April 13, 2010

John Cecil on Google & R O i-Ads, Part Three.


Over the last two days of our 3-part conversation with John Cecil, CEO of Innovate Ads, we've covered numerous topics, including the differences between his company and companies in the Rich Media category, as well as some pretty impressive research from Stanford about the superior communications value of online video spokespeople on the user's experience. Here are links to PART 1: Yahoo! and PART 2: Stanford

In our 3rd segment we get down to the nitty-gritty. How has John been able to produce successful work with direct marketers, who by all counts are known to be extremely finicky about how they brand is portrayed?

And finally, what would a 360-degree discussion about digital marketing be without focusing on how Mr. Cecil's organization ties in with the internet's most powerful company (Hint: it begins with a "G") and makes it an even more powerful marketing tool - if that's actually possible - for almost every marketer investing in search.

Wendy: You've produced hundreds of online videos. Creative is such a touchy subject, especially when you're working for a client who's built their company from scratch. They have certain ideas about how they're company should be marketed. How do you satisfy the "look and feel" or personality that's led to for their success; while at the same time make sure the video is effective?

John: We do have stipulations in our contracts that we get to make the final decision with regards to production. That includes both the small and big stuff. Our policy is in their best interests.

Wendy: Give me an example

John: If a client requested that the actor have their hair pinned up and then on the set it just didn't look good, we have the final say to make the best decision. That's obviously a nitpick. That's in the contract, but it really never becomes an issue.

Wendy: That's an easy one.

John: It is and it isn't. We've been doing this for more than a few years now. Our work speaks for itself. There's a lot of leeway clients will give you when there's a foundation of trust in the relationship. We are online marketers and a lot of our clients just let us roll with it. We just say, "Hey, we know how to do this. We know what works." At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding.

Wendy: That's refreshing.

John: Yeah, but if there is one thing I think deserves some focus here. As compared to other online video companies. Our situations are well within our clients' price range. We don't get hassled on price because our solutions can be well under $10,000 from concept, through production to having us the online video serve their iAd thousands and thousands of times.

You have different unit sizes, right?


Sure. We give our clients a choice. So far we've focused largely on our walk-on video spokesperson. However if a client prefers to work within the confines of an IAB unit, that's fine. We do it in leaderboard, skyscraper or rectangles. And fully compliant.

Wendy: What's the third?

John: The 3rd we call a "video snack."

Wendy: LOL. Sounds appetizing!

John: It's a custom video clip that fits nicely on a site with what you might call a "short and sweet" message. The length is not the point. It can sit on a page and not be so intrusive that the viewer is distracted at all, if they were interested in something else. Plus, its user activated so it's what the industry calls "polite."

Wendy: You do all these in-house.

John: Yes.

Wendy: do you consider these pre-roll?

John: Absolutely not. We just took the spokesperson and we place them inside a standard ad unit. They have all the charisma if you will that the Stanford paper talks about. They are all based on using a spokesperson within it and help our clients take their site-based online video ad on to other sites. They have the opportunity to have consistency and conformity of message. In many ways, having the same spokesperson come to life in difference size units gives that ad a more interesting branding. The consumer response is like, "Hey I know you."

Wendy: There's no doubt.

Wendy: Okay. Real life situation. Let's say a creative guy in an agency who likes the idea of an iAd but wants to do it themselves.

John: That's fine. If someone else wants to produce the product, no problems. We'll take the tape and put it through delivery mechanism and let's just do business. But if you can get someone to help control it from the start to the finish, typically you'll see a better product.

Wendy: For both direct marketers and brand-based agencies?


John: Absolutely.

Wendy: Do you work with the mother of all digital media companies?

John: I think I know who you mean? That's Google.

Wendy: Exactly.

John: I'm glad you brought that up. We have killer Google applications.

Wendy: Really. How does it work?

John: Okay. Let's say for example that you're interested dog grooming. You go to Google, you type in "dog grooming" and you get number of link ads. You click on an ad and all of a sudden you end upon the home page of some dumb dog-gone-wild site, right?

Wendy: Right.

John: No connection to what you were searching on... Now here's the same scenario with our product. You google "dog grooming" and click on a link for our client. You're directed to a special landing page where an iAd video spokesperson comes out and says "Welcome to Doggrooming.com. We know you are looking for information on dog grooming. You've come to the right place and here's why...

Wendy: Okay, but that's not rocket science.

John: Except for the fact that the online spokesperson repeats in the dialogue the actual key word that the person's clicked on. Intimate addressability. The reaction with consumers is an automatic increase in interest, based on the thinking, "Wow, they know what I'm here for."


