Stephen, kindly brief us about yourself and your journey as the CEO of Mirriad.
1. I’m the CEO at Mirriad, joining in 2018, and have been with the company through the pandemic, which brought with it a major shift to streaming media and video. While turbulent, the shift is extremely promising for Mirriad. Mirriad creates and delivers virtual product placement and in-content advertising campaigns at scale. Our game-changing platform digitally places brands into the content the world watches every day, all after production, enabling brands like Lexus, Amazon, and Swarovski, just to name a few, to run highly big impactful campaigns with our new ad format.
2. I’ve seen a tremendous increase in brand interest in unique advertising opportunities, particularly ones that create positive connections with audiences in a contextual way. It’s my role to educate and evangelize the promise of Mirriad’s solution, to connect brands and media companies and create more opportunities to deliver in-content campaigns and to develop our platform further so we can provide a seamless and integrated experience to buyers and sellers.
3. My role is informed by my experience. In the past, I’ve worked through many dramatic periods of change and innovation, which always required me to be adaptable and to anticipate change. Before Mirriad, I was CEO of Vivaki and President at Publicis Media in charge of data, technology, and innovation. I spearheaded the development of the company’s global data platform, and I drove the transformation of Publicis’ programmatic media buying and servicing model.
4. Earlier in my tenure at Publicis, I was the international CEO for Digitas and Razorfish. Before joining Publicis Groupe, I was the Global Chief Strategic officer of Tribal DDB and its President in EMEA.
5. I have been drawn to this industry from the beginning, and it took me away from a different professional ambition. My career in media and advertising already started when I was in Law School, I earned money on the side to pay for my apartment, my books, etc. by doing different jobs in the film and television industry. At some point, I got involved in the production of TVCs, which really fascinated me in terms of the strategic and creative “art” involved in marketing and advertising.
I was so intrigued and excited by that, that after receiving my master’s degree in law, I decided to go into advertising as a creative producer for a very renowned ad agency. In the ’90s I saw the rise of the Internet and the impact it would have on literally everything including marketing. So, I started building the digital arm within our agency, by doing interactive CD ROMs and first banner ads in 1994/95, websites, and so on. From that point on I’ve tried to always stay ahead of what is coming.
Can you share with us your source of inspiration for venturing into the field of digital media and advertisement?
I’m a notoriously curious person, and when I see the possibility to transform something and to take it to a new level, I’m in. Everything can be an inspiration, and the transformation can have many faces, such as speed, or convenience, it can be of experiential and sensory nature, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it makes something better overall.
Take the iPod. Did it provide a better sound quality than what we had with MiniDisk, DAT, the CD, or Vinyl? No. Was it more convenient than the other formats and devices? 100% Yes. So, whether it was the first days of the Internet, the first tests of VOD in the early nineties, first interactive brand experiences online, I always had this same sense of Wow, this is a new universe opening up, that holds infinite new opportunities to create something meaningful and to transform the current.
I’ve never given up on analog and linear, because it has massive merits, but the early 90s got me into digital technologies, media, and of course advertising. This curiosity and excitement strongly fuel my commitment to Mirriad.
Please give us a brief description of Mirriad.
The leader in virtual product placement and in-content advertising, Mirriad’s patented and Academy Award-winning platform inserts products, signage, and video into Television, SVOD/AVOD, Music, and Influencer content. Mirriad’s market-first solution, which doesn’t interrupt a viewer’s content experience, creates new advertising inventory for brands and unlocks new revenue models for content owners. Because of the contextual relevance of the insertions, the in-content ads drive exceptional performance for brands and dramatically improve the viewing experience.
What are the core values on which the organization is built, and what is the mission of the organization?
The three-digit billion-dollar advertising marketing is ready for a fundamentally new approach. People are annoyed by ads, they skip them, block them, or avoid them altogether by going ad-free in streaming services. This repetitive model leads to viewer apathy and saturation. Something new needs to happen, so that advertisers can reach people and engage with them again in a powerful new way. That’s where we come in–we are bringing a true paradigm shift to the world of media and advertising with an AI-powered technology that is so fascinating, that one is tempted to think that adoption will come overnight. The truth is it doesn’t. It takes patience and persistence and a lot of energy in a great team. We have something very special, and the mission is to make the world embrace it and adopt it. As an organization, we believe that we’re doing something, that really has never been done before.
Our spirit and motto is: great people achieve great things. Our team is very diverse, and we live in a culture of openness, fairness, respect, and curiosity. Ideas must come from anywhere, and when you try something new, you will inevitably fail. I make sure failure is something nobody is afraid of in our company. We promote experimentation, think outside of the box, and look for novel ways of working.
Under your thought leadership, how do you strategize to further Mirriad’s mission and vision?
