Creative advertising agency Bigeye interviews visual designer Kathie Baptista, who discusses her inspiration and how her Hispanic heritage influences her work.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: This week, we’re talking to tattooed, lipstick-wearing, letter-loving Latina designer, Kathie Baptista. An integral part of Bigeye’s creative team, Kathie explains her creative process and shares her favorite projects. She discusses her personal career journey and why it’s important to keep exploring creative avenues throughout life. Kathie also shares her sources of inspiration and offers practical advice to students considering careers in graphic design and advertising.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Kathie Baptista: Because I am Latina, my family consists of a lot of Latina women, and I think that they all inspire me, in different ways – Latina women who are trying to find their own path and be entrepreneurs. It’s very inspiring to be a part of a community that’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. It’s my pleasure today to introduce you to a visual designer who describes herself as a tattooed, lipstick-wearing, letter-loving Latina: Kathie Baptista is a designer here at Bigeye and an integral part of the agency’s creative team. Kathie, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Kathie Baptista: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So Kathie, when did you first realize you might be interested in pursuing a career in art and design?

Kathie Baptista: I was always a creative kid growing up. And I think my mom noticed that very early on. She always put me in a lot of creative classes, like art class and chorus, and I did a couple of drama lessons and stuff. But I’d say probably around middle school, MySpace was kind of a thing and I really enjoyed taking photos and editing photos and curating my page to make it look very much like me. And I think that when the time came to go to college, I spoke with the college counselor and I was telling them my interest and I really wanted to become a photographer. And the college counselor asked me if I prefer taking photos or editing photos. And I remember I said, I preferred editing photos. And she was like, “Well, maybe you should consider graphic design instead.” And I haven’t turned back since.

Adrian Tennant: Can you tell us a little about your early family life growing up in South Florida?

Kathie Baptista: My family immigrated from Nicaragua in 1985. And they, I think, were able to acclimate a little bit better to the United States because the community that we lived in in Miami was very Hispanic, a lot of Spanish speakers. So I think that the transition was a little easier for them. Growing up in Miami, it was really unique. You know, Miami is really beautiful. There’s a lot of different people, a lot of different cultures. There are definitely some problem areas with the traffic and just being really overpopulated, but it’s home and it’s unlike anything else.  

Adrian Tennant: Growing up, were there any aspects of Nicaraguan culture present in your home life?

Kathie Baptista: Well, definitely the food I’d say. I think my parents still eat gallo pinto, which is rice and beans almost every day still to this day. But they definitely transitioned to American culture really well. By the time I came along, my parents had already been in the United States for about six years. So they really were adapting and they had teenage daughters who were going to an American school. So it was either adapt or bust. But they definitely tried to maintain the Spanish language in our home. So I think that was really important because, you know, as I’ve grown up, being bilingual has been helpful in so many ways.

Adrian Tennant: Would you say that has influenced your work?

Kathie Baptista: I feel like I am very much inspired by very colorful design. And I feel like that probably comes a lot from my culture and just seeing, you know, colorful design, just within Hispanic communities and you know, in American art. So I do think that that plays a little bit of an influence.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, before pursuing design as a career, did you know anyone that worked in the creative industries?

Kathie Baptista: The only person I really knew was my sister, when I was growing up, she was going to Parsons in New York and she was studying to become an interior designer. So that was the first time I ever heard of design as a career. And she would tell me about the things she’s doing in school. And it sounded really cool. So I knew I wanted to be involved in something like that.

Adrian Tennant: What kind of age differences between you?

Kathie Baptista: She is 11 years older than me. And she’s actually the one closest to my age. My other sister is 15 years older than me. So there’s a bit of an age gap there.

Adrian Tennant: Now you left South Florida for undergrad studies at the University of Central Florida. What was that experience like?

Kathie Baptista: Well, to be honest, I feel like it was a little bit of a culture shock. The town that I grew up in back in South Florida is about 96 percent Hispanic. And there were a lot of Spanish speakers. So I remember I would get kind of surprised faces when I went through sorority recruitment, for example, and they were surprised to see that I was bilingual and that I spoke Spanish fluently. It was so strange to me. I was like, “Doesn’t everybody know Spanish?” So that was a bit of a transition, but I will say I had the best time at UCF. I loved it. I loved being in Orlando. I met a lot of my friends that I still know to this day that I’m really close to. I got really involved with the design community. Overall, it was a really good experience and I love it.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, what was your first paid job after graduating?

Kathie Baptista: Um, My first paid job after graduating, I worked at a local stationery store in Charlotte, North Carolina. I really loved paper and print and lettering, and I felt like that was a good place to start.  I learned a lot about printing processes and all that stuff, paper types, but unfortunately, it didn’t really last long.

Adrian Tennant: Tell us about some of the places you’ve lived and worked in before joining Bigeye.

Kathie Baptista: Wow. Um, well, after I graduated, I moved – like I said – to Charlotte, North Carolina. And, I worked in the stationery store. I really enjoyed paper and print and traditional design. So I kind of tried to stay in that industry. I worked at Shutterfly for a while and was reviewing invitations and holiday cards. And that was really interesting. I learned a lot about invitation etiquette. I also worked at a screen printing shop. And that was really cool because I got to learn about how to set up files for print and color separation and things like that. And the shop that I worked for was very involved in the creative and music scene. So it was really fun to be a part of that. I wanted to become a lettering artist and I got to work with some really amazing clients. One of my first jobs and my favorite, I would say was probably my first freelance job. I had just moved to Charlotte and I got a freelance gig working for Charlotte Magazine. And I got to do all the lettering for their article. That was, “Fifty Things Every Charlottean Should Do.” So it was perfect because I had just moved to the city and I didn’t know anything about Charlotte and I got to learn so much and both with the freelance job and about the city that I had just moved into.

Adrian Tennant: That sounds like a dream assignment. Now, I’m just curious, thinking back to that project, did you do the lettering by hand, or did you use a computer? What did that look like?

Kathie Baptista: It was a mix. It’s funny. There are so many things now. I like Procreate. That just makes the lettering process easier, but I would do it all by hand. I still have them to this day because it was my first freelance project. I wanted to keep all the memories of it, but I would draw it all by hand in my sketchbook. And then I would go over it with a marker and tracing paper. And then I would scan that and then, you know, just make any adjustments on the computer.

Adrian Tennant: On your personal website, you express that love for lettering as you did a lot of typography early in your career. Now you’re focused more on design and branding. How have lettering and typography influenced your overall approach to graphic design?

Kathie Baptista: I think being a lettering artist, I grew this huge appreciation for typography and lettering. It’s funny because there are so many unique nuances in type, to the point where, you know, type almost has its own personality, they all become like little people almost. So just having that appreciation for letters and typography, I was always constantly taking photos of typography that I saw outside or keeping references on Instagram or on my phone. And I think that because I have this large arsenal of references, it makes it a lot easier in the design process and in the branding process, to find typography that’s appropriate for the client. Typography can make such a huge difference in the mood and in the tone for a brand. So I definitely feel like I have a big arsenal of resources that I’ve been able to go to.

Adrian Tennant: If you see something interesting, you snap her right there and then.

Kathie Baptista: Definitely. Just usually while I’m out on the street, it’s so funny, I’ll just be going to a restaurant and I’ll see typography in a menu that I really like or ghost type, which is sometimes when type has been painted on a building but has been weathered away through the years. I always try to photograph that because it’s just so interesting and unique, usually hand-lettered type specifically is unique to the person who made it.  So I always try to keep records of that.

Adrian Tennant: I think it’s so interesting you talk about the personality of type and you almost see them as characters.

Kathie Baptista: Yeah. They can be quirky or they can be serious. It really changes the tone of a project. So I really try to spend a lot of time making sure that I’m finding the right type for the right client or for the right project.

Adrian Tennant: Do you feel that South American countries have a different approach to typography than American design, for example?

Kathie Baptista: I feel like back in the day in America, let’s say there was a lot of hand-painted type. And I still feel like that’s very common in our culture today, and especially in Latin American culture, just probably because of lack of resources and, you know, sign painting it’s just what they’ve always done. I know that there is a popular form of lettering in Argentina called fileteado – it’s really beautiful and I used to always reference that kind of typography and that kind of art whenever I was doing lettering a lot.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any designers or artists who you particularly admire – and do you feel that they’ve influenced your work or your creative process?

Kathie Baptista: Oh my gosh, there’s so many. I mean, I can go on and on. There’s Clark Gore and Meg Lewis, Dana Tanamochi, Lauren Odom and Jessica Heesh, and the Hood sisters over at Chutzpah. But I think definitely the one that’s had the biggest influence on me has probably been Anna Bond from Rifle Paper Company. She started her company here in Orlando, and I remember when I was in college, I would go and listen to her talks and her journey. It was just so inspiring, just how she’s able to mesh this love for paper and print and design. I found it really inspiring and I’ve always admired her work.

Adrian Tennant: Today you’re working as a member of the creative team here at Bigeye. Kathie, as a designer, what questions do you feel it’s most important to have answered before you begin an assignment?

Kathie Baptista: I usually like to ask why we’re doing this. You know, what is the goal behind the piece? What are we trying to achieve? What is the purpose? Where will this live? I try to understand a lot about the target audience. That’s why a lot of the things that you do, Adrian, it’s always so interesting to me. And I feel like it helps the design process a lot because it helps me figure out who the target audience is and you know, who we’re talking to and what are their goals? And what are they looking for? And I think that that plays a crucial role in the design process.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, you’ve been at Bigeye for six months already. Prior to joining us, what were some of the projects that you were proudest of and why?

Kathie Baptista: I’m very proud of a lot of the freelance projects that I’ve worked with because it was a big learning process. But definitely, I’d say one of the biggest pieces that I loved the most was I got to do some hand lettering for a mural at a Google Fiber building in Charlotte. And that was really fun because I was working with Google and that in itself was just shocking. But it was a lot of fun. They gave me a lot of creative freedom and it’s nice to know that it still lives there. So if I ever wanted to go visit, I can always still see it. And I almost feel like I left a little piece of me there in the city.

Adrian Tennant: And what was that experience of working with Google like – what kinds of parameters did they set for you?

Kathie Baptista: They didn’t set much. They mostly wanted me to stay within a specific color palette.  And they showed me the space, which was still under construction. They definitely wanted it to bring attention and they wanted to include something that was very Charlotte in there. And I know one of the things that Charlotte is very proud of is their skyline. They love their buildings. There’s a lot of history in them. So I definitely tried to incorporate that in the piece. But it was a lot of fun and it was a lot of work and I’m really proud of that project.

Adrian Tennant: So Kathie you’ve recently been working on the launch of bSerene, a new line of cat calming products for Bigeye’s client, H&C Animal Health. Could you tell us a little bit more about that project?

Kathie Baptista: It’s been quite the journey. It’s been very interesting to develop different elements of that campaign into a lot of major parts like the website and advertising. So that’s been really fun. And it’s also been really interesting to see that there is more than enough cat content on the internet to refer to! So that’s been a fun journey. I love animals, honestly, I’m vegetarian because I love animals and I have both a cat and a dog. I did love cats very early on when I was a kid. Um, I used to have a couple of cats that grew up in the neighborhood and I was very much a cat kid. I feel like the personalities of cat and dog owners are so different. So having that hybrid is really interesting.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking to Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista. Kathie, I know you mentor students and belong to AIGA. How long have you been involved in the organization?

