What We Learned from Our Week in Cannes

In the midst of a never-ending wave of press releases, analyst reports, and industry coverage, it’s easy to forget that corporations are made up of people. Later in life, with a company’s brand well-developed, its reputation cemented, and decades of history behind it, the potential impact of an individual is somewhat limited. But this is certainly not the case in the rapid growth stage when it feels like every day births some new major development. During this period, people are the root of all success.

Throughout VidMob’s second Cannes experience last week, I found myself coming back to this thought over and over. Our first Cannes exactly one year ago was great. We were new to the scene but had just enough of a track record to find our way into meaningful conversations. We still had to begin each meeting by explaining how we thought mobile-first marketing was changing, the role of video in that evolution, and what we were building to help mitigate some of the emerging pain points. But at least we were in the conversation. And between the excitement of the break-in to our villa and the fact that we were quietly negotiating the closing of our Series A after getting home each evening, it made for an unforgettable week.

This year was entirely different.

First of all, instead of the four people from last year, this year we brought eleven. This seemed like a lot in a year when global powers like Publicis had very publicly decided to sit Cannes out, but we had so many meetings scheduled that the additional coverage was needed.

That said, numbers tell only a part of the story.

The bigger difference was the tenor of the actual conversations in those meetings. In the intervening twelve months, we had materially advanced our partnerships with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter, had done great work for hundreds of major brands, had grown the quality of our creator network significantly, advanced our technology platform immeasurably, and closed not one, but two rounds of financing.

When we went into meetings this year, we no longer had to start by talking about how mobile video was going to be big. Everyone knew that already. And we no longer had to talk about how great our platform was. Our partners and clients had first-hand experience with that too. This enabled us to jump right to the meat of the question in nearly every meeting—how can we help our partners get ahead in a video-first world and eliminate the creative friction being felt by every marketer on the planet?

Day 1 | Monday

For the advance crew that arrived on Monday, the first order of business was to set up the two villas that we’d rented through Airbnb. We’d gambled a bit on the main villa, ultimately choosing to rent a place that didn’t have any reviews. But when we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find an absolutely incredible house, with a stunning view overlooking the entire Cannes valley.

With home base established, the group headed off to various dinner appointments.

One group headed to an event with our new friends and partners at You & Mr. Jones. The other headed over to the famed La Palme d’Or restaurant in the Hotel Martinez for a dinner that we were hosting with a number of our partners. This was a bit of an experiment, as we had no idea how it would work to have an intimate event with a number of seemingly competitive platforms around the same small table. But the invited guests had all become good friends of ours throughout our work together, and we had a feeling that would outweigh any other factors. This turned out to be entirely correct, and we had a wonderful evening with good friends from Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter. During this meal, it occurred to me how lucky we are to work so closely with partners who we genuinely enjoy spending time with.

Later that night, the team regrouped back at the Villa to recount the events of the night and prepare for the big week ahead. It was the first of many late-night sessions discussing the future of video while overlooking the bright lights of Cannes far below. And if we established anything, it’s that (a) when you’re six hours ahead, you get sleepy far later than you’d expect, and (b) when executed properly, cannonballs can have a proper place in productive business meetings.

Day 2 | Tuesday

Tuesday started early with a meeting with Oath’s president of Ad Platforms, Tim Mahlman. With Verizon’s creation of Oath from AOL/Yahoo and AT&T’s recent acquisition of AppNexus, the mobile providers are proving to be increasingly significant players in digital/mobile advertising. To that point, Tim and his team are building a very impressive ad platform somewhat under the radar, and, needless to say, I was very excited about this meeting.  Later in the morning, the team split up, with one group meeting with the head of the Pinterest Marketing Partner program and the new COO of Pinterest, while another met with Facebook’s head of marketing partnerships.

We split up again after that, as I went to a Facebook partner lunch, and others on the team met with senior executives from Energy BBDO. Establishing VidMob as a non-competitive resource to agencies interested in helping their clients scale their video output is a major priority for us this year, and this was the first of many meetings at Cannes aimed at continuing this effort.

Meanwhile, another group was over meeting with executives from two other members of the FMP program, Shuttlerock, and Shutterstock Custom. It would be easy to view all of the other FMP’s as competitive, but we tend to take a different view at VidMob. Our view is that the shared message being preached by the group positively impacts us all, and we believe that this is truly a situation where a rising tide raises all boats. Additionally, we actually all do different things well, so there is ample room for collaboration.

As the afternoon progressed, Tuesday turned into an all-Facebook affair.

It started with a cocktail reception for current partners. Craig showed his dedication to the partnership by unveiling his new legal name, “CraInstagram Coblenz,” showing once again that some give all in the restaurants and meeting rooms of southern France.

From there, we walked directly to the Facebook party at their beach venue. This was a terrific event, and with so much work going on with Facebook now, there was no shortage of topics of conversation. It was Jill Gray’s second week at VidMob, having previously headed Facebook’s Creative Shop in the UK, Middle East, and Africa, so this provided a great venue to get to spend time with a number of her old friends and colleagues, including Kofi Amoo-Gottfried (the head of brand marketing) and Ari Kesisoglu (the regional director of Middle East, Turkey, and Africa).