Strategies are only as good as one can execute against them, so having clear plans and milestones, tracking and reviewing progress together with internal and external stakeholders at all times, and trimming the course while we advance, are all critical factors. Time as a dimension as well as the logic of cause and effect play a critical role in our business because we know that the adoption of our new ad format doesn’t happen overnight and because there are “domino pieces” that need to fall in order to affect the next ones. It’s within these two areas that we’re most active in terms of adjustments and new ideas. We meet every week with a wider leadership team, to discuss ETA’s across many timelines and to align on mitigations, accelerators, and potential alternative paths. I would say that this practice has become the key steer in terms of furthering our mission and vision, as it also ensures that we’re all aligned and bought in.
Mirriad being an in-content advertising platform powered by AI, how does this product stand out from other players in the competition?
1. Mirriad provides a new opportunity for brands to virtually place products and messaging in premium content, dynamically and at scale. We see ourselves as the pinnacle of all contextual advertising solutions because we put brands and products in the position to directly pull from the power of the content. We’ve run hundreds of campaigns with thousands of integrations for leading advertisers in the world.
2. With Mirriad, brands can specify target audiences, and even use programmatic media buying, giving in-content advertising massive scale and the potential to become a major media channel. Mirriad does this with a patented, AI and computer vision-powered platform that dynamically inserts products and innovative signage formats after content is produced.
3. Today, brands struggle with a saturated media landscape and consumers who have literally seen it all. Mirriad’s in-content advertising provides a unique and positive viewing experience that also lifts the performance of traditional advertising.
4. With our technology, we can weave brands into films, television shows, music videos, and even influencer content after production in a way that actually augments the drama, storytelling, and viewing experience rather than disrupting it. This is the exact opposite of what advertising in its current form does, which is all about grabbing your attention by interrupting you when you’re passionately watching something or about to start viewing a piece of content. At Mirriad, our algorithms work to create a perfect symbiosis between the storytelling, the scenery, the emotions, and the brands we insert. Because of this, there’s a guarantee that the experience will be pleasant and bring an impact. It will help everyone involved (advertisers, content partners, and viewers) as advertising transitions from current practices to what we offer.
In a digitally-led community, how does the unique intersection of technology and content help in enhancing the growth curve?
1. Our solution creates a more authentic and relevant content experience. The cost of traditional product placement and signage, along with the extensive timelines make it impossible to create different experiences for different audiences, for example. Our technology can insert Spanish language signage for one audience, and English signage for another, providing better viewing experiences for everyone, and we can do it more efficiently.
2. As more media companies and brands discover the power of AI-driven technology, there will certainly be more innovation in this realm. We’re only at the very beginning, and it’s likely that we’ll be seeing a few areas of development from where we are today: First, personalization in the sense of delivering the product or message that is integrated into content, to the right person or group watching it, the device it’s being watched on, the location, etc. Secondly, the adaptation of the creative narrative to the narrative in the content. Technology will play a key role here, in terms of contextual matching and the creative messaging and execution as such. Lastly, formats that are translatable, and that pull through to social media will soon become the new norm. I think that when it comes to content, context, brands, and commerce, we’re barely scratching the surface.
Kindly elaborate on the emerging trends of the new generation, and how you plan to fulfill the ever-evolving needs of the digital age.
The oldest GenZ consumers are in their mid-twenties, right when people start to make major life decisions and purchases. They are choosing careers, buying cars, and deciding where to live. More than any other generation, they use digital media to help them make those decisions, but they have a new approach. They look to video search and social platforms, rather than traditional search and websites. They are a truly native mobile and social generation, with much greater control over their environment that behavior carries over to their media habits. They are less likely to watch linear TV with interruptive advertising and more likely to care about VOD binging, influencers, and music.
However, this generation is also deeply committed to things they care about and to have great experiences. For example, they are embracing DE&I and want to see a more inclusive world when they consume media.
All of these trends point to the intersection of data, technology, and media. The more we understand what younger generations care about and what they are watching, the more we can create relevant experiences for them.
With responsibilities come challenges, so can we tell us a few challenges and the most important lessons you drew from them?
There are three ways to look at challenges: Things you directly control, things you can influence, and things that are outside of your control. Once you look at your world this way, you control almost everything including your own and others’ expectations. I find this understanding very helpful whenever I strategize and plan a year, a project, or a business. It is helpful when you’re on a roll and when you need to ask yourself some anti-complacency questions, and of course when times are tough, and you must get yourself out of the corner you’re in.
Being an established leader, what would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs and leaders aspiring to venture into the digital marketing niche?
Don’t let anyone stop you from following your convictions, visions, and beliefs as you build a business and your career. Successful products, services, and companies are always created by those who see an opportunity to do something that is new, different, and better, and who are prepared to go through tough times to achieve what they’ve set out to do.
Beware: many people will say it’s not going to work or that it will be too difficult to pull off, others won’t even understand the idea, ambition, and rationale behind it. This is where resilience, persistence, and grit make the difference between achievement and non-achievement. This is exactly what I went through when embarking on our digital journey and building a new agency business.
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