep up with how and where users were consuming video content. Despite warnings that they’d cannibalize their core business, HBO launched HBO GO and HBO NOW streaming services to allow users to watch HBO content across devices and without a traditional cable subscription, respectively. Luckily, the risk paid off: HBO has seen less than 1% of cannibalization against its core business while reaching a whole new set of cord-cutting users.

HBO’s partnership with Snap has helped them extend their reach even further. As Plepler explained, running Snap Ads for some of their most popular shows, like Game of Thrones, not only engages existing fans of the show but also helps attract 18-34 year olds who can’t be reached easily on other platforms.

Outside of their partnerships, HBO and Snap as brands in their own right share a few attributes that Plepler and Khan think are key to their successes. First, both brands build addicts – people don’t just take one snapchat or watch one episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm and move on. No way! Both brands have been able to nurture talent and continue to innovate to keep people coming back for more. Secondly, both Khan and Plepler noted that fostering a culture of creativity and support is perhaps the most important factor in their brands’ successes. Plepler noted that, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and that even companies with the most amazing strategy will fail if the culture isn’t there. Both leaders emphasized their commitment to supporting this kind of culture – it’s what will lead to the continued creation of premium (and addictive) content.