MATT SEILER: I was dying to get on the content side. I had been the agency guy at every angle. I was really missing the story part of things. If I wasn’t going to run a holding company, which it became clear to me that I wasn’t, then there really wasn’t a point in me being there anymore.
I thought I’d go to a traditional media company and help them fix their problems because I like fixing problems. (Interpublic Chairman) Michael Roth and I had been saying for a long time that there’s so much opportunity to affect change, but what’s the right entry point?
I got a call from an MCN with ProSieben behind them and it felt like a media company that was a creator first, which was a really cool thing.
What’s your main responsibility at Studio71?
We’re in the business of discovering creators with the greatest potential and helping them exceed that potential. My role is ensuring that when we do client engagements [with brands], that anything we’re doing to help fund the creators is done in a way that’s working effectively for the creator and the brand.
A lot of what happens in this space is that brands want to attach themselves to creators or influencers who won’t really benefit from the brand’s participation, and bad things happen that way. We are very selective in who we work with, our contracts are exclusive and people stay with us. We’ve found our channels deliver about 4.3 times the standard [rate of engagement on a channel] on [platforms like] YouTube. For 1,200 channels, we have just about 20% of all Google Preferred [channel inventory].
Is Studio71 a new form of agency?
It’s funny – I was in a client meeting last week and they were describing how they think about us. They said, “You’re kind of like a CAA [Creative Artists Agency] or WME [talent agency William Morris Endeavor] with distribution,” and that was incredibly appealing to me. This is a bona fide media company that has the creators, content, the production and the distribution. But it’s not just digital creators launching careers through us. We have really established stars like The Rock working with us, whose channel is our fastest growing in history.
How do you compete with influencer marketing agencies or a publisher’s own branded content studio?
I love competition because it makes you better. If we were the only ones doing this, then we wouldn’t have to be the best at it. What we do as agencies – and this is why I was really happy to come over to the other side – is claim we can do everything and afterward we try to figure out how to actually do that thing we said we could do. You have influencer marketing agencies and other MCNs … overpromising and underdelivering.
And then you have a lot of the big media companies reduce inventory in order to be able to jack up prices in the upfront. People do not watch advertising on television anywhere near where they used to, and it’s all being propped up because the ecosystem demands it. There are lots of people competing for the right purpose, which is to associate brands with the stories people find of greatest value. I’m very bullish on our being the ones to do it.
Everyone is eyeing video content, be it the networks themselves or Facebook and Twitter paying creators on a rev-share.
A lot of the TV companies are trying to figure out how the heck to make their product more relevant, and the quality of programming on television is excellent right now. The reason TV [content] got so much better is because OTT is delivering a really valuable experience and there’s a high investment level in Netflix and Amazon Prime, so terrestrial TV has to be better. And once it’s better, it needs to be distributed in places where people will enjoy the experience of it, not just the content itself.
You’re well known for spearheading your former employer’s drive for more automation in the media-planning process. Any reflections?
What I would say to anybody listening is, automation is not interesting for automation’s sake. Automation is interesting because it allows you to focus on the content and that’s what really matters. You want to take people who are in shitty jobs doing really menial things and automate that so they can do much more interesting things. I think the way the advertising business has been working is not so great, and you want to get involved in stories that people are interested in and where your participation is additive rather than depletive. Advertisers showing up loudly where they weren’t invited and talking loudly is just obnoxious.
Interview edited for clarity and length.