Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz 14:47

So when things go wrong, can you give me an example of, I had a guest on the other day, who talked about they will every Friday that people share major screw-ups with the company, and then they would all kind of talk about how they handled that. What was one of those where something went wrong? And how you and the team handle that, to make that relationship better, even though it could have gone south possibly?

Josh Rosen 16:19

Yeah, we had that recently, with a Telco client, that we were significantly underreporting. I don’t remember the minutia of the situation. But the campaign looked like it was very poor. And it turned out to be a relatively simple pixeling issue. And that we’re able to actually go into the data and pull out the various conversions. And it just wasn’t jiving with what they were seeing. And of course, there’s different degrees of visibility that we have as the media agency versus what they have as the advertiser. And it was really just an all hands on deck, showing them that, hey, here’s the team, we’re all showing up. I had multiple calls, with that leadership team, at the client side, no finger-pointing straight up, hey, we are on this, I am beyond sorry that this happened. Here’s the steps that we’re taking to mitigate it. And we’re going to get back to you at this time, and then sticking to that time, and not trying to point the finger and trying to assume as much of the responsibility as possible, but also respectfully sharing where there’s accountability from their side, as well. And I think that, in that downside helped us understand where there’s potential gaps in our organization in terms of, change management, project management overall, where we’re sharing, reports, dashboards, sharing pixels, getting approvals. And that helped us foster and develop a much stronger relationship with that brand moving forward, one that was built off, hey, you really are here for us no matter what, whether it’s Friday, at five, Saturday or Sunday, in fact, we’ve even won business. Because we’ve worked very hard at establishing strong credit facilities with the platforms that we’ve worked with, so that we could take on spend. And then especially in the early days of RTB, or programmatic, a lot of the businesses run on people’s credit cards. And when you’re spending 10s of 1000s of dollars a day and you have executives that have their credit card into the platform, buying other stuff as well, and other things going on it, that credit card can get maxed out very quickly. So we want a significant piece of business from a very large international, long-standing agency, because their credit card was maxed and their Facebook ads weren’t running. And we had credit terms with Facebook. And we’re like, yeah, we can spin this up right away. And we don’t have to worry about that. And we’ve been partners with that agency now as a result of that agility for nearly 10 years.

Jeremy Weisz 19:19

So sometimes, Josh you’ll work directly with the company, and there’s times to where maybe an agency doesn’t have the same capability as you and they will have you run that for one of their clients? Correct? Yeah. And do that client typically know you exist? Or is that more of like a white-label scenario?

Josh Rosen 19:44

There is no such thing as typical in this industry. So I think it varies. Our preferred engagement would be we are in lockstep arm and arm seat at the table. We intention We built a business 10 years ago, with the idea that we wanted to be narrow and deepen our focus specifically on digital media, it took us a very long time to even bring on search as a primary practice, because it was still kind of an outlier in terms of what programmatic was considered. And because of that approach to how we look at the industry, we find ourselves able to complement various types of other agency relationships. So whether it’s a PR firm, a traditional in terms of linear TV and out-of-home and radio, media agency, or straight up creative and strategy, slash design agency, we’re able to work with all of them in various capacities, because we don’t have any competing interests, or capabilities.

Jeremy Weisz 20:53

Totally. I’m curious of how you structure those type of partnerships? And I’m sure again, like you said, there is no typical, but what are the kinds of variations of them? Whether I don’t know if there is a percentage, male as far as a partnership, or they charge something else? How do those partnerships, how have you structured partnerships,

Josh Rosen 21:17

See all the above?

Jeremy Weisz 21:20

Well, give me, there’s a whole variety of examples, you don’t need to go into specific numbers, if you don’t want to, like, you know, just what in your mind, you go through with your partners and some of the options.

