Q&A Session: Adam Lisagor
Adam Lisagor Q&A Session is happening on September 18th 2019 at 10:00 AM PST (1:00 PM EST)
Adam Lisagor is an American commercial director and the founder of Sandwich Video, an Internet and television commercial production company. He has also made on-camera appearances as a pitchman for various tech companies and products.
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Adam Lisagor – Transcript
Q&A Session with Adam Lisagor, Founder of Sandwich Video
September 18th, 2019
From your experience dealing with multiple companies, what do you see the ROI difference between a typical video ad and a text/image ad? Not asking from an interaction level or additional way of reaching customers. I am asking from a cost of ads to a gross sales perspective. (e.g. a typical text ad that spends $100 and gets $1,000 in sales from a text/image ad will see $800 or $1,200 etc. from the same spend)
I know next to nothing about text/image advertising, only video. But I’d say that video advertising exists for a reason because there’s a strong value. If there wasn’t, ads would be text/images only.
Welcome! I make short videos at work that explain difficult concepts. What are 1 or 2 tips you have to make dense videos fun and engaging (rather than non-stop talking head)? Love your work!!
Good question. Boil down and boil down and boil down until there’s no more boiling. Try to pay attention to how you understand a complex concept; or rather, how you go from being dumb about it to smart about it. Model your path of understanding the concept, then replicate that model for others as video. Let your path be their path.
Love the demo! would love to hear a quick input on your process, tools, or tips that you use to take an idea for a campaign and plan against it.
The creative process is different for everyone, and I would say the most important thing is to build one that feels natural for you, don’t assume there is a proper way and you don’t know it yet. I’m not sure what you mean by “plan against it”. It sounds negative. Sometimes I feel like our clients plan against us har har har.
What do you normally tell people who approach you looking for (and I quote) a “viral video”
Fun question. This hasn’t happened so much recently because the shame has become more common, so you see buzzwords like that disappear more. It’s like when people realize there’s something called “basic” and it’s a pejorative, they start being more aware of being basic. Doesn’t mean they stop being basic or asking for viral, but they figure out A) why that’s wrong or bad and B) different ways of asking for it. Mostly these days they say they want high conversion, and that’s justifiable.
I am just finishing the tutorials about descript because of the video you post. Nice software but really got my attention because the video explaining the benefits and possibilities with it.
Thank you! It was a very fun one to make. That team builds great things. Andrew Mason builds great things and is one of my favorite founders to work with, we’ve worked together since Groupon.
Hey Adam, I loved your series with soapbox! How do co-marketing efforts like that play into your strategy? I’ve seen you do other things like that. Please do tell!
I never really seek out co-marketing opportunities like that (I don’t think?) but when they come and it feels like a natural fit like it did between us and Wistia, or us and HP with Computer Show, I take advantage of the opportunity. Ultimately, everything we do is co-marketing because every piece we make is marketing for Sandwich as well.
How do you think the co-marketing does for you from a marketing perspective? (the ones that you don’t seek out) Do you find that they drive in business? Would you recommend other video businesses to make those parts of their marketing strategy?
If you can get a co-marketing partner like Wistia or in our case Slack to agree to help you tell your own story as you tell their story, it’s going to be a huge win. Highly valuable. Slack is still a calling card for us even 4+ years later because it’s a story about us that feels very native in the story we told about them. So if your story is worth telling and you can convince your partner/client that it’s valuable to them in a shared effort, it’s a win.
Adam! I really appreciate your response. Your wistia series really got me started thinking about video strategy (fast forward a year and now I am working on starting a video marketing company). I am very grateful!
Thanks, Adam! Do you see a space between the production companies and the homemade videos?
Is there a demand for a higher volume of decent video at a lower production quality? Sorry for asking such a specific question here…
Interesting question. By “homemade” I think you mean in-house? So space between hiring and agency or doing work in-house with your own team? There is space, it’s usually with one-person video makers, and they’re definitely going to be more affordable and can probably turn around work more quickly. But there’s a point at which the work becomes commodity or “content” and at that point, it usually has less value. So you’ll get out of it what you put in.
Adam Lisagor you’re awesome. Thank you for doing this AMA. Your tone? Brand? M.O.? is solid. Hindsight, it’s easy to say it was brilliant and of course, it was always going to work. But I would imagine, in real-time, there was fear uncertainty, and doubt? Can you talk about what it was like to commit to your approach to telling brand stories? And how you made it through any dark nights of the soul (if you experienced them)?
Such an interesting question, thanks for asking it!
