The B&T 30 Under 30 awards are happening on Thursday 15th April, and to celebrate we’re showcasing more of our incredible young movers and shakers.
Ben Stavert is Seven West Media’s Head of Social and Digital, and one of the shortlisted finalists for this year’s 30 Under 30 awards.
Before his role at Seven, Stavert was a Digital Executive Producer for ITV. He spoke to B&T about social engagement, runaway successes and his enduring love for TV.
B&T: What is your favourite thing about the industry you work in?
BS: I absolutely love television. It’s an incredibly fast-paced industry in terms of planning and executing campaigns, but the gratification is just as instantaneous. A show will go to air, and you will know by the next day whether it’s landed and been a hit.
With social media in the mix, that instant feedback happens even sooner. You sit at home and watch a premiere episode go to air, and you get to watch social media explode. A show will be trending, generating a couple of million impressions and tens of thousands of engagements just on the night that the first episode goes to air, within the space of an hour or two.
We’re lucky at Seven that in the last year, we’ve had a lot of those really sticky shows, that just strike a chord with the audience and drive that tangible engagement at scale with our viewers. Our shows absolutely drive that active viewer experience – you’ve got to watch them to be able to face the workplace the next day and know what’s going on. You have to have watched it, and engage with that social conversation, because otherwise, you’re going to be out of the loop!
They don’t only generate strong conversation, but also incredibly strong and loyal social communities as well.
You look at a show like Big Brother, which we launched last year with a social community of zero, we started fresh, and now we’re sitting at over half a million followers across all of our platforms.
So we’re not just seeing significant social growth for these shows – it’s insane social growth. We’re very lucky, and I love working in TV.
Do you have any career highlights that you are particularly proud of?
I can’t go past a project called The Bachelor Unpacked, which was at a previous network that I worked with. It was a real passion project, it was Australia’s first Facebook companion show for a free-to-air TV show. It was a whirlwind.
We had three comedians sitting around and unpacking each episode of The Bachelor. We’d film them in bulk and publish them literally the second after an episode of the show would finish on linear, and it just struck a chord. We were cheeky and pushed the limits but were still respectful to the format and the tone.
10 loved it, Warner Brothers loved it.
One key thing was that the cast were people you could imagine kicking back and watching the show with. They weren’t people you couldn’t imagine having a chin wag with, and that was key.
Each episode would get a quarter of a million views in the first season, and quickly Facebook started showcasing it at their events around the world.
This was all a year or two before Facebook Watch launched in Australia, so it was very much before its time. I don’t think they still do it now; I think they had a few cast changes and they ended up taking it away, but it was just this smash that hit the stratosphere.
We loved it. It was just this runaway success that resonated in a way we didn’t predict, so that was a real achievement.
What was your biggest achievement of the last 12 months?
Work-wise, I think my biggest achievement in the last 12 months would be the launch of SAS Australia. It was an absolute smash hit on social, it was a smash hit wherever you looked – be it on broadcast, BVOD or social.
It drove scale and reach and engagement that I’ve truly never seen for any program I’ve worked on, and I’ve worked on pretty much every big noisy TV show in the country. But you’re looking at over 120 million social impressions in that first series, and that doesn’t include TikTok (which we can’t pull impressions from because it’s so new), but you’re looking at an extra 32 million video views on TikTok alone.
Whatever platform you looked at, SAS was huge. It was amazing. That was testament to the fantastic show it was, and a testament to Andrew Backwell and Angus and Sylvia from Seven and from Screentime, who made the show.
It was such a confronting show in terms of content, which in all honesty I didn’t realise would resonate so successfully on social, which does tend to be a light atmosphere in terms of TV content.
But once that first episode went to air, it was just a train that couldn’t be stopped, and we leant into it. We went all in on leveraging that show, and it just scaled incredibly quickly and the engagement was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
It was just a joy to work on – truly unlike anything else in this country. It was fantastic.
Where do you see the industry going in 2021?
From a social media perspective we‘ll continue to see this proliferation of social platforms as the audience continues to choose different social platforms and services that suit the different needs when it comes to expressing their views and connecting with their friends, their family or brands.
Ten years ago, all we had was Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and it was early stages for Instagram. Now we have Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and formats like Instagram Stories and Reels, which are arguably their own mini platforms, and need their own unique approach to content and audience engagement.
I’d say the Big Bang has truly happened in terms of social media, and then these new constellations and social systems are just popping up wherever you look, and that will just continue to expand into the future. It creates a lot of opportunity for us.
Tik Tok is the fastest growing platform ever. Instead of watching half an hour of YouTube before you go to bed, you’ll watch TikTok.
It is our job to stay on the front foot and create tangible engagement opportunities with our viewers wherever they’re already having their conversations, on whatever platform that might be.
I think it’s only going to get crazier from here in terms of social, and television and social just go perfectly hand in hand. It’s an exciting industry to be in.
If you could give your 20-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d give myself the same piece of advice that a mentor of mine gave me when I landed my first internship in TV. He said to me, “Your job when you take on any internship is to end spend that time working in a way that shows the business they couldn’t keep operating without you once your internship is finished.”
It sounds lofty and might even sound arrogant, but it’s essentially: prove that you’re invaluable, prove your worth.
If your job is 9 – 5, work 8 – 6. If it’s five days a week, spend the weekend thinking about how you can innovate to come back next week and show the business that you can drive their goals.
It sounds intense, but I think it’s that sort of attitude that will prove to any organisation that you’re a standout from the pack. Any young person wanting to head into the media and publishing industry needs to be thinking, “how do I stand out from the rest, and really show my value to the business?”
Whether you walk into a new senior position or you’re an intern, you have to ask, “how do I use this to show that my worth as an operator is invaluable?”
I’d give that same piece of advice to myself again.
Anything else to add?
Watch Big Brother season 2, because it’s the best show on television – April 26th!
You can still buy a handful of remaining tickets to the B&T 30 Under 30 awards. If you can’t attend in person, make sure you register for the live stream by 4pm today!
The awards will be held on Thursday 15th April at The Factory Theatre, 103 Victoria Road, Marrickville NSW.
The dress code is cocktail, with arrivals at 6.30pm. The awards ceremony will begin at 7.30pm.
All 30 category winners will be announced on the night, as well as People’s Choice and Grand Prix winners.
All attendees need to purchase a ticket to the awards, including finalists.
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