The Next Big Ad Innovation: Stop Stealing My Time

by Lizzie Widhelm, Senior Vice President, Ad Product Sales & Strategy, Pandora

I think about time, all of the time. With a busy career, spouse and three young sons, I often feel like I have very little of it. So little, in fact, that I’m relentless about choosing who and what gets my attention.

Do I sound like anyone you know? The quest for time and attention is a hot topic in our households as well as every marketing meeting. Now more than ever, consumers are taking control of their time, so capturing it has become exceedingly difficult for brands. They want attention but it’s not surrendered easily.

The last decade has been a boom-town for content that does capture attention. Time spent on linear, appointment-based viewing and broadcast listening has been replaced with more personalized, choice-based content. Share of ear is moving away from broadcast radio to streaming music platforms; share of video viewing is moving away from TV to on-demand services; some would even say our social time is moving away from real life to social networks like Snapchat and Instagram.

We all have the ability to discover and personalize the content we consume. The only problem is the advertising experience has not kept pace. Many publishers still choose to create more inventory by increasing ads and the number of ways they’re served. The worst offenders place ads on top of entertainment content, training young generations to completely disregard and avoid.

The Solution: Earn Quality Time by Giving Back Control
I joke that my job at Pandora is to take something very special and not ruin it. Nearly 80 million listeners spend 24 hours a month tuned in to Pandora, enjoying their favorite music. That’s a level of time and attention almost unheard of in digital media. But music isn’t all they’re listening to. They also hear ads, which is the oxygen that keeps our service free and available anytime, anywhere.

Our challenge today is the same as when Pandora first started: how do we integrate ads without disrupting time and attention?

We’ve learned that consumers need to have a sense of control–or at least influence–over how brands interact with them. Unwanted interruptions and intrusive, bothersome ads are no longer acceptable. A recent Millward Brown study confirmed that users are nearly 4X more receptive to brand messages when they have control over the ad experience1.

But the truth is consumers don’t always feel like they have control, which is why ad blocking is such a hot topic in the industry right now. Recent eMarketer estimates show that a quarter of internet users (26%) have ad blockers enabled on their devices2. While this is concerning for the industry, the reasons are exactly what you’d expect. According to a recent Facebook survey, people use ad blockers to “stop annoying, disruptive ads” 3.

Publishers Must Respond With Better Offerings
The good news is that this movement to give users more control is already here. Publishers are offering better ad products, more sophisticated targeting and improved ad serving methods. Facebook recently improved the relevancy of their ads by offering users more tools to control the experience3. Similarly, Google announced changes to the way it collects data to result “in more personalized ads by connecting data across products and devices”4. Even news publications, like The Economist and Financial Times made headlines last year with guaranteed, time-based ad models.

When a user can authentically express intent towards a brand, engagement, attention and resonance follow naturally. This is the future of advertising.

We recently embraced this new future at Pandora by announcing new features on our ad-supported service. For the first time ever, listeners can unlock additional skips and replays by engaging with 15 seconds of video ads. This is the latest iteration in an ongoing effort to give both listeners and advertisers more control and flexibility. Advertisers not only get to support an enhanced listening experience, but they also connect with more deeply engaged listeners. With this approach, users will no longer feel the need to avoid advertising. In fact, it’ll be just the opposite.

At Pandora, we adhere to the philosophy that “what is good for the listener, is good for the advertiser.” I’m happy to see the industry adopt a similar mindset, responding with solutions that put more control in people’s hands, while creating a better user experience.

Yes, the struggle for time and attention is real, but smart solutions that capture attention for brands are equally as real–so long as an organization is willing to stop stealing time and start giving back control. I promise, it will only improve performance for your brands. As for gaining more time at home, I’m still accepting suggestions…

1 Millward Brown, “AdReaction: Video Creative in a Digital World,” October 2015
2 eMarketer, US Ad Blocking Users and Penetration, June 2016
3 Facebook Newsroom, “A New Way to Control the Ads You See on Facebook, and an Update on Ad Blocking,” August 2016
4 AdWeek, “Google Wants to Give You Better Control Over the Personalized Ads You See,” July 2016

Join Lizzie Widhelm and other advertising innovators as they are inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement on November 15 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. Learn more and register here.

About the Author

Lizzie Widhelm, Senior Vice President, Ad Product Strategy, Pandora


Lizzie WidhelmLizzie Widhelm is a storyteller. She believes that good stories and good conversations make lives better. People want to build meaningful connections with other people. The desire for those connections extends to products and brands. For Widhelm, advertising is the ability to have those conversations, to tell those stories. Facilitating those conversations through music is a career-defining passion, combining the rhythm of great songs with the heartbeat of great advertising. The earliest stories of our time were told through music, and today a great and vast generation of consumers is changing the rules and its attention span.