Kathie Baptista: I first joined AIGA when I was in college, I was a part of the mentorship program as a student and I feel like that was a really big game-changer for me. I knew that I really wanted to get involved and I just loved the type of events that they were hosting. So I’d say that in every city that I’ve lived in, I’ve always tried to get involved with the AIGA in any way that I can. When you move to a new city, you may or may not know some of the creatives that are there. So being involved with AIGA, you learn a little bit more about them and the creative culture that takes place in the city. As far as getting to know more people and making connections,  also just learning more about your creative community I think it’s been very crucial to that.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’ve been in Orlando for a while. How connected do you feel to the AIGA community here?

Kathie Baptista: Like to believe I do feel very connected to the AIGA community here because it was the first AIGA community I was a part of as a student. My professor, when I was in school, he’s still involved with AIGA now. So to be a part of that and to now come back and be a part of that again, and be able to mentor students like I was mentored when I was a student is a nice way to see things go full circle.

Adrian Tennant: What advice do you typically give to students who are about to graduate and are looking for their first full-time position?

Kathie Baptista: I would say, start early. Get involved with your community before you graduate and involved in organizations and clubs. Start looking for jobs before you graduate. Don’t wait until you’re done to try to find employment. I think the competition can be really tough out there. And I think if you wait, you know, it can be really difficult. I would also say to make sure that you show yourself and your work. It’s really interesting to go through a student’s work and be able to see their aesthetic and see their personality come out through their work. It shows me that they’re not just creating for the client. They’re putting a little bit of themselves in there and that’s really interesting to me. I think quality is better than quantity. I’d rather see, you know, three logos that are fully developed with their branding in their portfolio than to see ten that tell me nothing. And I would say don’t put a lot of pressure into trying to figure yourself out when you graduate school. Sometimes you think you have it all figured out. I know I did when I graduated, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew the type of industry I wanted to be in, and I think it’s important to just work hard and be open to whatever life throws at you. And just always continue to learn and try to be open to change.

Adrian Tennant: Does anybody look at physical portfolios anymore? Are we really talking about online, exclusively at this point?

Kathie Baptista: I think it’s mostly digital, but because it’s so digital now, I feel like it just makes it that more impressive if you have something physical. Definitely, I think your work should live online. You should definitely have a bit of a presence on the internet and social media platforms, but it’s always interesting if you go into an interview and you’re able to leave something physical behind something that they can remember you by. So I definitely think having a physical piece of something, even if it’s not your full portfolio, but just a little something about yourself and your work is very important.

Adrian Tennant: When I look at potential employees’ work, I’m really interested in the story behind the work. Do you share my interest in understanding how they reached the design solution that they did?

Kathie Baptista: Very much. I do like to see sketches and the thought process. That’s actually one of the reasons why I feel like I transitioned more from lettering into design and branding because I really missed the conceptual part of it. Sometimes when you’re doing lettering, you’re kind of told, this is what we need. This is what we want. With design, there’s so much thought and research that goes behind it. So seeing portfolios that go into that a little bit deeper is very interesting.

Adrian Tennant: If you hadn’t gravitated toward graphic design, what other areas might you have pursued? And of course, Kathie, it’s never too late!

Kathie Baptista: I know growing up, I really wanted to be a singer. I loved Selena and I just wanted to be just like her, Selena Quintanilla. I just wanted to be a singer and I think as I got older, I wasn’t going to be a singer, but I did want to be involved with the wedding industry. And I know I always considered possibly either being an event planner or a cake decorator or a florist, specifically for the wedding industry. What interested me about it was being able to work with couples in particular. Call me a sap, but I do love a love story. I love hearing romantic stories and I always was drawn to that. And I think that’s why I wanted to be a part of the wedding industry so that I can hear more love stories all the time.

Adrian Tennant: Now, if you had gone down the singing route, what kind of music would you be producing by now?

Kathie Baptista: Wow. I don’t know. I definitely have a Christmas album. I love Christmas music and I would for sure have a Christmas album. What kind of music? I don’t know. I really enjoy listening to rock. Do I feel like I could sing rock? I’m not sure, but, yeah, I’m not sure.

Adrian Tennant: The musical stylings of Kathie Baptista – coming to a Spotify playlist near you sometime in the future, but definitely around Christmas!

Kathie Baptista: Definitely Christmas!

Adrian Tennant: Well, listeners can’t tell unless they see a photo of you, but your right arm has quite a collection of tattoos. So Kathie, when did you get your first tattoo? And are the stories behind each one?

Kathie Baptista: My first tattoo I got when I was 20 years old. I got three little birds on my wrist to represent my sisters – that way I always have them with me. We’re really close. So I wanted to be able to have my first tattoo represent us and our relationship together. But I think after the first one, it kind of became more of a collector’s thing. I would find a lot of tattoo artists on Instagram. I knew I wanted to have pieces done by them on my arm. So I would reach out to them. And then it also became something that I would do whenever I would travel. And it kind of felt like a momento. So I have a ramen bowl on my arm and I got that while I was in Japan. And it’s one of my favorite tattoos because I get to tell people about the time that I was in Japan. And it’s a really good memory that I cherish a lot.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s the difference between folks who just go for the monochrome and people like yourself who prefer color? What’s that about do you think?

Kathie Baptista: I think it’s personal preference. I mean, most of my tattoos are in the American traditional style, so I’ve always been very drawn to that style because it’s so colorful. It’s very eye-catching and I love color. I love incorporating color in my work. So it felt like a natural place as far as a tattoo design, black and white is also very beautiful. but my skin is a little darker, so I definitely wanted to have more colorful pieces on my arm.

Adrian Tennant: Your website is very you, Kathie. On it, you describe yourself as Latina. Well, March is Women’s History Month, so are there any Latinas you particularly admire?

Kathie Baptista:  There are many. America Ferrera, Rita Moreno, Frida Kahlo, and JLo! I mean, she looks amazing and she’s killing it to this day. But also I think just Latina women in my life. Because I am Latina, my family consists of a lot of Latina women, and I think that they all inspire me, in different ways. You know, we’re all kind of fighting the same battles, from toxic masculinity within our culture, or, you know, trying to fight for our rights for equal pay. I do think that is a big part of Hispanic culture. There’s a lot of machismo, the man is the one who brings the income. He’s the one who kind of sets the rules and women just have to take care of the kids and stay home and cook and clean. And I think that when you don’t fall into that mold,  it’s easy to be criticized honestly, within our culture. So I think Latina women who are trying to find their own path and work and be entrepreneurs and do their own thing. It’s definitely being seen a little bit better now, but it’s not traditional. It’s not what’s the norm in our culture. We’re kind of all dealing with the same issues. So it’s very inspiring to be a part of a community. That’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: Do you know many other Latina designers?

Kathie Baptista: One of our interns, Maria, she just started working with the Luma & leaf brand. So that’s been really exciting to have her on board and to have another Latina on the team. And then while I worked in Miami, I did work with another Latina woman. She was my art director at my previous position. And she was really great. She was extremely talented. So it is inspiring to work with other Latina women.

Adrian Tennant: So outside of work, what inspires you, and how do you relax?

Kathie Baptista: Well, if I’m not working or working on my own things, I do like to tend to my home and my plants, especially because I just moved and as I mentioned my sister’s an interior designer, so I get all the perks. I love to just be able to curate pieces for my home and take care of my house plans, spend time at home and watching movies and exploring the city too. I try to, whenever I move to a new city, approach it from a new perspective, I’ve never been here before. Even when I moved back to Miami, even though I lived there, I tried to approach it like I’ve never lived there before and trying new restaurants and just explore different areas that I’ve never explored before. So I do spend my free time doing a lot of exploring.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you and see your work, where can they find you?

Kathie Baptista: Well, you can see my work on my website, or you can follow me on Instagram @KathieBaptista.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Kathie Baptista: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Michael Solomon: There are a lot of very, very fundamental assumptions we make about the way we categorize people that no longer work in terms of how we think about customers and more importantly, how they think about us as marketers. 

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Michael Solomon, author of the recently published book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization. That’s next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista. You’ll find a transcript of our conversation and all previous episodes on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page, at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next week. Goodbye.


Mend offers a new advertising solution targeting captive audiences via telehealth. Media buying agency Bigeye discusses it with Jessica Neyer, VP, Strategy.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Telemedicine has seen greater adoption since the onset of COVID-19. This week’s guest is Jessica Neyer, VP of Strategy at Mend, a patient engagement platform. Jessica shares Mend’s newest offering, the enhanced waiting room, in which content is available for patients to view as they wait for their provider. Jessica explains how brands can utilize the Netflix-like library of content and advertising on this platform to directly target captive audiences.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Jessica Neyer: I don’t know of any other telemedicine company that is doing what we’re doing, but essentially we just launched what’s called the enhanced virtual waiting room that’s both content and advertising in the virtual waiting room.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye.  Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. In the last couple of episodes, we’ve looked at the ways in which COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the way film and TV content is produced, and the uptake in shelter animal adoption as people sought companionship from pets during the stay in place orders. This week, we’re focusing on another industry that has seen significant growth during the pandemic. Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is the use of electronic information and communication technologies to provide care when a patient and a doctor are not in the same place at the same time. Provided the patients have a smartphone or other device with internet access, it’s possible for them to receive medical care and services through telemedicine. Since social distancing has been required for almost a year now, telemedicine has enabled people to talk to their doctor from the safety and comfort of their own homes without having to visit the doctor’s office. Because telemedicine limits physical contact, it reduces potential exposure to COVID-19, but using telemedicine can also shorten the wait times to see a doctor and expand access to specialists. Our guest this week has deep experience in the medical industry and is an expert on telemedicine. Jessica Neyer is the Vice President of Strategy at Mend, a leader in telemedicine and patient engagement, headquartered in Orlando. Prior to her current role, Jessica worked as the Head of Strategy for PatientPop, a Los Angeles-based medical practice software firm, as well as in senior leadership roles with Pager, Heal, and FitOrbit –  in addition to positions with Ortho Molecular Products and AstraZeneca. Jessica graduated from the University of California Davis with a bachelor of science degree. Today, Jessica is joining us from her home office in Los Angeles. Jessica, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jessica Neyer: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, first of all, could you tell us what Mend is and who it serves?

Jessica Neyer: Absolutely. So Mend is a patient engagement platform. So what that means is that we have all the different features that a practice could need within their workflow to engage with a patient. So we have telemedicine, we have digital payments, we have digital forms, we have SMS messaging with a patient, patient scheduling. It’s all there. But our bread and butter is really our telehealth solution. It’s what all of our customers have. And we are primarily a service for practices and providers. So they implement Mend on their end to serve their patients.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, what does your role with the company entail?

Jessica Neyer: it’s pretty varied. So, you know, with a title like VP of strategy, that could mean a lot of different things at a lot of different places. But what I do is everything from, you know, working with our team on pricing structure, and packaging, and all of that, but you can think of me almost as the GM of a brand new experience that we’ve launched to our providers and actually the advertising world called the enhanced virtual waiting room.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned in the introduction that telemedicine has seen broader adoption during COVID-19. What kind of growth has Mend seen over the past year?

