WhoSay CEO: On Creating Better Mobile Ads

WhoSay created a social media platform for celebrities to control the conversation in social media. But the company has done more than that, WhoSay has leveraged the social side of its business to create ads that it claims are not only best in class, but “best ever” in mobile media.

WhoSay co-founder/CEO Steve Ellis discussed the evolution and effectiveness of the social mobile media company with Open Mobile Media’s Robert Gray…
 
OMM: What differentiates WhoSay from others trying to carve out a mobile and web content/ad model?
Ellis: We make better ads; and they work. We do it by leveraging all levels of influential talent, world class creative, and our own first party data to reach the right audience.
We are the only complete solution in the marketplace: creative, talent, and distribution across platforms. There are now a lot of copycats in the market but they don’t have the experience that we do with talent or access to first-party data, which is a key differentiator.
 
OMM: WhoSay has built a following for the social media content, does that make your campaigns feel more authentic? That seems to be such a buzzword with millennials in particular.
Ellis: Yes, everyone loves to talk about authenticity but it is really much simpler than that.  The smartphone is a very difficult place to advertise because it’s small and the user has many easy ways to skip or scroll away from everything on it. 
The ads on mobile devices are currently flat out awful - silly, tiny banners, horrible pop-ups - you don't have to be a millennial to know that.
So the bottom line is - you have to make a really good ad. 
Everything we do is focused on enhancing our ability to create better ads and deliver them with more efficiency to the exact audience our clients want to reach.
The creative and data drives all of our business development actions.
 
OMM: How is your creative process and shooting for ads different from traditional agencies and even other digital studios? 
Ellis: One word - velocity.
We have a very buttoned-up process that we have honed over years to be original, to engage talent, and to distribute everywhere. Our collective team is the inventors of it and now the experts at this.
We can, and regularly do, execute campaigns from start to finish within two to three weeks and in December alone we had 22 campaigns in production.
Brands need to be in conversation with their audiences all the time now and can’t afford to wait six months for one idea to come to fruition - and then find out it didn't work.
The mobile Internet demands much greater speed of engagement - and much less precious behavior. We are second to none at this.
 
OMM: How have you leveraged your relationship with celebrities to create campaigns with household brands and can you call out some of the results you’ve gotten for them?
Ellis: We are now going into our sixth year in this space. 
When I started the business in Hollywood there was no Instagram, no Snapchat, and Twitter didn't even host photos. In fact, most people were still using Blackberry phones.
We have successfully executed over 200 campaigns, so talent and their representatives know us to be a purveyor of high-quality, well-executed and professional campaigns. All of that helps build trust.
We also combine our real world experience with talent and leveraging our own data to make sure the fit between talent, brand and idea is optimal. The tool we use for this is the "WhoSay Match Report," which is based on our first-party data; not just another rented data source that everyone has access too.
There is a wide range of successful examples:
·      Derek Hough & Cigna
 
OMM: WhoSay is adding more video, how will the changes affect your site for users and for advertisers?
Ellis: We are investing heavily in "The Power of Influence" concept and series.
For us, the site acts as the beginning of our investment in high-end video programming that is driven by influence. There is more than enough fake news, low-end viral video content and silly clickbait, all designed to generate high view volume so media companies can act like they have an audience.
We believe there is now a need for smartly created conversations with influential people, which go deeper - the opposite of clickbait. Our brand clients have told us the same. It's simply not effective brand advertising to be part of low-end content feeds.
 
OMM: Where are most of your users accessing WhoSay from? Mobile or desktop?
Ellis: Mobile, mobile, mobile - nothing else matters - apart from TV, of course.
 
OMM: Are you using any specific mobile tools to serve up different ads for different users?
Ellis: We don't discuss all the specifics of how we optimize our campaigns, but I will tell you that we have remarkable people in our media team and very useful data for targeting. You need both to be successful.
 
OMM: WhoSay has the ability to turn up the dial, so to speak, on different ads and across different channels. How does that work? 
Ellis: We don't publicly reveal all our secret sauce, but the key thing to remember is that content can be treated like media today. There is unlimited scale in distribution available to everyone, once you've created a good ad.
Efficiency, however, comes from the combination of a better ad, great talent, better data, and better targeting. You need all these aspects to create ads that perform better across all screens.
 
OMM: What’s your click-through rate vs. the industry these days? And why are WhoSay’s numbers higher?
Ellis: On over 200 campaigns across every known vertical, we have delivered engagement rates of 15 percent or more.  Any way you want to measure engagement - video views, click-throughs, comments, likes, shares, etc.
Banner ads basically don't get clicked on at all, and even social ads barely break 1 percent to 2 percent on a good day. I am proud to say that mathematically alone, ours are the most successful ads ever run in digital.
The philosophy is simple - make a better ad and serve it to the right people, and you will get way better results.