Today, as the Senior Vice President of Ad Product Sales and Strategy for Pandora, the go-to music source for fans and artists, Widhelm brings ad products to life that enable marketers to tell their stories and build connections with consumers. She has been with Pandora since the company’s formative moments over a decade ago. Throughout her time at Pandora, she has built not only ad products, but also an industry-leading company with her focus, tenacity, and unparalleled passion for advertising.

As Pandora has grown, Widhelm has proven she can do anything and everything — sometimes all at once. She started at Pandora as the company’s very first salesperson, selling “digital audio”…a product that no one had ever heard of. After cracking accounts with some of the most prominent advertisers in the country, Widhelm became Pandora’s Vice President of West Coast Sales and Vice President of National Entertainment Sales, driving Pandora’s success with entertainment, film, and TV advertisers. Next, she was Vice President of Digital where she was responsible for Pandora’s digital advertising positioning and oversaw the advertising sales strategy team. Widhelm has continued to rise and has seen more success thanks to her unique understanding of Pandora’s listeners and how to translate listener insights into engaging products and campaigns for advertisers.

Prior to Pandora, she worked with startups such as Broadband Enterprises and game companies (iWin, Uproar, and Flipside) before and subsequent to their sale to Vivendi Universal. Widhelm received a bachelor’s of science in finance and accounting from the University of Arizona. Outside of work, she enjoys being a mother to three wild boys and a wife to her loving husband Ben.

Follow Widhelm on Twitter: @LizzieWidhelm.

Two Lessons From the Road: Never Get Comfortable and Always Look Up the Hill

I’ve worked for the same company for 14 years.  Crazy, right?  When you start early at such a dynamic company like PepsiCo, it’s hard to make a change.  But, it’s more than that.  Throughout those 14 years, I can honestly say I’ve transformed.  And I’ve had to because the company and industry have moved so fast.  It’s been exciting to run, or in my case, cycle, at that pace.  I’ve been an avid cyclist for many years, so I tend to appreciate high velocity.  I’m inspired daily by my colleagues, who are pushing the beverage category and consumer marketing to the next level.  This is why, 14 years later, it still feels just as exciting as it did in the beginning.

So, that got me thinking about the keys to create a culture within a company that inspires and encourages transformation.  What have I learned from my own career path at PepsiCo and my passion for being an ever-evolving employee?  It’s interesting — two lessons that immediately came to mind are also true in cycling; never get comfortable in the saddle and always look up the hill.

Never Get Comfortable

Think about it: Nearly 10 years ago, the idea of Twitter — using 140 characters to communicate in real-time — was not even on the radar.  Fast-forward to today and you can’t imagine life without it.  Actually, I just became more focused on my own social media, and as a non-digital native, I’ve really had to push myself to jump in and not be afraid.

In today’s environment of 24/7 connectivity and real-time communication across multiple platforms, we need to constantly transform the way we speak to our fans.  We’re not only finding innovative and unique ways to engage with them, but to give them one-of-a-kind experiences unlike anything they’ve seen before.  The truth is, we don’t have all the answers and not everything we do will be 100% perfect.  However, we’re taking risks, we’re learning and we’re evolving our marketing practices to make products and programs even better for the future.

Speaking of “future” … Whether it’s celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Back to the Future” with the limited-edition release of Pepsi Perfect like we did in October or tapping into moments that focus on the happiness that Aquafina brings your body after consumption with our “For Happy Bodies” campaign, we’re always looking for new ways to bring people closer to our products in organic ways.

Always Look Up the Hill

Consumers think and act differently today, which means we need to pay close attention.  For more than two decades we’ve transformed the products we offer, expanding beyond our iconic soft drink brands to give consumers choices for every lifestyle and occasion, including tea, water, sports drinks, ready-to-drink coffees and premium juices.  Why?  Because we’re listening to consumers’ needs and then creating products around those needs.  If we don’t, we’re not staying ahead of the game.

We’re also transforming by building teams of individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets and passion areas who are capable to make this ride; together, they experiment, they explore, they push the boundaries and facilitate change.  For example, our Creator group explores the edges of culture to co-create innovative experiences such as the Pepsi Art Dome at the recent Voodoo Music and Arts Experience in New Orleans.

There’s no telling what changes will happen next.  But as the saying goes, the only thing that is constant is change.  And that’s what makes it fun.  At PepsiCo North America Beverages, we’re all in for the ride.  And like our consumers, we’ll keep on transforming.

You can hear more from Seth Kaufman at AAF’s Digital Conference in Chicago, IL! Learn more and register here.

