How Amazon Prime Video CMO Ukonwa Ojo is positioning the brand in the streaming wars
Amazon Prime Video will debut its new brand campaign, which calls on both consumers and creators to “change the narrative,” during the Golden Globes on Sunday.
For Ukonwa Ojo, who joined the company in September as chief marketing officer for both Prime Video and Amazon Studios, the awards show marks an opportunity for Amazon to showcase the diversity of voices on its platform as its jockeys to retain its premier status in the increasingly competitive streaming landscape.
Ojo, who previously led marketing for beauty brands like MAC Cosmetics and Coty, says the goal of the campaign is to speak to Amazon’s heritage as storytellers. “Yes, we may be sharing stories in video form, but we started as a company sharing stories in book form,” she says.
In an interview with Ad Age, Ojo discusses the new creative approach, how she is looking to position Amazon in the streaming wars, her focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and her strategy for 2021. (The following responses have been lightly edited for clarity.)
Amazon Prime will advertise in the Golden Globes, taking a different approach than its Super Bowl ad, which promoted the upcoming “Coming 2 America.” Can you talk about the creative direction for this ad?
For a lot of streamers, we know what people love are our shows. So it’s a balance between talking about the brand and talking about shows. We saw the Golden Globes as an opportunity to share with both creators and consumers what we stand for as a brand. The Golden Globes is unique in the way it brings together the community of all those who love film and TV. This is about who we are and what we do and why we do what we do. “Change the narrative,” which is what we are calling the campaign, speaks to our heritage as innovators and storytellers. Yes, we may be sharing stories in video form, but we started as a company sharing stories in book form. We have been a company that’s passionate about getting as many stories in front of as many people as possible.
How are you looking to position Amazon Prime in the streaming wars?
When people talk about the streaming wars, it makes me feel grateful to be part of Amazon. We are customer-obsessed, not competitor-obsessed. The more competitive it becomes, the more important this becomes. If we are obsessed with what brings them joy, what they escape to, they will continue to choose us.
We want to tell more stories, really beautiful escapist stories, from all different backgrounds. We want to be a home to diverse voices telling diverse stories. This campaign shows all the diverse voices we have on the platform and the impact they have. We received 10 Golden Globe nominations, but we are even more proud of the diversity of talent being nominated from Regina King to Sacha Baron Cohen—these are all different types of stories, but all being told on the same platform.
What are the challenges in reaching consumers at a time when more and more streaming platforms are hitting the marketplace?
We are very fortunate that we are part of consumers' lives through a really invaluable membership program. At the terrible time we are all going through, Prime has made their lives a lot easier. That same service also brings you amazing content. That is such a powerful differentiator for us. You have the opportunity to get access to all of this award-winning content with the same service that helps make your life easier.
At the end of the day, content wins. There have to be amazing movies and shows people want to be a part of. We believe the marketing should be as interesting and disruptive as the content. We see a lot of that coming to life with our marketing around “Coming 2 America.” We sent out Valentine’s with Sexual Chocolate [which, of course, alluded to the name of the fictional band in the movies]. We have to earn their attention and make the creative really interesting and something people would want, even if we didn’t pay for their attention.
What is the value of the Golden Globes and other TV tentpoles? Do award shows still carry the same marketing weight they once did?
We see the target for something like the Golden Globes is both creators and consumers. Regardless of if viewership goes up or down, the hardcore fans will be watching and that’s who we want to be reaching.
Can you talk more about the strategy to reach not only potential consumers but also creators with this campaign?
At the end of the day we want to make sure we have the most interesting, emotive, groundbreaking content on the service, and for us to do that we need to collaborate with the world's best creators. We look at talent in a number of different ways. From filmmakers, directors, showrunners ... we want them to know this is a place where you can come and tell diverse stories. We welcome all different points of view. We put a lot of care into how we introduce your work to millions and millions of people around the world. We have to do that so they know we are like-minded and we are a place they can come and find kindred spirits and a love of storytelling. One of the things unique about my role is I am CMO of Amazon Studios and Prime Video. From the studio side, it’s really important that we make sure we have good collaboration with creators.
How are you prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion from an internal perspective, and how will it show up in marketing initiatives?
This is something Amazon really cares about and I personally really care about. We are working not only to drive diversity in front of camera, but behind the camera. It really comes from a place of making sure our teams and our content, and the way we go about doing what we do, is representative of the communities we serve; and the people who are creating the marketing are reflective of the people we serve. We recognize it is a journey and no company is perfect.
You will see us marketing a diversity of shows: Spanish shows, Indian, Korean. We have a lot of different stories we are telling on the service. So it is also important to have teams that understand different audiences. If we have a show primarily targeting an African American audience, we want to make sure the media partners we are working with will allow us to reach that audience, that the talent and influencers are reflective of audience we are trying to reach, and the content itself, the tone of it, look and feel of it, is what we know will resonate with the audience. This means working with creators, inside and outside the company, that understand the audience.
As you approach six months in the role, what are your priorities moving into this year?
First and foremost is my team and making sure I am building a destination for a team of leaders that will not only lead for today but lead for tomorrow. I am looking at the team makeup in innovative ways and how we work together and come up with ideas. I am working to make sure we are surprising and delighting our customers and making sure we know our customers better than anyone else—and sometimes better than they know themselves.
And it’s really about telling the brand story. “Change the narrative” is the first chapter. It is about telling the story of who we are, what we love and why we do what we do.