Interview with Alex Collmer, Founder & CEO, VidMob

Alex Collmer
Alex Collmer

“The problem hasn’t been the targeting technology, it has been the ability to get the creative necessary to deliver a targeted message.”

Tell us about your role at VidMob and how you got here. What inspired you to launch a video technology platform?

I’m the founder and CEO of VidMob. My entire career has been spent as an entrepreneur, working at the intersection of technology and media. I have always been interested in video and found myself becoming increasingly convinced that the shift to video was going to be a very big deal. In my mind, this wasn’t just about people watching more YouTube videos, it was about all communications transitioning from static text and images to video, and more immersive formats after that. I knew firsthand just how difficult that increased creative burden was going to be for essentially every company in the world. So I started thinking about ways in which technology could be applied to help. When I realized that I fundamentally believed that human creativity would have to be at the root of any solution in order for it to deliver the emotionally resonant content that companies need, that’s when I became very excited and really started digging in. For me, the idea that if we could actually solve this problem and help businesses scale their video communications, the necessary output of that engine would be the creation of millions of quality jobs, that’s what pushed me over the edge to start building the business.

How could CMOs better leverage Video Marketing technologies within their stack?

There is so much opportunity for improvement in video marketing it’s almost staggering. The fact of the matter is that today’s content channels and the ad vehicles on them are incredibly powerful. For the first time in history, marketers really can aspire to have one-on-one conversations with individuals. But for it to work, the messages have to be delivered in the right format, at the right time and match the mindset of the consumer on the platform that they are on. At the same time, data comes back instantly, giving marketers all of the tools they need to positively evolve their ad media and dramatically increase its efficacy.

The key barrier that we hear about repeatedly, keeping marketers from taking full advantage of all of these exciting new possibilities is creative friction. It’s either too hard, too expensive or it takes too long to make the necessary video assets. Removing this creative friction is what VidMob does, and that changes the game.

How does VidMob distinguish itself from other tech companies? What data points do you work with to make VidMob more competitive for optimized results?

We like to think of ourselves as one of a new breed of companies that combine humanist belief systems with a technology underpinning. Ultimately, we succeed because our clients love the work that they receive on our platform. What they are connecting with is human creativity. So we live or die by the talent of the people on our platform. Our technology platform enables those people to create more quickly and more intelligently and to scale their production capabilities exponentially. As a result, we tend to focus a lot on data-points that are indicative of creative success – client happiness, turnaround time, ad performance, repeat usage, etc.

That said, those are internal data points. Externally, we are investing heavily in providing truly innovative data access back to our clients. Because we are integrated into every major social network, we can provide very useful insights to our clients about not just how their ads are working, but why their ads are working. To be honest, this is the most exciting work we’re doing right now, and we expect the resultant insights to be enormously valuable for both our clients and our platform partners.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? How do you build your customer segments?

We have seen a lot of success with midsize and large enterprise customers. But VidMob is used by companies of all sizes, from two-person bakeries and start-ups to the most well-respected ad agencies, to a growing number of the largest brands in the world. Creative friction impacts all businesses, so our potential client set is fairly wide. That said, our platform tends to add the most value to businesses who are really trying to scale their production capabilities, so that tends to be larger companies today.

What is the state of ‘’Audience Targeting’ technologies for videos in 2018? 

Audience targeting technologies are incredibly powerful. The problem hasn’t been the targeting technology, it has been the ability to get the creative necessary to deliver a targeted message. After all, it’s no use for me to deliver a highly targeted message to a specific demographic if I don’t have content that will speak directly and appropriately to that target audience.

To see the effects of targeting technologies, you need to look no farther than the rise of the targeted brands in recent years. Thousands of new brands have cropped up in just the last few years, hollowing out decades-old stalwarts by speaking directly to narrow customer segments with highly targeted and relevant content. If I’m a mountain climber and I see an ad for a detergent specifically designed for the types of basalt dust stains that plague me, what chance does Tide have going up against that messaging? And this is happening in nearly every product and market segment. Today, to win a customer, you need to speak in specifics with content that is directly relevant to each target in a format that matters.

What startups in the industry are you watching keenly right now?

We keep a loose eye on the industry, but to be totally honest, we’re pretty inwardly focused on building out our platform, and working with our partners to make it as valuable as possible for their own efforts. We feel like we have a pretty clear sense of where we need to take our technology platform, and that feels like the right place to be focusing our attention.

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you use?

We use Salesforce, MailChimp, Intercom, Zendesk and Asana (not really a sales automation tool, but we use it in this capacity). Slack is also a big part of pretty much everything in our company.

How are you preparing for the post-GDPR disruptions?

GDPR impacts us less than other companies in our industry because of where we fit into the advertising ecosystem. We help companies create content and advertisements. Then, they typically then use that media on major social networks or other platforms. Those distribution channels are impacted more by GDPR, and any resultant data that we would surface back to our clients through those relationships would have to first pass GDPR standards at the platform level.

Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign at VidMob? 

