FEM's An Upstart That Thinks Deeper About Online Viewers

Despite good marketing intentions, firms that try to match online advertisers to online users often fail. Algorithms go only so far.

That’s one of the operating beliefs behind FEM Inc., a “video discovery” platform that helps client sites tap into the deeper whys and wherefores of users, particularly female ones.  As its name says, in capital letters no less, women are the principal target. Its advisors include some of cable’s female pioneers, including Geraldine Laybourne, Pat Mitchell and Loreen Arbus.

Watch that target word, however.

“Targeting, targeting, targeting,” exclaims Rachel Payne, a Google veteran and CEO of the 7-month-old FEM. “You hear it all the time. While targeting is important, if you base all your logic on targeting you get to a narrowing of recommendations. It’s precision targeting to the point of having no breadth. We believe in breadth, in exploring adjacent categories that may be relevant and exposing people to that because it has a growth mindset.”

On sites where it’s used, like Inc.com, FEM recommends videos to users thereby extending the time of the visit to the site and creating content that works for advertisers. FEM’s Payne likes to think her firm does it better. 

Her female co-founders are Dr. Meghana Bhatt, who has done pioneering work in neuroscience as it relates to human decision-making, and Natasha Mohanty,  vice president of technology, also a former Google exec who worked on content recommendations and personalization.

People viewing videos or visiting sites may have agendas no marketer could deduce from studying demographics or habits. For example, Payne says, a woman watching a video about makeup seems to have a pretty simple thing in mind.

“On the surface of it, you think oh, makeup. Mascara. You want to buy, buy, buy,” says Payne. “And while there is really a commerce opportunity,  the more fundamental reason makeup is such an impressive category is that it’s a way, especially for young women to express themselves. It’s about creativity, their identity. They can transform themselves. The fact they can own it, they can control it--there’s something very empowering about that. We tap into those more fundamental drivers. What is the next level? What is beyond that?”

FEM’s video mix plays to that broader group. In its developing phase, it wants to add those carefully culled videos with native advertising, which Payne thinks, is suffering from a lack of good places to do its business. In the FEM model, a user would see a video that relates to them, and possibly somewhere in the mix, “contextually-placed branded content.”

Payne says: “Unfortunately, that video content doesn’t have a home. There really isn’t an infrastructure distributing branded content today. So we pair the contextually relevant video recommendations with relevant branded-content.”

FEM culls its videos from sources all over ,including YouTube and the videos that may already be part of a client’s library. The secret sauce is the videos they choose, and Payne thinks, FEM fills a fundamental gap--getting relevant videos to the end user.

“Discovery is one of the major problems with online video,” she says.  “As the volume increases, your ability to find quality video gets harder, and not just when you know what you’re looking for but when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for it, it’s almost impossible to browse effectively.Getting found is the problem. I think there is too much work involved for the user in trying to sift through and find the right video content. We’ve got to take the friction out of it.”

FEM, she thinks, helps do that for female viewers, and it’s got the neuroscience credentials to make it seem like more than just a lot of talk.

pj@mediapost.com

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