Clockwise from top right: the author summoning the Viacommunity spirit, employees hard at work for vets, notes to vets in progress, final boxes ready to ship. All photos by Studio Brooke.
It occurs on the 11th day of the 11th month of every year: Veterans Day. Creativity and patriotism were flowing at Viacom during the lead up to the holiday this year, a time dedicated to honoring American military veterans.
This year, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish shared his appreciation to those who have risked their lives for our country by sending personal emails along with MyViacommunity gift cards to the more than 85 employee vets. The veterans can then use the gift cards to donate to a charity of their choice.
Viacommunity and Community Service in a Box (formerly known as Operation Goody Bag) also honored our nation’s bravest by inviting employees to decorate goody bags and send handwritten notes of encouragement to our servicemen and women currently on duty across the country and overseas.
Nearly 100 employee volunteers showed up, designing and assembling 500 Veterans Day-inspired goody bags. Viacommunity sent these gifts to the USO of Metropolitan New York.
“Veteran’s day is important to me because my grandfather was a veteran. He served in the Vietnam war. I have other cousins in my family who are also in the military, and these people give their lives to make us safe here at home. A lot of them travel and live in different places around the world. It must be so hard for military wives and husbands who have partners out there risking their lives, so this day really speaks to me.”
“What I love about Viacom is the people that work here. The empathy we are trying to create within the company is something that I feel should be established in all companies. I’ve always felt that we should be more sensitive to our surroundings. When we impact people positively, they gravitate towards us. I am here today to write notes to our Viacom Veterans because I want to thank them for their service. Even though I am not their family, I want to let them know that we are grateful for everything that they do.”
Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!
The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.
(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye
There’s so much to love about Baywatch. The surf, the sand, the slo-mo. After Paramount’s adaptation of the hugely popular show came to the big screen in May, we posed “5 Questions” to actress Priyanka Chopra. Hear her talk about what it was like working on the film, how Baywatch has become such a global phenomenon, and what’s behind the drama between her character, Victoria Leeds, and super lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, played by Dwayne Johnson.
Get ready for the main event. For the first time, Bellator MMA is coming to New York City, where Spike will host its biggest fan spectacular yet, live from Madison Square Garden.
Jon Slusser, Viacom senior vice president for Sports and Specials at Spike, talks about what makes this event historic: from the title fights to the overall fan experience, and why, thanks to the dedication of the Spike team, Bellator continues to be a knockout success.
Hear what Slusser has to say about this fans-first extravaganza.
MTV star and author Charlamagne Tha God recently took a break from his busy schedule to talk to employees at Viacom headquarters in New York City. The host of MTV’s Uncommon Sense and the recently-published author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It told employees about his journey to stardom, from growing up in the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, to working for Jay Z, to finding his truth and passion in radio and on-air TV.
Charlamagne’s close friend, radio host Lawrence Jackson, moderated the discussion, which was followed by a question-and-answer session with employees.
Watch the video:
Charlamagne emphasized finding truth and authenticity in your work, no matter what you do. He considers getting fired (by Jay Z, nonetheless) to be a necessary part of his life—a “divine misdirection.” He thinks everybody should follow their passion, but keep an open mind if their passion doesn’t fit their skillset—not everybody has the voice to sing, for example, but if your passion is music, there are many opportunities to make a career in the industry without trying to rap.
Here are some more of Charlamagne’s insights from the conversation:
On being an author: “I honestly feel like that’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve done so far. I’m from a small town in South Carolina. In order to transcend your circumstances, books and hip-hop music are what allowed me to dream. Looking at a book full of experiences I’ve been through, and hoping somebody will be empowered and touched by the way I was touched by literature is a real dope feeling.”
On privilege: “White privilege is very real. But as a black man, I feel privileged to be black. I feel like when you’re talking about black privilege, you’re talking about something spiritual. When you’re talking about white privilege, you’re talking about something systemic. When you tap into black privilege, it gives you that divine ability to prosper in life in spite of everything thrown in our face to hinder us.
“I grew up hearing about black men being kings and black women being queens and goddesses. For us, we need to get back to that way of thinking. My skin is not a liability. My skin is my strength. For anybody marginalized or oppressed, that’s your privilege. Tap into your unique privilege. Whatever you are, embrace that. I choose to embrace my black privilege.”