Jessica Neyer: What we saw as a company was that we were gradually improving over time. There was more and more adoption with telehealth in general, right? Every company was sort of seeing the same thing. But in healthcare, it takes a while to adopt any practice. It’s a really slow-moving machine. But with COVID we saw our sales skyrocket overnight. So practices went from having telemedicine as a nice to have to all of a sudden needing to have telemedicine, in order to keep the lights on. So we saw our sales increase tremendously at that time. And the great thing is our software, our solution never went down in that process. We increased sales. We increased production. I myself was brought into the team as well as a couple of other VPs to truly handle the growth and scale the company and we’re seeing tremendous growth even now, 12 months later after the pandemic hit.

Adrian Tennant: Well, it’s certainly the case that COVID 19 seems to have accelerated that adoption, for sure.

Jessica Neyer: You know, telehealth was interesting. I’ve been involved in this conversation for a while cause everyone was trying to understand, is this just a fad? Is this something doctors needed to adopt because of COVID and they’re going to go right back to their old ways afterward? And what we’re seeing is that we’re kind of in a situation where patients have now experienced telehealth whereas before they hadn’t, in most cases, and now they’re realizing how incredibly easy telehealth makes certain, you know, appointments with your physician and they want it now they’re demanding it. So physicians have to keep it in place in order to continue growing their companies. And there’s a lot of benefits on the provider side as well, that helps with their workflows and efficiencies. So it’s just continuing to grow and turn into this whole other industry that really wasn’t there a couple of years ago.

Adrian Tennant: While conducting background research for this interview, I was surprised by the variety of care that it’s now possible to receive through telemedicine -from general health care, like annual wellness visits to prescriptions for medicine, dermatology, nutrition counseling, and even urgent care conditions such as sinusitis, back pain, urinary tract infections, and common rashes. Jessica, are there any services that don’t translate well to telemedicine?

Jessica Neyer: The only things that really don’t translate well to telemedicine are types of visits that require physical touch. So a surgeon, for example, cannot perform surgery via telemedicine. Or a chiropractor can’t do an adjustment through telemedicine. But everything else works in one capacity or another in telehealth. So, you know, we’re finding all of these new use cases and ways that providers can adopt telehealth for their own individual needs.

Adrian Tennant: Obviously a doctor will ultimately decide whether telemedicine is right for a patient’s health needs. Jessica, have you used telemedicine as a patient? And if so, what was the experience like?

Jessica Neyer: Oh all the time. So I am a mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old, which means I’m probably in the doctor’s office every three weeks! Whether it’s a rash or a this or that, and who knows what’s going on with my daughter? But, I’ve used urgent care quite a bit for her. And primarily I’ve used urgent care through telehealth as a part of it. And my experience has been twofold. So I’ll start with the positive and then I’ll go into the negative. But the positive has been, it’s just been so easy as a consumer to get care when I needed it. So, the last time I used telehealth, for example, I said my daughter had a rash. It was Saturday at seven o’clock, you know, it’s not when her pediatrician was open. So it was so easy for me to just make an appointment for a telehealth service that was available in my area because there are certain legal restrictions of where you can visit a provider on what state they’re in. And I was able to schedule right then and there, I didn’t have to wait, you know, three weeks, a month to get a visit, which could happen in some scenarios. so that was great. And the provider was great. You know, there were no issues getting connected with them. So that was wonderful.  The con, across most, telehealth platforms that patients end up using numbers are a little bit all over the place but, the average wait time for telehealth is between 21 and 30 minutes for a patient. So I, myself went to the visit, went to the waiting room and I was staring at a blank screen for 21 to 30 minutes. In this case, it was about 15 till I could see my provider. All things considered not that much time, but patients staring at a blank screen for that long.  I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It was pretty boring. I was trying to entertain my daughter at the same time while making sure I was still connected to my virtual visit and that was a challenge. So I think that is definitely a negative that needs to improve in this space. But we’re working on that.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, Mend has made a major announcement about a new offering. Could you tell us about that?

Jessica Neyer: Yeah, I’m very, very excited about this. And quite frankly, it was one of the huge, huge reasons why I decided to come to Mend because I don’t know of any other company that is addressing this problem or doing what we’re doing, but essentially we just launched what’s called the enhanced virtual waiting room. So, what it is is a Netflix-like library of Mend media. So that’s both content and advertising in the virtual waiting room. So for those 21 to 30 minutes, I told you about before where a patient’s waiting, that’s a captive audience, right? So not only do they have content and they can click around just like they do on YouTube or anything else. But before their video plays, there’s a 30-second advertisement. Uh, and that can be a number of different advertisers, whether it’s pharma or a meditation app or a pharmacy delivery, or, you name it, there’s typically a place there. And so we have been piloting this for a while and it’s been going really, really well. And we just launched to all of our customers, like you said this week, and we are officially launching to the advertising community about it as well.

Adrian Tennant: well, thank you very much for making us part of this announcement. In a fragmented media landscape, of course, it’s harder than ever to capture consumers’ attention. So knowing that the audience is captive is a clear point of differentiation. What was the insight that led you to develop this new platform?

Jessica Neyer: Yeah. So it was really interesting. It was kind of a happy accident, honestly. What happened was we were getting all of this feedback from our customers, our providers, saying that we have a big problem. When patients get to our waiting rooms, they’re staring at a blank screen. They don’t know if they’re in the right place. So they end up, you know, exiting out of it and then they can’t navigate back. And then the doctor doesn’t end up seeing them. And then the doctor doesn’t get paid and that’s wasted time. Or the doctor ends up being, you know, tech support and that’s not what they’re supposed to do. They went to medical school for a reason, right? And we want to make sure they can deliver care and not spend 40 minutes saying, okay, you know, Susie, make sure you’re pressing this and have you checked your microphone and everything else? So we sought out to, you know, figure out, okay, what can we do that’s more engaging for a patient? That entertains them and keeps them in the right place before their visit actually happens? and while we did that, the light bulb went off, for our CEO. This is brilliant, but he said, okay, I think there’s a big opportunity here. This is a captive audience. Why don’t we utilize this space for advertising? And it allows us to subsidize some of the other incredible features that we have. Like, we have live chat support for both the provider and the patient, which is critical and no other telemedicine platforms are doing that. So the advertising revenue allows us to subsidize those costs. So we ended up testing it like I said, the first couple months of this summer, not even to the level we’re doing it now with that Netflix-like library, I explained, um, we just threw up a basic advertisement to see, okay, do advertisers like this? Do our providers like it? Did their patients like it? And legally, can we do this in a sound way, where there are no issues for the provider or for the advertiser at all? And the answer was “yes” to all of those. So that’s what led us really down this path. And we spent the last couple of months tinkering and figuring out from a product perspective, what does this look like? What is the experience? What is the flow? And it’s just been an incredible result.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you mentioned that you’ve piloted this offering prior to launching it. What kinds of reactions did you see from patients?

Jessica Neyer: Patients loved it. So finally, it’s engaging content for them. And if you think about it, it’s the exact same scenario. Better! It’s the exact same scenario though, as when they’re going to a physical waiting room for a doctor. There’s typically a TV screen in the corner and you know, advertisements will play. The difference is although they’re used to that scenario, so it’s nothing crazy or alarming for them. The difference is in a physical waiting room, patients can be on their phones, they can be opening magazines, they can do a number of other things. So the advertiser kind of has the same issues they have with like TV or something else. It’s not truly a captive audience. Versus this: you are truly captive. When you go to a telehealth visit, you’re now looking away. It is critical, right? Cause your care is going to start at any minute. You kind of are at the provider’s mercy. So why not take advantage of that time? And patients love that it’s finally something entertaining to look at versus a blank screen.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jessica Neyer, VP of Strategy with telemedicine company Mend which has just launched its enhanced virtual waiting room – a Netflix-like library of content and advertising delivered to a captive audience. What kinds of targeting are possible within the platform?

Jessica Neyer: Great question. Legally, as I mentioned before, there are all of these complications with healthcare that we needed to avoid when it came to targeting. So we made sure that we were protecting first and foremost, our customers, which are providers, since we are a HIPAA compliant platform, we had to jump through certain hoops. although it’d be nice to target based off of individual patients and their visit reasons and everything else, that’s considered PHI. That’s against the rules and we can’t target for those reasons. Instead what we do is we target based off of publicly available knowledge. So we can target based off of the provider, their license number, their specialty, and their geography. Which opens up a number of different opportunities. You can use it, let’s say, in pharma. You can say, okay, I want to target cardiologists and all their patients, because they are typically going and they’re going to see patients with these sorts of, you know, AFIB issues. So that is perfect for this certain drug of mine or whatever it is, or, you know, I’ll give you a different example. We have a campaign running right now. We just launched it in the state of Florida, that’s a PSA. And that’s not specialty-specific at all, but it’s focused on a certain geography. So it’s open to all the providers in that geography, but it’s limited to Florida. So there are so many different opportunities and you can really make it as nuanced as you want while also feeling confident that, both the advertiser and the provider are being protected at the end of the day.

Adrian Tennant:  Jessica, what kind of reach does the platform have?

Jessica Neyer: Currently we have over 14,000 providers and growing. We have a number of strategy initiatives, actually another area where I’m focusing my attention to increase our base of physicians, even more beyond our sales outreach, which is fantastic but to help more so on the advertising side. If we know with an advertiser that their focus is a certain specialty, right? And we want to get numbers up in that area. There’s a number of different things that we’re working on to help get those numbers up really quickly, that we’re really excited about.

Adrian Tennant: As an audience-focused agency, Bigeye maximizes the effectiveness of ad campaigns based on a combination of targeted media and dynamic creative with messages designed to resonate with consumers, attitudes, and behaviors. So what creative formats does the platform support?

Jessica Neyer: Currently we support video advertisements as well as banner ads. So that is within the virtual waiting room for telehealth itself. Now, as I mentioned, at the beginning of this, we have a lot of other features that our platform like digital intake forms, appointment reminders via SMS and email. So we’re beginning to explore what other opportunities there are for advertising. But the main thing right now that’s available right away are those video ads and those banner ads.

Adrian Tennant: how does an investment in Mend’s advertising platform compare with other forms of online advertising? Do you sell based on cost per thousand, cost per click, cost per lead, or cost per action?

Jessica Neyer: That’s a great question. Uh, we’re a little different, we charge based off of cost per impression. That’s a unique visitor and they’re then viewing the advertisement. So it’s different than typical forms of advertising where you’re just trying to reach the masses because maybe only a certain percentage of those will convert to actual sales for the advertiser at the end of the day. So it’s kind of just this mass announcement out there and you, you take what you can get. We’re a little different again with how captive our audience actually is. You are targeting a very, very specific demographic or location or whatever it is, and you know you have their attention. So, we do charge per impression.

Adrian Tennant: Is there a skip button available to the user?

Jessica Neyer: There is, but they can only skip after five seconds of viewing it. just like YouTube. We modeled this a lot off of YouTube where the patient has to watch something for a certain amount of time before they can skip it. And something I should mention too, with this notion of YouTube I keep bringing up, we have on each advertisement, it says ad with a countdown clock. So it operates in the same sort of capacity as everything else. And patients know what they’re watching when they’re watching it, and what their opportunities to skip or not are.

