5 Questions for: Josh Warner

President and Founder, Feed Company

We all know the holy grail of any online campaign: going viral. That rare moment when your modest clip debuts at the right time and right place and then, seemingly overnight, the entirety of Facebook is posting the link as a status message. 

But who needs viral when you can seed a video instead? Josh Warner, former vice president of marketing at Nine Systems, founded Los Angeles–based Feed Company last year with such a goal in mind. Feed gets videos in front of users on the likes of social networks, blogs, video sites and forums, and then tracks the results (views, discussion, etc.) for clients.

Warner urges its clients — including Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Interpublic’s Deutsch Los Angeles — to think like entertainment companies, not advertisers. “Social networks like YouTube, Facebook and MySpace are, in essence, permission-based,” Warner says. “We can’t force anyone to watch our video in these environments, but we can ask them. So we remind our clients to think like entertainment companies, because with that mindset they’ll create content that’s actually worth watching.” The more reasons Warner can give consumers to watch, the better — even if it means not thinking like an advertiser.

How has Feed Company staked out its territory?

When we started last year, we were the only company in the U.S. focused on seeding and getting views and discussion against branded videos. So in the beginning, there was some convincing to do but we were fortunate because we had our first big hit three months after starting Feed. We seeded a series of very creative brand videos from Ray-Ban and their agency, including “Catch,” which went on to get 13 million views. It was a great proof-of-concept that allowed us to go out and secure more business.

Anyone can post a video to a video site, but there’s an incredible amount of work, complexity and orchestration involved to be able to guarantee 250,000 or 1 million views or more. We reach out to hundreds of blogs and hundreds of thousands of users in social environments that are always evolving. We also have relationships with top-tier media outlets like MSNBC, CBS, CNN and online outlets like Yahoo and AOL that we leverage.

Was the guy in Ray-Ban’s “Guy Catches Glasses With Face” video born with such a talent or did he earn it through hard work?

I know the two guys in the video, Benzo and Steve. They shot the video in one day, which is really impressive. It helped that they both knew how to skateboard, but they also understand what people want to watch.

Where are the key places to plant videos?

We do a lot of audience mapping in the initial planning stages: Who will this video appeal to and why? Where is that user online? Then, based on that analysis, we’ll target the outlets that will create the most discussion and interest in the video. We’ve done this enough to know what sites and users are going to respond to a particular type of video. We find the passionate audience — the folks who are going to take the extra step to share and talk about the video and even make a positive connection with the brand that’s involved.

Have you ever engaged in an anonymous flaming war with YouTube users?

We track comments because we always want to learn from what people are saying about the video. If they want to know more about the video, [such as] who is in it or where the music comes from, we’ll tell them. But otherwise we’ll stay out of the conversation unless asked to be a part of it. Anything that’s more aggressive is steering the conversation, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

What’s the next big trend in digital media?

A lot of minitrends in shorter periods of time. There will be more social networks and communal technologies like Twitter sprouting up, and each will demand attention before the next big thing comes along. The process will be more compacted from one trend to another and demand more from marketers. 

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