6 Facts Driving the Rise of Intelligent Creative
In the early days of category creation, the rationale for a business is usually only believed by a diehard few, the opportunity size often feels small, and the path to success is far from clear. But as the category begins to take shape --usually through years of focused work-- all of these things start to change. The rationale begins to become obvious (eg. of course people would like an affordable, more transparent alternative to traditional taxis). The believable opportunity size expands dramatically (wait, if it’s easy, affordable and better, maybe the opportunity is A LOT bigger than just taxis). And the steps to building a meaningful company shift from vision to step-by-step execution.
As the category continues to accelerate in its formation, it’s becoming clear to me that the rationale, opportunity size and execution plan have all crystalized significantly over the past 18 months, and there are now a series of facts that I believe are inarguable that set the stage for VidMob’s approach.
The needle of time always points towards greater complexity. We will not roll back to an internet era dominated by static text, or even images. Video will remain ascendant, until it is replaced by something more complex, presumably AR first, and then something more interesting after that. As this inexorable process continues, it will become harder and harder for marketers to communicate effectively. But to make matters worse, we will continue to see channel expansion (gone are the days of just TV, or even just Google and Facebook), format fragmentation, signal evolution and more. I do not envy a marketer trying to piece their way through all of this with the same processes and relationship stack that they used in the last decade.
This is the piece that is missed by so many. The reason software has been so successful in eating the world is that most tasks and processes in the business world are better when replaced by infinitely scalable, repeatable, and zero marginal cost technology. Most, but not all. Because when it comes to marketing, the sole point of communications is to put forward a unique and emotionally resonant touchpoint for your product or brand. Can you imagine if Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Reebok and Vans all used the same infinitely repeatable template creative tool to make ads that all looked the same? It would be a disaster! When it comes to marketing creative, it turns out that a software-only solution, and its benefits of repeatability and scale are literally the exact opposite of what is needed. After all, if you have a bad ad, the last thing a marketer should want is to scale it.
But this doesn’t mean that technology has no role in creativity. Far from it. In this arena, the path forward is a technology platform that augments human creators by automating tasks that are better handled by a machine and provides new data systems to make creative decision making more intelligent. Properly integrated, the modern marketer can operate a highly scalable, human-powered creative machine that is unique, brand-safe, highly performant, and as icing on the cake, spits out a steady stream of creative intelligence that accumulates over time and becomes a new type of first party data asset -- and a significant advantage over technophobic peers still guessing in the dark.
If points one and two are true, then I think this point three is the logical result. The first 25 years of the modern web have been defined by omnipresent payment friction and security friction. I believe the next few decades will see creative friction rise to the same level of all-encompassing tax on all global communications, as the difficulty of creating all of the necessary assets for success (across paid, organic, merchandising, the full commerce journey and whole lifecycle CRM) becomes overwhelming for any business without the proper creative technology stack.
This is just how the public markets value the agency holding companies today. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. It just is what it is. But it does present an opportunity, and an area that a partnering software platform like VidMob can help. More immediately below.
Before I get into this, I want to be clear that I am not saying that VidMob will capture all (or even most) of this value. Nor am I saying that all of this revenue will shift away from the holding companies. This is specifically why VidMob has always gone to great lengths to NOT be viewed as a disruptor. Yes, we work directly with brands in some cases. But we also have partnerships with many of the holding companies and a growing number of independent agencies. And we partner deeply across the modern platform ecosystem. VidMob is trying to build an infrastructure layer to help the entire industry accelerate in this transition towards software-based delivery and subscription-oriented payment models. If we do this well, the whole industry will benefit. It is truly a rising tide, and a lot of boats are going to get a lift. But make no mistake about it, this is not a small opportunity. It’s as big as any opportunity in enterprise software, and it’s also shockingly underinvested. Stripe became a $100b company focusing on payment friction. Countless other great businesses followed suit. What is the opportunity for the company(s) that address the looming tsunami of creative friction?
As a species, we’re not very good at imagining the pace of advances for things on exponential curves. We tend to think linearly, so if X amount happened over the past 10 years, then we assume that roughly X will happen in the next 10 years. But this is not how exponential curves work. In fact, we will likely see ~100x the advances in the next 10 years than we saw in the past 10 years. What this means for AI & ML is that they will be almost unfathomably more powerful in the not too distant future. Companies that build systems today to capture unique data (hint: guess what VidMob’s services-in-the-loop model is designed to do) that will grow in value as the ability to generate strategic analyses from it matures may very well find themselves in a position to provide significantly more value to their clients and partners sooner than expected.
So, what does all of this mean? In my experience, a series of connected facts often leads to an inevitable conclusion.
In this case, here’s the conclusion: A fully distributed API for Intelligent Creativity will become one of the most valuable platforms in the world. While it is certainly up for debate as to who will fulfill this opportunity, I think it’s inarguable that someone will.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m biased, but I am optimistic that it will be VidMob for a variety of reasons. First of all, it will not be easy. And that’s a good thing for us. Purposely living at the intersection of data and creativity is a precarious place, uncomfortable to almost all. But we have long said that we are only interested in problems so hard that only we can solve them. Second, it will take a long time. But our inordinate focus on culture sets the foundation for focused work over longer than normal horizons. As the brilliant Jim Collins once said, “The greatest [companies] that we ever studied manage for the quarter… century.” And lastly, we’re on a mission. Again and again, purpose has turned out to be our slingshot in a world full of Goliaths.
Yes, there are certainly many ways that we could fail to live up to the opportunity fully. But I see this team every day, and I certainly wouldn’t bet against it with this set of facts in the background.