Adrian Tennant: So it’s transparent to the user.

Jessica Neyer: Correct.

Adrian Tennant: Are there particular types of products or services that you feel would be a really great fit for the platform?

Jessica Neyer: The opportunities are endless and my mind goes in a thousand different directions. Um, think Peloton, right? The Peloton bike would be phenomenal for all populations. But I think some easy wins are obviously in pharma being able to get in front of the right patients at the right times, right before they end up seeing the doctor. Any sort of wellness solution. There are so many categories associated with that too. You know, for pediatrics, for, uh, a patient that’s going to see a pediatrician, maybe a diaper video, right? Or a certain ointment or a certain cream. It goes in so many different directions, that, you know, really allows the advertisers to be creative and to, you know, think about what could potentially translate and how could I make this work?

Adrian Tennant: Jessica, what do you think telemedicine will look like when COVID-19 is less of a concern? Do you think patients will ever want to return to their doctor’s offices after they’ve been using telemedicine?

Jessica Neyer: It’s a great question. I had to go to a follow-up appointment that I have to do regularly with my doctor. I’m in LA. So there is a ton of traffic, and it takes me an hour to get there. Then like 20 minutes to park and I pay for parking. And then I wait in the waiting room for an hour, and then I see the doctor and it’s only five minutes, but then I have to go through the whole thing again. This time, I was able to just log on, see my provider. It took maybe 15 minutes. I didn’t have to leave work. I didn’t have to leave a whole day to do this. I’m not going back. I want this forever when it comes to follow-up appointments. So we’re about to see a transition for patients where they’re going to want this for a majority of their visits, but not at all. I think we’re going to see a lot more things open up. There will still be some face-to-face, but therapy is a huge example where that’s primarily going to be telehealth moving forward. Because there is no need to be physically with your therapist. Telehealth really solves it all. For most use cases, I should say, I am not a therapist. I don’t know every use case. But it solves most.

Adrian Tennant: How do you see telemedicine and related technologies developing over the next three to five years?

Jessica Neyer: Great question. I am constantly surprised by the innovation that there is. I’ve seen some incredible things just in the last five years alone. So I can’t imagine what the next five years we’ll see for healthcare in general, not only tele-health, but for tele-health I really see us moving into an era where tele-health solutions will be working alongside remote care monitoring services, if not including them. So the doctor will have the full ability to see a patient. So beyond certain use cases that exist today for a provider, a provider will also be able to do something that does require,  maybe a slight check of, you know, heart rate or an ear check or eye checks or anything else they’ll have that functionality in those services built into their solution. And we’re already seeing it with certain wearables. Like, for example,  I’m wearing an Apple watch. And on that, I can tell my heart rate, I can tell my oxygen levels, a couple of other things, and that can be directly translated through the telehealth visit to the provider so they can continue on with their visit and get certain things under control or be aware of certain levels.

Adrian Tennant: So Jessica away from work, what inspires you? Are you a reader, a podcast listener, a music fan?

Jessica Neyer: Oh, gosh, all of the above. So number one, my daughter inspires me. She is so funny and so creative and constantly keeps me on my toes, which is great. But, work and family aside, I love working out. I’m a bit of an exercise junkie. It’s my therapy. And I’m like a walking billboard for this company, but if anyone’s ever heard of Barry’s Bootcamp, I love it. I do it religiously every day. So that’s what keeps me going. And, you know, as my own little hour away from the insanity of everything else to just unwind.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about Mend and how to place advertisements on your platform, where can they find information?

Jessica Neyer: So a couple of different places. Number one, you can go to our website, Or you can email or even myself, and we’re happy to help you.

Adrian Tennant: Jessica. Thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Jessica Neyer: Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Kathie Baptista: I think that they all inspire me, in different ways. Latina women who are trying to find their own path and be entrepreneurs and do their own thing. It’s very inspiring to be a part of a community that’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista, next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Jessica Neyer, vice president of strategy at Mend. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeye under insights. Just click on the button marked podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


With record numbers of people adopting shelter animals during COVID-19, Bigeye discusses innovative pet product marketing with Sarah Salva of H&C Animal Health.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Record numbers of people adopted shelter animals as pets during COVID-19, driving demand for pet products. Guest Sarah Salva is the Director of Marketing Brand Development for Bigeye’s client, H&C Animal Health. Sarah shares H&C’s pet product marketing and development process, discusses why cat and dog parents need to be treated differently, and how important marketing research is in designing product packaging and producing advertising campaigns that resonate with pet parents.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode ofIN CLEAR FOCUS:

Sarah Salva: So dog and cat owners – they’re very different people. So something that you say that works really well with dog owners can completely backfire on you with cat owners. It’s sort of the same sensitivity that you might expect to see when you’re marketing products that are made for human babies.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello? I’m your host, Adrian Tennant VP of insights. It’s Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. The American Pet Products Association, or APPA for short, reports that Americans spent nearly $1 billion on pets and pet care in 2020. The vast majority of the spending was on dogs and cats, but last year also saw increases across the board as families acquired more fish, reptiles, birds, and small mammals as companions during COVID-19 lockdowns. Today, a majority of pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family – so much so that you’ll often hear the phrase, “pet parent”, rather than owner. The global industry which supplies pet food, products, and services is responsible for this modern view of pet parenting. Humans have lived with animals since the last Ice Age. For most of our history, dogs were used for hunting while cats controlled vermin. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution, which brought advances in health and economic prosperity, that we started to view these animals as pets, even though dogs and cats still lived outside for the most part. But in the 1880s, flea and tick shampoo was introduced for the first time, which meant dogs could come in doors and become part of that households – marking the birth of the pets supply industry. And with the invention of kitty litter in 1947, felines followed their canine companions indoors, and into our homes and families. Our guest this week is especially well-versed in today’s global pet industry. Sarah Salva is the Director of Marketing and Brand Development at H&C Animal Health, headquartered in Parker, Colorado. Prior to her current role, Sarah worked on product innovation at the Whiteway Foods Company, which includes the Horizon brand of organic products, and as Brand Marketing Manager for Open Road Snacks. Sarah graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Tech University with a specialization in animal science and agribusiness. Sarah, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Sarah Salva: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Do you consider yourself a pet owner or a pet parent?

Sarah Salva: I am a pet parent, for sure. So especially during COVID, I spend all my days working from home with my Aussie, Vera. And I often wonder when she’s going to start talking back to me!

Adrian Tennant: You studied animal science and agribusiness. So have you always had an interest in animals?

Sarah Salva: Absolutely. I originally wanted to be a vet. But I also loved my business and marketing classes. So, you know, throughout the years I did a little bit of both, but then I found the best of both worlds here at H&C.

Adrian Tennant: So, can you tell us a bit about H&C Animal Health’s founding story and what the company does?

Sarah Salva: Sure. The company was founded by Chuck Latham, who has had a passion for animals since childhood. He grew up among a family of veterinarians and, like me, found himself choosing a path between animal medicine and business. So with H&C he successfully bridged the gap. H&C focuses on bringing innovative vet products to retail, to make caring for your pets easier. We have a very animal-first approach, which means everything we develop works and is safe.

Adrian Tennant: Now tell us a little bit about the distribution side of the business versus the products that you’re developing yourselves.

Sarah Salva: We used to mainly focus on working with vet manufacturers to bring over their products, from the vet side into retail. So we took a lot of products that used to be only available in your vet’s office and brought them to stores like PetSmart and Petco. And then we started kind of the other side of the business, which is really product development. So we work with vet formulators and just a lot of vet professionals out there, to help us bring very efficacious and very innovative products over to retail.

Adrian Tennant: Now would we know some of the brands that you’ve distributed?

Sarah Salva: Yeah, you would! So a very popular line that we still distribute is the Virbac Dental portfolio. Those are C.E.T.® (Clean Every Time), VEGGIEDENT® FR3SH®, and they have some enzymatic rawhides. Just a very easy, effective way to keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, what does your role as Director of Marketing Brand Development at H&C entail?

Sarah Salva: So I’m focused on working on the vet-developed side. So those are the brands that we create and we own, and, you know, work with really great agencies, such as Bigeye to bring to market. We really care about first the product has to work. But then it also has to be, you know, a consumer-friendly kind of brand. So a lot of times in the vet industry, you don’t really see that because you have the backing of the vet telling the pet parent that, you know, this is going to be good for their parent, but so we focus on putting the same type of product into, you know, friendlier packaging.

Adrian Tennant: So what led you from agribusiness to marketing as a career?

Sarah Salva: Oh, that’s kind of a long story, but I think it’s mostly luck. I left the animal world for a bit, was marketing coffee creamer, and then popcorn. But then when I met Chuck, I knew I had really found the sweet spot for me. So it just really brought everything together. I hadn’t been in the animal business in you know, eight or so years and with Chuck, it was kind of an opportunity to really get back in touch with those vet professionals that I used to, you know, follow and admire, while bringing my own marketing spin onto the products. So it was just very much, the perfect, perfect job.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, prior to H&C Animal Health, you held product innovation and brand marketing positions. What, if any, lessons from those experiences, have you applied to your current role?

Sarah Salva: So the roles at the larger companies really helped me form disciplines and processes that you really need to launch new brands. So at H&C, being smaller, we’re a lot more agile and able to pivot to meet, changing consumer demands, while also really bringing in that process-driven development process.

Adrian Tennant: Spending on pets has grown by about 4 to 5 percent a year since the Great Recession of 2008. What’s been driving this kind of growth?

Sarah Salva: Well, as you mentioned earlier, sort of that humanization of pets has really happened over the past 80 years. But recently we’ve been spending a lot more time with our pets. So, you know, COVID aside, over the past 20 years, I know that my kind of first family was my dog, you know before I had a husband, before I had kids. And I think a lot of people are trending in that direction. So pet brands have really had to keep up with that and offer more products to keep consumers engaged and keep their pets happy and healthy.

Adrian Tennant: You’re planning to introduce a new line of calming products for cats this year. Could you take us through the process of new product development?

Sarah Salva: Sure. So we like to really start by identifying a problem that pet parents are having and then creating the solution. So, you know, when we looked at the products being offered to cats, we saw a big gap in cat calming where companies were offering full solutions. So from, you know, calming pheromones to calming chews to a travel spray, pet parents really need to have it all. Every cat is different, every dog is different. So yeah, when we introduce a new line of products for cats or dogs, we start with consumer research to really identify the problem that’s out there. And then we take it in and we figure out, you know, how are we going to talk to these consumers to really get them to resonate with the product and really trust us? Cause that’s something that matters a lot to us – that we’re not only offering these really great solutions for pet parents that we also are kind of in the industry as this expert and known as the company that really cares about your pet. So after we know what products we want to launch, we work with vet formulators and developers to find the technology and the ingredients out there. We do testing to make sure that they work to make sure that in this case, the cat really likes the product. So with cats, you have to focus a lot on palatability and acceptability. Cats are very finicky, very picky. So we spend a lot of time, you know, in taste tests and just make sure they are cat-approved. And then we go through packaging and the website, and really, you know, focus on the communication. Cause that’s really important.

