Interview with Tony Chen, CEO at Channel Factory

Tony Chen

Tony Chen

CEO at Channel Factory

Clients now want to see immediate campaign results, and a means to attribute their investment to their company’s ROI.

On Marketing Technology

Tell us a little bit about your role at Channel Factory and how you got here (What inspired you to start an online native media company?)

I am the founder and CEO of Channel Factory, a social video advertising platform that helps major brands get their videos seen by the right audiences. The idea for Channel Factory originated in 2010 while I was studying economics and classical piano at Rice University (I was accepted on a full ride scholarship for piano). I’m a prolific pianist and would record some of my compositions to upload to YouTube. This in turn steered my curiosity on how to increase the visibility and views against my own content. My persistence in finding an effective solution eventually drove me to build and develop Channel Factory. Today, we are working with over 200 Fortune 500 brands and 85 agencies worldwide, including OMD, MediaCom, ZenithOptimedia, and Nestle to optimize their advertising initiatives.

MTS: Given how quickly video marketing strategies have been accepted, how do you see this market evolving over the next few years?

I believe video marketing will continue to scale at a rapid pace, due to large advertisers understanding the changes in consumer content consumption behavior and realizing the engaging benefits of social video advertising against marketing ROI. We’ve witnessed TV dollars gradually shifting to digital in the past few years. This is an exciting time to be in the space as I think the transference will increasingly gather momentum. I see traditional and digital means of advertising converging in the next few years, contributing to a substantial shift towards digital in the near future.

MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?

I think the single most important technology innovation at the moment is AI. I anticipate AI integrations will create further efficiencies and enhance overall digital marketing performance. The biggest concern for CMOs is ROI (from marketing investments). This attribution model was previously a huge undertaking to measure, but with the implementation of AI, we will not only be able to map ROI, but will be able to more intelligently optimize media channels, allowing brands to eliminate waste and better understand their consumers.

MTS: What’s the biggest challenge for startups to integrate a social video media platform into their stack?

Expertise and Software. Currently, YouTube and Facebook are respective walled gardens with different targeting capabilities and evaluation metrics. To bridge them and collectively compare and optimize towards marketing performance requires a working knowledge of these two platforms on a technical scale. In addition, clients now want to see immediate campaign results, and a means to attribute their investment to their company’s ROI. All of this requires experience in diligent creative testing and the right tools to analyze performance to ensure targeting is reaching the intended audience.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

Currently, I have an eye on social e-commerce startups like like Fashion Nova. Many large brands have yet to fully grasp and capitalize on the efficiency and true value of advertising on social platforms. Once these larger brands understand the value behind strategically utilizing social videos across platforms, it will be interesting to see how these social e-commerce start-ups will pivot their attribution marketing strategies to counter that change.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)

We recently launched an interesting campaign for one of our clients, Pearle Vision. Our objective was to drive 100% organic awareness and engagement to Pearle Vision’s existing creative content without using any paid media tactics (e.g. topics, interest, keyword targeting). The audience was specifically against ‘Moms’ within the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Through our IQ platform’s social insights and filtering capabilities, we identified 14 brand safe Facebook influencer pages that aligned with the client’s messaging and target audience. We then worked with the page creators to strategically share the client’s videos.

The results from the campaign were impressive! We exceeded our contracted goal of organic views by 429% and garnered over 17.5 Million in reach within 30 days. The creative saw over 1 million completed views (content for the creative was 1.14mins in length). In addition to our successful campaign performance, we generated 242 million+ likes, 25 million+ comments, and 78 million+ shares.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

I think comprehending both the possibilities and the limitations around AI is crucial. Not everything can be solved through AI, and understanding what is realistic and what isn’t is very important. Creative is still key, and at the end of the day, AI is just an optimization tool to ensure efficiency. You can never substitute a great marketing strategy or a  brilliantly made creative campaign.


MTS: One word that best describes how you work.


MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

WeChat. This app saves me an incredible amount of time in communicating with internal teams and provides an easy substitute for meetings that would usually take 15-30 minutes. This obviously ties back to my drive toward efficiency.

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Work in spurts with plenty of thought breaks. It’s not necessary to trudge through projects just for the sake of completing them after mental exhaustion hits. You end up taking more time than necessary to complete tasks and true creativity is curtailed.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I try to stay actively informed, consuming across a broad topic of industry news and current events.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Focus on one task at a time.

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I make sure I have adequate sleep to ensure productivity throughout my day.

MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Xi Jinping

MTS: Thank you Tony! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Tony Chen founded Channel Factory, an online video distribution and data company, in 2010 while studying economics and classical piano at Rice University. With predictive analytics, the platform helps advertisers and agencies more effectively and efficiently advertise on YouTube. Clients include Nestle, MediaCom and OMD.

Channel Factory

Channel Factory is one of the leading Native Media companies that leverages Big Data to bridge Social Video Media Buying, Influencer Marketing, and Branded Content.

In this world of fragmented new marketing opportunities, our goal is to use data and technology to provide a unified solution.


About the MarTech Interview Series

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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