I would say the approach has been consistent since my first videos, including the one to launch Square, which was my 2nd real video for a client. And the real test of whether this approach would work was in that video. I made it, I did it how it felt natural to me to do it, and I had no idea whether it was great or pure crap. And I sent it off to the client and Jack was unsure, and someone else in the office was unsure whether the dry tone was appropriate. So there was some hesitation there, and I was nervous that my risk was not going to pay off. But then I got a message from tech influencer iJustine who had stopped by the Square office, and Jack showed her the video and she DM’d me “that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen” and I had a feeling I was on to something. And then, when it launched and other cool startups started getting in touch because they appreciated the approach, it seemed like the risk had been a correct one to take.
Thank you! One follow up? Did you have/use conversations with confidants friends frienemy’s or random strangers on the street to talk through messaging? Or are you more of a “go inside yourself” kind of person?
I typically go inside myself or talk through strategy with my creative team. We did a How to Vote video during the midterms, where the goal was how to get younger people over the hump of going to the polls. I’m 41 and excited to vote in every election, so I couldn’t really go inside myself for that. But I have a lot of young people on my team, and I asked them what are some of the things that run through a young person’s mind that may stop them from voting, and one that came to the top was “you think you have to know a lot about every issue and answer every question”, so we made sure to focus on that challenge, to say that you don’t have to be an expert, and you don’t have to vote for every race.
I love this answer! Because I love that approach of finding the real problem and coming up with a video solution. And I also love how you’re doing a real service by putting that message out there to voters. I hope it makes a difference.
What has been the most challenging industry (or audience within an industry) to create effective videos? I have a few guesses, curious about your thoughts!
I’d love to hear your guesses/thoughts! Well for us, effective videos about cool tech are easy because that’s what we love. So the answer to what’s challenging is basically what DON’T we love. The answer there is anything that doesn’t feel like it’s inherently contributing to society, empowering people to be better, etc. So like alcohol brands, for instance, that wouldn’t be as easy to make good work for. Anything that is more of the same, following rather than leading. And if I’m being honest, fintech is a little more challenging because financialism (the value in making more money) requires some additional layers of abstraction to justify itself as empowerment. The industry I probably stay away from the most is adtech or marketing tech because making videos about tools to sell products is one layer too many for my brain.
What are your guesses?
Healthcare! Both hospitals (providers) and tech companies targeting those hospitals. The industry is so set in their ways and not nearly as clever as anyone would want. There’s certainly an opportunity, but tact is the big question
Yep, I hear that. We’ve done some healthcare/medical client work. Everyone wants to be a disruptor and the ones that don’t are very boring.
You turned us down when we wanted to hire you to do a video for Zagat.
So I did, I suppose. It was December 2010, and I still have my notes from that call. It wasn’t great! I believe the 4-week timeline was very short and I referred you to another agency. My notes say your response was that you should get the Twitter people to make your video, or hire their intern LOL.
I have a service for converting audio into video, mainly used by podcasters to create video promos for social. Any thoughts or vision on how you’d like to see/consume podcast trailers?
That sounds like a really useful tool. Listening to a podcast is such an enormous investment of time, especially for people who can’t listen at work or while commuting. So condensing anything and making it more palatable, especially removing friction for creators, sounds like a great thing!
I’d agree, we’re in the business of helping podcasters earn more of a listener’s attention – thanks for the perspective.
How do you help clients over the threshold of understanding whether an ad should be speaking to them, or speaking to their current user base, or to the not-yet-userbase, or d all the above?
The first step is to ask them. If they don’t know, then start thinking about how to tell them. My rule 1 is to follow my instinct, put myself into the perspective of the audience and the intended market. There’s definitely more value to reaching a broader audience in most advertising because that’s where growth is. But obviously current users may have more potential for becoming better customers, and they’re further down the funnel so some focus can be placed there too. There’s no general answer, and often there’s no right answer. The important thing is to commit with intention.
We had a video scripted and all planned out – but the CEO chickened out on the budget ($10k) at the last minute. It was already going to be scrappy, other than the videographer we hired to shoot. How do you help clients overcome budget changes after being mid-project?
A CEO chickening out over $10K makes me sad. Like all sales in client services, part of your job is to convince your prospective clients of the value of your work. You’ll have your own tools for doing so (portfolio, referrals, proposals) but ultimately if the decision-maker isn’t convinced of the value, there was a missing piece. So don’t let that piece be missing. And if there were multiple pieces in between you and the CEO, there was probably something lost in translation. Next time, tell them $10K is a steal for good video work, and make them feel good about how thrifty they’re being.
What kind of timeline do you recommend your clients to measure ROI against? (Weeks, Months? … ) and, how often do they already understand how to measure ROI of your product vs needing to educate while also delivering?