Adrian Tennant: So Sarah, for the cat calming line, can you tell us about the brand name?

Sarah Salva: Sure. So the line is called bSerene. It is a line of cat calming products. So we have a long-lasting pheromone, a pheromone plus catnip spray, and then in the summer we’ll be coming out with a line of cat chews.

Adrian Tennant: And any plans for a similar line for canine companions?

Sarah Salva: Yes. So that is also in the works and can’t spill the beans too much on it yet, but look for something early 2022.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Sarah Silva, Director of Marketing and Brand Development at H&C Animal Health. I know you take consumer research very seriously. Have you learned anything about pet owners over the past five years or so that really surprised you or led to an insight that helps solve a marketing challenge?

Sarah Salva: In my past careers, we’ve really focused on purchase intent as a benchmark when we test new products. But lately, we’ve really started to focus on, especially for this cat calming line, how consumers are reacting to the way that we’re speaking to them through the packaging and other marketing vehicles. So dog and cat owners – they’re very different people. So something that you say that works really well with dog owners can completely backfire on you with cat owners. So it’s sort of the same sensitivity that you might expect to see when you’re marketing products that are made for human babies. Moms are very protective, you know, very sensitive in a really good way. So you have to be really careful that you’re really getting on the same level and you’re not really turning somebody off because it doesn’t matter what the purchase intent is if nobody’s even going to pick up the product in the first place.

Adrian Tennant: Now when it’s a new product entry, as it will be with the cat calming line, do you typically like to start with quantitative research, to get a sense of the size of the market and then follow up with qualitative?

Sarah Salva: So it really depends on where we are in the process. So I really like you know, qualitative when I’m talking about what are the problems out there and just kind of getting that brainstorming of, what do the cat owners really need in their lives? Or where are the pain points, you know, and their relationship with their cat. I think when it comes to purchase intent and pricing sweet spot, you know, and then testing the concepts, quantitative is a really good way to do it. During COVID we have done a hundred percent quantitative just because, you know, we’ve tested out qualitative through Zoom for a CAS and you just don’t get the same connectivity that you would sitting in the same room with people. So there are limitations right now.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned that cat owners and dog owners can be very different. How has that played out in your career working with both products for cats and dogs?

Sarah Salva: You know, it’s funny because it’s hard to make that mental switch. If you’ve been spending a year developing dog products that you’ve seen a lot of success, you automatically want to apply those learnings to the cat products, but you really have to kind of just wash the slate clean and almost start over a little bit. I always knew cat owners and dog owners, you know, it’s always kind of a running joke that dog people and cat people, but they really are different, different lifestyles, different hobbies, and that’s just something you really have to pay attention to.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned research from the American Pet Products Association at the beginning of this episode. Every year, the APPA holds the Global Pet Expo – the world’s largest annual trade show devoted to pet products. This year, it’s moving to a fully digital experience due to COVID-19. How are you planning to adapt your company’s event to a virtual forum?

Sarah Salva: So with the absence of having in-person connections this year, we are certainly having to adapt our approach, but we’re still focused on having valuable one-on-one time with retailers and development partners. But the good news is, even though the virtual booth is only open for a week, we’re not limited to celebrating at Global Pet and making those connections in just that one week. So typically, you know, you’ve got three nights that you’ve got to plan your kind of engagements, and now we’re getting to kind of celebrate the whole month of March to launch our new product. H&C has always been known to make a really big splash at Global from our booth to the Happy Hours to who we’re bringing in to see the products. But you know, this year will be no different. And we have some really big plans in the works that we hope to be able to announce soon.

Adrian Tennant: Andrea Laurent Simpson, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas is the author of a book entitled, Just Like Family: How Companion Animals Joined The Household. Her view is that in the US, pets are increasingly serving as surrogate children for Millennials who can’t afford to start families or for single people who forego having children. Sarah, do you agree with her assessment?

Sarah Salva: I definitely agree that that’s part of the equation. I know that my husband and I had two dogs long before we even thought about having kids. So it taught us a lot about, you know, kind of our lifestyle and types of things that we like to do together with our dogs, but also the limitations of, you know, not just being two adults, kind of free to do whatever we want. We still had shared responsibilities. I think the other part that I really love about the Millennials really bringing pets in is that they really aren’t breed-focused. So I’ve really loved seeing the surge in the shelter adoptions, among younger people.

Adrian Tennant: In 22 US cities, the term “pet owner” has been replaced with “guardian” in municipal codes, suggesting that pets are increasingly viewed like people. So do you think we’re on the verge of seeing civil rights for cats and dogs?

Sarah Salva: You know, maybe. I’m not so sure that dogs and cats should get a vote for President, but if it further protects them from abuse or harm, then I’m all for it. I have definitely wished that I could count my dog as a dependent on my taxes though!

Adrian Tennant: A $1.6 billion segment of the US insurance market, pet insurance is growing at about 17% a year. Now, despite its rapid growth, only about 2.5 million US pets are insured – of which about 80% are dogs, but that’s still less than 3% of all pets in total, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Now given that 30% of pets in Sweden and 23% in the UK are insured, Sarah, why do you think Americans have been slow to adopt insurance for pets?

Sarah Salva: You know, I don’t think that it’s very well marketed actually. You know, I’ve been a dog owner since the day I graduated from college and I didn’t really know that it existed until starting my job at H&C which is an amazing company that offers a discount for pet insurance. So I really think that, much like cat calming products, other countries have really done a really good job at marketing this and making it kind of a norm. So, you know, when you think about adopting a dog or a cat, for us, our first step is go to the vet, find a vet, but I think that the first step, at shelters and stuff around the world is hooking the pet parent up with an insurance company.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. Well, originally from the UK, I can tell you the vets and the insurance companies kind of work with one another. So yeah, much more acceptable over that. Sarah. How optimistic are you about the pet industry’s prospects for growth over the next few years?

Sarah Salva: You know, I think that it’s only going to continue to grow. We don’t see any sign that it’s going to decline or level off. I’m continually surprised looking at other companies and the great innovations they have coming out. Whenever you think, what else can we possibly offer to our dog or cat? Every year we see a ton of new stuff, so people are just gonna continue to, buy, buy, buy, because they love their pets.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. What have you bought for your pets in the last month?

Sarah Salva: We have been very focused on dental in the last few months. Kind of got a little slap on the wrist from our vet last month that I wasn’t brushing vigorous teeth enough. So we have invested in new toothbrushes and toothpaste to make sure that it’s something that she actually enjoys. This is a shameless plug, but we have found that she likes the poultry flavor toothpaste from Virbac in case anybody is looking for recommendations. So it’s really been a focus on how we make dental health more like a treat for her and not something that she’s going to dread.

Adrian Tennant: Have you ever signed up to a pet subscription box service?

Sarah Salva: I have, so we have tested out Barkbox. H&C actually used to have one called Wag Healthy Club. You could find it on Amazon. We don’t offer that option any more, but it was a really good way to get kind of samples out to people’s hands of different vet-quality products. But I love subscription boxes. I think it’s a really fun surprise every month.

Adrian Tennant: For anyone listening, that’s either a student of marketing or has recently graduated, what advice would you give them for finding their first position in a marketing role?

Sarah Salva: I think find a product or service that you’re truly passionate about. It’s a lot easier to market to consumers when you have something in common with them. So, you know, whether this is turning a hobby into a career or a chance with a really small startup,  that’s doing something really cool, if you really enjoy the product, it’s just so much easier to get behind it.

Adrian Tennant: Away from work, what inspires you? Are you a reader, a podcast listener, a music fan?

Sarah Salva: We as a family – we really love being outside. So we play a lot of golf. We hike, we spend time in our garden. You know, no matter the season though, I love to incorporate wine into all of my hobbies. So I guess you could say that that’s another thing that inspires me.

Adrian Tennant: Now I understand that after five years with H&C Animal Health, you’re moving to a new role with a brand that I think we all know pretty well.

Sarah Salva: Yeah, it was a really tough decision to make. I have had such good experiences over the past few years with Chuck and the rest of the team here, but I have a fantastic opportunity outside of pets with Scotts Miracle-Gro. So I’m very excited to continue growing and learning and to also be, you know, marketing for products, in my other passion, which is gardening.

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about the brands you’ve been working on at H&C Animal Health, where can they find information?

Sarah Salva: Check us out on Instagram @HCAnimalHealth, @DailyDosePet, or coming soon, @ScientiaPet. 

Adrian Tennant: Sarah, thank you very much, indeed, for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Sarah Salva: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Jessica Neyer: Telehealth is interesting. Everyone was trying to understand “is this just  a fad?” And now they’re realizing how incredibly easy telehealth makes certain appointments with your physician and they want it now, they’re demanding it.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Jessica Neyer, VP of Strategy with Mend, a telemedicine company making a big announcement on next week’s IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Sarah Salva, Director of Marketing and Brand Development at H&C Animal Health. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


As OTT video services demand the creation of more content, we discuss the potential of virtual production technology with Tim Moore, CEO of the new Vū Studio.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: As streaming video services demand the creation of more content at lower costs, we discuss the disruptive potential of virtual production technology. Guest Tim Moore is CEO of Vū Studio in Tampa, one of only a handful of spaces worldwide equipped to support this new process. Vū uses massive LED screens and game engine software to create virtual and extended reality environments that can be captured in-camera, eradicating the need for CGI in post, and location travel.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Tim Moore: Eighty percent of our work prior to COVID was in the field and so we would have to travel to these locations and you can imagine the expense and the time and the logistics, but now in one day we can go all around the world and back and be right there in the studio.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Last year, we spoke with Janelle Jordan, in-house production manager for the global online crew directory ProductionHUB about some of the ways in which the film and TV industry has been impacted by COVID-19 – from the challenges of adhering to evolving health and safety guidelines, to the difficulty of coordinating long-distance travel for production crews. Concerns about health and safety have accelerated the adoption of production practices that mitigate the risks associated with having to shoot scenes on location, such as choosing to work entirely on soundstages instead – as was the practice for a majority of studio pictures during Hollywood’s heyday. But in addition to concerns about health and safety, with a growing number of streaming platforms in need of fresh content, producers are looking for faster and cheaper ways to meet demand. A new approach has emerged called virtual production. The green screens typically married with computer-generated imagery and post-production are replaced by massive, high-resolution LED displays that enable photorealistic backdrops to be integrated with sets. Driven in part by technology that originated in the gaming world, but unlike the use of green screens, this approach creates a type of virtual reality in which actors can see and inhabit the spaces they’re performing in. And as importantly, scenes can be captured in-camera without the need for time-consuming CGI compositing in post-production. This technology has been used to great effect and the Disney+ series, The Mandalorian. I’m joined today by the man bringing this virtual production revolution to Florida. Tim Moore is a three-time Emmy award-winning director and the Founder and CEO of creative video agency, Diamond View, based in Tampa. Since its inception in 2007, the agency has worked with clients including the Atlanta Braves, Gatorade, TD Ameritrade, Purina, Coca-Cola, RedBull, and WellCare among many others. In addition to directing duties at Diamond View, Tim is an author: His book Sold on Purpose is a comprehensive guide to purpose-driven marketing. Tim is also the founder of the Tampa Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, focused on inspiring communities through positive public messaging – and a board member of the CEO Council of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council. Tim joins us today from his office in Tampa. Tim, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Tim Moore: Well, thanks for having me today.

