'With storytelling ingrained in our DNA, our job is to help brands tell their story'

Sunita Rajan, Senior VP, Advertising Sales, Asia Pacific, CNN International, tells us how the global news giant is collaborating with its advertiser partners and helping them engage with consumers exchange4media caught up with Sunita Rajan, Senior Vice President, Adverti

by Simran Sabherwal
Published - June 09, 2020
7 minutes To Read
'With storytelling ingrained in our DNA, our job is to help brands tell their story'

Sunita Rajan, Senior VP, Advertising Sales, Asia Pacific, CNN International, tells us how the global news giant is collaborating with its advertiser partners and helping them engage with consumers exchange4media caught up with Sunita Rajan, Senior Vice President, Advertising Sales, Asia Pacific, CNN International, to understand how the global news giant is collaborating with its advertiser partners, sharing valuable services and guidance and helping them engage with consumers Excerpts  What are the key learnings from the new normal of having people work from home? It's been an interesting experience and a learning curve. Work from home has become the new normal for everyone across the company, across markets and geographies. Technology is now at the front and centre of business. Global teams, including my team in Asia-Pacific, have used all the digital tools and technology to share, learn, empower themselves and connect with colleagues and also with our partners and customers. Clients are now comfortable using technology and video and don?t feel apprehensive about having a dialogue and discussion with us on this platform.

CNN has covered the pandemic in great detail across all of our platforms. We have gone back to the brand's fundamental values and principles, which is facts. The pandemic has shown who we are as an international news brand and the depth, knowledge and the perspective that CNN provides. Our entire team, be it the talent or production staff, have worked remotely to put out the product and the audience has responded well to CNN?s brand of story-telling. In addition to breaking news, we also covered positive stories on what individuals and corporations have done to help in the relief effort during this crisis. Our recent editorial content piece, Impact Your World, showcases businesses and how they are supporting communities and citizens. On the health front, our medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta has been covering the news and answering questions that audiences have. As an international news organization, we are a trusted source and we have seen a massive increase in viewership. From a brand perspective, we play a very important role in engaging with our client partners. We provide insights from a global perspective to help the companies and countries get through this period by creating programmes and initiatives where we go beyond just being the news provider and tell the story. In April, CNN International joined forces with BBC Global News and Euronews and committed combined inventory worth up to $50 million to public health bodies to share messages on COVID-19 and its prevention. This collaboration was important as we have a responsibility to help get the message out, given the scale of the audience that we reach. With brands looking to cut marketing spends, what strategy will aid in retaining existing clients, getting new clients on board and driving revenue growth? What we've seen is that some clients have continued their communication and messaging. For some advertisers, like the travel and tourism clients, it was appropriate to pause the campaign for the time being as travel has largely been suspended. The brand response depends on the business that they're in, and the role they play in a consumer?s journey and life right now. However, while people may not be travelling, they are still reading, consuming videos, planning and looking at places they might want to travel in the future. Brands are also looking at how they can be responsible during this phase. Many countries are communicating the message ?Stay home, stay safe? and we look forward to seeing you again. The communication is not overt but helps them keep in touch with their loyal customers and ensures these brands don?t go quiet. A lot of your solutions are geared towards the travel and tourism, wellness, style and design, sectors that have been significantly impacted. How are you approaching these sectors? For the travel and tourism clients, we play a consultant and advisory role. We share our audience understanding and insights that we gather from our partners, such as industry organisations like World Trade Organization (WTO). The data reveals trends on what countries should possibly look at. Recently, we had a consultative discussion with the Ministry of Tourism, one of our largest clients in India, where the focus was on what should be the approach and messaging for social communication, and ensuring the message is heartfelt and authentic. We have an in-house consultancy group, Tourism Advertising Solutions and Knowledge (TASK) and we advised the Ministry on the direction they might want to take. ?Namaste?, where a person presses their hands together, is uniquely Indian and a welcome sign and we suggested that they use ?namaste? as both a welcome from the heart and as a respectful message, that we will be there waiting for you when you are ready to come back. This has been adopted by the Ministry. We understand that every business is going through its own journey and at CNN, we are looking at what we can do to help and partner our clients and provide valuable insights. Who are your other clients in India? We have over a decade-long partnership with Kirloskar, which is around an editorial series, Going Green. The series talks about sustainability and looks at services that innovators and entrepreneurs are providing for the world. The edition commences in June. Besides these, we also work with tech companies such as Intel, IBM and Accenture as well as airline and automotive brands. Events, such as CNN Experience, have played a big role for CNN to reach out to its partners and showcase and update the customer solutions you offer. With uncertainty prevailing on the future of events, how are you strategizing to connect with partners and showcase your solutions? As we cater to a wide array of businesses and categories, be it travel & tourism, automotive, tech, corporate, finance, energy, lifestyle etc., we have initiated a series of fast-paced 45-minute global webinars, CNN Insights, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on each of these sectors. The first of the series, which had its focus on Travel & Tourism, had Richard Quest, CNN Anchor and CNN Business Editor-at-large, in conversation with Anita Mendiratta, CNN Task & UNWTO Special Advisor and Tini Sevak, VP Audience & Data talk about Travel & Tourism in a COVID-19 world. We are pivoting and adapting to the new normal until such time that people can physically be present at a CNN Experience. However, that's not going to stop us from sharing valuable services and guidance to our partners. Which other sectors do you see emerging as potential partners? Big tech, which is technology solutions and technology consulting companies. Editorially, we recently launched ?Inventing Tomorrow?, a show anchored by Kristie Lu Stout that examines the importance of technology and how it is reshaping life during the pandemic. This throws light on the value of the CNN audiences and the role that we can play to connect businesses with consumers. With consumer habits changing, how are you adapting to the new consumer? With content being consumed across devices, we now have a highly engaged set of audiences. For us, it?s about how we create an immersive experience for the consumer. In the past, we adopted VR and AR for a campaign we did for the Louvre Abu Dhabi where we created a virtual tour of the museum before its launch. Immersive technology and its application can create virtual solutions and gives cities and states an opportunity to actually transport their traveller to their destination. Another interesting area is podcasts and we recently launched CNN Audio; podcasts are popular in some Asian markets and we believe this is an interesting area to explore in terms of content and story-telling. Looking ahead, what can expect from CNN? Story-telling is in our DNA and it is what we do best. It is why audiences come to us. What is important is how we can work with brands while they are on the journey of navigating consumer behaviour. How can we help brands craft their messaging and help them tell their story? Brands want to work with publishers and partners who can help the brand communication be seen as authentic and contextual. Today?s consumer is discerning, selective and demanding and expects a personalised experience from a brand. With video and story-telling ingrained in our DNA, our job is to help brands tell their story.