Justin Rezvani is the founder and CEO of TheAmplify, a technology driven influencer marketing company that is revolutionizing the way brands are building online followings. I learned more about the kickass work he’s doing when we spoke at this year’s techsytalk LIVE conference back in August. As an added bonus, we were joined by Lindsay Fultz, formerly (and at the time of this conversation still) with Chideo, now back at TheAmplify as Director of Brand Strategy and Integrated Marketing.
Justin – At our core really, our business has been built to facilitate the scalable delivery of influencer campaigns, from inception of ideas and actual creative to influencer selection to content creation to deployment and delivery and then measurement, so the full stack of the process with technology facilitating every level of the experience. And basically making it easier for the influencer and also making it easier for the advertiser, because we’re still working on a double system. It’s not just for the clients, it’s also for the brands and the influencers, so making it easy on both sides of the court.
Shared Rank [TheAmplify’s proprietary software, designed by Justin] is the original inception of what we built. Basically, it’s an audience algorithm, so it understands the audiences that follow influencers to better effectively select influencers when you’re trying to work with them.
Deborah – So you really get into a very detailed analysis of demographics and everything. What levels of granularity are you looking at?
Justin – We’re looking at four core levels – it’s demographics, it’s interests, behaviors and connections… The next iteration is really going to allow us to mimic Facebook… literally we’re taking exactly the Facebook style dashboard and building out a version for our clients.
Deborah – Do you do any charity?
Justin – We do some things, but they’re still paid, so there’s still charity components but people pay us to be part of it. The pro bono work is something we’ve always thought of… we’re so stacked just to deliver for our clients, it’s… more of just building enterprise value at this point.
Deborah – What is the most exciting thing about this for you?
Justin – Seeing it become an actual thing is to me the thing that makes me wake up every morning… Being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things to do, but at the end of the day… it’s consistently providing a good experience for my team, but also for our clients. When a client can say this is the most incredible thing we’ve done, that’s rewarding, that’s very rewarding as a business owner.
Deborah – Is each campaign a new learning curve for you?
Justin – Totally. It’s a new experience, it’s a new innovation, it’s new for the team, but it’s always an accomplishment along the way, and you know to date I think we just finished 85 campaigns over the last 18 months.
Deborah – Wow, that’s a lot!
Justin – Yeah, we’re becoming a pretty big company.
Deborah – How many people do you have?
Justin – Right now we’re at 26, which we should be at, I mean the engineering team is half of that, but we might be at 50 by the end of the year.
Lindsay – Save a spot for me.
Justin – Always a spot for her… We’ve changed offices twice already.
Deborah – What kind of directions are you going into as far as new territory? Is there a place you have your eye on that’s different from where you are now?
Justin – I think we’re laser focused on being experts at just this. I think that there’s a lot of companies that are trying to do a lot of things; they don’t do a lot of things really well. So we’re really focusing on just being a leader in just this. Paid platforms and paid media will be the next iteration of it, but focusing on technology, great reporting tools, making our clients’ lives easier and the influencers’ lives easier and effectively building better solutions.
Deborah – Talk me through a typical campaign that is emblematic of what you do.
Justin – So, I think one cool thing we could talk about, and I can send you the link to the case study, is something we did for the movie Insurgent. It was a movie coming out for Lion’s Gate, and they basically built this virtual reality app, which kind of the guy was alluding to. So what we did is, we brought the influencers to our studio, they got to demo the virtual reality app, and actually what they’re seeing through their goggles got displayed on the green screen behind them, and they got to actually post that content to their followers, and we created this story on Instagram that let people follow the journey of many influencers living in the VR world of that movie. So that was an amazing campaign, because it launched in only 45 minutes. 10 videos were delivered in 45 minutes across 10 different influencers, and it got like 3 million views in 24 hours, like 7 million impressions, it was pretty massive, like 500,000 likes across the country. So it was a pretty cool scaled campaign, got some press for it, Lion’s Gate officially announced our partnership when we did that, now we work on all their films. And up fronts.
Deborah – Was this like a pitch that you did to them and said hey let’s try this and then they saw how great it was and were like ok, you’re in?
Justin – It took a year of just running campaigns with Lion’s Gate for them to actually trust us to be their AOR, so we’re now their influencer AOR. What that means is basically any influencer campaign they’re running is running through us directly, we don’t go through their agency anymore…
Deborah – Nice.
Justin – It’s a good place to be with certain clients, but it takes a lot of trust to build that.
Deborah – Sure.
Justin – And we were one of the first companies doing it, that’s just the reality of where we were… now there’s literally hundreds of influencer marketing companies.
Lindsay – They’re popping up every day.
Justin – Every day I have the Google search, and they’re just hundreds.
Deborah – What you were telling me Lindsay, is that this is just such an open market. So you’re definitely in at the beginning of the game.
Lindsay – And I mean I may be biased but I see the ads going out from these other companies, and they do look like ads, and they straight up look like an ad buy… vs. what I love at TheAmplify, is I can scroll through the Instagram feed, and it doesn’t stick out as like they were paid, it just looks like an engaging piece of content. It looks like this is their favorite brand, or if it’s a cosmetic company, you know a YouTuber has all her makeup laid out on the table and maybe some are turned over strategically so you can see the brand, but it’s a beautiful piece of content.