After the party, we headed into the back streets of Cannes with a big group to find a place for dinner. We ended up finding a small spot about five minutes in from La Croisette and had one of the more hilarious dinners of my life with the co-founder of Jebbit, our lead investor Paul Falzone from Manifest Growth, and good friends from Snapchat and Facebook. As dinner wound down, I thought to myself that this was about as good a day as you could hope for, but then we started playing Heads Up and I found myself on multiple occasions laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. We learned a few things this evening—namely, that (a) the Duran Duran song is NOT Hungry like the Lamb, and (b) when it comes to animals, Jill plays Heads Up like Lebron plays basketball.

Day 3 | Wednesday

Wednesday dawned another spectacular day, and after a big Tuesday, we decided to kick things off with a dip in the pool to clear the head and get ready for another great day.

After that, a group peeled off to go meet with senior marketing execs from Reckitt Benckiser. Greg headed off to meet the director of Revenue Product at Snap, while Joline and Hayley began prep work for the event that we were co-hosting with Pinterest on Thursday at their beach venue.

I headed off with Jill and James Bacon to film a segment on the Facebook Beach with Sid Mankour, the Market & Sales Development lead for EMEA. It may look shaded in the picture, but I assure you it was so hot in that “studio” that you could have baked a pizza.

Sid asked a number of great questions about VidMob’s raison d’être, the future of work, and trends that we were seeing emerge in mobile marketing.

After this, we went directly over to meet with Facebook’s Director of UK & Ireland, along with the group head for agency partnerships. We had a great chat about VidMob’s Agile Creative Studio, and how we are enabling brands to use creative analytics to inform creative strategy.

Elsewhere, other members of our team were meeting with Snap’s East Coast head of Creative Strategy. I hustled over from FB to join them and kick off a meeting with our friend Steve Hwang, Snap’s head of Corporate Development. It’s always great meeting with him to discuss how VidMob can best support Snap as their business continues to evolve.

From here, Jason and I headed over to the You & Mr. Jones beach venue for a meeting with our investor David Jones and Rebecca Sykes, the CEO of MoFilm. We are beginning to work more and more closely the various member companies of the You & Mr. Jones family, and it’s exciting seeing this coordinated platform come together. On our way out, we had an impromptu meeting with the CMO of Adobe, which is the kind of thing that only happens at Cannes.

I then headed to the You & Mr. Jones client dinner with Lisa. This was an incredible event, and we were honored to be a part of it. The room was filled with senior executives from Samsung, Unilever, Danone, Accenture, Diageo, Marchon, L’Oreal, Kraft Heinz, Visa, and Shell, among many others.

After dinner, we met up with the rest of the team in the backstreets of Cannes. Another wonderful dinner followed and only came to a close when momentum started building for a pool party back at our villa. We loaded up a number of Ubers, kidnapped one of Facebook Europe’s senior marketing executives, and headed for the hills. It was late, and I had an early flight the next morning so that I could be home for my son’s elementary school graduation, but we were having too much fun to go to bed.

As I sat there talking with the team and looking down at the lights of the city far below, a couple of thoughts went through my head. First, with the clock ticking towards 5am and my alarm set for 7am, I once again remembered my old friend’s advice to me from a decade ago that “there’s plenty of sleep in the grave.” As always, he was right. But the more important point lay just below the surface. This team—both the employees that make up VidMob and the partners that help make it possible—are actually worth missing sleep to be around. Aside from being with my wife and kids, there was nowhere on earth I’d rather have been in that moment than with my VidMob family. I know that this is unusual, and it’s something for which I’m grateful every day.

Day 4 | Thursday

I was on my way home on Thursday, but the show continued without me. In fact, it was probably our biggest and most important day. The main activity was an event that we were co-hosting with Pinterest at their beach venue. As a way of demonstrating the power and simplicity of the VidMob platform, folks at the Pinterest event were capturing media in real-time and uploading it through the VidMob app to an editor (Hayley), who was at the ready to turn the stream of raw footage into stunning, Pin-ready media that could be displayed on giant screens at the Pinterest event.

The whole event was a great success, as well as both an innovative and fun way to succinctly demonstrate VidMob’s “Creativity at Play” mindset.

Meanwhile, I was back in the office in New York, feeling worlds away but excited to be back with the rest of the team and happy with the knowledge that efforts back in France wouldn’t miss a beat without me.

Back at Home

The week after Cannes is always a mixed bag of emotions. You struggle to catch up on everything that you fell behind on during the week out of the office, while also following up with everyone that you met with during the helter-skelter days of the festival. As the unread email number ticks closer and closer to a manageable level, I often challenge myself to look back and try to find the key takeaways. Usually, that exercise is more difficult, as there are many competing threads and trying to find the one meta-story is close to impossible.

But this year was different. I couldn’t stop thinking about impact.

Walking about Facebook’s giant party on the beach Tuesday night, there are so many ways to be impressed by the company. Everything is so well thought-through. The people are all so impressive. And the platform is so powerful. But it’s all very well-defined, and while new products like IGTV have enormous potential to impact people’s lives at scale, the power of the individual is constrained. Facebook’s mark has already been made. Their market has been established. And while there is always plenty of room for growth and improvement, things are just different at that stage. The same is true, frankly, for each of the other platforms as well.

We sit in an entirely different stage.

All global communications really are shifting to video (and more immersive formats after that), and that is creating enormous friction that’s being felt by every company on the planet. As marketing and communications continues to evolve, the struggle of trying to keep up is being felt by all.

At Cannes this year, we found an audience that was fully aware of the many challenges resulting from this shift and hungry for solutions. Humbly, we feel like we have a pretty good solution, and when those two conditions meet, you need every resource you can muster in the battle. Eleven people felt like a lot going in, but sitting here today I realize that it could have been triple that.