Adrian Tennant: What inspired you to pursue a career in creative video production?

Tim Moore: Well, when I was 15 years old, I had a trip of a lifetime. I was going to the Dominican Republic, what I thought it was going to be a vacation. But it was a missions trip and it was with my local church. And, before I had even gotten to the island, one of the counselors on the trip gave me a camera. And it was life-changing because before then I had never put a camera in my hands and never even knew what to do. So he told me, “On the back of it’s a little button when you click it, the light blinks red and whatever you point at goes in and whatever goes in comes back.” And so I spent that whole trip getting a third-world education on how to shoot video. And to be able to see the conditions in the Dominican Republic was eye-opening. Some of these people would be jealous to have the problems that we have in America, and they were making houses out of trash they could find at the landfill. And so to capture this on camera was something that was for me really emotional as a kid. But the thing that really made me say, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” is when I showed that video to the congregation at the church. They had played it on the big screen, and I was sure that everyone was going to clap afterward. And when the video ended, nobody clapped. And as the lights came up, I realized people were crying. And I thought, “Wow, this is, this is powerful.” One of the ministers came out and he said, “Hey, if you want to help these people, we’re going to pass around a bucket and feel free to give anything that you can.” And I saw people give money to people that never met in a country they’d never been to for a cause that two minutes before that video, nobody even knew about, and I thought to myself as a kid in the back of that church, “Wow. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life because that’s the power of good advertising.”

Adrian Tennant: What led you to establish Diamond View?

Tim Moore: When I was 18, a friend of mine actually had started a business and I never had that idea until he called me and said, “Hey Tim, guess what?” I was like, “What’s that?” He goes, “I just registered a business in Florida” and I said, “What are you talking about? You’re 18 years old.” He said, “Yeah, it’s easy. You just sign up online. And, before you know it, you’ll have your own.” And so right after that call, I went online and I said, “You know what? I’m going to start somewhere.” So I started Diamond View and the first person I called was my dad. I said, “Hey dad, guess what?” He said, “What?” I said, “I started a business.” He goes, “What do you mean? You started a business?” I said, “Yeah, I have a video production business. It’s called Diamond View.” And he’s like, “Well, one problem. You don’t even have a camera.” I was like, “Well, you know, I’m going to figure that out.” And so the first year of Diamond View was really just a dream of one day this would be something. But, once we got off the ground, it’s been an amazing journey ever since.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, what have been some of your favorite projects over the past couple of years?

Tim Moore: Probably the most impactful project we worked on was one for PTSD. We did a social experiment and it was really eye-opening to see most of the time I have the script in my hands and I get to direct exactly how the actors interact and how the scene should play out. But a social experiment you’re along for the ride! You’re watching, seeing how things unfold. The scene was that they were in this cafeteria and hearing things that no one else was hearing and to see how that made them feel. And to connect it back to how would you feel if you were in someone’s shoes that felt this way. So I would say that was probably the most eye-opening shoot I did and really great one to be involved with.

Adrian Tennant: Now, that sounds like it would require quite a setup. What was the behind-the-scenes story for that?

Tim Moore: Well, you know, with any social experiment, you don’t want to tell anybody you’re doing it or it taints the results. So it was a candid camera style, seven cameras, hidden in coffee bags and behind the cashier and to produce the sounds. We had a massive subwoofer and speakers all around, but those were hidden as well. So, you can imagine if you walked in to grab a cup of coffee and then you hear a bomb go off, or glass shatter, what your reaction might be.

Adrian Tennant: That’s available to view on your website, correct?

Tim Moore: Yeah. I’ll be happy to share the link.

Adrian Tennant: Now, Tim, as I mentioned in the introduction, you are bringing virtual production to Florida with only one of a handful of studio spaces in the world dedicated to this new approach. A couple of weekends ago, The Today Show aired a segment featuring you and your team at Diamond View on the eve of the Super Bowl, in which you explained why COVID-19 has really accelerated the adoption of virtual production. So, could you give us a primer on the various technologies that you’re bringing together and offering in Vū?

Tim Moore: Sure. Virtual production can be done in a number of ways, but the way that we do is we use a LED volume. And an LED volume is like an IMAX theater. If you imagine a massive screen surface, typically curved in a cylinder with a full ceiling on it. And so the effect is just as if you were to put a VR headset on – when you go into the volume you’re fully immersed in this digital world. Now what’s really interesting is that the camera is a lot less sensitive to your eye, to the image. So when it goes in there, it believes that it’s in that environment. So the LED volume becomes a space that when you put images on, it appears like you’re at that location. So it’s an alternative to location-based shooting. So if you wanted to shoot on the beach, you simply put the beach – project it on the LED volume – and it looks like you’re there, and then snap the fingers and you’re in the mountains, snap the fingers and you’re in downtown Manhattan. It’s incredible because 80% of our work prior to COVID was in the field and so we would have to travel to these locations and you can imagine the expense and the time and the logistics, but now in one day we can go all around the world and back and be right there in the studio.

Adrian Tennant: Now, just to be clear, the curved high definition LED screen is made up actually of hundreds of individual flat panel displays, which are just slightly angled relative to each other to create that curvature. Is that correct?

Tim Moore: That’s correct. Yeah, it would be like if you took every TV in your house and you could connect them together seamlessly, you can make as large of a display as you want to put anything in front of it. And so it’s incredible technology.

Adrian Tennant: So how are they actually attached to each other?

Tim Moore: Well, we use custom hardware that allows us to adjust the curvature on each panel but there are several ways you can do it.  The curved is the most immersive way because when you turn the camera left and right. It’s fully on the LED board at all times, but some people do flat displays. Some people do small displays if you’re doing product. So there are several ways to do this and not one particular way is the right way or the wrong way. It just really depends on what type of things you’re shooting.

Adrian Tennant: Now when you’ve got a lot of individual LED screens, are there any needs for special software to keep them all in sync?

Tim Moore: Yeah, we use something called InDisplay that maps the geometry of the screen to the scene that you’re doing in Unreal Engine. So Unreal Engine is the same game engine that makes the popular game Fortnite. And by using that, you have all of the 3D attributes of a game. So just like in a first-person shooter game, you would walk around the environment. When the camera moves in the LED volume, we’re using camera tracking to track the perspective. And through InDisplay, we’re mapping that perspective to the screen. And so, it’s a very seamless process that uses a lot of advanced technologies to get the final product. But when you see the final product, it’s absolutely amazing.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any potential issues with flicker at different apertures or shutter speeds?

Tim Moore: Well, there are a few ways to solve for – one is within any LED screen, you’re going to have a refresh rate and understanding what the refresh rate intervals are will allow you to put the shutter speed that is appropriate for it. So if you’re scanning at the same speed that the screen is scanning, then you have no scan issues. Now, LEDs are unique in the fact that there’s also something called a scan way. A scan way is different than the refresh rate. So instead of the LED staying solid, to conserve energy, it’s pulsing and it scans at a certain rate. So you have to factor in a number of things into the calculation of “Alright, what shutter speed am I doing? What aperture am I using? What’s the distance from the wall so I don’t get other things like moire or aliasing?” So there’s several things that you wouldn’t have to worry about if you were on location, but when you’re shooting against technology like this, you have to make those considerations.

Adrian Tennant: Now as with any new technology, virtual production has its own jargon. You’ve used them already. The soundstage is not a studio space, but a “volume.” Where does that term originate from?

Tim Moore: Well, if you were in the center of a cylinder, you would be in the volume. And so, we talk about the volume as the actual stage itself, but to be in the volume or out of the volume, that would give you a clear indication of where you’re at in it.

Adrian Tennant: Sounds a little bit like being in The Matrix. Where do those visual backgrounds that you project onto the LED screens typically come from?

Tim Moore: Unreal Engine has a marketplace of more or less maps. So if you imagine just like any game, you know, as you advance through levels, you would be in different maps and environments. So you can purchase those maps on the actual marketplace from Unreal Engine, but if you’re a really good designer, you can make them from scratch. And so the idea behind the game engine is you’re making very photorealistic backgrounds, but because you make them in 3D space, whenever the camera moves around, it’s not like a stock video or a stock photo it’s fully interactive and immersive with you.

Adrian Tennant: Do you think we’ll see a whole industry of people capturing location, exterior, and interior imagery, specifically for virtual production?

Tim Moore: Oh, yeah. You know, one thing that exploded back in the day as people brought car scenes into studios was driving plates. People would stick a camera out of the window and get the telephone poles passing by. And then we would use that for reflections on the cars for driving plates. I think people will make plates for volumes as well, where they shoot locations in very wide shots. Cause you gotta remember most volumes are extremely panoramic because since they’re curved, they have to be very wide and not so tall. And so to shoot something like that, that fits that geometry, you have to do very wide shots. And I think we’re going to see a number of people going out and creating databases like that in the future.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Kathie Baptista: I’m Kathie Baptista, Designer on Bigeye’s creative team. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative and advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we learn about customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations – and develop Personas that help us visualize them as real people. As a designer, I use these insights to guide my approach to crafting visually engaging solutions. And our clients see insights brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Tim Moore, CEO of Diamond View about bringing virtual production to Florida. One of the things that make scenes shot using virtual production techniques so convincing to the viewer is the coordination between what’s projected onto the LED screen with motion-controlled camera movements. Tim, could you explain what the parallax effect is and how you achieve it?

Tim Moore: Parallax is if you’ve ever been driving down the road and you notice that the light poles move very fast because you’re close to them, but in the distance, the buildings might move very slow. And so there’s a relative movement of wherever you’re at, the objects close to you move quick and the objects far away move relatively slow. And so that gives you an indication of perspective. So, when you are creating a 3D scene, you would expect the same thing to happen. That if I’m in a room and the desk is near me, that the perspective of the desk pivots very quickly, but that the window in the back of the room might slowly move in a different kind of fashion. And so parallax tells the viewer that this is real – this is not a flat object. Now things that don’t parallax are like a static image. If you were to look at a photo on the wall and move around it, the photo stays static and that tells you that that’s a flat object. It’s not three-dimensional. So that’s a very important effect in the LED volume is that we want everything to parallax as if it has depth in 3D space. Because at the end of the day, this is a flat wall that we’re projecting these on, so we want to give them depth and dimension by using parallax to illustrate that.

Adrian Tennant: As the CEO of a video agency with years of traditional production experience, what are some of the differences that producers need to consider if they’re thinking of going the virtual route versus traditional?

Tim Moore: You’re talking about layers and layers of technology and so I think that one of the things we realized very quickly is we need to hire a staff that understands these systems. I mean, I come from a traditional video background and so does all of our team. And so the learning curve on this technology is immense. In fact, it’s to the point that when you think you’ve learned at all the technology changes and there’s more to learn. So, you know, it’s a exponential type of curve. But if you’re coming from a traditional background, it’s not too much to get started. But I think if you really want to excel, bringing in experts that understand this can help you really take it to the next level, and that’s what we’ve done.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, how does it alter the production planning process?

