Q&A with Brendan Gahan, Partner & Chief Social Officer at Mekanism

Media 7 | March 2, 2021

Brendan Gahan, Partner & Chief Social Officer at Mekanism, has been at the forefront of social & influencer marketing since 2006, developing social campaigns for brands such as Mountain Dew, Unilever, Amazon, 20th Century Fox, and The Olympics. Brendan was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2012 and his agency was recognized as Digiday’s Digital Video Agency of the year in 2017.

Gahan is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Guardian, Ad Age, and CNBC for his expertise in social media and influencer marketing expertise.

Have a sense of humor. Recognize that advertising is not life or death. We’re selling products and not working on an operating table.



MEDIA 7: What inspired you to get into advertising? Please take us through your journey.
BRENDAN GRAHAN:
As an 80’s kid, I grew up in the era of Air Jordan. To me, those commercials were as cool as the movies or TV shows I was watching at that time (oftentimes even more so). From the outside, it looked exciting and glamorous. Lucky for me, after graduating from college, I got the opportunity to intern at a boutique agency in San Francisco. I remember the first time I walked into that office. It reaffirmed all those ideas I’d had about advertising being a ‘cool’, creative career.

I got started in 2005. Social media was just taking off. Facebook, YouTube, and Myspace started getting real traction. I was really fortunate in that I was tapped to provide insight into this newly emerging landscape. I loved it and I latched onto it. Eventually, I did my first influencer marketing deal in 2006. From there I never looked back.

After my first job, I joined Mekanism. They were at the forefront of digital and social. We were among the first to use influencers. We did a ton of "viral" content and being innovative, continuously breaking new ground.  We were building up an influencer marketing and social media team years before anyone else.

From there I joined the startup in LA before striking it out on my own and starting an influencer marketing agency. I ended up selling that to Mekanism (that’s a whole other story), and have been overseeing the social media team within Mekanism for the last 6 years.

M7: Congratulations on becoming a part of history! Since 2015, Joe Biden has been associated with Mekanism and the logos for his presidential campaigns have been designed by your team. How was the experience like and what were your takeaways from it?
BG:
The Mekanism team did an incredible job on the Biden for President brand identity and logo. I can't take any credit for working on that campaign (unfortunately). But, I’m super proud of the work that the team did.

Mekanism’s relationship with the president dates back to 2015 when we began work on It’s On Us, a campaign to stop sexual assault on college campuses. A project I was fortunate enough to have worked on with then-Vice President Biden and team. Our efforts helped drive over half a million pledges on the site. It was rewarding to work on a project for such a great cause.


YouTube is really the gold standard. There’s a real relationship between viewer and creator that is tough to beat.



M7: You have been at the forefront of social & influencer marketing since 2006, developing social campaigns for brands like Mountain Dew, Unilever, Amazon, 20th Century Fox, and The Olympics. What is your approach to research and ideating these campaigns?
BG:
The future of influencer marketing is going to look more like athlete endorsements. The Nike + Jordan model applied to influencers is the way to go. It helps build credibility (for both the brand and creator). The era of paying for shoutouts and leveraging influencers purely as media outlets are dying.

As a result, our approach is to work with brands that buy into this philosophy. We like to get hands-on immerse creators in the brand. We love it when we can have the influencers go to a brand’s headquarters, meet the team, etc. Where possible we integrate influencers across campaign touchpoints and integrate them into the advertising. Anything to make it more meaningful.

Too often brands give influencers a brief and leave it at that. We do not buy into that approach.

M7: What social channels do you use for effective brand promotion and which ones do you see as the most promising, given your target audience?
BG:
Every campaign is unique. Ultimately, you need to customize your approach based on the audience and objective. However, I personally feel that YouTube is really the gold standard. Audiences tend to be far more rabid there than on other platforms. There’s a real relationship between viewer and creator that is tough to beat. If done well, YouTube is generally the most effective channel.

I think there’s a huge opportunity with any emerging platform. You have the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond. If you’re early and you build a following, you generally grow at a disproportionate rate of later adopters who are facing more content as competition. At this moment, I’d point to TikTok, Clubhouse, and Dispo as being great places to build audiences. Generally, if you’re early to a platform you can garner a disproportionate amount of value.