Whether it was Jill reporting back on some exciting creative opportunity in the Middle East, Jason talking about the growing partnership with You & Mr. Jones, Craig recounting a conversation with old friends at Facebook, Lisa advising on the growing needs of the expanding Oath platform, Greg and Steph discussing the trajectory of our relationship with Snap, Jerry articulating the planned expansion of Facebook’s Mobile Works project, Hayley setting the stage for a great event with Pinterest, Joline seeding the market for the upcoming product launch of VidMob’s Agile Creative Studio, or James Bacon’s progress establishing a toehold in the valuable UK market, the reality was that everyone on the VidMob team at Cannes made a material impact every day. At our stage, when you’re growing by multiples, not percentages, everyone can impact the company every day.

This was my takeaway from Cannes—people are all that matters.

Core values, brand promises, corporate mythologies—these are all just the footprints left in the sand by the people that come before them. And if people are the difference, then I feel pretty good about the future of VidMob, because we’ve got one hell of a team.

An Operating System for the In-House Movement

Last week I wrote about the tension between the Old Agency model and the emerging New Agency model. New agencies have smartly recognized that their clients’ needs are evolving and have made strides to adapt to the changing times. To do so, they have shown a willingness to work with 3rd party solutions providers, in a recognition that by focusing on the things that they do really well, and turning to partners for things that can be done better elsewhere, their clients will ultimately win.

But in far too many relationships this recognition has taken too long, and the resultant pain and wasted cost have led to a growing wave of brands moving large swaths of the production needs in-house. From last week’s post:

It seems like the wave of brands cutting, or severely limiting the scope of their relationship with their old agencies is growing by the day. Just in the last few weeks, we’ve seen announcements like this one from Chobani, from a host of other companies including, P&G, Unilever, Pepsi, ABI, Diageo, L’Oreal, Wayfair, Allstate, StubHub, Sprint, Booking.com, Starbucks and BMW.

When we talk to some of our clients who have taken the leap into in-housing, there are a few consistent themes behind their choice to do so:

•   Agency cost-structures don’t match their needs of social transcreation.
•   Old agencies are still very TV focused and seem to be largely ignoring TV’s steady demise.
•   Digital “Test & Learn” approaches are an anathema to the old agency creative process, despite being proven to work.
•   Creative talent can be found everywhere — no longer monopolized by traditional agencies.
•   Making performance data actionable in real time drives huge results, but only when they can connect the loop between data and rapid response production.
•   Brand employees know their product better than the inexperienced talent at the traditional agencies that would be staffed on their project.

But moving things in-house has proven to be far more challenging than many brands assumed. The reality is that agencies add a ton of value to the process, and pulling back on their usage has created a number of challenges:

•   Brands don’t know the best practices of the myriad online platforms that they should be advertising on.
•   Finding world-class creative talent isn’t easy.
•   Managing/paying a wide array of creative freelancers is a pain and carries legal risk.
•   Managing creative assets is a universal problem and will only get worse as more versions of each campaign become the norm.
•   Collaborative review among key internal constituencies is a messy process.
•   Asset approval times lead to missed deadlines.

These are real problems, and solving only one or two of them doesn’t really help brands get where they need to be. In order to be truly useful, a single-point solution is needed that accomplishes at least all of the following points:

•   Affordable — To go from producing a few video assets to producing thousands, production has to get a lot cheaper. Period.
•   Built specifically for “Test & Learn” — A properly deployed process of testing and learning leads to dramatic increases in campaign efficacy. But this isn’t as mindless as simply changing the colors of cars in ads.
•   Curated pools of talent that are pre-vetted for each job — Every job is different and the talent needed to succeed on Pinterest is very different than what is needed for Instagram Stories. Finding the right people every time is the first step to success.
•   Fully connected loop (data → production → publishing) — Data without the ability to act on it is useless. The new tools need to connect these three components into a seamless loop so that brands can see what’s happening, create new materials accordingly, and then put those new materials to work the instant they are done.
•   Empowers brand employees to drive the results they want — Every brand has different needs. To be useful, the new tools will have to allow brands to specify the specific KPI’s that matter to them and then optimize around those exact points.
•   Helps brands understand the specific best practices for each platform, as they evolve — Each platform has its own set of best practices, and what’s working today may not work tomorrow. Given that content creation isn’t instantaneous, this puts even more pressure on having continuously updated best practices.
•   A single point of payment and legal agreement — Brands want to create at scale. They don’t want to pay vendors at scale!
•   Archival and robust asset search enables instant access to everything in a brand’s library — As brands produce more and more assets, their library will grow exponentially. Being able to find everything that you already have instantly and easily becomes increasingly important as a lever for cost efficiency and speed of production. Machine learning can be used to help here, but it needs to be connected in a way to enable easy extraction and manipulation of the selected library assets once you find them.
•   Collaboration software will need to make multi-stakeholder projects easy —When rapidly shifting cultural moments make producing content “in the moment” ever more important, timelines have to be compressed as much as possible. To do this, technology needs to play a role in managing all aspects of ideation, production, licensing, and approval in one seamless system.
•   Tools to not only learn what creative is working but why Data is reactive and tends to look backward. Data tells us what worked. In order to improve our creative processes and hit-rate, we need information not just about what worked but why. Creative insights are key, and when creators are given access to systems that can deliver real-time creative insights during the production process, learning cycles can be compressed significantly.

