We spoke with David Segura, founder and CEO of Giant Media, about distributing viral online video, working with brands, and the entrepreneurial lessons learned in building the company.
David Segura is the founder and CEO of Venice-based Giant Media. The company, founded in late 2009, is responsible for some of the internet’s most viral branded video content, including for Honda (Matthew’s Day Off – Ferris Bueller Super Bowl commercial), Dollar Shave Club (Our Blades are F*cking Great), and Air New Zealand (The Hobbit – An Unexpected Briefing). Giant Media has seen explosive growth since it’s inception: revenues in 2013 are set to triple last year’s already impressive $8 million haul. Previously, David served as the Director of Business Development at Comedy.com, an online publisher where he managed business development, partnerships, and traffic acquisition strategies.
Tell us how you started Giant Media.
By the time I left Comedy.com I had spent a lot of time studying the content marketing space. This was not about how to create great content, but how to market long form or non-traditional video, ie, content that at least 30 seconds or longer. So that is the type of content that we’re really focusing on. It sounds funny, but most forms of online video spends are focused around pre-roll, which are snippets or commercials that run before the content you actually want to see. The most practical example is when you want to watch the NFL Super Bowl highlights and instead you have to endure an ad from some brand that you don’t really have the affinity for. I believe it has its place in the market, but it’s really outdated and is just a relic of the past.
So the way we’ve designed our product is that the video runs as a standalone placement that’s entirely user initiated and is very much choice based. So the whole concept is that you’d watch and consume an ad because you actually like the brand or you find the content to be favorable. That in turn requires the advertiser to create something that is actually entertaining, meaning that it is typically going to be longer than a 10 or 15 second spot that they’re forced to run against pre-roll.
Does it look like a traditional ad?
It looks more like content because there is no other form of monetization other than the ad itself. The business model on our side is cost per view (CPV), as opposed to cost per impressions. We’re trying to tie the billing back to engagement, which we think is more of a representation of what’s actually going on.
So do you track engagement by the length of time the user watches the video?
Yes, exactly. So what we do is we fire off a pixel when you click play, then we fire off another pixel at the 20 second marker. Only if you actually watch the content for at least 20 seconds does it become billable to the advertiser. We think that’s fair given that they’re trying to guesstimate not only whether this is something that people will watch, but also whether they’ll share it. Hence why billing should really be tied to those things.
What has the response been from the users?
It’s been great, mainly because its not being forced upon the user. The reality is we’ve been able to get quite a bit of scale and get video out there. It’s been a pretty instrumental part of many advertisers’ tool kits now.
Where do you distribute the video?
Across both mobile and desktop/internet. The way to think about it is that a YouTube embed may be wrapped around our technology and distributed and consumed across various websites.
How did you get the agencies interested in this?
What’s unique about Giant Media is that unlike some competitors in this space we actually have two forms of revenue. One is pretty straight forward, working with agencies and brands. Meaning that most of the big brands in the world, especially the Fortune 1000 that are our bedrock, want to work with an agency on record that handles all their media spending. The same thing applies to their creative concepts, such as commercials. So we obviously work with them. On the flip side, we’ve also built an API so that a media company could go to their clients and say that they have a social video product that is selling on CPV. Given where the market is and that people are obviously interested in social video and native advertising, it pretty much sells itself. What’s actually happening behind the scenes is that we’re fulfilling those orders for them unbeknownst to their clients. So the former is a direct sales channel, whereas the latter is white labeled. We support both.
Where are most of your clients based?
They’re global. For example, we work with Air New Zealand and we’ve done work in the UK too. Domestically there is a heavy LA concentration because our headquarters are here in Venice, but we work with a lot of folks in different markets too, such as New York and Detroit.
What did you do for Air New Zealand?
We do a lot of work for Air New Zealand and they spend quite a lot on social video. They like off the wall concepts, in other words, they do a lot of work with David Hasselhoff, Lindsey Lohan, Richard Simmons and just recently we did a campaign for one of their safety videos starring Peter Jackson and the Hobbit franchise. So that was pretty cool. Sometimes it’s not even a safety video that they do, such as their recent video introducing the Skycouch to people. Our responsibility is to make sure that they get out of the gates strong and that they have enough momentum to sustain what they want to do. What Air New Zealand brings to the table is their own culturally zany perspective on things and obviously great content. They’re always trying to bring something new to the table, and that’s true for a lot of our clients.
Often, it’s not always celebrity integrations or comedy-based sketches. We’ve also done some dramatic and formulaic advertising that is more about the product. It really depends on the situation. We really see this as a broader market, rather than a niche where the brand is looking to get a celebrity involved or that is inherently funny.
How do you get people to watch the video?
We just make sure that the video is available. We use native placements on the mobile and desktop environments so that it is pretty hard to ignore. But we keep it choice based, meaning that we put it in front of as many people as we have to and get the click-to-plays to generate the minimum guarantee. If people like it enough, they will naturally share the video.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
One of the things I’ve had to just get personally stronger in is that, although the fun side for me is sales, meeting clients, being in the road etc., the harder part has been managing folks. The most important asset we have in the company are our people, and so it’s been something I’ve had to learn over time – to really push ourselves and get the most out of folks, but also to keep it sustainable. One of our greatest challenges here is that on the upside we’re youthful, very aggressive and motivated to succeed. On the flipside, we’re youthful, aggressive and may not have all the experiences more traditional companies have had. So we’re just trying to figure out the best way to tap into those skills.