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Unruly Media COO Sarah Wood Talks About Their $25 Million Funding Round

Vincent Flood 09 January, 2012 

Sarah Wood, Unruly MediaLast week Unruly Media raised a $25 million in a new round of funding, a record for a social video company. Since Unruly’s inception in London in 2006, the company has delivered, tracked and audited 1.34 billion user-intended video views and executed 1,400+ social video campaigns for some of the world’s leading global brands, including Old Spice, Electronic Arts, adidas, Unilever, T-Mobile and Coca-Cola.  Here Unruly founder and COO Sarah Wood discusses how they’re going to invest that cash and explains how Unruly has grown so rapidly.

Congratulations on receiving your funding.  What’s the secret to Unruly’s rapid expansion and how will you use the funding to accelerate that growth?

We win a lot of repeat business. In terms of campaign delivery, we strive to make each and every campaign one of the most awesome social video campaigns on the planet. We’re lucky, because we have our, which has been collecting information about the most popular videos on the social web since 2006, is a unique and unreplicable data set, which helps brands to identify advocates and ignite conversations with consumers. We’re also lucky to have a great team spirit and a passionate team of people determination to make things happen.

As well as being used to fund exciting new product developments on RAMP (Unruly’s proprietary Real-time Amplification and Measurement Platform), we’ll be opening offices in Chicago and Miami during 2012 and will beef up our presence on the east and west coast. Plus we’ll be continuing to expand in Europe, with an office in Berlin, and we’ll be setting up shop in Asia. In all we plan to double headcount to around 200 in 2012.

Your success is great news for the UK video advertising industry.  How is the UK industry faring in your opinion and what could be done to aid its growth?

It’s growing that’s for sure. Online video was the fastest growing category of ad spend in 2011 and is going to grow from a $2 billion category in 2011 to a $20 billion category in 2015.

At the same time, brands are substantially increasing their investment in social media. Ultimately, we’re part of a trillion dollar marketing economy and it’s going to take a further $100 billion to move online before online ad spend catches up with media consumption behavior.

You have built your own technology, the Real-Time Amplification & Measurement Platform (RAMP).  How does RAMP enhance campaigns?

RAMP powers the entire life cycle of our campaigns. Cloud-hosted across multiple data centers and CDNs,it delivers 4,000 video streams per second, 80,000 micro payments an hour and has tracked a staggering 254 billion video streams since launch.

Our 11,000+ media partners use RAMP to pick up branded videos and track their earnings. Clients use RAMP to track the real-time progress of their campaigns on the social analytics dashboard. Unruly’s delivery team use RAMP to identify prospective media partners and optimise for campaign KPIs using productised annotations, social plugins and algorithmic intelligence derived from the 1,400 campaigns we’ve run since 2007.

As Unruly gets to see what works and what doesn’t with social video campaigns, do you ever get involved in the creative process?

Absolutely. We’re often involved with campaigns at the storyboard stage  – by drilling down into data from, we can give brands a unique insight into what has worked for them and their product category in the past and what is currently setting the social web on fire. Over time, we’ve developed our own framework for predicting the social potential of online video content, which clients use in order to choose between creatives or to hone a creative in order to produce a particular reaction, such as awe, happiness, shock or surprise.

What do you think is the main difference between a social video campaign and a standard video advertising campaign?

Conversation. Social video enables brands to start conversations with relevant audiences through the user’s ability to activate, share and comment on the video across web-enabled devices. In terms of the format, social video is a non-interruptive, user-initiated video format sold on a cost per engagement basis. The content is delivered within a fully functional video player, giving the user total control of the viewing experience, including the ability to comment, share, re-post, pause and replay, meaning that when the content is strong the format can drive earned media value for brands.

Where does social video fit in the video marketing mix? Do your clients usually use it complement their TV campaigns and more standard forms of video advertising, or do many brands depend on social video alone?

Social video is at the heart of an increasing number of integrated brand campaigns as more brands create cross-platform, integrated campaigns that connect branded content with discretely-targeted audiences across digital, TV, mobile and IRL (in Real Life) environments.

In 2011, many of the top campaigns such as CarlsbergBikers and T-Mobile Angry Birds Live  revolved around a real life event that was clearly designed to be shared around the social web. A campaign such as Volkswagen’s The Force combined the conversational power of the social web with the reach of a SuperBowl TV ad to become the most shared ad of 2011.

What are the main ingredients for a great social video campaign?

Content continues to be king, but with 48 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, the most successful campaigns – those where the video realises its full social potential – combine content that elicits a powerful emotional response with a distribution budget that ensures the video is seen by its target audience. The secret ingredients are agility and longevity; the most successful content is created with long-term engagement front of mind; the savviest media plan builds agility into the blueprint, as social traction is unpredictable and it’s hard to know in advance where on the social web the conversations and sharing activity will occur.

What metric do you use to measure the success of your campaigns?

Campaign KPIs vary according to campaign objectives. Awareness, Attention, Advocacy and Action are the four most common social video objectives. We measure Awareness by number of views, Attention by interaction rate and dwell times, Advocacy by share rate and Action by CTR or data-capture rate. We can then benchmark these rates against the product vertical to give a more nuanced understanding of campaign performance.

Having a brand featured alongside premium content is a common requirement in all forms of brand advertising. With social video being inherently sharable, some might argue there’s a loss of control. Yet successful social video campaigns consistently rank highly in terms of likability and brand recall. Do you think the industry focuses too heavily on context, or does the fact that a video is being shared provide a context of its own?

I imagine that the context of paid media placements will always be important to brands but at the same time there’s a realisation that online conversations between consumers often start in unexpected places, and that’s no different from offline word of mouth.

Last year you won the Growing Business Female Entrepreneur of the Year award.  As various independent reports have found women are under-represented in advertising and in tech, how do you think we can prevent the same mistakes from happening in video advertising?

I’m a strong believer that the best teams are diverse teams – male and female, digital natives and old hands, homegrown Brits and citizens of the world. Diversity of talent is one of the key advantages of running a business in London and certainly gives us the edge at Unruly.


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