Josh Rosen 21:32

Yeah, there’s definitely a rev share model that typically comes into play where we split the fee that we charge with the partner agency, oftentimes, their take on that is smaller, because they are heavily involved, there they are doing the thing that they’re there to do and collecting their own management or project fees. And when they’re doing our portion of it, those are the best relationships. Because we’re supporting each other. And we’re actually adding value to that end-user client. Right, they are now getting a more comprehensive package campaign, where we are working closely to deliver and have that reporting cadence and nuance where we can report back on what creative is working, not working, what messaging we’re seeing, and how that’s driving to eyes or whatever the desired KPIs going to be. And we have that shorthand with each other, that we’re able to spin up new ads very quickly, and get them into market based on those insights in that feedback. So that’s how we prefer to structure it. Of course, it comes in various different flavors and formats over the years. I think more and more as the industry evolves, frankly, as brands, as the advertisers are starting to move away from more traditional retainer models as well. They’re happy to see that degree of transparency and know like, hey, that’s my Media Group. We’re paying them this amount based on media investment. This is my creative and strategy game, we’re paying them based on this and everyone goes off and does what they’re supposed to do.

Jeremy Weisz 23:13

So have that partnership, let’s say, whatever, it’s a PR company, and they want to bring you on. Okay. One would be the added into their proposal or whatever it is with the client. And then are they usually then taking that money and then paying you? Or there?

Josh Rosen 23:33

Yeah, it can totally work that way. Again, if were brought to the table, to do something specific, then typically, we then own that relationship directly with the client. And it’s just better for everybody, right. The communication is much easier, there’s no middle person that has to decipher. I’m not on the golf course, while they’re trying to frantically get a hold of me for something to get back to the client. So there’s no disruption in the line of communication. And it’s much easier to have our experts and our dedicated team members be right in the mix and be responsive in time.

Jeremy Weisz 24:17

Have you seen any sweet spots like because then they may work the client may work directly with you in that case, maybe you pay some percentage back to that company for whatever the partnership or relationship is, have you find a sweet spot of what you found is fair for you and the partner, like a range of what that looks like.

Josh Rosen 24:48

No. Also, yes. I think it depends on what the opportunity looks like and everything is really on an ad hoc basis. There’s no one-size-fits-all. Ideally, what we’re looking for, Jeremy in these partnerships is consistency. No one gets air quotes here rich have one campaign. Our goal, everything that we’ve done, our success, and that attrition rate that I referenced at the beginning, has come through organic growth and building that trust. So we’re not in it to just take the highest fee possible and pay the highest referral fee or rev share to a partner agency, we’re in this to work with advertisers that consistently are in market and spending. And a lot of early success came from taking on smaller spending accounts that no one else wanted to touch, that we’re under some predetermined threshold that I don’t know how they came up with it. But it worked to our favor, and then growing them.

Jeremy Weisz 26:04

Talk about, you mentioned Telco, so people understand a little bit more about what you do talk about what you did with the Telco company.

Josh Rosen 26:13

Yeah, so we work with various verticals. Anything from financial institutions, very nuanced. But then finance do like investor relation platforms or analytics platforms, for a specific niche of the investment community, right through to internet service providers, appliance manufacturers, auto clients, cryptocurrencies, post-secondary education, we work across a number of verticals. With each advertiser, there’s a different requirement in terms of what their go-to market plan consists of, some of them have high awareness, and they want to generate a lower cost per acquisition. Some of them are launching and have no awareness and need to create a name for themselves and drive traffic and generate leads. So it kind of goes back to the fee model. There’s no one-size-fits-all in terms of what that brand is looking to do. And as the ecosystem even continues to evolve, so must we in becoming experts in that space. As you scroll down there, there’s a couple clients that you reference there. And there’s some we’re looking at launching in Amazon as an example. And that’s a relatively new platform that didn’t exist 10 years ago, Pinterest continuing to add new and unique advertising products to it. Everything that’s happening with the rise and fall of Twitter slash x, we have to stay on top of this. Snap, TikTok, Reddit, like, everything is always adapting and changing. And there’s unique opportunities across the board, depending on which vertical we’re working in, to drive the desired KPI that that brand is looking for.