For example, on YouTube median views per video in 2006 was 10,262. By 2016 it had declined to 89! That’s a multiple of 115! You look and see the same thing happening on Facebook, Instagram, etc. On Facebook, organic reach has plummeted from 16% in 2012 to low single digits today. Right now is always the time to strike with emerging platforms. There’s a lot of change happening right now and with change comes opportunity.


Right now is always the time to strike with emerging platforms. There’s a lot of change happening right now and with change comes opportunity.



M7: What do you believe are the top three advertising challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
BG:
Covid just accelerated most of what was already happening in the industry. Last year, e-commerce advertising grew 30X faster than the wider online ad market. There was an 11% increase in e-commerce (as a share of total U.S retail sales). Brands spent $58.5bn advertising across e-commerce platforms, omnichannel retailers, and social commerce.

It’s clear the future is social + commerce. The industry has had to adapt to that from a content development/creative perspective, media buying, as well as measurement. All these challenges really intersect. 
At this stage, there’s no going back. A new way of shopping and a foundational shift in content consumption has occurred.

M7: How do you target content to your audience, and what are your best practices to produce effective content?    
BG:
There is no one size fits all answer. Ultimately, the best way to come up with the answer is to start with the solution you want and work backward. Our creative approach at Mekanism is best described as "The Soul and Science of Storytelling": Communicating a brand's purpose with ideas informed by data and rooted in human truths. You leverage the data and insights you have to inform amazing creativity. 

M7: Words of wisdom for advertising professionals?
BG:
I’ve found that those who look for inspiration beyond advertising tend to have more inspiring careers. So, for anyone just starting out, it would really work to develop a perspective and skillset beyond just advertising. Zero in on something in culture or technology that is growing and invest in that (in addition to advertising) this helps differentiate yourself.

Also, have a sense of humor. Recognize that advertising is not life or death. We’re selling products and not working on an operating table.

ABOUT MEKANISM

Mekanism is an award-winning, independent, full-service advertising agency made up of creative entrepreneurs. With offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Seattle, we serve as collaborative business partners to some of the world’s greatest brands, including Ben & Jerry’s, Peloton, Jose Cuervo, OkCupid, Charles Schwab and Alaska Airlines.

In 2020, The Effie Index named Mekanism as the #6 Most Effective Independent Agency in the United States. Mekanism has also been named to Ad Age’s Agency A List and twice to their Best Places to Work. Our work hasalso  been profiled by The New York Times, Fast Company and ABC’s Nightline and studied by Harvard Business School.

More C-Suite on deck

Q&A with Itamar Benedy, Co-Founder & CEO at Anzu.io

Media 7 | August 5, 2021

Itamar Benedy, CEO and Co-founder of Anzu.io, was previously the CEO of Glispa, a Berlin-based advertising firm with €100M in annual revenues, a team of 250 people, and 9 international offices. Itamar led the acquisitions of JustAd, a playable ads start-up, and Relevantech, a Telecom monetization platform. Previously, Itamar served as the VP of Marketing at Sport.com and Yoga.com, leading the user acquisition, monetization, and analytics teams. He guided Sport.com to become a market-leading fitness firm and transformed mHealth into a business with over 40 million downloads across 30 apps. With a decade of experience in mobile and marketing, Itamar is a member of the Mobile Steering Group Board of IAB, and the Young President Organization (YPO). He was also nominated for Forbes Israel 30 under 30 in 2016.