At VidMob, we’re laser-focused on addressing each of these points as part of the technology platform that we offer our brand clients as part of our Agile Creative Suite (TM). In doing so, we think VidMob can offer a solution that behaves like “an operating system for the in-house movement.” Change is never easy. But a great technology platform built on a foundation of respect for human creativity and a true alignment of interests can go a long way towards accelerating us all towards a better marketing future.

View story at Medium.com

Sir Martin Eyes a Comeback

Ever the overachiever, Adweek reported yesterday that Sir Martin Sorrell is eyeing a comeback. In roughly the same amount of time it takes to set up a service call with your cable operator, Sir Martin has seemingly been able to extricate himself from the old agency model with sufficient distance to be able to proclaim that he “can see much more clearly” where the traditional advertising model’s strengths and weaknesses lie. His new agency, presumably, will focus on the former and eliminate the latter. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read this, and all I could think of was the famous horror scene from When a Stranger Calls where the protagonist is alerted that the results of the trace are in, and “the call is coming from inside your house.” Queue the terrifying music. All due respect to Sir Martin, but his £70 million salary and everything that it represents IS the weakness.

At VidMob, we’ve had a front-row seat to the struggle between the old agency model and the new agency model that is rapidly emerging in its place. And make no mistake about it, struggle is the operative word. The old model was great for certain audiences (Sir Martin) and not so great for other audiences (everyone else—clients and employees alike). But when the people in charge are vested in the current system, innovation is hard to come by.

So we knuckled down and started building a path to a new model, one that we believed would be better for all involved. We believed, and still believe to this day, that VidMob can be a powerful platform for agencies to more efficiently produce certain pieces of marketing content for their clients. We are not a good fit to make Super Bowl ads, but as companies shift from needing a few pieces of video per year to now needing many thousands of pieces, VidMob is a good fit for a surprisingly large percentage of that new content need. And since we tend to do it for a fraction of the cost, and in a fraction of the time, we figured that if we could just explain how it works to potential agency partners, they would adopt VidMob as one of the tools in their arsenal to help deliver better services to their clients. When we heard that many digital campaigns were severely limited by the paucity of assets created specifically for digital channels, and how much agencies struggled in creating the wide array of custom formats needed to get the most out of these powerful (and increasingly important) channels, that only served to further our optimism about the fit. After all, more efficient production means more content, more agency ideas coming to life, better campaign performance and an overall better return on client’s marketing investment. It’s a win-win-win. What could stand in the way?

It turns out the answer is ‘a lot.’ The most common response we heard from the old agency set was that their production groups really liked using their traditional methods because they got really nice lunches on post-production days and it meant being out of the office all day—sort of like a vacation.

The first time I heard this I couldn’t believe the person who said it still had a job. The 30th time I heard it, I couldn’t believe the industry still existed.

Needless to say, this type of client-last thinking has strained the relationships between a lot of top brands and their old agencies. It seems like the wave of brands cutting, or severely limiting the scope of their relationship with their old agencies is growing by the day. Just in the last few weeks, we’ve seen announcements like this one from Chobani, from a host of other companies including, P&G, Unilever, Pepsi, ABI, Diageo, L’Oreal, Wayfair, Allstate, StubHub, Sprint, Booking.com, Starbucks, and BMW.

They say that necessity is the mother of all invention, and as the wave of brand in-housing of creative grows, we’ve seen an acceleration in the development of new agency models. I’ll have more to say about this in the coming weeks, specifically as it relates to how VidMob can function as a sort of operating system for this new client-first agency model, but suffice it to say that the new system reverses the priorities.

The companies that will be relevant and thrive in the new agency world will be those that are quickest to come to terms with and address these 4 realities.

1. Production — Agencies are not and cannot be scaled for production in today’s multi-platform, always-on, always-innovating mobile social ecosystem. The “produce only the great TV commercial model” doesn’t scale in a mobile social-ecosystem that requires multiple adaptations on a theme, and when the cultural moments that brands must respond to pass in days or hours, not weeks or months. Adapting to the new production reality means finding creative ways to expand the supply chain.

2. Platforms — For most emerging consumer groups, not only is TV watching down, but their gateway to mobile or digital is through apps, like Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram not a browser on the web. New agencies will re-think their over-reliance on cheap, easy programmatic advertising and convenient display ads and move to and understand the platforms and formats their audiences engage with.

3. Performance — Loose proxies for performance, like a gut reaction or reach and frequency, no longer suffice. Today’s CMOs are data-focused both pre- and post- production. Relevant and successful agencies will be those that integrate rigorous multivariate (not just A/B) testing and an unwavering focus on actionable insights, driven by deep learning.

4. People — Consumers are (geographically) everywhere, as are brands. The old agency model placed a premium on geographic location—to participate in the old agency creative process, being geographically located in New York, Chicago, or LA was a prerequisite. New agencies will leverage networks of creative which lets the best idea and execution/ not just the best location/ win.

The mythic marble offices in the Madison Avenue skyscraper may be depowered in the new agency model, as well as a thousand other extravagances—including those special sushi lunches at the production offices. It won’t be great for those things and it won’t be great for a handful of people—their £70 million salaries probably won’t be part of the new agency model.

But it will be great for all of the other employees, and most of all, it will be great for marketers.

View story at Medium.com

Everlasting Life

The sad fact is that all ads die.

