This month, we welcome Charley Delana, Executive Vice-President, Global Entertainment & Brand Partnerships, Westfield, New York
- You have a very varied career background. Please tell us about it, what you learned from these positions and how do they relate to what you are now doing with Westfield?
Throughout my career, I have had a consistent mission of connecting brands to targeted audiences. Whether that be in the media world or sports/entertainment or malls, the strategic exercise of solving brands’ needs is the same. With that said, some of the channels and assets are different across these platforms, which provides for some fun creative challenges.
Ultimately, the 435 million consumers that come to our properties are not just shoppers; they are multidimensional, dynamic consumers that present great opportunities for brands to engage on many levels. Packaging and executing integrated ideas is what I’ve done for 25 years.
- You recently took all of your U.S. media in-house. What spurred that move? How and when will you know if this has paid off for Westfield?
As a basic premise, I’d rather control our own destiny than leave it to others – especially if you believe that you have a unique proposition and can sell media and partner with brands as well as, or better than our third party partners did – which I do. Taking nothing away from them, we felt that we needed to have state-of-the-art hardware and software in our properties so we can provide truly world-class delivery that brands and agencies demand.
Honestly, I think it has already paid off as we have increased revenue, and, most importantly, are having significant discussions around long-term, integrated network buys that I believe are pretty unique in the mall business.
- I believe you have 35 malls across the U.S. with both large format screens and new stand-alone units. How many digital screens do you have of each? Do you have digital screens in any other locations?
Westfield has been aggressively upgrading our properties with particular emphasis on 20 of our largest, urban centers. As part of that upgrade, we have added 225 double-sided stand-alone units to our existing 95 large format screens.
What is equally as exciting is the software that runs the network. All of our Esprit screens will have smart technologies to people count and assess age, mood and sex of the consumer. They will also be equipped with beacons so we can roll out our mobile solutions in the coming year.
- To handle the media in-house, how large a staff do you manage, and are these employees divided into separate divisions, eg. by separate creative, media negotiation, etc., or by separate malls or areas of the country? How many employees did you have to hire in making the move to in-house?
We currently have about 40 full-time people as part of our Brand Ventures team. While most of the group are sales people, we have been very deliberate in adding planning and support staff to free up our sales team.
We are organized by region so as to best cover clients and agencies, but we ask all of our team to sell nationally – and while our sales staff doesn’t have direct obligation to individual centers within their region, they do keep an eye out for local deals.
- What exactly is your Brand Ventures division?
Brand Ventures is responsible for all the non-leasing revenue of the company. We operate very much like an agency in that we work with our partners to solve consumer marketing issues. Whether that be traditional media or a fully integrated, multi-center program, our team generates creative solutions to make sure our partners are engaging with the consumers they desire.
- Who is handling your content management system? Are you working with any partners, or does Westfield have all the capabilities? If you are working with a partner for CMS, why did you choose that company?
We have recently brought in Ayuda to help with programming and content. As with all of our providers, we went through an exhaustive RFP process and found their system to be the most innovative, intuitive and thorough.
- You have the World Trade Center, Fulton Center and more in the east, but you also have your large format screens and your new 75” Esprit Digital screens right across all your malls. Is everything being handled out of your New York headquarters or, if not, what is being done from your west coast offices?
Brand Ventures is headquartered in NYC but we have a large team in Los Angeles and people in San Francisco, Chicago, D.C., and Seattle. Most of the operations and client service team is in our corporate headquarters in Los Angeles.
- Do you think you will be setting a trend by bringing your media in house?
As much as I like the idea of being a trendsetter, I think this ‘trend’ is well underway. All major sports and entertainment venue manage their own media, and Simon has been at it for some time.
Really, the decision is about business objectives and priorities and, while we chose to do it in house, I can understand why a business would not want to take this on.
- We know you have a high technology measurement system on your 75” units, to show advertisers the viewers’ demographics, emotions, receptivity, dwell time and more for their campaigns. Do you have any type of measurement system for your large format screens?
