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“We help brands understand what to create & data to understand formats” – Sameer Pitalwalla, Culture Machine


Digital video network Culture Machine, which had raised $18 million in a series B round of funding from Tiger Global Management and existing investors Times Internet and Zodius Capital earlier this year, recently launched its brand intelligence machine to aid brands to understand the kind of content that should be created around their brand. In the first part of this two part interview series, we speak with Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO of Culture Machine, about their brand intelligence machine, the metrics provided to brands, and Facebook video.

Brand intelligence machine

MediaNama: What kind of technology is used in your brand intelligence machine?

Pitalwalla: Let’s set the context first. YouTube is not the only platform that is on video. There is video on Facebook. There is Twitter video, there is video even on Snapchat and there’s more coming up. The problem is in understanding it. So how does one know what content to create? For instance, in a category like beauty, should you be creating lip makeup or eye makeup or hair makeup? Even in that, what are the trends that are relevant and particular to that audience?

Say in India, skin based content has lot more viewership than say beauty or eye makeup. But in the US, hair makeup is actually more popular than skin makeup. Within that, you get to see trends like braiding, curls and perms. So you get a lot of details in terms of what insights you should go into, what we call the content recipe. This is really helpful in understanding what works for a brand.

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For example, one of the best formats for beverages and cold drinks is science and experiments. Within that, the most interesting formats are how do you boil a Coke? What happens when you boil a Coke? Second one is what are the quickest ways to chill a Coke? Third is what happens when you take two Coke cans and create an electric field around it? What this tells us in terms of data is that it helps us understand what content should one be creating for Coke and may be it turns out that the most popular format is around music, science and experiments. Then we are also able to find out who are the YouTubers who will be able to create this programming.

Apart from that, what are the trends within the formats? I just spoke about a couple of trends. But you would see other trends as well. Then we are able to benchmark a brand and tell them ‘Hey, here’s what you have been producing and here is the content around your brand that other people are uploading onto the Internet’ so owned and earned media. So we help the brands understand for example, there might be parody or spoofs around it. So then we are able to look at that content, advertisement, reach, viewership, engagement and then give them a clear idea of what content they should or should not be creating and who should be creating it for them.

MediaNama: Which are some of the brands that you have worked with?

Pitalwalla: These are subtle brand integrations. Off the top of my head, I can think of Kingfisher, Sony, and others.

MediaNama: What metrics do you give for brands using your brand intelligence machine?

Pitalwalla: We don’t give metrics at all for brands. We only give them insights. We use our technology to understand what works with a particular audience. Basically, we help brands understand what content they need to be creating. Our technology is geared around that. We use data to understand what content formats work.

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MediaNama: Do you give these insights only for YouTube or is it for all digital platforms put together?

Pitalwalla: Right now, we are giving it for YouTube and the idea is to add more platforms to it. We have already added some but we can’t talk about it right now.

Facebook video & Facebook

MediaNama: With Facebook video coming up, have you guys done anything similar on Facebook? How do you think Facebook is approaching videos differently from YouTube?

Pitalwalla: On Facebook video, one expects that Facebook will launch monetization. We believe Facebook is a really powerful platform that wields much richer content experience even apart from video, with images and text. We have already worked with Facebook to create content for our marque brands on the platform. We have in fact even released some content exclusively on Facebook first for our Facebook audience. We found the platform to be quite powerful to build content brands. We are very bullish, not just for us but even for our creators.

MediaNama: How do you think Facebook is approaching video differently than YouTube with the different base that they have?

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Pitalwalla: Basically, on Facebook you have a lot more options to build a content brand because it is beyond just video. You have images, texts, you have other formats that you could use and work with. Secondly, because of the nature of Facebook, you have stay touch with your audiences in a very different mode than YouTube. Timeline is something that is so central to making sure that your content is discovered.

Third is also how Facebook is evolving as a content platform. The kind of data that they provide could be very powerful to understand very deeply what content your audience is engaging with and what content resonates with them in a particular geography, particular demographic, psychographics so it gives various cuts on the mind of your audience critical for your programming.

And the last really is to be able to target. I think Facebook allows you on a core level to look at content marketing in a very different light than YouTube, which offers you limited ways to get people with a certain taste profile to sample your content. Facebook does a much better job of it.

MediaNama: When you say Facebook helps discoverability of your content, I have noticed that Facebook only allows your native uploads to be discovered, not your YouTube videos. Then how does it help discovery of your YouTube content?

Pitalwalla: You are right. Facebook has found a way to promote anything that is a native upload on its platform than external content. So if you upload an image natively to Facebook, as opposed to a link that the user needs to click on outside of Facebook to watch an image, it will promote the former more than the latter. So now on Facebook, we started to upload natively on Facebook.

Although there is no monetization there, our idea is to build good brands and loyal audiences. Then if monetization comes, we’ll have the audience ready to get it off the ground for us. We are working closely with Facebook to enable our creators to migrate their content and brands onto the platform, both of our own as well as our creators’. We are working on making the ecosystem to build out their audiences on Facebook.

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