Read More

Q&A with Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Advertising

Media 7 | September 9, 2021

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Advertising, fosters long-standing client relationships with the company's expansive base of Fortune 500 brands to develop highly strategic and measurable advertising campaigns, designed to ignite immediate consumer response. From strategy, creative and production to media and analytics, Jessica is committed to premium quality and innovation throughout all agency disciplines. Jessica is a contributor for various industry publications and speaks on panels offering insights on key industry trends. She has published hundreds of articles with Forbes, AdAge, AdWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and many more. She has received many awards for her career accomplishments including the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur Of The Year” in the Transformational Leader category, and Los Angeles Times B2B Publishing “CEO Leadership Award” Winner. Prior to joining Hawthorne Advertising, Hawthorne-Castro was a successful TV literary agent with William Morris Endeavor (formerly Endeavor), one of Hollywood's top, full-service talent agencies representing writers, directors and producers for television. Jessica is the Chapter Chair for YPO Los Angeles and on the YPO Pacific U.S Regional Executive Board and YPO Global Editorial Advisory Board. In addition, Jessica is on the Board of the ANA/Association of National Advertisers ECHO Awards, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Council and social justice Boards including Dignity Moves Homelessness Board and is a Climate Change Reality Ambassador.

Read More

Q&A with Brian R Johnson, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder at Canopy Management

Media 7 | February 15, 2021

Brian R. Johnson, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder at Canopy Management, has served as a leader in online advertising and conversion rate strategy for nearly two decades. A trusted partner to thousands of brands across the globe, Brian’s work has earned him a reputation as a disruptive force in a world brimming with new and interesting challenges. Through his advertising agency Canopy Management, Brian has helped over 20,000 brands improve their e-commerce revenue and profitability by leveraging the latest advertising practices and strategies in new and exciting ways. The results his products and services deliver continue to put him in high demand with companies both large and small around the world.

Read More

Q&A with Itamar Benedy, Co-Founder & CEO at Anzu.io

Media 7 | August 5, 2021

Itamar Benedy, CEO and Co-founder of Anzu.io, was previously the CEO of Glispa, a Berlin-based advertising firm with €100M in annual revenues, a team of 250 people, and 9 international offices. Itamar led the acquisitions of JustAd, a playable ads start-up, and Relevantech, a Telecom monetization platform. Previously, Itamar served as the VP of Marketing at Sport.com and Yoga.com, leading the user acquisition, monetization, and analytics teams. He guided Sport.com to become a market-leading fitness firm and transformed mHealth into a business with over 40 million downloads across 30 apps. With a decade of experience in mobile and marketing, Itamar is a member of the Mobile Steering Group Board of IAB, and the Young President Organization (YPO). He was also nominated for Forbes Israel 30 under 30 in 2016.

Read More

Q&A with Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Advertising

Media 7 | September 9, 2021

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Advertising, fosters long-standing client relationships with the company's expansive base of Fortune 500 brands to develop highly strategic and measurable advertising campaigns, designed to ignite immediate consumer response. From strategy, creative and production to media and analytics, Jessica is committed to premium quality and innovation throughout all agency disciplines. Jessica is a contributor for various industry publications and speaks on panels offering insights on key industry trends. She has published hundreds of articles with Forbes, AdAge, AdWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and many more. She has received many awards for her career accomplishments including the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur Of The Year” in the Transformational Leader category, and Los Angeles Times B2B Publishing “CEO Leadership Award” Winner. Prior to joining Hawthorne Advertising, Hawthorne-Castro was a successful TV literary agent with William Morris Endeavor (formerly Endeavor), one of Hollywood's top, full-service talent agencies representing writers, directors and producers for television. Jessica is the Chapter Chair for YPO Los Angeles and on the YPO Pacific U.S Regional Executive Board and YPO Global Editorial Advisory Board. In addition, Jessica is on the Board of the ANA/Association of National Advertisers ECHO Awards, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Council and social justice Boards including Dignity Moves Homelessness Board and is a Climate Change Reality Ambassador.

Read More

Q&A with Brian R Johnson, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder at Canopy Management

Media 7 | February 15, 2021

Brian R. Johnson, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder at Canopy Management, has served as a leader in online advertising and conversion rate strategy for nearly two decades. A trusted partner to thousands of brands across the globe, Brian’s work has earned him a reputation as a disruptive force in a world brimming with new and interesting challenges. Through his advertising agency Canopy Management, Brian has helped over 20,000 brands improve their e-commerce revenue and profitability by leveraging the latest advertising practices and strategies in new and exciting ways. The results his products and services deliver continue to put him in high demand with companies both large and small around the world.

