WHOSAY CEO: It’s Time for Creativity to Make a Comeback in Advertising

WHOSAY CEO Steve Ellis has been making the rounds since the company he co-founded in 2010 was acquired by Viacom back in January. During one of his most recent stops, Social Media Week New York 2018, Ellis sat for a Q&A that revealed his vision for the future of influence marketing, including the role that—according to him—human creativity will play, as well as the ever-evolving role of influencers among other topics.

“You don’t have to be a millennial to realize that mobile devices frequently serve ineffective marketing messages,” said Ellis. He added that, while the “maths departments” have figured out almost everything related to targeting and distribution, we’re still haven’t figured out the most effective formats to serve these messages on mobile. “Digital advertising is yet to prove particularly effective; they actually have banners on a six-inch screen, which as a result is a quarter of an inch. That’s supposed to be effective marketing.”

Ellis added that it’s WHOSAY’s vision that leveraging creative people to come up with good ideas and create interesting video/images that cut through the clutter and build relationships “it’s very hard to do.” “[And] it cannot be done just with machinery, it’s going to take humans. It’s time for creativity to make a comeback.”   

The WHOSAY CEO said that talent, which has been the focus of his company from the beginning, is “a very useful way to cut through the clutter when done right.” “The best talent will contribute creatively to the idea,” he said, clarifying that it has to indeed be a good idea. “No talent can make a bad idea good.” Ellis added that talent applied to a good idea delivers more effective messaging and ads a lot of value to the talent/creator.

However, said Ellis, this value is just a portion. Creativity, professionalism and following are the other three components. But brands should want more. “You don’t only wanna reach [the influencer’s] fans, you wanna reach fans of the brand,” added Ellis. Here’s where a sound paid distribution strategy renders results by leveraging the influencer’s organic reach. “But the creative has to sit above all these things.”

And what about the role of influencers? Does the WHOSAY CEO see them evolving into something else? “It’s already evolving,” said Ellis, adding that brands are not longer happy with talent “just sharing a photo with the product in the background.” “This is not effective marketing,” he said. “You can see it in the maths, the relationships and the sentiment.”

For Ellis, we’re already seeing the most professional set of the talent, from micro influencers and mommy bloggers all the way to Hollywood, generating much better creative and ads. “That’s the evolution,” he said. “So, we’ll probably end up in a place that is not dissimilar to which we were, which is: you use talent, as television used creative talent for many years, which is to be part of a good idea, when it’s done right, and distribute it at scale using media and other platforms for targeting. Just as we’ve done for the last fifteen years.”

Lastly, Ellis revealed what keeps him awake at night. “When it comes to marketing, it moves much slower than of course I would like it to move,” he admitted. The WHOSAY co-founder said that Viacom’s recent acquisition of WHOSAY allowed them to combine the power and scale of television, “which is still important,” with their expertise in mobile, social and digital marketing.

The point is, says Ellis, to be able to get agencies and brands, “all of whom have turmoil going on in their core businesses,” to unify behind the idea that then can be distributed everywhere. “That’s the one marketing focus over the next few years for me, helping it go a bit quicker.”