Charlamagne Tha God autographs copies of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
On superheroes: “I grew up with Marvel comic books, and recently worked with them. I was a big Luke Cage fan, and it was a big thing for me when Netflix decided to do the series. They recently re-issued the Power Man Iron Fist comic books, and the guy who did the illustrations for those books did the illustration for me. It’s like a vision board of sorts. We were marginalized, now we’re superheroes.”
On making it in New York City: “It’s not the size of the pond, but the size of the hustle.
“Even though I was in a small pond, the ripples were making their way to New York City. I cultivated my craft in that small pond, and made a splash.”
On living your truth: “When people say things about you, or have a perception about you, that’s fine. That’s not your true character. If you’re aware of who your true character is, you can be self-aware, self-deprecating. What can people say to you then?
“As a young black man growing up, we often see men who look like us who are successful in athletics or in entertainment. If that’s not your dream, don’t do it.”
On producing top-notch content: “In the TV world, you have executives who know TV and that’s good, but do you know culture and content? You have to know both.
“Give everybody in the room credit. The know-it-all knows nothing. I tell people in radio, you’re never going to beat the internet.”
On being a fan: “I’m always a fan. Once you stop being a fan, you think your word matters a little too much, and people start saying, “Who does he think he is?” I always try to keep that fan perspective.”
On the value of success: “I admire success, but I admire what you do with success. For example, people like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, and Jay-Z. They’re doing a lot for culture, they’re moving things forward. Those are the people I admire—not for their fame, or money, but what they do with their prosperity. Like Jay Z’s Kalief Browder documentary [on Viacom’s Spike network] – I can’t attribute that whole documentary to why Rikers is closing, but it brought a lot of attention to the vile conditions at Rikers. I don’t think that story gets told without somebody like Jay Z.”
Influencers are an important part of the media landscape, and Velocity is partnering with them on an ever-growing number of programs through its Social Talent Platform. At #nofilter: Influencers Show Us How It’s Done, a presentation and panel discussion organized by Tom De Napoli, who leads the Social Talent Platform under Lydia Daly’s Velocity Social team, Velocity staffers heard from some of the biggest influencers and industry experts in the field.
The panel included:
Shannon Boodram, YouTube sexologist and recent star of MTV’s summer-long #ResponsibleAF campaign for Trojan:
ChrisErwin, one of Variety’s “New Leaders” and COO of Big Frame (a division of Awesomeness TV)
Sarah Weichel, CEO of Sarah Weichel MGMT, which reps clients like Lilly Singh and Jon Cozart
Courtney Carter, CAA digital agent, whose client FouseyTube recently starred in Tyler Perry’s newest Madea movie
Tess Finkle, CEO of Metro Public Relations, whose clients include YouTube megastars Hannah Hart and Colleen Ballinger (aka Miranda Sings).
De Napoli and Lauren Elias – the team’s Social Talent Manager – recapped the team’s success in working with social influencers over the past year, delivering best practices on creating “Fans First” social campaigns. To identify what worked, they drew on the Social Talent Platform’s successes as distilled through original research conducted by Juliette Snyder, a member of De Napoli’s Content & Platform Strategy team, who surveyed every influencer and Velocity employee who has worked on the team’s 25 campaigns over the past 12 months.
“Viacom is a brand name that everyone trusts, it’s a really, really, really big deal— and I knew my fans felt the same way,” – Shannon Boodram, YouTube sexologist.
Among their insights: partner with influencers early in creative development to guarantee authenticity of message; respect talent’s posting cadence when distributing content through their channels; and find ways to integrate influencers’ creative processes with ours and our advertisers’. These learnings will inform the Social Talent Platform team’s iterative approach to constantly improving upon its model as they support future Velocity campaigns.
Sure, Viacom is a great place to work. The offices tend to be seated in thriving, energized urban hubs (New York! Los Angeles! Nashville! Miami! London! Amsterdam!). The aura of iconic franchises (South Park turns 20 this year), new hits that rumble through pop culture (my 8-year-old daughter cannot turn off Nickelodeon’s The Loud House), progressive programming (RuPaul just received his first Emmy nomination for his role as host of RuPaul’s Drag Race), and the mystique of Hollywood (Paramount’s century-old library continues to grow both through franchise expansion and compelling original ideas: Jack Reacher and Xander Cage are fighting back onscreen later this year, while films about alien landings and monster trucks present us with entirely new worlds) linger over the whole operation.