Just like plants, animals, and radioactive elements, ads decay over time and eventually cease to function. This decay curve, also known as wear-out or ad fatigue, generally tends to look something like this, no matter what the underlying asset type, industry or format in question is. T varies, as does the slope of the decay, but the curve is the curve.

decay-curve-standard-vidmob-agile-creative-suite

In bad news for marketers, T has begun to shrink over the past year as consumers seem to be growing less tolerant of seeing the same ad too many times. When coupled with the already expanding array of platforms, formats, and personalization requirements of targeted advertising, this is placing an increased burden on marketers of all sizes.

The good news is that at least marketers have real-time visibility into their progress along that curve. Whether it’s within media buying software, in tools like Google Analytics or Facebook Power Editor, or in 3rd party analytics platforms, performance data is available in abundance. No matter what KPI you’re tracking, you can track every single campaign as it moves along the curve, and know exactly when it crosses critical return thresholds.

Data is not the problem.

But when it comes to video, acting on that data is often impossible. If it takes two to four weeks to turn around new creative, by the time you get new assets it is usually too late. Being ‘of the moment’ is more important than ever today. Remember the Olympics? Vaguely? Well, that was 10 days ago.

Similarly, if it costs tens of thousands of dollars to rapidly turn around a testable array of fresh creative options, the cost/benefit of doing so is murky at best. In both cases, with no good alternatives, marketers have been forced to simply hope T is as long as possible and ride the curve straight down to the bottom.

At VidMob, we’ve been paying close attention to this problem and have been working with our clients and partners to craft what we hope will be a game-changing solution for marketers of all sizes. In essence, the solution we’ve been building focuses on making it both easy and cost-effective to generate testable arrays of new, custom creative in near real-time, as informed by the available data. We call it the Agile Creative Suite (TM).

Here are three of the key technical components that make the Agile Creative Process work so seamlessly:

1.   Where your media is matters. 

We learned from talking to many of our clients that management of their library content was a severe point of friction. Even if they could find a legacy asset, all they usually had was the finished final draft. The raw assets and the associated edit files for the projects were almost never accessible, which meant that even the smallest change required them to basically start from scratch. We solved this by offering a service to our enterprise clients where we archive ALL of the associated media for every project. The final videos, sure. But also all of the raw files, the edit files, the communication trails, etc. In doing so, we make asset libraries infinitely more valuable for our clients, by reducing both the cost and friction associated with any media optimization.

 2.   Duplicate your project, not your workload.

Next, we learned that our clients were basically just like us. They hated replicating work. Loading up a brief that had already been communicated, and re-treading conversations that had already been discussed simply annoyed people. So we built a single-click mechanism to duplicate any existing project. Doing so creates a new project that preserves all of the old media assets, the communication trails, and everything else. Instantly, you’re ready to begin work and the project is already 95 yards down the field.

 3.   Single click publishing into all appropriate Ad Accounts. 

The last step is publishing your newly optimized media so that you can instantly start testing them to see which versions to focus your spend on. VidMob’s integrations into the Ad API’s of all of the major platforms make this the simplest part of all.

What all of this means in practice is that by using VidMob’s Agile Creative Suite, our clients are able to react to data in ways never before possible. Within hours or a few days (depending upon the urgency), with minimal effort or overhead requirement, clients can create, transfer, and re-publish an array of entirely new creative. In doing so, the age-old decay curve takes on new shape.

new-decay-curve-agile-creative-process-vidmob

What’s interesting about this new curve is that all of the shaded area is performance gain. In fact, because standard decay curves can be estimated with reasonable accuracy, it’s actually relatively easy to calculate just how much gain a marketer experiences through this process. I got kicked in the head a few too many times growing up, so my integral calculus skills aren’t what they were 20 years ago, but I know smarter folks than me can work through this quickly. That said, for decently sized campaigns, this gain can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and for large campaigns, we believe it will save millions.

Perhaps most importantly, we believe that the Agile Creative Process has the potential to, at least in certain instances, help accelerate the changing the nature of online marketing. Arrested decay holds the promise of everlasting life, and as we all move more and more away from campaign-based marketing towards always-on approaches, we’re optimistic that the platform we’re building at VidMob will have a positive role to play in the emerging new world order in which marketers find themselves.

It might not be exactly the immortality solution that Gilgamesh and Ponce de Leon were looking for centuries ago, but, hopefully, it will be a bit more practical for those of us who are okay with growing old but want to build great businesses along the way.

Editing Is the New Coding

One of the first movies that really left a mark on me was WarGames. It was the summer of 1983. I was 8 years old and was already what can probably best be described as “an optimism fundamentalist.”  So, instead of focusing on the dystopian reality that the threat of nuclear holocaust was going to be a permanent cloud over society for the rest of my life, what struck me was the exciting realization that computers were going to play a far bigger role in people’s lives than simply making it easier for them to delete misspelled words in a document.

Even though I was still a decade away from thinking about things like careers and life-callings, I realized then that if I stayed close to technology I would have opportunities to do interesting things in my life.

Across my personal circle of influence, and across the nation writ large, millions of kids were being inspired and directed like me. It would pick up steam in the 90’s as the internet became mainstream, and, for the next 3 decades, the constant theme of advice was that anyone who was interested in technology should consider being an engineer. As communications moved onto computing platforms, the people capable of helping that advancement would never want for work.

In the 80’s, there were only a handful of software engineers in the US. But by 2002, that number had grown to 677,000. By 2013 there were over 1 million. And that figure is expected to continue growing at a rapid pace, with 22% annual growth expected over the next decade. The folks who predicted during my youth that engineers would have a rosy future pretty much nailed it. But labor markets will always evolve, and while many new jobs are being created, others are being eliminated. So my question is this: can we learn from the rise of computer technology and the associated growth in software engineering jobs in order to predict future areas of the economy poised for similarly explosive growth? I believe the answer is yes.