Read More

Related News

DISPLAY ADVERTISING, RETARGETING

Captivate and WeWork Partner to Elevate On-Screen Experience in Workspaces

Captivate | January 19, 2023

Captivate, a leading digital-out-of-home video network, and WeWork, one of the global leaders in flexible space providers, announced a strategic partnership to display the Captivate on-screen content experience on existing digital screens in WeWork lobbies, elevator banks, and collaborative workplaces. "WeWork Powered by Captivate" will give marketers access to modern, high-value professionals who make business and personal purchase decisions. Captivate will act as a complete communication solution for WeWork locations, offering an engaging viewer experience that educates and entertains WeWork members and visitors while displaying relevant advertisements during their workdays. In addition, the partnership expands Captivate's network by 175+ locations in major North American metropolitan regions, increasing the number of Captivate office and residential building displays to over 14,500 screens. CEO of Captivate, Marc Kidd, said, "We are excited to offer advertisers and WeWork members the benefits of our video network." He also stated, "Our partnership means advertisers can more easily reach coveted B2B decision-makers and B2C consumers with spending power at multiple daily touch points throughout the day. And Captivate's skilled editorial team brings value to WeWork members and guests with an interesting combination of news and entertainment, plus high-utility content such as traffic and weather updates." (Source – Cision PR Newswire) Captivate provides a rich content experience to complement WeWork's creative workplaces with a programming mix customized for modern professionals. It also provides contextually relevant environments with custom-branded solutions, such as content alignment and branded integrations, to activate campaigns for agencies and brands. About Captivate Captivate is the industry-leading digital media network, including over 13,200 screens in prime areas where modern professionals work and live. Through innovative, research-driven, and Nielsen-measured advertising and marketing campaigns, it links advertisers with over 13 million unique monthly viewers by providing its audience with relevant news and practical advice. In addition, through live editorial content, the company offers advertisers a highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential business professionals. The company, which was founded in 1997, is owned by Generation Partners and TEGNA.

Read More

DISPLAY ADVERTISING, RETARGETING

Zoomd’s Albert AI, Creative Optimization Technology Generates 800% Return on Ad Spend

Zoomd | January 27, 2023

With creative ad optimization subjected to user biases such as preferences for strong headlines, graphics, colors, etc., Albert AI technology, owned by Zoomd, provides genuine creative optimization based on real-time creative performance across goods, advertising, campaigns, and market segments. Even with the recent development of technologies like Chat GPT-4, ad production is likely to be the last aspect of marketing to gain from AI-powered technology. Due to the subjectivity used by individuals while optimizing commercials, the optimization of ad creatives is now well suited for AI technology. An e-commerce business hired Albert AI intending to improve return on ad spend (ROAS) by 500%, a goal Albert's team thought was achievable. Instead, Albert's ROAS increased by 800% a few months after the onboarding process was completed. In subsequent years, the same e-commerce business, now in its fourth year of working with Albert, is still achieving gains in ROAS between 10 and 20%. Albert optimized the ad creative for this e-commerce firm by developing the best-performing advertisements for each target category and ad platform/channel. In addition, its technology makes the most excellent ad possible by picking the finest photos, colors, fonts, and texts to provide the most cost-effective results for the target demographic. Finally, Albert's system was able to decide when to refresh and then modify ads to maximize ROAS. The technology employs AI to generate advertisements that improve campaign performance, including keyword, platform, audience, and device selection and bidding, as well as creative optimization spanning search, display, social, and cross-channel. About Zoomd Zoomd, founded in 2012, provides publishers with a site search engine and marketers with a mobile app user-acquisition platform integrated with the vast majority of global digital media. The software integrates over 600 media sources into a single interface. In addition, it provides marketers with a user acquisition control center to manage all new customer acquisition efforts on a single platform. By merging numerous media sources into a single platform, marketers save considerable resources that would otherwise be spent integrating data sources, boosting data collection and insights while limiting the resources used on the task. Zoomd is also a performance-based platform, allowing advertisers to reach the right target audiences by using an algorithm based on the goals and objectives of the advertisers.