We don’t, but we are very diligent in providing accurate traffic numbers and conducting detailed surveys of our customers.
- You are using Esprit Digital screens for your new 75” units, and I believe you use Samsung screens for at least some of your large format screens. Do you have other partners? Are you agnostic when it comes to screens? Is there any thought of Westfield manufacturing its own units?
We have a great relationship with Esprit who sourced our screens from LG but, frankly, we are pretty agnostic as long as they deliver on our spec. At the World Trade Center, we partnered with ANC, which did a great job of building one of the most dynamic array of screens in the world.
We haven’t given any thought to manufacturing our own screens yet. Maybe that is the next step in a completely owned and operated network but, at this point, I think it’s an area best left to the experts.
- Presumably, you have compiled a lot of data. Could you give us an example of an advertiser’s campaign, targeting a specific group, developed using data compiled by Westfield?
The network was launched across our 20 digital properties on June 5, 2017, so at that point we hadn’t compiled any data – but I’d be happy to share it in the new year.
- You carry both advertising and entertainment on your 75” screen network(s). Why did you take that route? Can you run the same material (advertising or otherwise) on both these units and your large format screens simultaneously? Has any advertiser used them in that way?
Our network is designed to be a completely flexible and capable of delivering on whatever our partners desire. Whether that means running a different ad on each screen, or running the same ad on the screens – including large format – or streaming an event live from the Oculus to all 500 screens at once, we can do it all. The use of our screens for advertising, content and entertainment was an early requirement, as we knew we needed to keep pace with all the creativity coming from our partners.
- Do you have R&D in-house in the U.S. as well?
We do not.
- I remember that Westfield worked closely with architects for its screens in both the Fulton Center and the World Trade Center. Tell us your thoughts about the importance of doing this. Do you have any similar projects underway in New York or elsewhere?
We work very closely with our architects and our whole design and construction team to make sure that all screens are considered as part of a great consumer experience at all of our centers. Sticking a screen on a blank space because its available really isn’t a strategy or an enhancement to the overall experience.
I’d urge your readers to go to Century City in LA, and Westfield UTC in San Diego, and see this cross-discipline effort in action.
- In the World Trade Center, you offer cross-platform brand marketing opportunities. Could you explain this, and give an example?
We call it our Founding Partner Program and we sell this not only at WTC, but at all of our centers. At its core, the Founding Partners receive exclusivity within their category for media, events and potentially retail over the term of the agreement. We currently have three Founding Partners at WTC : Pepsi, Chase Bank and Ford.
By way of example, Ford has its first Ford Hub on the second floor of the WTC where it showcases its unique take on the world of mobility. Additionally, it has complete exclusivity on the 19 screens and exclusive use of the Oculus floor for consumer events. All three of these partners have taken advantage of these assets in extraordinary ways and have truly maximized the screens by developing completely unique creative for display to the more than 350,000 people who enter the building every day.
- Westfield came up with a lot of special installations in the new World Trade Center. What did it learn most from that project?
We knew we had to have a media installation that was in keeping with the property because this is such an architectural masterpiece, but I think more than anything, we learned to be bold.
- What do you think other mall operators can learn from you?
To be bold. The retail and mall media worlds are dynamic and challenging, but you can’t change and grow if you don’t do things differently.
- Sustainability has always been very high among Westfield’s priorities. On Earth Day, you launched Refashion the Future. Could you tell us about it?
Refashion the future is a great marketing program that provides an opportunity for shoppers to bring in their lightly-used clothing to be recycled. For participating, consumers receive benefits at our local retailers. It’s a virtuous cycle that helps consumers get rid of the old and into the new, while doing something good for the environment. It’s currently only in one center, but we hope to roll it out nationally next year.
- What is your expansion strategy in the U.S. between now and 2020?
Over the next three years, we are continuing on our five-year journey of upgrading our existing high-performing centers. Garden State Plaza, Valley Fair and Topanga, among others, will all be undergoing significant redevelopment programs. So our ‘expansion’ is really not about increasing the number of properties we have, but about making the ones we have even better.