Today, the medium of communication is shifting once again.

For tens of thousands of years, our ancestors communicated verbally. Sure, there were markings and early writings, but the primary thrust of communication was the spoken word. This changed with the advent of print thanks to Gutenberg, and, for over 550 years, text and static imagery have dominated human communication.

It was a good run. But it’s coming to an end.

Everywhere you look, you see screens. Screens at the gas station pump. Screens at the dentist office. Screens in the back of taxi cabs. And, most importantly, screens in your pocket. Increasingly, if a company has something to say, they’re going to say it in video.

How significant is this shift? Well, think of it this way—at the beginning of 2015, there were 50 million companies using Facebook pages. By September of 2016, that number had climbed to over 60 million. That’s 60 million companies choosing to use a platform to communicate with their customers—a platform that is very publicly transitioning to a video network. And as communications, in general, migrate from static means (text and imagery) to moving imagery (video, AR, and VR), those 60 million companies won’t just need a small handful of video advertisements per year. This may have been the case a decade ago for the Fortune 500, but it doesn’t hold anymore. No, they each will need hundreds, if not thousands of videos per year. Remember, it’s not just advertising that’s changing. It is all communications.

But here’s the kicker as it relates to job creation in this field. We are simultaneously shifting from a world where scarcity ruled in video content to an era of abundance. It wasn’t long ago that distribution was choked, and where it was available, it came with costs. Channels were relatively finite. As a result, quality demands were forgiving. If you had distribution, you basically just needed to fill the pipe. Today, video exists in abundance. Distribution is effectively free and infinitely scalable.

Now, more than ever, quality matters when it comes to video communications.

If you’ve ever read a script created by an algorithm or watched editorial pieces made by any of the myriad algorithmic editing tools, you’ll realize that we’re still a very long way away from having emotive communications created by anything other than a human being. So, if the communications have to be good in order to be effective, and to do so means that they have to be made by people, just how many jobs are we talking about creating?

Between advertising, hiring, internal communications, and general social marketing, I’m going to assume that the average company will need 10 videos per year. Keep in mind that many companies will need literally thousands of pieces of video content—social advertising is quickly evolving into a model where companies should never create a single ad, but rather create many ads and test them all (more on this in another post soon). But if you assume 10 as a good blended average, that means 600 million pieces of video content will need to be created per year in the near future. If the average creative can make 5 pieces of quality video content per week, that means over 2.3 million editors will be needed to service this coming demand, just from the companies that are currently on Facebook. You can quibble with me over the exact numbers, but not the scope and scale of the coming video revolution.

As with coding, there will be a wide range of job types and compensation structures that come along with this era of scaled video production. But make no mistake about it, in an environment of abundant video, the folks who can create emotionally resonant moving communications will be in high demand, and they will be well-paid by any standards.

Does this mean that engineers won’t be needed in the future? Of course not. All of the key disciplines associated with creating and maintaining the technology that forms such an important part of our personal and professional lives will remain attractive careers for many.

 

But when you hear people complain that technology is taking away all of our jobs, know that this is no truer today than it was when the same fear was voiced during the Industrial Revolution, or in the early days of the computer age for that matter.

The need for people who can create quality video communications will grow dramatically in the next few decades. Guidance counselors of today can still push certain kids into considering engineering paths. But for countless others who thrive on creativity, who understand communication at its root level, and who have a knack for visual storytelling, a huge new window of opportunity is about to open up. And when we say we’re out to create a million jobs, you better believe we mean it.

But Who Cares…

An Old Dinner

All the guests arrived on time. The whole team was there—all the developers, who had labored for years to build an innovative product, and their new CEO, who had recently purchased the company and flown in from out of town for the night.

The food was delicious, cooked to perfection and coupled with precision, with a mix of made-to-order cocktails and paired wines. In short, everything went off without a hitch. But then again, is there any surprise in that? After all, what’s a small dinner at your home with its handful of critical path items, a few dependent tasks, and a semi-flexible delivery hour?

For a team that regularly handles infinitely more challenging coordination problems with hundreds of tasks per week, all with interlocking dependencies, getting a well-cooked steak on the table in time to keep your team from knifing each other didn’t even require a JIRA task. And as the team lead and his wife reminisced after all of the dishes were done and the guests had all gone home, all they could think about was how perfect this night had been. The signs were definitely positive. Maybe this new management would actually work out.

The following morning, the team arrived in the office still basking in the hopeful glow of a night gone right. Sitting at the top of the company’s internal blog, they found an article posted by the CEO. Expecting it to be some sort of public thank you, one by one they all began to read. And one by one, their jaws dropped. It started out all right. The opening sentences were all about how the meal was great, and how it was clear throughout the evening that the team cared about each other, got along well, and generally operated like a family. It was the next line, though, that stopped them in their tracks:

“But who cares…”

But who cares, dot dot dot. The CEO went on from there to flip the tone entirely. None of the preceding mattered. He did not care in the least that they enjoyed working together. He did not care that they had forged a positive work environment over years of execution. He did not care about any of this. All that mattered was the work, and the more they liked each other, the harder it was going to be to fire people in the months ahead.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company mentioned above lost a significant portion of its development team shortly after that night. The company hasn’t grown in years and likely won’t grow anytime before it shuts its doors for the last time. And when that day comes, the management of the company will have only itself to blame.