Deborah – So you have a whole team that’s filming content, writing content…
Justin – Not really. So what we’ve really done is facilitated a mobile app to create content. So we have a mobile app that all the influencers have on their phones, and that’s how we actually create the content.
Deborah – Interesting, so you’re really gathering their content and mobilizing on the stuff that they create.
Justin – Yeah. It’s an interesting thing, it’s like we’re a really large media company that doesn’t actually own any media properties.
Deborah – Right.
Justin – We’re a content company that actually doesn’t create content. It’s an interesting place to be as a business, because it doesn’t come with all the hassles of having creatives and actually building content.
Deborah – All the overhead…
Justin – But delivering those experiences.
Deborah – What would you say is the main influence that drives you – your perspective that pushes you forward in terms of your esthetic or your ethic, because from what Lindsay’s saying, your stuff doesn’t look like ads, right, so what’s your inspiration, how do you arrive at that way of doing business?
Justin – I think it’s… what we fundamentally believe as a business, you know, we want to make advertising human. That’s like our mantra to our clients every day. It’s the beginning of our pitch, you know, we’re trying to facilitate human experiences for advertisers, so that’s what drives us every single day in every piece of content we create, and that’s kind of what I’ve instilled in the team a little bit, in terms of what has to be… I think the other aspect is – you know I’m very competitive, I want to win so bad I want to crush everyone that’s in this industry, and I know I’m just gonna work harder than everyone else that’s playing in this field, so that’s the other thing that drives me. I wanna win, and I wanna crush everyone.
Deborah – Is having fun during the campaigns important to you?
Justin – Right now my role is changing. I’m not involved in the day to day; I don’t know what every campaign is running. I used to approve every piece of content being delivered. I can’t anymore. It’s just too much for my schedule, my travels, so it’s just instilling in my team kind of basic, kind of fundamental beliefs, and they have to just deliver against what we’ve built.
Deborah – And you’ve hired the right people to carry it out.
Justin – Absolutely, we’ve got a great team.
Deborah – So what are you working on?
Justin – So, mine is more large scale strategic partnerships. Right now it’s growing the business as the founder and CEO, and not the day to day. Larger strategic partnerships, meetings with the largest holding companies, and how do we bring this product to life for their entire portfolio. How can you bring this as a thought leadership thing coming to these kinds of things? Speaking at conferences is part of my day to day, building enterprise value in different ways, but really the larger strategic partnerships are my focus.
Deborah – Is there any particular industry that you’re looking at?
Justin – For us it’s across the board, but anyone that’s trying to target a millennial, we want to work with [them].
Deborah – It’s real millennial focused.
Justin – Very much so.
Lindsay – Do you find that because you’re young, like you founded the company when you were 25, do you find that when you meet with the decision makers at the biggest brands, movie studios, that that’s a barrier?
Justin – It used to be scary… I just had a thing with Pam Kaufman last week, the President and Chief Marketing Officer of Nickolodeon. She’s pretty high up there, controls a lot of money, and my meeting with her is over, and she sent me an email after, she was like, “This is amazing!” All this stuff, so… it used to be tough, but now… we’ve proven the value of our product and it’s easy to go in there and be like, look, this is what we’re doing, this is all the stuff we did, I can’t lie about this, this is what we did for other clients, you wanna be on board, you’re more than welcome, so…
Deborah – It’s a confidence builder when you’ve got a big track record coming in with you.
Justin – Yeah, I mean that’s the reality… we deliver, and I think that’s the differentiation in the industry. A lot of people talk… and we don’t have a lot of press. You Google us…
Lindsay – But the campaigns get press, which is awesome.
Deborah – You’re the man behind the man.
Justin – We don’t have a PR team, we try to be very quiet. We just wanna do great work.
Deborah – Have you made any big mistakes?
Justin – Every day.
Deborah – OK, what’s the biggest mistake that you’ve learned a really important lesson from that you wanna share?
Justin – I think the one thing that I’m seeing now is kind of sometimes growing too fast can be a really scary thing. You know, we’ve gone from being a really small core team of five people, to 25 in less than six months. So, that rapid growth, I think in some ways, I wasn’t ready to strategically do that, and I think that’s been a quote unquote failure… but I’m learning alot from it, and we’ve got 27 now… This is my third job, just to put it in perspective, so I’m learning every day… but we have a really great group of advisors, and a great group of a team around us, we’ve partnered with some of the largest strategic advisory firms in the world as our partners now to build it.
Deborah – In terms of your own business development…
Justin – I mean it’s really strategically advising on a larger scale. Like partnerships.
Deborah – I see, so your own success through process.
Justin – Absolutely. How do you scale?
Deborah – What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you?
Justin – Oh man. There’s a lot of great advice. The one thing, I don’t know if you’ve seen this on my wrist, this is a new thing. It’s a little thing, they’ll hammer you a saying into it, it says, “Be relentless.” I think that’s like a thing I tweet a lot, it’s a hashtag I use a lot… My dad was very focused on just be relentless on what you’re doing because that’s the only way that you’ll win this game… it’s about that long tail, so I think being relentless is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received.
Deborah – And how long has your company been around?
Justin – 18 months. No a little bit longer. 19 months. We started in January 2014.
Deborah – That’s it? Holy s**t…. I’m surprised you’re not, what do you get the bends when you climb up too fast?
Justin – It’s a blessing.
Deborah – Hold on for the ride, right?
Justin – I’m just holding on for dear life.