Read More

DISPLAY ADVERTISING, MOBILE ADVERTISING

Brightcove Announces Strategic Partnership With Magnite

Magnite | January 13, 2023

Brightcove Inc., the world's most reliable streaming technology business, announced a strategic partnership with Magnite, the world's most prominent independent sell-side advertising platform. Magnite will enable advertising for all Brightcove clients, growing fill and delivery to accelerate customer revenue. Brightcove will also combine the SpringServe ad server to provide publishers with more visibility, transparency, and control over the available ad supply. Brightcove has thousands of clients worldwide and has always supported standards-based interfaces with ad servers and supply-side platforms (SSPs). After inspecting data from billions of ad-supported play requests on its industry-leading server-side ad insertion technology, Brightcove identified a significant potential to assist clients in monetizing their unsold ad inventory. Available directly across Brightcove, Magnite's SSP capabilities will allow Brightcove to generate income for these clients. In addition, integrating with the SpringServe ad server will give these clients a clear picture of available ad inventory and a strategic chance to monetize their video content more effectively. CEO of Brightcove, Marc DeBevoise, said, "The needs of our large, global customer base are constantly evolving, and we are committed to evolving our solutions for them, including supporting our customers' efforts to monetize their video content." (Source- Businesswire) Sean Buckley, CRO of Magnite, stated, "We're looking forward to working with the Brightcove team to bring turnkey monetization to its high-quality video streaming customers." (Source- Businesswire) About Magnite Magnite is the biggest independent sell-side advertising platform in the world. Using its technology, publishers monetize their content across all devices and media, including online video, CTV, display, and audio. The world's top agencies and brands rely on the platform to access brand-safe, high-quality ad inventory and conduct billions of advertising transactions each month. Anchored in bustling New York City, Los Angeles, mile-high Denver, and historic London, it also has offices across North America, LATAM, EMEA, and APAC.

Read More

DISPLAY ADVERTISING, RETARGETING

Captivate and WeWork Partner to Elevate On-Screen Experience in Workspaces

Captivate | January 19, 2023

Captivate, a leading digital-out-of-home video network, and WeWork, one of the global leaders in flexible space providers, announced a strategic partnership to display the Captivate on-screen content experience on existing digital screens in WeWork lobbies, elevator banks, and collaborative workplaces. "WeWork Powered by Captivate" will give marketers access to modern, high-value professionals who make business and personal purchase decisions. Captivate will act as a complete communication solution for WeWork locations, offering an engaging viewer experience that educates and entertains WeWork members and visitors while displaying relevant advertisements during their workdays. In addition, the partnership expands Captivate's network by 175+ locations in major North American metropolitan regions, increasing the number of Captivate office and residential building displays to over 14,500 screens. CEO of Captivate, Marc Kidd, said, "We are excited to offer advertisers and WeWork members the benefits of our video network." He also stated, "Our partnership means advertisers can more easily reach coveted B2B decision-makers and B2C consumers with spending power at multiple daily touch points throughout the day. And Captivate's skilled editorial team brings value to WeWork members and guests with an interesting combination of news and entertainment, plus high-utility content such as traffic and weather updates." (Source – Cision PR Newswire) Captivate provides a rich content experience to complement WeWork's creative workplaces with a programming mix customized for modern professionals. It also provides contextually relevant environments with custom-branded solutions, such as content alignment and branded integrations, to activate campaigns for agencies and brands. About Captivate Captivate is the industry-leading digital media network, including over 13,200 screens in prime areas where modern professionals work and live. Through innovative, research-driven, and Nielsen-measured advertising and marketing campaigns, it links advertisers with over 13 million unique monthly viewers by providing its audience with relevant news and practical advice. In addition, through live editorial content, the company offers advertisers a highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential business professionals. The company, which was founded in 1997, is owned by Generation Partners and TEGNA.