The world is changing. And companies that don’t realize the role their employees will play in that are the ones most likely to wake up one day and find that it changed without them.

The Widening Definition of Shareholder

Corporations have porous borders, and the only kind of employee you should ever want is one that has the option to leave at any moment. Even better, multiple options. Because the reality in today’s startup world is that ideas are meaningless.

That’s not to say that a company doesn’t need a good idea. It does. But with the hive brain that results from a fully connected society, you have to assume that most ideas are simultaneously had by dozens of other people. At least a few of them will start the same company as you. And the only way to survive and build a leading company is to out-innovate, out-execute, and out-hustle your competition. The key point, though, is that this cannot be done with anything other than A+ talent in every role in an organization.

And this is where the selfish side of taking care of your employees comes into play. There are countless studies that show that companies with happier employees get more patents awarded, are more productive on a per capita basis, and have lower turnover. Think attracting A+ talent is hard? Try losing them and finding a replacement, thus essentially hiring and training twice for every available position.

But there is also a less selfish side to building the right kind of organization. After two decades of increasing private equity purchases and cost rationalizations in every sector in the economy, many companies no longer see their employees and community members as important shareholders. All decisions are made to optimize for quarterly earnings, leading to less and less stability for workers. Couple this with changing health care policy at the Federal level and an awful lot of folks are feeling less comfortable than they should. Do companies need to operate like this?

Our view at VidMob is that the answer to this question is an emphatic ‘no.’ When we started the company, the long-term goal was to create a million jobs for the creators in our marketplace and, through that, hopefully positively impact people’s lives at scale. But closer to home, we wanted to build a company which was keenly aware of its multiple constituencies and cared for each of them. Our employees, our creators, our clients, our investors, and the communities within which we live and operate—they are all important “shareholders” as far as we’re concerned.

So while we certainly celebrate every big deal we close, and every time a client emails us thanking our service for a job well done, we’re equally excited that VidMob is in a position to offer some of the best health benefits available. That, and with an engineering team of eight people now in the Berkshires, we’re beginning to add real economic value to a community whose industrial heyday has passed—but has a bright future on the horizon.

A New Dinner

We recently had our own dinner in the same setting as the one mentioned above. The same home and hosts. And at least a few of the same people around the table. But the management was different, and with it, so was the way of thinking. We weren’t really celebrating anything in particular, which is often the best reason to celebrate. Perhaps a successful day prioritizing features and making sure we were all in sync in the long-term product roadmap is reason enough.

In the midst of all this, the story of the old CEO and his blog post came up. I couldn’t help but think how desperately we’d be failing in our mission if we ever felt or behaved that way. And while any one company’s ability to impact a society is limited, if thousands of companies all adopt an evolved view of their responsibility to their community, that can make an impact.

So who cares? The short answer is that VidMob does. We care for selfish reasons because we know that it will lead to a better caliber employee and better results for the company. But we also care because we recognize our role in the world around us. And if you care too, give us a call. We’re hiring.

VidMob Heads to Cannes

Back row travel and a front row seat to the excitement.

People are often intrigued by the process of entrepreneurship, perhaps because it’s usually a “throw every emotion in the bowl” recipe, calling for healthy helpings of excitement, joy, camaraderie, hard work, and pure terror. Since VidMob’s week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity seemed to encapsulate this full-bodied experience to a T, I thought it might be fun to provide a quick recap.

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When people think of Cannes, they often think of the more high-profile film festival that is held there every year. But after the film portion is over, the festival continues with segments that attract people from all over the world involved in communications, marketing, design, and tech. VidMob fits squarely in all four of these, so we decided to send a delegation this year for the first time.

Our meetings started on Sunday the 18th, so we took a redeye Saturday night. This meant missing Father’s Day, which is not ideal for four fathers of children who, despite being of various ages, were all similarly capable of voicing their displeasure at being separated on the celebratory day. A flight cancellation also led to some last minute changes, which culminated with three of the team sharing a non-reclining back row for the overnight flight. Now you may think you know your co-workers, but you don’t really know someone until they’re drooling on your shoulder while you sit, with a seemingly sub-90-degree angle in your lower back, at 5am staring at a re-re-re-re-run of Everyone Loves Raymond. But hey, soon you’ll be in France, so nobody is complaining.

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After landing in Nice, we took an Uber (a company we’ve made Snap Ads for) to the villa we rented in the hills overlooking Cannes through Airbnb (a new client of ours). How does that old saying go again, “Keep your friends close, and your clients closer?” Regardless, we were soon comfortably ensconced in a stunningly beautiful property in the hills overlooking Cannes, and after a few cannonballs and flying squirrels into the pool, we headed into town to get to work.

We had dinner that night with one of our investors and then met up with friends from Snapchat for drinks afterward. We learned a few things that night—namely, that it is, in fact, medically possible to eat so many oysters that your elbow swells up, and there is a seemingly endless array of bottle sizes in which the French can fit rosé.

The following day we had an early meeting with executives from Pinterest to discuss the growing amount of work that VidMob editors are doing for them. The Pinterest platform is becoming more dynamic every day, and as more and more of their advertisements transition from text to video, many challenges arise that VidMob believes it can help with. This was followed by meetings with partners at Instagram, more Pinterest meetings, and then Facebook.