Jeremy Weisz 28:13

Yeah, what’s something that maybe most people don’t know like platform that you’ve seen work really well for a certain industry? I remember I had someone on who was talking about Pinterest for their own company products and I was shocked at how big and how much traffic goes through there. It was actually shocking. What’s something that shocked maybe not anymore, but it shocked you when you first looked into how much opportunity there was on one of these platforms. People say off Facebook, but like one of these other ones that maybe most people have not even thought of.

Josh Rosen 28:48

The craziest thing to me is still Twitch. I don’t know maybe I’m getting too old now. But the idea of logging on and watching someone play video games has zero appeal to me. No judgment. It is what it is.

Jeremy Weisz 29:09

I mean did Amazon, who bought, the pot for like a billion dollars. Amazon bought for Twitch? Yeah. So there must have been doing something right. But so there’s opportunities what kind of brands should be then using Twitch as a channel for companies?

Josh Rosen 29:28

The hard-hitting questions. You definitely skew. Certainly lower age demographics. You’re looking at more of your teen your hardcore gamer. I’d say more of your TikTok and Snap audience are the ones that are on Twitch. I don’t have that much in platform experience. They don’t let me play with the cool toys. Yeah, I’m more involved in the commercial and no legal side of the equation in these days, so I can’t speak to the specific capabilities of the channel of the platform, but it has a very captive audience as a loyal audience. There’s lots of influencers on there who have an exceptionally loyal following and move a lot of product as a result of it. And I think, as you’re gonna continue to see these influencers rise, and the platform’s adapt to reading advertising products that enable you to buy directly within that platform, the race to stay within the platform, is here for sure. They don’t want anyone taking out or reducing the amount of a link going to somewhere else as possible.

Jeremy Weisz 30:46

They want people staying yeah, within the ecosystem. What are your thoughts on Reddit? From what have you seen with Reddit and companies using how they’re using Reddit?

Josh Rosen 30:59

Reddit kind of comes up every once in a while as a platform that advertisers want to see on we’ve run some campaigns on it. It’s, in my view, a little bit similar to x, in terms of in predictability and decentralized content that’s on there. My understanding as well as there’s some limitations in terms of nuanced targeting. So as far as geo-targeting is concerned, and how granular you can get to the audience. So again, it depends on where that brand lives within the funnel, right? If they’re looking to do more upper funnel, brand building awareness type exercises from that may be a platform has a large user base DPM is our I think, relatively affordable, that for lack of a better term, if it fits the profile of what the brand looks like, then yeah, it can be a viable opportunity, but it really varies on branded, and where they want to focus.

Jeremy Weisz 32:11

Thanks for sharing that. It’s just some of the stuff seems like a black box to me anyways, the team? And you know, we mentioned before Ad Age best places to work, what are the things that you do as a company that allow you to win those type of awards?

Josh Rosen 32:29

I think it starts with myself and my co-founder, Alexander Schure. There he is in the middle there. We wanted to build a company that we wanted to work at. So we always started with this idea of like, what did we not like about the companies that we interned at or that we worked at? And how can we do it better? And we just did that?

Jeremy Weisz 33:02

What did you not like about previous companies?

Josh Rosen 33:06

Some of the bureaucracy and politics and just because you were tenured and have a certain level, you didn’t get involved in things, or you didn’t seem to care too much. Understanding that people have a life outside of work and celebrating those differences, and just genuinely saying the things to people that you want to hear from your boss that you want to hear from your employer, how much you appreciate them giving extended long weekends so that people can really get out there and enjoy themselves. Not taking ourselves so seriously, we’re not changing the world 98% of the time with our campaigns, every once in a while we have the opportunity to work on a really great campaign that is meaningful, and is doing some change. So let’s just have fun with what we’re doing and do some great work, deliver some strong results and be kind to each other and have some fun in the process.

