In 1988, my tiny agency got it’s first Macintosh computer. Computers weren’t new. In fact, they existed in every department of the agency with the very exception of the creative
The creative tools had been typewriters, pens, markers, paper and X-Acto knives. Computers were for crunching numbers, not art. That first Mac was pretty limited, but within a
few years, Macs had made their way onto every desk of every writer and art director in the agency. Photoshop and Illustrator were giving glimpses of what was coming.
Creatives began to realize
they didn’t need to know DOS to use the computer. A new term explained this new expectation of the computer: WYSIWYG. What You See Is What You Get. Ha. Imagine that.
None of it was new. Except the interface. It was more human. More natural. The Apple operating system suddenly made all that processing power accessible and previously exclusive
tools were democratized one after another: typography, layout, retouching, editing, motion graphics.
A new generation of creatives grabbed the opportunity to join a
revolution that completely leveled the playing field. Suddenly, if you had the talent, you no longer needed a big production budget to create big ideas.
agency had big ideas, first in print and later with TV. Powered by accessible technology, we attracted bigger clients and we quickly grew from 16 people to over 1,000 people with offices all over the
We weren't the only ones, as the industry underwent a massive shakeup. Desktop publishing had democratized what had previously been exotic tools available only at the highest level and
pushed them into the hands of anybody and everybody.
Today, anybody with a Mac and an iPhone has the tools to make a commercial or even a movie suitable for
theatrical release. Just add talent.
My experience with technology and its potential to empower the underdog has left me anxious to see those same changes in every nook
and cranny of business life.
We’re seeing it in finance as fintech. New rules around crowdfunding are bringing investment opportunities that were once limited to
accredited investors to everybody. We’re seeing it in transportation and real estate and more, but in marketing, the democratization has stalled with Adtech.
selling my ad agency, the first investment I just happened to make was in a company called SpotX. SpotX was created in the early days of Adtech. The company has grown to be a major ad network and
programmatic exchange. Sort of a stock market for publishers and advertisers to put a value on consumer eyeballs in real time.
That’s oversimplified, but SpotX has been a real success story
and recently sold for over $200,000,000. To thrive in this early Adtech environment, companies like SpotX have catered to huge advertisers and huge budgets. Becoming increasingly complex, inaccessible
Adtech is IBM in 1984. Brandtech is Apple.
The good news is that these huge advertisers and huge budgets have funded the
creation of an incredible system that will totally and finally democratize paid media.
It’s like they built the New York subway system, but there are only a few rich dudes riding around on
it because they haven’t built any stations, tickets or turnstiles for the rest of us to get on. The good news is the access is coming, and it’s going to mean small advertisers will get
tools on par with and in some ways maybe better than those used by massive advertisers.
Recently, we’ve begun to focus investment this nascent space we call
Brandtech. These companies aren’t the pipes that serve, target, optimize, bid, aggregate, etc. These companies are the simple, powerful, accessible interfaces to that amazing Adtech
Shoelace, for example, is a wonderful company out of Canada that automates retargeting campaigns for owners of Shopify stores, creating the creative ad units
and the media buy. No jargon. No completed set up or dashboards. The whole experience is delivered over text in natural language to the small biz owner and it works. The average ROI is an eye popping
My most intimate involvement in Brandtech has been with Brandzooka as part of the founding team and its executive chairman. The team has created the absolute
simplest way for anybody with any budget to buy hyper-targeted programmatic video ads across all the major publishers.
We just launched a product we call The Ripper. The Ripper is a frictionless
way for brands to activate all those hours of great yet neglected and unseen brand content loaded to YouTube and Vimeo — without any editing. Now SMBs and small agencies just copy and paste a
link and boom, instant IAB compliant ad format ready to get some programmatic eyeballs.
Will Brandtech startups soon have everybody plugging into the Adtech stack?
Who knows. But I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself texting my AI marketing assistant from my driverless car. Giving my virtual Don Draper the "all go” to launch a hyper-targeted
programmatic video spot on the 2018 Super Bowl for my son’s lawn-mowing business.