The Belarus-born CEO of VaynerMedia, himself a hypervocal influencer, has never been one to mince words. Speaking at the RISE 2017 tech conference yesterday, his reputation drew a curious crowd so large that the overflow room had to be filled, though some attendees we spoke to acknowledged that his logic can be scattered. Excerpts from his speeches below.
On trading attention:
The one thing we all trade on is attention. I have had a very successful career over the last twenty years on trading attention. Basically all I think about is attention. Where is it, and how do I create content there? Where are the eyeballs, where are the ears, and how do I trade on them? This is it. Anybody who doesn’t understand that this is the single most important thing on earth besides your health is making enormous mistakes. This is a hyperbolised statement, but if you want to be relevant and this is not your religion, you're in deep shit.
It all comes down to trading attention in the reality of the moment we’re in. The reality sits in devices and platforms that become layers on top of those devices. In every country, whether it’s mainland China or Russia or Indonesia, every country will have its dynamics of between three to nine platforms that are able to penetrate. It is everybody's job here to produce stories, whether video, text or audio to tell your story.
The big vulnerability is, if you have been a marketer or entrepreneur for the last twenty years, the shit changes. In 1997, in the US I created an ecommerce wine business; that was smart because other wine stores weren't doing it. Also, there was this thing called email marketing. In 1997, I had 90 percent open rates for a 200-member email newsletter. It wasn't because the email was so incredible. It was because nobody else was doing it, so the attention arbitrage was in my favour. That was my first foray in getting an arbitrage.
If you are not sitting and debating on an everyday basis on how you as a human or as a company is a modern-day media publisher, whcih platforms are underpriced or overpriced, you’re basically missing the punchline. It doesn't matter how good your products or services are, if nobody knows about it, you're vulnerable.
On changing tack with the times:
What got you here today is always not the thing that’s going to get you there tomorrow. The problem with anyone who had a level of success if that you become very romantic, and you tend to fall in love with the manouveur that got you here. I have been fascinated how quickly how attention shifts. Where do I see the next arbitrage? It’s absolutely about audio, not only about podcasts, but also about Alexa, Amazon, and Homepod.
Sound and audio will be selling back to you time that you used to not have. When you look at video, it’s taking up your time. Audio is incredibly passive, and you're able to multi-task. The reason I chose to focus on sound is because I’m obsessed about figuring out how to bring value.
By very clear indications of consumer behaviour, no matter what business you're in, whether you are a market leader, and someone who's trying to win the marketplace, your great flaw is spending so much time to catch up.
It's still exciting if you're struggling with the current landscape, you have a chance in 24 or 26 months, because our attention continues to shift.
On reframing yourself as a media company:
What is always and forever true is that quality content will always have a competitive advantage. What is completely misunderstood is you don’t get to judge what is quality content.
Quantity and distribution really, really matter. No matter what you do for a living, you need to think of yourself as a media company. If you’re a SaasTech startup, you’re a media company, comma, SaasTech company. If you’re a consumer social network, you're a media company, comma, consumer social network. If you're a human being, you're a media company, comma, human being. You're producing stories that bring awareness to what you do.
The mediums of communication will always stay the same, but you as a organisation need to figure out: are you a writer, a voice, or a video producer? And then really start focusing on that and the contextual platforms that allow you to distribute your messages. This game will not change when we go into a augmented-reality world. It’s tried and true over and over again. The thing that changes is the mediums. Content is king, but everybody is missing the point that context is the queen, and she runs the fucking household.
On big corporations wasting a golden opportunity:
The Fortune 5000 are grossly underspending on platforms like social networks. Let me explain what’s going to happen over the next 36 to 48 months. As these companies wake up and realise they’re pouring good money down the trash into television commercials and billboards and all this other horseshit, they're going to move their money into these places, deeming these social platforms appropriately priced. And the dynamic matters tremendously. The cost of you penetrating the end-consumer's attention will grossly increase.
More extremely underpriced is influencer marketing. Influencers or KOLs are so underpriced right now that everyone will look back at this five-to-seven year era and be sad they didn’t pour more money into that ecosystem. I know the people that act on these arbitrages are going to disproportionately win.
We’ve got billion of dollars poured into 30-second commercials, programmatic banners, pre-roll inventory that nobody cares a shit about. When you got the biggest companies in the world wasting money, this is where the opportunity for emerging ones lie.