Jeremy Weisz 34:12

What’s it look like with in-office versus remote for the team?

Josh Rosen 34:19

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie. It’s something that we, I don’t think we have figured out and in the early days of the return to office conversations, I was listening to anything I could get my air pods onto reading every blog post or tweet that came across my screen that had some sort of opinion or view on it. Ultimately where we netted out was we need to be true to ourselves and that goes back to be in a company that we wanted to work at. So we have every other Wednesday strongly encouraged policy. The office is open stocked with snacks and beverages. Everything that you need to make it comfortable. There’s a few people that that take advantage of it on a regular basis. There’s some that don’t, there’s some people that live very far away from it. I think at the end of the day, we want people to feel comfortable, we want them to feel supported, and the results that we’ve been able to demonstrate over the last three and a half years kind of speak for themselves, so it’s hard for me to say it’s not working. So we’re just gonna keep doing what we do.

Jeremy Weisz 35:34

How did that change your hiring practices with more of the remote setting?

Josh Rosen 35:43

I think we’ve always taken a very pragmatic approach to hiring which is best person for the job full stop. So if they lived in BC, that they were absolutely the right person for us then we’ll adjust and we’ll accommodate.

Jeremy Weisz 36:02

So you’d always consider remote Staff.

Josh Rosen 36:06

Yeah, I don’t think we ever like to be fair, it never really came up for you pandemic. So it was nothing that we had to consider as a management group. But yeah, we’re open. So we would just want the best people that, I often come in for the more technical interviews, at the end, when Ali will message me, okay, I think we’re going to hire this person. Everyone else on the team has met them, can you spend 15 minutes with them? And I really just come in as the vibe check. To be like, Yeah, this is somebody that I think we can get along with. And that’s gonna fit that. I don’t like going around the C word. I call more vibe, see, where’s culture, but fit the vibe of what we’ve built in what we’ve established. The CEO of Hotspex, chain skill, and who required us? Asked Ali and myself this in our interview, which was like, okay, we’re stuck in a boat and we’re lost at sea. Are we going to try and throw each other off the boat? What are we going to fight about? And I I remember hearing that from him for the first time and thinking that’s the most ridiculous question anybody’s ever asked me. And then reflecting on it, like, I’m gonna drive home tonight. What a brilliant, insightful question to ask them, but you’re about to go into business with. I said, nothing. Him and I are too, like, we might we might fight because we’re too like-minded. And we both want things our way. But at the end of the day, there’s not much that…

Jeremy Weisz 37:44

He was asking between you and your co-founder, or you and him.

Josh Rosen 37:50

Me and him, and then me and him and a co-founder. Yeah, yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 37:55

And then he let you get away with nothing.

Josh Rosen 38:00

Let me get away with nothing. I think I said at the time, like, I don’t know, I don’t know you that? Well, I don’t know what we’re gonna fight about.

Jeremy Weisz 38:06

What did you say about your co-founder, you said nothing also, though.

Josh Rosen 38:12

Ali and I are a ying and yang, were the marriage that we didn’t know we needed. And I think the best part about us is, we came together via my cousin. We had no existing relationship previously, so we always went into this with like, Yeah, we had some mutual kind of acquaintances between us, but if it didn’t work out, and we parted ways, it wasn’t like, I’d have to show up and see him at a family dinner a week later or something like that. So we really shows each other at the end of the day and continue to choose each other as sappy as that might sound every day and we both have balancing characteristics to each other that fill in the gaps that everyone has that we both have.

Jeremy Weisz 39:11

What do you, I mean, again, like it’s all in any relationship as you know, like there’s healthy I don’t know if fighting is the right word but what do you maybe disagree on and again, you come to agreement at some point, but what do you tend to disagree on? Or is there an example of something that you disagreed on with your partner that you eventually, and how you resolved it?

