Dan Pappalardo, the founder and CEO of L.A.-based agency Troika, says his clients have more information than ever before about who is watching and consuming their programming.

And yet, in an age of fragmented viewing, cord-cutting, time-shifting, and all of the other issues confronting the industry, many of them are still flying blind when it comes to confronting their most pressing marketing challenges.

“My clients tell me ‘I have plenty of the what’s; I need to know the why’s,’” Pappalardo told Brief. “Our clients have a lot of facts and a lot of statistics which help them understand who the viewers are and what they’re watching at any given time. “What I was after was making sure we were taking the next step so that we were focusing on the insights part of it.”

Enter Susan Kresnicka.

Pappalardo took the unusual step of hiring the University of Texas-trained cultural anthropologist in June because he said his agency and his clients needed someone who could help them contextualize the work they were doing, while forcing everyone at the table to take a step back and question assumptions they were making about the industry, viewers, and their tactics.

Cultural anthropologists, Kresnicka explains, study human culture: what creates a shared sense of identity across a group of people and how our shared symbols allow us to connect to one another. It’s all about taking a step back and looking at the Big Picture.

“I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a habitual practice of looking at the broader culture that is both shaping, and being shaped by, these marketing efforts,” Kresnicka said. “This product isn’t just a product that going to meet with an individual; it’s a product that has a place in our social connection with one another, our shared identity.”

On a practical level, Kresnicka said her work can help clients take decision making out of their gut, and give them a reason for knowing whether a campaign or promotion will connect with an audience.

“It gives you fodder for symbols and meanings you can use to create more impactful marketing messages.”

A client, for example, might want to create a more emotional basis for their brand?. Or they might be faced with a shifting audience, and need a better understanding of what exactly about the network is brining this group of people together. Or perhaps, they’re interested in exploring ways to extend the audience’s viewing.

Kresnicka leads a team of in-house researchers at Troika under the agency’s newly-formed Research and Insights Group. Already, the agency has said she is working on a branding initiative with The CW.

Before joining Troika, the former chef served as Vice President of Research at Frank N. Magid Associates.

Her arrival at Troika in June coincided with the announcement of another major hire, Alejandro Lopez joining the agency as Executive Creative Director.

Pappalardo said that he views Kresnicka’s role as that of an advocate for the audience.

“Susan’s job is to make sure that the audience perspective is integral into everything we do,” he said. “It’s making sure that everything is proofed out from an audience point of view. She’s the audience advocate in the room who is always asking us questions and challenging us in a way that’s based on true understandings of the audience. It takes a lot of the gut decisions and the guess work out of it.”


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