Read More

DISPLAY ADVERTISING, RETARGETING

Zoomd’s Albert AI, Creative Optimization Technology Generates 800% Return on Ad Spend

Zoomd | January 27, 2023

With creative ad optimization subjected to user biases such as preferences for strong headlines, graphics, colors, etc., Albert AI technology, owned by Zoomd, provides genuine creative optimization based on real-time creative performance across goods, advertising, campaigns, and market segments. Even with the recent development of technologies like Chat GPT-4, ad production is likely to be the last aspect of marketing to gain from AI-powered technology. Due to the subjectivity used by individuals while optimizing commercials, the optimization of ad creatives is now well suited for AI technology. An e-commerce business hired Albert AI intending to improve return on ad spend (ROAS) by 500%, a goal Albert's team thought was achievable. Instead, Albert's ROAS increased by 800% a few months after the onboarding process was completed. In subsequent years, the same e-commerce business, now in its fourth year of working with Albert, is still achieving gains in ROAS between 10 and 20%. Albert optimized the ad creative for this e-commerce firm by developing the best-performing advertisements for each target category and ad platform/channel. In addition, its technology makes the most excellent ad possible by picking the finest photos, colors, fonts, and texts to provide the most cost-effective results for the target demographic. Finally, Albert's system was able to decide when to refresh and then modify ads to maximize ROAS. The technology employs AI to generate advertisements that improve campaign performance, including keyword, platform, audience, and device selection and bidding, as well as creative optimization spanning search, display, social, and cross-channel. About Zoomd Zoomd, founded in 2012, provides publishers with a site search engine and marketers with a mobile app user-acquisition platform integrated with the vast majority of global digital media. The software integrates over 600 media sources into a single interface. In addition, it provides marketers with a user acquisition control center to manage all new customer acquisition efforts on a single platform. By merging numerous media sources into a single platform, marketers save considerable resources that would otherwise be spent integrating data sources, boosting data collection and insights while limiting the resources used on the task. Zoomd is also a performance-based platform, allowing advertisers to reach the right target audiences by using an algorithm based on the goals and objectives of the advertisers.

Read More

DISPLAY ADVERTISING, MOBILE ADVERTISING

Brightcove Announces Strategic Partnership With Magnite

Magnite | January 13, 2023

Brightcove Inc., the world's most reliable streaming technology business, announced a strategic partnership with Magnite, the world's most prominent independent sell-side advertising platform. Magnite will enable advertising for all Brightcove clients, growing fill and delivery to accelerate customer revenue. Brightcove will also combine the SpringServe ad server to provide publishers with more visibility, transparency, and control over the available ad supply. Brightcove has thousands of clients worldwide and has always supported standards-based interfaces with ad servers and supply-side platforms (SSPs). After inspecting data from billions of ad-supported play requests on its industry-leading server-side ad insertion technology, Brightcove identified a significant potential to assist clients in monetizing their unsold ad inventory. Available directly across Brightcove, Magnite's SSP capabilities will allow Brightcove to generate income for these clients. In addition, integrating with the SpringServe ad server will give these clients a clear picture of available ad inventory and a strategic chance to monetize their video content more effectively. CEO of Brightcove, Marc DeBevoise, said, "The needs of our large, global customer base are constantly evolving, and we are committed to evolving our solutions for them, including supporting our customers' efforts to monetize their video content." (Source- Businesswire) Sean Buckley, CRO of Magnite, stated, "We're looking forward to working with the Brightcove team to bring turnkey monetization to its high-quality video streaming customers." (Source- Businesswire) About Magnite Magnite is the biggest independent sell-side advertising platform in the world. Using its technology, publishers monetize their content across all devices and media, including online video, CTV, display, and audio. The world's top agencies and brands rely on the platform to access brand-safe, high-quality ad inventory and conduct billions of advertising transactions each month. Anchored in bustling New York City, Los Angeles, mile-high Denver, and historic London, it also has offices across North America, LATAM, EMEA, and APAC.

Read More

Spotlight

Mekanism

Mekanism

Mekanism is an award-winning, independent, full-service advertising agency made up of creative entrepreneurs. With offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Seattle, we serve as collaborative business partners to some of the world’s greatest brands, including Ben & Jerry’s, Peloton, Jose Cuerv...

Events

Resources