Interview with David Simon, CMO, SteelHouse
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a bit about your role at SteelHouse and how you got here?
I’m the CMO at SteelHouse and oversee all communication, brand and product marketing for the company. Before joining the firm earlier this year, I ran marketing for SocialFlow out of New York and before that, for PointRoll, when it was a division of Gannett. I got my start with marketing guru, Seth Godin in the 90’s and went with him to Yahoo!, when our startup Yoyodyne was acquired.
MTS: How is traditional display advertising evolving and how quickly will video replace it?
Video is already killing off traditional display and for good reason. As consumer patterns and technology have become even more multi-screen, multi-platform and asynchronous, the drive to see video stories anywhere has increased. At the same time, the publishers and platforms have realized video ads work better and allow them to charge more for the same inventory. Add to this the fact that more programmatic systems can now manage more video than ever before and you have a recipe for rapid change.
MTS: How does SteelHouse help with the market shift towards video?
SteelHouse makes the creation of sophisticated, compelling, effective video ads easy through our Creative Suite. What makes this valuable is the fact that you don’t need high production quality video assets like TV commercials to tell a story with video. It used to be you had to be a big brand with a big budget to use video. We make it easy enough for any brand.
Our clients use social media video content, stock video content or still images incorporated into slideshows to tell their story and drive results. All the hassle of specs and sizes is handled automatically so anyone can create amazing short or long form video that can be served anywhere.
MTS: Did you say marketers can create ads without having to film?
Yes, they absolutely can. Any brand with a story to tell and product to sell can make video ads and they should not feel limited just because they don’t have a big broadcast budget or a creative department. At SteelHouse, we are encapsulating in the definition of “video,” ideas and techniques beyond what it’s traditionally meant. For example, the SteelHouse Creative Suite can take snippets of anything from slideshows to still imagery and have them play as video with moving elements. This is far more eye catching than static ads.
We give advertisers access to a video library or let them use existing assets if they have them. We also serve the video ads in whatever format the most effective inventory calls for – automatically. The goal is more interactive content that ultimately gets consumers to better engage with brands, but you don’t need a big budget to make it happen it anymore.
MTS: What are the technical challenges of integrating video?
Well, for one thing, video itself means so many different things to different people. Brands have needs for the three-second ad, the 10-second ad, the 30-second ad…it’s never just a single type of video ad. The challenge with this is that if you have a people-intensive process and you want to make a small change to an ad, it’s really difficult. As more video is running programmatically, brands may need to have different sizes, shapes, specs and even a different set of expectations for their video ad formats for other platforms.
Marketers should also be able to focus on what they do best: marketing. You don’t have to know how your iPhone works to use it, so why do marketers need to know all the formats and features that fill their day? They shouldn’t have to be technicians, needing to solve all tech specs associated with video ads. SteelHouse is part of that change. Some platforms require video ads in very specific file formats and our system takes care of all that.
Another challenge is that publishers need to maintain a great user experience for the end consumer. That’s why streaming video ads is so critical – you don’t want a large ad load and video ads offer a better consumer experience.
MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the multi screen evolution. Consumer expectations of a seamless, placeless, timeless experience continue to rise. Marketers will have to grow with them or be left behind. We’re feeling the growing pains now and the tech is getting in the way of good marketing. The opportunity lies in making the marketing technology as simple to use as that of the consumer. We’re still in a growth phase.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
AI is a very broad umbrella. In our space, it’s not so much about solving big cerebral problems, it’s more about machine learning and throwing giant amounts of data that can learn and make new decisions faster than a marketer can on their own. For example, machines are great at analyzing what a target consumer segment has purchased, then making thousands of minute changes to the marketing activity based on what it has learned works best. Marketers need to prepare to allow machines to do more of what they do best. That way marketers can reserve their energy for being creative and developing strategy, instead of the mind-numbing math of responsive budget allocation.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Collaborative. While it’s true that everyone has to earn their keep and deliver as an individual contributor, for me, it’s just as important to take advantage of the talented teams and resources at SteelHouse, so I can tap into the knowledge and expertise of our amazing team. In a creative discipline like marketing, there are parts in the creative process that are solitary and parts that are best served working collaboratively and being able to bounce ideas off of colleagues. I know I sometimes need the former, but I love the latter.
MTS: What apps/software/tools you love using for your daily life?
As a marketing team, we all use Trello. We’ve applied a more engineer-centric, agile project management structure. The app helps me loop team members into projects when I need them and helps everyone know who is working on what. Overall, it’s also helped me be even more efficient.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I truly think my greatest productivity hack might be that I subconsciously created a communication hierarchy with the people I work with. For example, I reserve texting as a top priority channel when I’m trying to get in touch with someone urgently. I use Slack for when I need a quick response and use email, of course, for general, less-time sensitive items. You need to be disciplined about which channel you use to reach people because it helps others understand the level of urgency intended in the message.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Beyond being collaborative, I think my background, starting as a salesperson, has helped me develop skills that enable me to really sell good ideas. I also have a thick-skin when it comes to rejection, too. That’s always important in business.
MTS: Thank you David! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
A creative entrepreneurial leader, sales-centric marketer and digital media expert with more than twenty years of broad expertise building and leading collaborative teams. Shapes brands and exceeds goals through invention, strategy, differentiation, marketing and sales of products and services for complex businesses in technology and advertising.
SteelHouse provides advertising software for direct marketers, agencies, and brands of all sizes. The SteelHouse Advertising Suite provides marketers with everything they need to launch retargeting and prospecting campaigns through display, mobile, and social. The SteelHouse Creative Suite lets anyone create beautiful ads using the content around them. Our solutions give advertisers total transparency and complete control over their campaigns – all with the fastest go-live in the industry.
SteelHouse Wins: built in Los Angeles Top 100 Digital Companies in LA, Hermes Creative Award Winner, Telly Award Bronze Award Winner, AVA Digital Award Platinum Winner, EMA Innovator Award Winner, LA Business Journal’s Top Places to Work in LA.
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.