There are many to choose from, but I like the work that we did with Michael Kors. We were introduced to them right as Facebook as about to launch Instagram Stories in the UK. They wanted to be one of the first brands to try out this exciting new format, but they didn’t have appropriate ads. What they had was too long, too slow, and well, too horizontal. The other problem was that Stories was launching in 3 days. They worked on our platform to create an array of ads at varying lengths to run at the launch. The resultant work generated a 24-point lift in ad recall and a nearly 10-point lift in brand favorability. It also helped Michael Kors win an Instagram Innovation award, along with VidMob for the campaign.

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

I’m going to lump ML in here as well, as I tend to think that ML is probably more relevant for us in the near-term that AI. At the end of the day, we are a technology company and we think long and hard about all of the new possibilities coming down the pike that we can tap into to create additional value for our clients. The obvious near-term applications for us are in the data field – developing systems to capture both creative and performance data, and then cross those two distinct data sets in a way that unearths meaningful insights for our clients.

But more broadly, the rise of AI speaks to the original impetus for the founding of the company. It struck me that automation and AI were going to erode traditional employment centers, and this seemed like a fundamental challenge for society. Ultimately, I believe that ‘creative services’ is one of the sectors of the economy that is somewhat insulated from these pressures, and believe that the rise of video as a format could/should lead to a significant rise in the number of video editors employed around the world. So I would say that we prepare for an AI centric world by recognizing that it’s here to stay, and not burying our heads in the sand and ignoring it. At the same time, we need to do what we can to respect the unique characteristics of humans, rally around that fact, and use our technology platform to drive real job growth amidst a trend that’s otherwise heading in an opposite direction.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

People connect with stories and vision more than they do with features and technology. There is a great quote from an early memo that Stewart Butterfield wrote to his employees at Slack where he challenged them to reframe the way they thought about what they were doing with an anecdote about an imaginary company called the Acme Saddle Company. The company made saddles but they weren’t selling saddles. They were selling horseback riding.

VidMob’s challenge is similar. We’re not ultimately in the business of making ads, developing integrated workflow platforms or scaling production. We help companies tell their stories. Personally, directly, and in the moment. In the process of doing that, we hope to create a million jobs. Repositioned in this frame, everyone at VidMob is excited to work with technology to figure out how to make this become a reality.

One word that best describes how you work.

Openly

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

Slack, Waze, Hotel Tonight, MLB At Bat, Dropbox, Breaker Podcasts, Straava, and of course, VidMob.

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

I use alarms on my phone all day long. I’m very committed to being punctual, as I see it as a sign of respect for the people that I’m meeting with. Despite being very busy and often juggling many things at once, the pre-set alarms make sure I am where I need to be when I need to be there.

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

I read more than almost anyone I know. I have an iPad mini, with the Kindle App on it, and I take it pretty much everywhere I go. I try to explore a pretty wide mix of topics, as I personally value the diversity of experiences/knowledge over extreme specialization. In the last 6 months or so, I’ve read: Rainbow’s End, The Diamond Age, Time and Again, The Wind Up Bird Chronicles, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Strangeness in My Mind, Thinking Fast and Slow, Shogun, and The Idiot. Plus way more Twitter than I’d like to admit.

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

The journey is always better than the destination.

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

Ha. I’m not sure I’m successful enough to have secrets. That said, by nature, I am very empathetic and I try to nurture this as much as possible. This characteristic helps me put myself in other people’s shoes fairly easily, and this helps me many times a day.

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Aaron Levie

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

Alex Collmer is the founder and CEO of VidMob, the world’s largest video creation platform. Since founding the company in 2015, Collmer has raised more than $13M and counts the leading brands and agencies as clients.

An engineer by training, Collmer’s career has always been at the intersection of technology, design, and consumer entertainment as those sectors have evolved. Prior to founding VidMob, Collmer was the co-founder and CEO of Autumn Games, a premier publisher of video game franchises. Under his leadership, Autumn Games developed successful partnerships with such personalities as Jimmie Johnson, the 7-time NASCAR champion and companies like Def Jam, the leading urban culture brand, as well as the award-winning fighting game franchise, Skullgirls.

Previously, Collmer was a founder and board member of the New York Video School, an online film school focused on empowering people all over the world to become “video literate.”

Collmer received a B.S. from Cornell University’s School of Engineering and was a certified E.I.T. in the field of structural engineering in the state of New York. Collmer sits on the boards of several technology and media companies and has spoken at numerous universities and conferences on entrepreneurship and media. In his spare time, he coaches little league soccer and baseball.

VidMob Logo
VidMob is the world’s leading video creation platform with innovative technology solutions that enable a network of highly trained creators to develop marketing communications that are insight-driven, personalized, and scaleable. VidMob creators produce the full spectrum of video content across every social/digital channel, format, and language. VidMob is an Official Marketing Partner of Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and Twitter and the recipient of two top industry awards in 2017: Instagram’s Innovation Award and Twitter #Promote.

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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