As the senior manager of brand and industry relations at Comcast Advertising, Lee Singletary has been a valuable partner on our Seize the Awkward campaign, and he played a key role in bringing our first attribution study to life. We talked to him about what inspires him, why talking about mental health is more important than ever, and the best advice he’s ever received.
Kelly Apostolidis: Tell us a bit about your career journey. What led you to Comcast and what energizes you the most about your work?
Lee Singletary: I got my first taste of what it means to get paid for something you love to do when I started building websites as a teenager. Leveraging my creativity to bring a company to life with a brand identity and, eventually, a website proudly sharing an organization’s vision in the digital age was thrilling. I knew early on this provided value to everyone from the small business startup to the CMO of a major brand because websites tell stories and good ones answer the “why” for customers.
A passion for storytelling has been the common thread in my career thus far, and while there are many similarities among all the areas I’ve focused on in my work — website design, journalism, communications, brand and content marketing — empowering organizations with the tools and insights to grow is what energizes me. It’s the reason I currently curate content on Xfinity X1 intended to inspire BIPOC and women business owners and lead a team that produces content aimed at helping marketers succeed in their advertising endeavors. In a time when there are a myriad of ongoing challenges in our world, I’m grateful to work for an organization that prioritizes initiatives and projects that help create a better and more equitable one for everyone.
KA: How has Comcast’s relationship with the Ad Council helped advance its social impact goals?
LS: Comcast has a long history of making investments in people and organizations that impact our communities. Just this year, we’ve invested more than $500 million in cash and in-kind donations in our communities and nearly $600 million in donations benefiting people of color over the last three years.
The Ad Council champions important causes, advocates for underrepresented groups and so much more, but also shares similar beliefs and commitments to that of our organization. In partnership and guidance with the Ad Council, we’ve been able to do our part and make a positive impact by getting important public service announcements and potentially life-saving information into the homes of Xfinity subscribers via TV advertising.
KA: Mental health is an incredibly important issue, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more urgent than ever before. Could you talk about what has changed about the discussion around mental health, what hasn’t, and how you think brands and corporations can be a force for good on this critical issue?
LS: You’re so right. Mental health and wellbeing are incredibly important and have increased in focus as the last two years have been rough, to put it lightly, for so many. I feel discussions around mental health start with genuine care and concern for the people around us—our families, colleagues, community members.
Intentionally asking the question “How are you?” with a sincere listening ear is something I personally am doing more of to open the door for important dialogue. I think brands and corporations should ask the same of their customers, communities they serve and employees alike—How are they? Recognizing what people are going through and creating space or offering solutions helps brands reach out to customers and prospects more meaningfully, reach communities with resources, and engage employees with support.
KA: To amplify the Ad Council’s Seize the Awkward campaign, Comcast Advertising and TV Squared partnered with the Ad Council on our first attribution study. What were the key learnings and takeaways?
LS: This was a truly special project, one that was incredibly timely and I’m proud to have worked on with the teams at Effectv, the ad sales division of Comcast Cable, and our attribution partner, TVSquared. Through our partnership, we championed Seize the Awkward, a campaign and program aimed at engaging, informing, persuading and inviting people to start effective conversations about mental health with resources available at SeizeTheAwkward.org. The campaign’s goal was to increase traffic to a newly revamped website. Through diligent management of several campaign creatives, we implemented TV campaigns designed to reach niche audiences and drive increased and incremental reach for the campaign.
An analysis showed 64 percent of visitors came to the website within 10 minutes of TV ads airing and almost eight out of 10 visitors (79 percent) used a mobile device to access the site, an important insight for the Ad Council team. Overall, the TV ad campaign increased website visitors by 72 percent.
One night as I sat at home, struggling with how to talk to someone close to me dealing with mental health issues, I heard the ad creative’s jingle play in my mind—“whatever, whatever, whatever gets you talking”—and recalled the campaign I helped get on air. For me, this work became personal and meaningful.
KA: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and how did it help you?
LS: To paraphrase, an early-career boss once advised to never let anyone tell me that I have to do or be just one thing.
I interpreted that as to not let others put me in a box and that evolution is important. I was working at a TV broadcast station at the time and never failed to find a way to weave my other skill sets into work that could start to feel mundane. While newsrooms are energetic (and quite stressful at times), the process of writing and producing, clocking in and out felt routine. I was definitely bringing a jack-of-all-trades element to the table and that wasn’t always welcomed. However, that advice coming from the top is what kept me going when I needed to hear it.
These days I’ve started to hear and feel the sentiment as “live and work authentically.”