These days, close to 100% of our clients already have a process, either internal or outsourced, to measure ROI. When you get to the level of spend for these companies, they have a pretty good idea of how to measure return before they budget for the investment. And if they don’t, then they typically operate more intuitively and don’t really care to measure because they just know it’ll add value. Timeline is more commonly weeks when you’re doing response-driven work. Longer-term for brand awareness work.
Are you guys also involved in the marketing strategy as well, or only on the shooting of the video?
Most definitely the strategy. Not necessarily marketing strategy, in terms of what channels to market in, but most strongly in creative strategy, as in what to say and to whom and why. The writing of the concepts and ideas is half the value we provide.
What’s your process for developing the creative strategy?
The answer to that is a very long one, like “how to make a good advertisement” but it all starts with putting yourself in the perspective of the target customer.
I know some creative companies take equity in exchange for payment. Does Sandwich do that?
We were possibly the first to do that, and probably one of the most widely known.
We have a pretty strong portfolio of interesting companies we’re invested in, about 45 in number by now.
Hey, if you just raised $1m for a new consumer startup how much would you spend on making an awesome video?
It is a great question. I’m not a financial expert, but I am a business owner and know the value of investing in the right things. The definitive answer to this question is all of it. Put $1MM into a video and be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I kid of course. I think 5% is potentially a responsible spend for telling the story if telling the story is deemed a significant part of building the product.
Your guy’s fund is probably the best solution for early Co’s. Still, doing $100k as in the article?
It’s rarer and rarer these days, to be honest because we’re working with later-stage startups more frequently these days, where there’s no room on the cap table and if there is, the math doesn’t work well for trading our contribution. I do about one or two equity clients per year these days.
Hey, I just got out of a meeting but I bet I’m the first one to ask you this! Can your former “You Look Nice Today” fans expect any surprise episodes in the future?
I would love to say yes. YLNT was one of the most gratifying creative experiences of my life, and I owe so much to that partnership. Scott and Merlin and I still connect every so often and fantasize about revisiting, because we had so much fun and we had the best audience ever. But one consideration is that the world is very different now, both in the context of podcasting and in the context of culture. So I worry (and if I’m being honest, this is my greatest worry) that it just wouldn’t find the right space in this day and age. That it was a relic of when it lived, and we should just be okay with that.
Any tips for people starting their own video business? Rather a blanket question but if there are common mistakes you see people making I’d love to hear.
Be very judicious about how you build your team and invest in equipment. Don’t assume that partnerships will make you stronger in all cases. They have to be the right partnerships with the right people. Don’t assume you have to own the best gear and that’s what will drive the business forward. Make do with what you have until you can’t anymore. And then take some of your profits and reinvest in more resources. Slow and steady growth is the best growth.
But from a more philosophical standpoint: do great work where people can see it and will ask you to do more, for money.
Have you ever shot any of your work in more consumer-level devices (phones, gopros, etc)?
Yep. GoPros for sure, and we shoot VFX elements on the iPhone a lot.
How long does it typically take to go from starting on a video to the final product?
We like to say 10-12 weeks is comfortable. Sometimes we have 6 to work with and everyone goes into high gear very quickly, and that can be fun too.
Not sure if this will make you more enemies. But very curious. Who was the most impressive entrepreneur you’ve worked with?
Without a second thought, it’s Andrew Mason, whose app Descript we launched a video for this morning.
I first worked with Andrew when he was still running the company he founded Groupon, and he gave me an enormous amount of trust and empowered his lieutenants to run the point, and it went well. Then every time I’ve worked with him since, he has just been so creative, so generous in spirit, so brilliant in his feedback, and trusting of the process that I wish I could work with him on everything.
Hey, love your videos! First one I remember is the one for Coin card (RIPeace). I think there was a somewhat similar question, but I’ll ask anyway – how do you get clients to stop making decisions based on their preferences if you know it goes against “good practice?” I am a digital marketer that helps our dev team with project management from time to time, and clients are always hurting designs with their opinion of how things should be.
This is a great great question. In some sense, the ultimate question of doing creative work for clients. It’s a push and pull. The unsophisticated way is to push back on everything. The slightly more nuanced way is to remind your clients of your expertise and show them past examples of your work going well in similar conditions. The path of least resistance is to cave and do what they want even though it’s bad and they know it. But the graceful and probably most sophisticated approach is to make them feel good about their contributions, have respectful conversations about the creative considerations of their suggestions, and be good collaborators. Ultimately, do work that you and they feel good about. Appreciate that sometimes the client knows better than you, and that’s okay. You’re still good.
I like the question above. A great one to end on. Sorry if I missed anyone’s replies in threads! Feel free to email me at email@example.com at any time.
Love you all.
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