Agency Friend, Not Foe

One thread running through all of these meetings was how VidMob sees its relationship with traditional agencies. Surrounded by the hundreds of yachts owned or rented by folks from the traditional advertising agency world, we were repeatedly asked if we viewed ourselves as a combative disruptor, aiming to replace services offered by legacy players (a position apparently taken by some of the other upstarts in the space).

We pushed back on this view heavily. After all, VidMob has already partnered with a number of agencies, and our view is that the task ahead is not one of service replacement. It’s about new services. We are in the midst of a transition from singular hero creative to an era of scaled (video) creative. As terms like “creative fatigue” continue to gain traction in the marketing world, and brands are encouraged to refresh creative every few tens of millions of impressions, vastly more content is needed. Additionally, platform diversification and spec expansion have led to a need for hundreds, if not thousands, of videos, when previously a handful would suffice.

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But through all of this, the underlying story or concept that ties it all together continues to reign supreme: VidMob’s view is that it can be a powerful platform to help today’s agencies offer a NEW service to their clients and, through that, increase the value of their core ideas. We made this point repeatedly throughout the course of Monday, until rosé levels reached the point of diminishing returns and the team returned home “to get some rest.” Unfortunately, it was still early on East Coast time, so instead of going to bed, we decided to go for a swim. This turned into a strategy session until the small hours of the night when no strategy should ever be discussed.

Instagrammy about Town

FBInnovation_Instagram_Partner_award_vidmob_cannes_canneslionsTuesday sprang anew, pool strategies were cast aside, and the team got ready for a big day. After all, this was the day that VidMob was scheduled to be presented with an Instagram Innovation award, for work that we had done in partnership with Facebook for Michael Kors. In this case, Michael Kors had needed a variety of ad assets to be one of the first companies to try out the new Instagram Stories ad format. For timing reasons, the final assets were needed in less than 48 hours, and the only raw materials to work off of were some previously-made, long-form YouTube videos. Michael Kors worked with editor Dana Meaux on the VidMob platform and had multivariate ads to test before the deadline. When the case study results came in from Facebook a few weeks later, the ads had generated a 10x lift in brand recall, and a 4x lift in brand favorability; and we found out that we had won.Instagram_Stories_Partner_Innovation_Award_Facebook_VidMob_Cannes_canneslions

After a long day of meetings, the team went to the Facebook party at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean to accept the award from our friends there. It was a truly wonderful experience, and our only regret was not being able to share the whole thing with the rest of the team back home and Dana Meaux, who had helped make it a reality. We then took the award, which at this point had been renamed “The Instagrammy,” and proceeded to take it all over town to celebrate. It may not be quite the Stanley Cup, but on this night it certainly felt just as big.

That said, Tuesday was intended to be a quiet night—I was hosting a Live broadcast on the Facebook Beach at 9am the following morning and was then speaking on a panel on the main Facebook stage at 11:30am on Scaling Creativity. Additionally, Craig was leaving to head home at 4:30am so that he could be home for his sons’ graduation. We all figured that a restful night was a good idea, so we headed home early to get some sleep.

The Big Break(-in)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards, as we arrived back at our villa to find that it had been broken into while we were gone. Windows were shattered and bags were thrown everywhere. Two teammates’ passports had been stolen along with their bags, and Craig’s bag and passport were missing too, casting serious doubt on his impending efforts to leave the country. Luckily, we found his bag at the bottom of the pool. And there in the bottom of his bag, sat a very soggy passport. After spending hours on the phone with French police, realizing (a) how poor our French is, and (b) how little the French police care about our break-in, we packed Craig off to the airport minus a bag and plus some humidity in his documents, and sent Jason and Greg off to Marseilles to meet with the US Consulate in an attempt to get two new temporary passports. Our goal was to avoid unintentionally opening up a permanent VidMob office in Cannes.

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Instead of a good night’s sleep, I settled for no sleep and headed off to the beach for the Facebook Live broadcast. I had a great time interviewing the CEO & Founder of Popular Pay, Corbett Drummey, and highly encourage folks to check out their service.

From there, I went over to Facebook’s mainstage for the panel discussion on Scaling Creativity, hosted by Weera Saad, the regional head of Facebook’s Creative Shop EMEA, and was joined by the founders of Whalar and Tongal. I have a great deal of respect for the platforms that both of them have built, and the discussion that ensued was highly enjoyable.

We all have different visions on how to solve different aspects of the same underlying problem—how can companies adjust to a new communication paradigm, where significant portions of our marketing and communications mix migrate from static text and imagery to video—but if we’re collectively right and the 60 million companies that communicate on social networks all need video in the years ahead, there should be plenty of opportunity for all of us.

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We had a number of additional meetings left in the day before it was finally time to relax and prepare for home. It was an exhausting week, but a good friend of mine once told me after a short night’s sleep that there was “plenty of sleep in the grave.” I’m going to assume that he was right because it’s got to be somewhere, and there certainly isn’t plenty in France.

All in all, VidMob’s first Cannes was a wonderful experience. We’re lucky enough to have built a platform that times well with the needs of the market and to have attracted a wide number of talented creators to our marketplace. These things support one another. Without a platform to make scaling human creativity efficient, we could never hope to attract such incredible partners. And without the jobs that flow from being partnered with a number of the world’s leading technology platforms, we could never attract such talented creators. We’ve said from the beginning that our goal was to create a million jobs. We’re not there yet, which means that our job is far from done. Sometimes that unfinished job casts you on the shores of the Mediterranean with a bit more excitement than you bargained for, and a bit less sleep than your body begged for. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s a job we’re more than happy to answer the call for in the long process of building a great business.