Tim Moore: If you’re shooting green screen, I’ll tell you this, everyone goes into a room, that’s got a green background and we’re all imagining. So in the pre-production phase, you really have to have everything understood and figured out. With real-time rendering and display, what you see is what you get. And so, while we have to create the scenes in advance, which would normally be done in post-production on a green screen. By making in advance, we have so much more creative capacity on set. And so the main thing we’re finding out is we need to determine some of the main things up front, like location, lighting. But once we’re on set, we are so much more empowered as creatives because we’re seeing it real-time. And so we can make decisions that are much more informative.

Adrian Tennant: How do you think this might change the way that set designers work?

Tim Moore: Well, set design is very similar in the same way, where before you had to create everything. And so the set designers had to make the scenic backdrops. They had to  create all the elements and props that would fill that out. And so you had to fill an entire scene. With extended reality and virtual production, one thing that’s nice is that they’re only making pieces of it and the background becomes the digital extension. So for example, you know, the White House is built about 400 times a year. And the reason is it’s in episodic, it’s in commercials, it’s in long-format film. And so you build this massive set and throw it away just for a one-time use. But now imagine all you need is the desk for the White House. And then the rest of the background, the Oval Office, is merely projection. So you can put so much more detail and time into the small things – whereas now the prop design is really done with the digital artists. Those backgrounds are being made digitally. And so I think that’s a really unique time where there’s still that blend of traditional and digital, but now it’s not as heavy of a lift on the traditional side.

Adrian Tennant: Have you seen any differences in the ways that performers respond to these wraparound sets?

Tim Moore: Not having to go in and imagine is an incredible tool because if you’re going a traditional green-screen route, everyone in the room is thinking something different. You know, they might be acting and we’re believing in the background’s going to do this or that. And the actor thinks it’s going to do something else. So not having a physical environment to see and react to leaves so much up to the imagination. Being able to see in real-time where you’re at, what’s happening to the environment, that gives the actor an amazing advantage. And I think once they see this, they’re going to be requesting it. They’re going to say, “I don’t want to do any more of the green screen shoots. I want to see it as I act.” So, that’s going to be an incredible shift in the way we make movies.

Adrian Tennant: Are clients enjoying seeing this in-camera as well?

Tim Moore: Oh, the clients love it. Not only from being able to see it on set, because what you see is what you get, but being able to get the files so fast, there’s no real post-production needed. You’ve baked it into camera – final pixel is captured immediately. They also love too, the cost savings. I mean, you think about this: Location-based shooting is so expensive to travel crew. On a major Hollywood film, the average catering cost is $20,000 alone, because you have these massive teams that need to do all these things. And so when you reduce the footprint of a crew to quarter that size, the cost savings to the client is incredible. So the clients are liking it from multiple angles, but it is an incredible technology for them.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, from having the idea of a virtual space in Tampa to actually opening the doors on Vū, how long did it take?

Tim Moore: Well, we were in hyper-speed, so it was about three months total time. We had got into the space in early October. We had the screen fully set and running, shooting things in December. So, yeah, it was very quick, but you know, we had a clear deadline in sight, and that was the Super Bowl. The largest entertainment event of the year and it was coming to our backyard. So we knew if we could create the studio in time, we could really maximize, not only the viewership of people seeing it and learning about it, but using it with the NFL while they were in town.

Adrian Tennant: You list some key partners in this venture on your website. How did you coordinate their contributions?

Tim Moore: Getting technology partners, especially in a startup venture, is very difficult because you’re basically pitching the idea that we’re going to do something. And what really helped is, you know, we got in with Unreal Engine early on, and I think they did an incredible job helping show the marketplace what we were doing with the technology. So we leveraged a lot of those assets and we went to Nvidia, to Sony, to Mark Roberts Motion Control, MOSIS camera tracking. And we showed them, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing so far, we’re learning, but we’re growing.” And we had a short pitch video of “This is the type of studio we want to build and we need your help with it.” And after shopping that around we found the right partners for the job. And they’ve been amazing in helping us get started.

Adrian Tennant: And is that ongoing technical support that you can call on those partners as needed?

Tim Moore: Yeah, a lot of what we’re doing now is research and development. We think that this is the tip of the iceberg. It’s just the beginning. What you can’t see underneath is all the innovations that are to come. We’re working with the partners now on, “Hey, are there other verticals we can serve outside of the film and video industry?” You know, this type of simulation is an incredible technology. You think about fighter pilots have been using this for years, large format displays to be able to learn how to fly planes without the risk of taking them off the ground or the cost of running through jet fuel. Are there other industries that could use a game engine for real-time simulations in an LED volume? That’s the big question for us now.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, I know you plan to increase the size of Vū’s facilities in the future. I know it’s early days, but what kind of adoption of these production techniques are you seeing? Is it mostly local clients that you’re working with or are you drawing interests from further afield?

Tim Moore: Well, we’ve never really had a large base of international clients. And ever since we opened the studio, we’ve gotten much more international clients than we ever had before. From Mercedes-Benz that came in from Germany, Whooshi from the UK. And so seeing now that this has international appeal, but I also see that as the technology continues to progress what clients are looking for is what is going to help them out the best. And so we feel looking now to more regional and local clients, that we can have practical applications for that that’s going to add to our base of clientele.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, you’re passionate about purpose-driven marketing, and literally wrote the book on the topic. You believe that traditional approaches to marketing are often ineffective because they’re out of step with what customers want and expect from brands. How so?

Tim Moore: Well, you got to understand that Tampa Bay is the capital for infomercials. This is the home of where HSN and a lot of what you’d see on TV, the “Yell and Sell” type of direct marketing was born. And so being in this market for years, you know, it was almost repulsive to me to see that type of television. When I knew as a child, what the power of video could be when it was emotional. And so I really started thinking hard about, you know, is there a different method than transactional advertising? Is there something like transformative advertising where you could show viewers things just like I did in Dominican Republic of “Here’s the need? How can we all come together as a community and help?” And I really think that that’s the power of video is that if you can show the need to the world, the world will respond and help out. And in a time like this, where you see our country is divided in values, that has many challenges, across the number of spectrums, video can be that platform to help people find and solve problems. So that’s really when we talk about purpose-driven video, these aren’t videos for the purpose of profit, just to sell a product – it’s about, really leaning into values and helping communities enrich themselves.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, you also put your money where your mouth is. Diamond View is a Certified B Corporation, which means that it meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Can you explain why you chose to pursue that certification for your company and what the process looked like?

Tim Moore: You know, for me, it’s always been about how can we be bigger than just a business. The mission of B corps is to really use business as a force for good. And even just hearing that tagline, it resonated with me because I feel that the purpose of business is not to create as much profit as you can in the same way that you and I, we need food in order to survive. The purpose of our life isn’t to eat as much as we can. You know, businesses have a much greater goal than that. You know, I believe the goal of the business is to find your gift. And then once you find your gift, the purpose of the business is to give it away. And so B corps hold businesses to that standard. They say, “Hey, you know what, if you’re amazing at video, or you’re awesome as a barber, or you’re a great author, whatever your gifts may be, give that away. Don’t just use it as a profit engine.” And so we became B Corp-certified a little over a year-and-a-half ago with the idea that we were connecting to a community that wanted to use their business in the same way. We wanted to make a difference. And I will tell you the B Corp standard is a high standard. We had failed several times before we got our certification and 90% of businesses that apply do. And you have to make the adjustments in order to be in line with a responsible business. But being a part of that community has been really rewarding and we look forward to being invested in that in the future.

Adrian Tennant: You’re also the founder of the Tampa Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on inspiring communities through positive public messaging. What led you to found the organization and what kind of work does the Foundation do?

Tim Moore: The Tampa Foundation is built around really inspiring the community through art. And I found out that this was such an incredible way to really uplift someone’s state. Just from a personal perspective, I went to a neighborhood outside of Miami called Wynwood. And 10 years ago, if you went to Wynwood, it was a ghost town, it was abandoned warehouses. It was kind of a sketchy place to be, you know, you’d see the haystacks rolling in the street and no one wanted to be there. It was just, the energy you could feel was just not right. And then I went back maybe five years later, and to see that the art had gone all over the walls, the murals had taken over and it was like contagious. One went up and then the other followed and it brought life back into the community. Coffee shops opened, people moved into the area. And I thought, “Wow, what an incredible way to really revitalize an area.” Is that you take these shells, these empty, vanilla walls. And you put inspiring quotes and powerful artwork on it. It just uplifts the community. So I said, “Man, I want to do that in Tampa.” You know, because the best kind of building for this is 70s and 80s architectures, the big blank walls. And so we started here in Tampa and it’s been an amazing journey ever since.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you’re evidently a very busy person in an industry that’s known for being stressful and often demands long workdays. So Tim, how do you relax? What are your sources of inspiration?

Tim Moore: Well, I’ll tell you that I am a die-hard, big, loving fan of video. So as silly as it sounds, when I’m home, I’m shooting with the kids and on vacation, still shooting. Like I just think that your investment in memories pays tenfold when you get to see that in the future. And so I enjoy spending a lot of time with our family and friends. But I’ll tell you that video was never a career for me, it was a hobby that I got lucky to do day after day. You know, my balance is to continue to pursue that passion in and out of work and I’m just really fortunate to have a super supporting family and a loving wife. And that was something I didn’t mention before. You know, those first couple of years when I was struggling, getting the business off the ground, my girlfriend at the time was the first one to buy a professional camera for me. And, that was nine years ago and I realized very quickly, that’s the woman I want to be with for the rest of my life. So I married her and we have two awesome kids. And so just really blessed now, to see Diamond View grow and be where we are today.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, somebody who buys you your first camera, you know they’re going to be a keeper!

Tim Moore: Yes.

Adrian Tennant: Virtual production certainly looks like it could be a major disruption in production for movies and TV shows. Do you think the techniques open up a new world of imaginative opportunities for creators?

Tim Moore: Oh yeah. You know, what I saw in 2008? A lot of the tape-based cameras were going digital.  And people were asking the question. They said, “Well, the tape-based cameras are so good. How will the digital ones ever be that good? It’s gonna look too computer-generated.” And I was an early adopter in that and I went on the bet that I think digital cameras are going to be the future. And you know, for a year I was wrong. And cameras when they first came out digital wasn’t great, you know. But what had happened was being an early adopter, I was really able to get ahead of the crowd and learn things, to put me essentially a year ahead of most video companies. And that’s where I think we’re at now is that we were at the digitization of studios, as we know it. We used to paint green on the wall, imagine, and then take it out in post. I mean, this is 60-year-old dinosaur technology we’re talking about. When people move over to digital in this studio environment, they will never go back. And so what I see is that the second people experience this magic and they say, “Wow, this is limitless” they will continue to evolve the technology and it’ll iterate and it’s only going to get better. And that’s exactly what cameras did and I think that’s exactly what studios are doing now.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, what excites you the most about the future for Vū?

Tim Moore: Vū is kind of our makers’ lab. We got a bunch of exotic technologies from motion control, robotics, optical tracking, you know, there’s so many toys to play with and things to discover that my real excitement and passion comes from finding out what’s next. You know, I’m naturally curious and so I’m always asking the question, “If we can do this, what else can we do?” I think that’s what I’m most excited about is the discovery. I can’t tell you what we’re looking for, but I know we’re on the path and it’s almost like trying to curate your own serendipity. There’s something out there but we haven’t found it yet. So we’re still trekking.