Josh Rosen 39:36

Yeah, I don’t know. There’s not anything like really specific, I think it’s just an overall way of being where I am very emotional and reactionary. Reuse, hot-headed and short-tempered and he’s much more calm, rational can remove himself and feelings from the situation. And I’ve come to really appreciate that measured approach, and try and apply it to myself. But there’s times where I’m like, dude, I need you to have a reaction, right?

Jeremy Weisz 40:13

Yeah, sometimes that can be infuriating. Actually, there was a book I was listening to, How to Listen. So kids will talk and talk. So kids will listen. And they talked about this in the book, which can be applied to business if like, you don’t meet the level of somewhat of the reaction of the person they feel like not heard, or they feel like you’re not listening to them.

Josh Rosen 40:38

So I’ve never been made to feel that way. And I hope that he would say the same about me that he’s never been made to feel that way. I think at the end of the day, the thing that I admire the most about him and Shane, for that matter. Is there willingness to have hard conversations. And I appreciate that very much, because I don’t look for confrontation, but I’m also not afraid of it. I am very opinionated. I am short tempered at times, and sometimes I just need to vent and blow up and be talked off the ledge. And made to feel like yeah, like you’re entitled to your feelings. You are right. Okay, now that you’ve blown off that steam, what are we going to do about it? And how are we going to help it?

Jeremy Weisz 41:24

Yeah. Talk about, so Wave Digital, now Hotspex Media, talk about why you decided to, you define merge sold to, what was the decision in Why did you end up doing that? Because you could have just yet kept going?

Josh Rosen 41:43

Yeah, we could have kept going, we kind of had a crossroads where we were growing, we’re hiring, the industry was contracting and expanding at the same time, there’s a lot of acquisition happening. So the loom escape was looking more manageable, where you could actually identify the logos that were on it without a magnifying glass. And there’s a little bit of a fear of being left behind, and understanding where we’ve now lived in this world, in this ecosystem. And with that, I had started a family, and there were some luxuries that I had come to enjoy. Like being able to go to my daughter’s dance recital on a Wednesday afternoon. And not wanting to lose that kind of autonomy to have a life and to be there for my kids for my family. And we looked at ourselves and we’re like, okay, should we build something? Like a piece of technology? What’s it going to be? Should we sell to somebody? Where do we then fit in that wheel as that cog? Or should we acquire somebody? And if we acquire somebody, what does that look like? Because you know, we’re gonna need to raise some money, which means we’re gonna need to dilute ourselves, which now we’re gonna have bosses that we’re gonna report into the might not take so kindly to me going to my daughter’s dance recital on a Wednesday afternoon. And we realized that we had this, what we mapped out in our minds and even, kind of sketched out on some napkins was this unicorn scenario. And very serendipitously, I get a call from one of our mentors and a beginning partner agency relationship that we had to come meet with Shane skilling at the Hotspex offices. And I had actually interviewed to be an intern in the early 2000s was Shane, to work at Hotspex. To which he astutely said, market research is not for you. Best of luck, and set me on my path for 12 years later, I’m now negotiating with him to by my company. And that meeting really unlocked something for me, which was there’s a unique opportunity to marry the world of insights with the booming world of programmatic media. And if we could unlock that component, then we’re really onto something here. And we’ve achieved what Ali and I had been discussing, which was creating a point of difference, building unique piece of technology that’s adding value to the larger ecosystem and advertising community while also maintaining our independence, our autonomy and our ability to really manage the business that we’ve built. And that’s why we chose Hotspex and more why they chose us because there is that shared values that shared vision and goal to kind of cross the chasm into industries that had otherwise been at opposite ends of the river together, right? We build that bridge between insights and media, and develop the product and Reticle AI over the last three years. That is the true intersection of where insights and media lives.

Jeremy Weisz 42:00

Talk about Reticle for a second, I do want to hear to also how it changed your job once you merged. So we’ll talk about Reticle first. You said, it’s kind of like the love child.

