Sitting on the plane on the way home from Cannes is always the best time to reflect on the event on a holistic basis. While you’re there, everything is happening so fast, and you’re so tired, that you’re almost too close to see anything. A week later, you’re back at work and the happenings on the beaches and street alleys of the French Riviera seem another world away, too far to make sense of in any meaningful way. So, while I’m in the narrow window of reflection, here are a few thoughts on VidMob’s third Cannes Lions.
What a difference a couple of years makes
Two years ago, VidMob was still a start-up in every sense of the word. We had 13 employees. The 4 people we brought to Cannes represented a little over 30% of our workforce. We hadn’t raised our Series A yet (that would happen a few weeks after Cannes—we were actually closing it on the phone with attorneys back home after each evening) and, if we’re being honest, we hadn’t really figured out what our business was yet. We had started to do good work for Snapchat and Facebook, but it was early. In some ways, we were like the kid who was invited to the party, only to get there and realize that they didn’t know anyone.
Last year was different. We had closed a nearly $8M Series A, and, not stopping there, we closed another $6.4M extension in the spring. The business was on its way to growing ~40x in ’17 & ’18, and the team had expanded accordingly. By this time, we were partners with Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn, in addition to Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. And we were starting to ramp up our work with each of them. No longer the kid at the party who didn’t know anyone, we were now generally viewed as a company that was up to interesting things. Pretty much everywhere we went, people were eager to hear the pitch and see how we could work together. And so that’s what we did. We pitched, and pitched, and pitched.
This year saw another significant change from years past. Through the blood, sweat, and toil of overseeing a platform that helped deliver many thousands of high-quality ads across all of our partners’ platforms—and, along the way, helping to drive hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue for those partners—our relationships had evolved again. We were no longer an intriguing curiosity. We were a trusted partner.
We hadn’t done everything perfectly over the course of the past 12 months—that’s an impossibility in any field that touches creativity. But we had always conducted ourselves with integrity and transparency. And with the addition of VidMob’s Creative Intelligence platform, we were universally viewed as a legitimate contender for the “operating system for creativity” that we’ve been trying to build. Everywhere we went, people were either already doing big things with us (and having a good experience doing so), or they had heard from other companies that were. It was an incredible change in the right direction, and it made me so proud of our team and the technology platform that we’ve built over the years.
There were so many highlights this year that it’s hard to even attempt to capture them all. But here’s my best shot—bear in mind that I’ve probably slept about 10 hours total in the past 5 days, so sleep deprivation may impact my memory faculty a bit 🙂
- Winning the Instagram Storyteller Award for work we did with Turner.
- Being invited by Facebook to host a conversation with David Jones about Social Good.
- This was a highlight for many reasons. First of all, it’s always fun to speak with David. He’s a brilliant leader who has made Purpose a centerpiece of his life for over a decade.
- There is so much potential for VidMob Gives and I feel incredibly grateful that Facebook has recognized the potential of the initiative and is leaning in to help it scale its impact.
- Running in a LinkedIn charity run at 7am with one of our partner’s 9-year old son.
- Cannes is about so much more than rosé and this was a perfect example. More than 200 people got up early to participate in a 5k down the Palais to help raise funds for cancer research after the tragic passing of an industry colleague’s sister. It was an honor to be a part of this and made all the more special by getting to do it with a friend’s son.
- Interviewing friends from Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and Twitter as part of the VidMob Pop-In series (check out some moments captured below).
- So many meetings with so many amazing marketing leaders and digital publishers.
- Watching a full moon rise over the Mediterranean from our villa late one night with the VidMob team.
- Dinner in a tiny wife-and-husband restaurant with one of our investors and some of their portfolio companies.
- Laughing, always laughing with the team.
Of the many things that I am grateful for, near the top of that list is getting to work with such an incredible team. We had so many great meetings this year, and it was easy to feel the constant thrum of progress underlying every minute of each day. But through it all, through every smile and every laugh, ran a deep-seated sense of appreciation. The VidMob team is so driven that it can be scary at times. The opportunity to build a new operating system for the creativity needed by the increasingly complex digital communications world would either be too daunting or too alluring for most teams. We challenge ourselves to find the balance between drive and gratitude. At Cannes, you see both on full exhibit. It’s the drive that wakes you up at 6am, no more than a few hours after going to bed. But it was the gratitude a few hours earlier, sitting around with some of your closest friends recounting the day and watching the strawberry moon rise from the balcony of a hillside villa overlooking an impossibly beautiful city that helps keep it all in perspective. I can’t speak for everyone, but I haven’t felt like I had a job in years. And I can’t wait to get to work every day as a result.
Goals for next year
Underlying all of this ran the reality that we had just completed our Series B raise less than a week before leaving for Cannes. This was a remarkable and timely achievement for the company. It was timely because it helped to show our partners during the meetings at Cannes just how serious we are about building great solutions to their most pressing problems—eliminating the creative friction that is putting a tax on the emergence of the video web. And it was remarkable not for the capital we raised (after all money is money), but for the partners that we added to the team. The BuildGroup folks are good people. They share our view that good businesses do good and also know that this can be good for business.
Now, with $25 million in the bank, the stakes are even higher for the 12 months between now and the next Cannes. Our creative intelligence tools are already pioneering an entirely new category of first-party data, but there are so many ways to improve. Objectively, we’re probably no more than 2-3% towards where VidMob’s Agile Creative Studio needs to go. Creating and learning have always yearned to be tied together. And it is our firm belief that when you tie them into a tight enough loop, the results can be staggering.
This year, Cannes seemed like a celebration of volume. VidMob spent the past year using our platform to deliver great creative at scale for large numbers of partners and clients. But as creative data becomes a thing, along with that comes the ability to drive results. Next year, we do not want to be talking about campaigns. Individual assets are just that, individual sparks in the night that disappear just as fast as they come. VidMob’s true potential is as a platform for creativity—a platform that can foster and manage a process of learning and improvement. And in doing so, our goal with our partners should be to transform results across entire companies.
We’ve seen how software has transformed other industries over the past two decades. Retail, hospitality, transportation, finance, entertainment and more will never be the same. To some extent, marketing and communications have been a laggard. After all, creativity is hard. It’s easier to sell a book than it is to write one. But as we say so often in the VidMob office, the best kind of problem is one that is so hard that only you can solve it.
Time to get back to work. And hopefully next year we’ll have something even more exciting to discuss in Cannes.