About the Author

Seth Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo North America Beverages

Seth Kaufman, PepsiCo

Seth Kaufman is the Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo North America Beverages (NAB), where he leads the holistic business, brand and consumer agenda across the company’s beverage portfolio in North America. This includes popular and iconic brands such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Aquafina, Lipton iced teas, Sierra Mist and Starbucks ready-to-drink iced coffees. He was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement in 2015 and will deliver the opening keynote on February 16 at the Edge Effect: Media Meets Technology in Advertising conference in Chicago. Prior to his current role, Kaufman served as Senior Vice President of Pepsi and NAB’s Flavor Portfolio and before this, he was Vice President/General Manager of the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between PepsiCo and Starbucks.

Kaufman received his Bachelor of Science in Television, Radio & Film Management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and his MBA from The Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan. He is a Board of Trustee member for the Immune Deficiency Foundation, is an avid cyclist and lives in Northern NJ with his wife Faith and their daughters Emma, Noa and Samone.

Follow Kaufman on Twitter: @SethAKaufman.

Seth Kaufman, PepsiCo to Keynote AAF’s Digital Conference

Seth Kaufman, PepsiCo to Keynote AAF’s Digital Conference

Washington, D.C. (Dec. 9, 2015)—Today, the American Advertising Federation (AAF) announced that Seth Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo North America Beverages  will deliver the opening keynote for AAF’s Digital Conference, Edge Effect: Media Meets Technology in Advertising.

The conference will bring together Senior- to Executive-level marketing, advertising, advertising technology and media professionals from major brands, agencies and media companies to address important topics emerging out of the shift to advertising technology and its uses across industries. The powerful line-up of speakers, preceded by Kaufman, will explore topics, such as best practices and business models for brands onboarding new technologies for advertising in “Brands As the New VC’s,” what we can power and create with technology in advertising in “Truth, Lies & Advertising Technology,” what a tech-driven future looks like in a Fireside Chat and the role of video in the future of digital advertising with AOL. Through keynotes and exclusive one-on-one networking sessions with AOL, Pandora, Starcom MediaVest Group, Yahoo! and other industry pioneers, the conference will deliver an enriching and unique experience for attendees.

“Our industry is on the brink of a complete overhaul in the way we do business with consumers and each other,” said Kaufman. “This conference will provide an important look at how we need to navigate the intersection of traditional media and innovative technology to create an integrated, consumer-relevant, cross-platform media model to drive our businesses forward.”

Seth Kaufman is the Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo North America Beverages (NAB), where he leads the holistic business, brand and consumer agenda across the company’s beverage portfolio in North America. This includes popular and iconic brands such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Aquafina, Lipton iced teas, Sierra Mist and Starbucks ready-to-drink iced coffees. He was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement earlier this fall in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to his current role, Kaufman served as Senior Vice President of Pepsi and NAB’s Flavor Portfolio and before this, he was Vice President/General Manager of the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between PepsiCo and Starbucks.

Edge Effect’s speaker line-up and supporting participants promises to provide attendees with the most powerful content and highly coveted networking opportunities. Session speakers include Jim Norton, SVP, Global Head of Media Sales, AOLStarcom MediaVest Group; Gui Borchert, Creative Director, 72andSunny; Heidi Browning, SVP, Strategic Solutions, Pandora, Ron Young, Founder & CEO, Shocase, Inc.; and Marcy Samet, EVP, Global Chief Growth Officer, MRM//McCann. Lunch round table discussions will provide premium ticket holders with the opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with influential brands, such as 72andSunny,, Heat, MRM//McCann, Pandora, Shocase, Inc., and Zocalo Group.

Edge Effect: Media Meets Technology in Advertising will take place on February 16, 2016 in Chicago, IL. Tickets are now on sale with limited quantity, premium tickets and discounted rates available. Sponsorship opportunities are still available and can be found here.

To learn more about participating in this conference, please contact

 About the American Advertising Federation

The American Advertising Federation (AAF), the nation’s oldest national advertising trade association, and the only association representing all facets of the advertising industry, is headquartered in Washington, DC, and acts as the “Unifying Voice for Advertising.” The AAF’s membership is comprised of nearly 100 blue chip corporate members comprising the nation’s leading advertisers, advertising agencies, and media companies; a national network of nearly 200 local clubs representing 40,000 advertising professionals; and more than 200 AAF college chapters with more than 5,000 student members. The AAF operates a host of programs and initiatives including the Advertising Hall of Fame, the American Advertising Awards, the National Student Advertising Competition, the Mosaic Center on Multiculturalism, and summer AdCamps for high school students. For more information on the full range of AAF programming, visit For the latest news and updates, connect with us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.