Josh Rosen 45:46

Yeah, so Hotspex insights has a human motivations framework, their map, as we call it, they work with Global Fortune 500 brands, to help them understand their rights based essentially on this map that uses emotional attributes as the key identifying points. So whereas a brand wants to live in the consumers mind, Byron Sharp, who is a little bit of the inspiration behind this calls it how brands grow, which is mental availability, plus physical availability, equals brand growth. So this notion of how you relate a brand to an emotional attribute and create that connectivity is where people are going to purchase your brand and have great thoughts about it. It’s why, you know, you could not be a car person, Jeremy, but I could ask you to tell me everything you know about Ferrari, and you’re gonna name off things that It’s luxurious, exotic, it’s Italian, it’s red, these are all brand attributes that live front and center that you have strong recall for in your brain. And at some level, it’s created an emotional response in you, as a result of years of decades worth of brand building. So Hotspex, how’s that brands are actively doing that, in everything that they do from an insights perspective, it’s why they go to market with advertising is to create that emotional connection with the advertiser, or with the viewer, sorry. What was missing in programmatic was the ability to truly uncover that. So we built Reticle which we call brand optimal, is that convergence of mental availability, with showing up in optimal placements for that brand, by leveraging technology that we built in-house through AI, to really go beyond sentiment. So not just a positive, neutral or negative, but to really go deep into what is this piece of content portraying from an emotional perspective is active, attractive, capable, etc, etc. And then aligning the brand to show up in that optimal placement through programmatic buying.

Jeremy Weisz 48:13

Super interesting, and if you’re listening, just the audio, there is a video version, I was kind of poking around, you’ll see it, you can take a look and check that out on their website as well. I guess, Josh, we only have a few more minutes. But my last question is just any resources. You said, when you are learning and growing as a leader, as a company, you’re probably listening different things or any particular books and resources that you’ve listened to that you can share with people.

Josh Rosen 48:48

Yeah, I listened a lot to How I Built This. I listened to StartUp, which was one of the most interesting podcast because it was the building and start of gimbal. And I just watched people around me, in our industry, not our industry, and just tried to learn their journey and understand what they did that I wasn’t doing. And I never stopped or was never afraid to ask a question. And I remember, we were named one of Canada’s fastest-growing startups by a prestigious publication here in Canada, and they had a luncheon for all the winners, and Jim bacilli was one of the attendees and if you don’t know who that is, he was the CEO of Rim which made BlackBerry back in the day for the younger listeners that was before the iPhone, and I miss it dearly. By the way, I’ll just say that.

Jeremy Weisz 50:02

I hung on to my Blackberry as long as.

Josh Rosen 50:04

Good for you. I missed that done, we all know I probably have some form of carpal tunnel in place if I still had it. And I got him in a corner. And I asked him, I said, hey, what advice do you have, for me as a young founder, who’s trying to build a company in a very competitive space? And he said, I’ll never forget this. He said to me, everyone thinks that entrepreneurship and running a business is linear. Right? You do this, and then you do this, and you do this, and you do this, and that kind of waterfalls into the next stage. He said, I want you to envision that you’re trying to hop across a pond or something. And there’s all these stones on the surface. So, you take a step left, take another one left, and you hop, right, and you’re trying to follow the path. And then obviously, like, oh, no, there’s no more stone stopped it. So you backtrack, and then you find a different path. And you kind of keep going in this crazy convoluted way. That’s kind of zigzagging across the pond until you reach the other side. That’s what running a business is. And I’ve never forgotten that. And I think that resonates through with no matter what industry you’re in. It’s not linear. Nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s two steps forward, five back, but that’s where your metal is tested. That’s where you can reach that summit and really look back and say, wow, we did something here. And then roll up your sleeves and go right back to work.

Jeremy Weisz 51:35

Josh, I’m gonna be the first one to thank you. Amazing. Thanks for sharing your journey and we’ll see everyone next time. Thanks, Josh.

Josh Rosen 51:47

Thank you.