What Free Turn's Gemma Batterby learnt from Jackie Lee-Joe

Last month’s Spotlight session with Jackie Lee-Joe gave us an insight into her leadership journey, but it was also a reminder of the massive change happening in advertising and entertainment.

Jackie Lee-Joe has been at the intersection of technology and entertainment for most of her career - running brand experience at Orange as mobile was transforming, global director of audience and entertainment partnerships at Skype, CMO for BBC Studios marketing some of the best-loved BBC programmes to global audiences and, most recently, CMO of Netflix.

More than most, Jackie can talk to the huge changes in play at the intersection of audience, advertising and entertainment. Netflix now has 193 million subscribers globally and, depending on which report you read, the average subscriber is watching between two and four hours per day. If you need it, these figures are a stark reminder of how much time is now being spent on ad-free platforms.

She spoke of the “relentless” culture at Netflix. A reflection, perhaps, of the pace of change in entertainment players and consumption. Whilst Netflix is now in “mature growth” in lots of their markets, they face stiff competition as more and more platforms enter the space. Some of these big players, such as Disney+ (which reached 50m subscribers in its first five weeks alone) have, according to Jackie Lee-Joe, the advantage of “emotional connectors with audiences”, built over years and years of storytelling, as well as the library to keep audiences hooked.

For audiences, this immense library of content available means we’re discerning and adept at choosing where we spend our time. It’s an attention economy and to capture this precious attention the stories need to be rich, complex and “on the pulse of sentiment around the world”. For Jackie and her time at Netflix, this manifested in a determination to view audiences as the multifaceted, complex people we are. She highlights that entertainment can bring very different people together over shared causes and subjects, resulting in “global conversations around titles”, whether their Strong Black Lead initiative, powerful drama such as Unorthodox or filling the sports vacuum left by COVID through The Last Dance. I’d argue entertainment can elicit more than conversations. Just last month the CEO of StockX reported that they’d seen a +38% increase in sales of Jordan’s on their platform during the airing of The Last Dance, proof that entertainment has the power to change behaviour and drive purchase, as well dominate conversation.

The question remains, what is the role for brands in this new attention economy? I asked Jackie if she felt now was the time for brands to break the model of interruptive advertising and engage in becoming producers of real entertainment that can sit on platforms like Netflix or Amazon. “Yes” was the resounding answer, but with a word of caution: there is no room for brand-first storytelling, it’s all about the audience.

Review by Gemma Batterby, Managing Director of entertainment company Free Turn.