Wendy: Wow! That's great stuff.

John: It makes sense, right? No other company offers that type of intimacy. And the cost is simply having the online video person use each specific word in their dialogue when we shoot the client's online video. It's also a great way to test different talent and different message offerings

Wendy: Sure.

John: We're taking it to the next level. An example is that one of our video conferencing clients is sending Google traffic to five different landing pages. The landing pages are all the same, though one of the videos is a blond female, one is an older male, one a sexier brunette.

Wendy: Hey, I'm a blond.

John: Present company excluded. The client can testing with five different landing pages, with different iAds, different spokespeople and we see the different responses. We have a client in the home improvement industry where we shot two variations of the iAds: one young model giving the pitch and the other with an older gentleman.

Wendy: Who won?

John: The older guy. A client is able to understand their potential customers' humanistic behavior. And they can keep their message fresh. When the potential buyer returns to the landing page, we can present a different presenter, by simply cookie-ing them.

Wendy: How frequently?

John Up to eight times.

Wendy: That's fascinating, Back to my agency question. So you get a call and they say, you're iAds not working. "My click through rate stinks."


John: Okay. We talk about it. Let's look at how the online video is working with their site style guide. Let's test different site fonts, different colors, and different headlines. The video spokesperson can't do all the work. The total screen experience must all be firing on all cylinders. Once a client has several executions worth experience - and again, without breaking the bank - the right mix soon emerges.

Wendy: Okay. So you're advantage is price?

John: It's always about money. But we're not talking about ours. If a client is spending a million dollars a month in advertising, driving traffic to their site, we can add video products that can increase the conversions be 30%. That means they're going to get an additional 30% of return of that million dollars. And then if they can take it to the next step and shoot five different variations of the video, test them and be super aggressive, we've seen that iAds helps a client get to know their customer more than any other kind of creative unit can. They'll find that one version may increase that to a 35% increase in conversions. That 5% increase in conversions out of a million bucks is worth it.

Wendy: Interesting.

John: That's why we're so excited. It works. It goes back to my Yahoo experience. It was just a matter of time before the studios started using the Internet. It's just a matter of time before online marketers are going to use some variation of our product. Our challenge is to stay ahead of the copy cats.

Wendy: IT probably doesn't hurt that almost 80% of homes right now by next year will have broadband. Expectations by consumers are only going to grow. People don't remember what it was like, not to have search. They don't remember.

John: Yeah. It hasn't been that long.

Wendy: No, it hasn't. I mean, you think about it and I remember that having to try to remember that url. You don't have to do that anymore. Most people don't they just put in the phrase or what ever. So I think its going to quicker. That's my glass half-full view

John: Yeah. Totally.

Wendy: Okay, second to the last question, what was it like working with Mitt Romney?

John: Governor Romney was great. Professional all the way. First class guy. He flew in, did the spot and then flew out. We edited it only slightly and then worked with his campaign to launch it in the areas that he was targeting.


Wendy: He obviously didn't win. What feedback did you get?

John: Well, the Boston Globe and among others ran an article about it, which was extremely favorable. We think iAds would be perfect for almost any type of political campaign there is. Other than visiting people where they work or making house calls, there's no other form of communication that let's someone running for office get as close to a potential voter as the iAds unit.

Wendy: What advice would you tell someone just getting out of school about choosing a career in advertising? What kind of people do you look for? I'm not talking about actors and actresses.. but people who work at your company? Do you hire right out of college. Do you have interns?

John: We have an internship program. I've had great luck working my contacts, particularly from Yahoo!. We look for people that understand the Production space or are used to banging on doors and understanding that this is a developing technology. We're still a small company and can offer the right people a golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor and do some really great work.

Wendy: Is there a difference between interning on the production side versus on the sales support side? Are you teaching them the whole business?

John: I'm not sure that's really possible. If they have an interest, sure. An of course each side needs to know what the other is doing. But there are actually two different people. There's the video production guy and there's the advertising, ad sales guys, just like our businesses, production and delivery. So it's really two different people. Generally people with an interest in production are more introverted. As you know, to be successful in sales, you have to be an extrovert.

Wendy: What advice would you give to someone just getting out of college and is considering a career in digital marketing?

John: Most of the young people I talk to are just talking about getting into "marketing" or working with an "ad agency." My advice to them if they are interested in marketing / media is to focus on the digital space and not go "traditional." There is a need for talent/expertise in this space and if they can get educated on what we are doing, there is a great opportunity for a job out of school and a career in the future.

Wendy: John, this was great. Thank you so much!

John: It was my pleasure, Wendy.





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