Martech Interview with Will Hanschell CEO & Co-Founder Pencil

Will Hanschell underlines the importance of Video Ads focusing on their performance. He emphasizes the need for optimization considering algorithms in ads.

AI will eventually be as fundamental to creativity in the future as the pencil was in the past. Our goal is to bring the scale and speed of automation to creativity, without ‘killing’ it.

1. Tell us a little bit about your role at Pencil?

I am the co-founder and CEO of Pencil. Right now, I’m mainly focused on understanding what our customers need to hit their ROAS performance targets, and making sure we’re executing on the right product roadmap, and hiring the very best talent in the world. I love my job, because I love finding and working with people who are smarter than me!

2. Tell us about your journey in the marketing arena?

I am a Systems Engineer with 8 years in creative services, most recently as Asia Head of Consulting at Iris, one of the world’s most creative agencies. Early on in my career, I decided that I wanted to leverage the efficiencies that technology can bring to the marketing and ad agency world. After many years seeing the problems faced by agencies and their clients, I strongly felt that AI could solve many of the bottlenecks, and I decided to team up with Sumukh and James to build the world’s most advanced Creative AI platform.

3. What effect do AI & ML have on the Martech arena?

Pencil was founded to address the fundamental problem with advertising today: Many creative teams, overwhelmed by the volume of content that modern digital advertising requires, are unable to focus on ideas which reach consumers creatively and meaningfully. Consumers then experience increasingly targeted advertising, yet ineffectual creative, which fails to resonate, leading to a vicious cycle of even more invasive targeting. AI helps break this cycle by enabling creative teams to deliver quantity without sacrificing quality.

4. How AI & ML is enhancing the advertiser’s creativity?

AI will eventually be as fundamental to creativity in the future as the pencil was in the past. Our goal is to bring the scale and speed of automation to creativity, without ‘killing’ it.

We’re working towards a world where humans and machines collaborate on ideas of all kinds, together pushing the boundaries of what constitutes creativity all together. For instance, AI learns from historic ad performance to generate new video ads that help brands systematically improve Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS).

5. How does Pencil aim to automate the secret sauce of advertising?

Pencil is helping brands by using technology to generate new video ads, and even write new copy, as well as produce ads that perform on average 2x better than human-made ad campaigns. They are also quicker and cheaper to produce. So much of a creative’s work revolves around grinding out new assets, so if we can free up people’s time with a more automated solution, they can get back to being more creative.

Pencil is a provider of technology that simply helps agencies and individual advertisers to crank out ads, hopefully freeing up these creative folks to work on the big picture and new strategic directions while A.I. takes care of the rest, often time consuming and tedious tasks.

Pencil cuts videos into scenes, applies animations, and then uses a predictive system that looks at a variety of signals and tries to determine what feels most on-brand and looks similar to things that have worked in the past for the brand.

6. How are AI based Content Marketing Platforms enhancing a company’s sales?

I can demonstrate better with an example: Pencil, our creative AI platform, is used by fast-growing DTCs, brands and performance agencies. Pencil ads outperform existing creative, consistently delivering 2x stronger results for leading consumer brands like Sephora, L’Oréal and Unilever. In Q1, Pencil analyzed more than 100 campaigns that used Machine Generated Creative (MGC) video ads and found that the best MGC ads delivered an average ROAS of 2x when compared to other ads that the brands were running. In fact, one brand’s MGC campaign delivered 7x higher ROAS. Pencil users have already generated over 15 million ads and on average Pencil ads perform 17 percent better than non-Pencil ads.

7. What is Machine Generated Content & what is the best way to try it?

Pencil invented Machine Generated Creative (MGC), a new way of making ads that algorithmically optimizes for creative novelty, brand relevance and return on advertising spend. It always starts from a human brief, and it always involves total human editorial control. Pencil’s MGC platform generates ads in minutes and has been shown to generate ads that double returns for brands.

For anyone who wants to try it, please check out our website at to learn more and reach out there if you want to get  in touch. We think the results will speak for themselves! We recently announced the availability of a new service which provides small businesses and start-ups with access to the same MGC platform as larger brands, that for the first time helps level the playing field. Our new Generate service for eCommerce start-ups, small online retailers and direct-to-consumer brands (DTC) is designed to help small businesses struggling to compete in an increasingly online world dominated by larger brands’ slick video ads and optimized ad spend – and comes with a free 7-day trial.

8. What advice would you like to give to the upcoming start-ups?

Find a big problem that a lot of companies are REALLY struggling with, and use advanced technology to solve it in a very automated way.

9. How is AI the future of creativity and advertisements?

Creative design and advertising optimization have never been more important. Facebook has more than 10 million advertisers, most of which are small businesses; in April it announced an astounding 46 percent increase in revenue versus a year ago, attributed to a 30 percent increase in the average price per ad, and a 12 percent increase in the number of ads displayed. This means that brands have to work harder, and pay more, to get great results from their ads.

Especially cash-strapped businesses with limited creative resources and ad budgets face long odds competing for consumer mindshare against larger, more established brands – while larger brands will continue to be under pressure to maintain their consumers’ attention, engagement and loyalty.

I truly believe AI will be as important for creativity in the future, as the pencil was in the past. Not only can it help us learn from historic data, but also ‘predict’ which campaigns will perform better, and generate creative narratives. Pencil is one of the first companies to launch a commercial tool using OpenAI’s GPT-3 to generate playful, effective ad copy that, combined with Pencil’s proprietary language model, enables MGC to generate entirely new narratives around a brand or product. This means more rapid and effective ads that drive performance and ultimately, sales.

10. Which quote inspires you the most & what activity gives a boost to your creativity?

‘Made by machines, loved by humans’ – this is one of our taglines, but we have chosen it exactly because it rings true to us. We created Pencil to ultimately enhance human capabilities and help produce better ads for agencies and consumers alike.

Will Hanschell is the co-founder and CEO of Pencil. He was a Systems Engineer with 8 years in creative services, most recently as Asia Head of Consulting at Iris, one of the world’s most creative agencies. He holds a Master’s in Engineering (Information & Systems) from the University of Cambridge.

Pencil is simple software backed by both algorithms and expert humans. You have instant access to results, insights, creative and support at all times.

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