Adrian Tennant: “Curating your own serendipity.” I love that. Tim, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about Diamond View’s work, virtual production, your book about purpose-driven marketing, or your nonprofit work, where can they find you?

Tim Moore: I would encourage you to go check out our website,, or any of our social channels, @DiamondView or @VūStudio. For more info on me on LinkedIn, it’s just Tim Moore from Tampa and I would love to engage with anyone that has any more questions.

Adrian Tennant: Tim, thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Tim Moore: Well, thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on, IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Sarah Salva: So dog and cat owners – they’re very different people. So something that you say that works really well with dog owners can completely backfire on you with cat owners. It’s sort of the same sensitivity that you might expect to see when you’re marketing products that are made for human babies.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Sarah Salva, Director of Marketing at H&C Animal Health. Examining the US pet industry, next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Tim Moore, CEO of Diamond View. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


Child development expert Christia Spears Brown discusses some surprising findings in Bigeye’s new, national consumer insights study, Gender: Beyond The Binary.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Previewing Bigeye’s study, Gender: Beyond The Binary. Child development expert Christia Spears Brown discusses our report findings, reflecting society’s evolving views on gender identity and expression. We learn why humans are obsessed with gender differences, how categorization leads to stereotyping, and why fathers tend to be the “gender police”. Dr. Brown shares practical tips for raising kids to avoid gender stereotypes and create a less gender-obsessed future.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Christia Spears Brown: Gender stereotypes are so pervasive that I think parents really have to be committed to helping their kids learn about them and push back against them. In a lot of ways in which parenting practices play out along gendered lines, LGBTQ parents are much more egalitarian and you can see that filtering down into their kids. Gender is a real spectrum and there are lots of ways to express gender. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency,  we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. In December, 2020, Oscar-nominated Juno and X-Men actor Elliot Page came out to friends as nonbinary and transgender preferring the personal pronouns he and they. Page joins a growing list of celebrities who are challenging gender norms, including Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Sam Smith – who identifies as nonbinary – and Olympic gold medalist, Caitlyn Jenner, who was 65 years old when she came out to the world as a transgender woman. A 2016 study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that around 0.5% of Americans identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. That equates to around 2 million people. But the US Census conducted last year provided only two options for respondents to classify their gender: male or female. Was this perhaps, a missed opportunity? Next week, Bigeye will release the results from our 2021 gender study, which analyzes Americans’ sentiment toward gender, beyond the binary of male and female. To understand whether or not depictions of traditional gender roles in advertising influence brand perceptions and to quantify consumers’ opinions about gendered products, we conducted a national study involving more than 2,000 adults representing a broad range of generations, socioeconomic backgrounds, geographic locations, and gender identities. Now, while the majority of Americans are cisgender – that is, their gender identity is consistent with the sex they were assigned at birth – a significant percentage of the youngest generations we surveyed believe that gender identity is fluid. In fact, one-half of respondents aged 18 to 24 believe that traditional gender roles and binary labels are now outdated. We also saw that a significant percentage of Millennial parents are supportive of gender-free early education, less stereotypical depictions of gender roles in children’s books, and are more likely than previous generations to encourage their kids to play with toys regardless of their traditional gendered associations. To discuss the results of Bigeye’s study, which we’ve entitled Gender: Beyond The Binary, I’m joined today by Christia Spears Brown, PhD, Professor of Psychology, and Associate Chair of Development and Social Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Brown is the author of several books, including the bestselling Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, which offers practical advice for parents wanting to raise children free of gender stereotypes. Dr. Brown’s research interests also include children and adolescents’ perceptions of gender and gender identity development. Dr. Brown joins us today from her office in Kentucky. Christia, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Christia Spears Brown: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Christia, there’s a lot to unpack in this report. One of the key texts that inspired the Bigeye study was your book, Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, in which you highlight some of the ways that society reinforces the idea that men and women are very different. You describe it as living in a world that’s obsessed with gender differences. So when does our obsession with gender start and why?

Christia Spears Brown: We really start from before children are born, right? We create a society where we focus on gender. So the first thing any pregnant woman is ever asked is “What are you having?” And the answer needs to be gendered, right? We have gender reveal parties. We see nurseries still, even in 2021, are highly gendered in how we decorate them. So really, before babies are born, we start setting up a society in which we use gender to color-categorize, to label them, and again, here, we mean gender as a binary. So we say, “Are you having a girl or a boy?” Right? So we focus at the very beginning. The language we use for kids is very heavily gendered. So we say, “Oh, what a pretty girl,” “What a strong boy you are.” So it’s embedded in the language of how we talk to kids. We see it in gendered clothing, even in infancy when you know, the parents scotch tape the bow to a bald baby’s head just so you’ll make sure to know that it’s a girl. So we label it really early and we seem to do that more with children than we even do with adults. So they’re really brought up from the beginning to pay attention to gender, to assume that gender is a binary, and to assume that it must be the most important characteristic about us because we talk about it so often.

Adrian Tennant: Early in your career, you conducted research that demonstrated how something as random as children’s shirt colors could lead to group-based stereotyping. Could you tell us more about that?

Christia Spears Brown: Sure. We would randomly assign kids to two groups. So we would put half the kids in red t-shirts and the other half of the kids in blue t-shirts and they would be in these classrooms during summer school for about six weeks. And what we’ve found is when the groups are the same size and the teachers don’t mention them, the kids ignore them. Right? So the kids weren’t really necessarily paying attention to these groups as important. But, if the teachers did anything to indicate that those groups had meaning – so if they said, “Good morning, blue and red kids, let’s line up” or, “Let’s have the blue kids get the tape and the red kids get the scissors”, or we had blue and red bulletin boards for example, then we found that kids really started paying attention to the groups. They developed stereotypes about what their group was like and what the other group was like. They developed prejudices about their group. They were more likely to help their group and not help the other. And we replicated this in lots of different conditions too, and lots of different years. And we would tweak things slightly one way or the other – change the size of the group, change some of the other characteristics of the group. But what we learned is that it’s not necessarily just having groups exist, right? So for example, gender: we do come in different sizes among adults based on gender. So there are some characteristics that identify us based on our hormones and some of our biology, but it’s the fact that we treat these as categories and that we embed meaning in those categories that seems to drive kids to pay so much attention to it, right? So when we were saying, “Good morning, red and blue kids” and kids are forming stereotypes we very much modeled it after saying, “Good morning, boys and girls, let’s line up boy, girl, boy, girl.” Right? So we were just trying to mimic what we do with gender and we found that that is enough to create stereotypes out of thin air after only a few weeks in a classroom. So if you extrapolate that to real life, what we do with gender, no wonder we have such strong gender stereotypes because we treat it as such an important characteristic.

Adrian Tennant: Christia, in addition to undertaking your own primary research, you’ve cited other researchers’ work and meta-analyses in your books that indicate that the differences between boys and girls are much less significant than most of us would believe. So in their psychological development, how different are males and females?

Christia Spears Brown: Surprisingly, there’s not a lot there. So there have been thousands of studies looking for differences between boys and girls, and men and women, because everyone is again, really pretty obsessed with documenting how we might be different. So in these meta-analyses, where researchers put all of these studies together and analyze across all the studies that have been done – and these are just studies that have focused on gender differences and have been published because of the gender differences – so even in that context, we see that of all the things they’re looking for, about 78% of the time, there’s absolutely no differences between men and women. They look virtually identical. So there’s only a few things that are actually different. So for example, one thing that seems to be somewhat biological, because it occurs pretty early is that boys are a little less able to do really high level impulse control. So boys are a little bit more impulsive, really early in life. We see that girls start talking a little bit before boys do. We’re talking a month or two. We’re not talking big gaps. Now, as they grow up, there’s often the assumption that men and women talk different, that women are much more talkative than men are. There’s actually no differences in how much men and women talk. There are some differences though, in how we use our language. So men are more likely to do things like use assertive speech – so it’s make demands, state their opinion. Women are more likely to be affiliative with their speech. So more likely to ask questions, ask for other people’s opinions. So that’s one difference that emerges in these big studies. But a lot of it is really nuanced. So men are a little bit more helpful, but only when someone is watching only in the studies where they have an audience.  Women sometimes are shown to smile a bit more in studies, but only when someone is watching. So where we do see differences are things that we seem to have created. So there’s some differences not in math abilities or math understanding, but in self-confidence about math. So women are less self-confident in their math skills than men are. Women have worse body image than men do, although men are getting increasingly bad body image over time. But again, it’s because women see lots of images of very, very thin women in media repeatedly. And boys are a little more aggressive than girls. But again, that seems to be largely dependent on the fact that most of the toys and most of the media that we market to boys is also highly aggressive, right? So we set them up to be aggressive by all of the toys that we give them being aggressive, but that does emerge as a difference. So that’s really it, of all the things they’ve looked at for personality and temperament and all the type of academic cognitive skills we might have. Those were really the only ones that pop up. And so what’s important about that is in the scientific literature, there’s a thing called the file drawer problem. Whereas if I want to do a study showing how men and women are different and I go out and I do that study and I show no differences at all, that men and women are the exact same. The problem is journals don’t want to publish that because what I’m showing is null findings. So we just stick it in the file drawer and it never gets published. So the literature is going to show a bias towards finding differences, because it’s easier to explain finding a difference than not finding a difference. So finding nothing doesn’t actually get out there into the literature. So it’s really powerful to know that these meta-analyses are really looking at what’s published because that’s the stuff that’s going to exaggerate the differences that are there. All the studies that never found gender differences at all, probably aren’t even in the literature, they’re in researchers’ file drawers in their offices. So even the meta-analyses, even looking at the stuff that found differences, when you put them all together across – you know, almost 2 million people – you find that the differences are so tiny that the researchers that do that developed what they call a “gender similarity hypothesis”: the idea that we’re much more similar than we are different. And the other important part of that is that there’s more variation among men. And there’s more variation among women than there is between the average man and the average woman. So knowing someone’s gender is just not very informative, right? So men can be really high on the distribution or really low. And that completely overlaps with where women might be on some kind of distribution of whatever we’re looking at. So I think that’s the other part is that our individual differences outweigh our gender differences.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Dr. Christia Spears Brown, Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky, about some of the results in Bigeye’s research study, Gender: Beyond The Binary. For the gender research study, we asked all respondents a series of questions about the toys they played with as children. When it comes to toys for boys, over three-quarters of cisgender male respondents, agreed that when growing up their parents or guardians encouraged them to play with toys that are traditionally associated with boys related to construction and building or fighting and aggression such as K’NEX and Lego kits, G.I. Joe action figures, tanks, and of course, toy guns. Among cisgender females, three in every five agreed that they’d been encouraged to play with toys traditionally associated with girls – related to nurturing roles or their appearances such as baby dolls, Barbie dolls and accessories, ballerina costumes, makeup, and jewelry. But when we asked if their parents had encouraged them to play with any toys that interested them, regardless of their traditional associations with girls or boys, approaching two-thirds of cisgender females reported that was the case for them, in contrast with just under one-half of males. We also asked parents about what kinds of toys they encourage their own children to play with. Over three-quarters of all cisgender male parents encourage their sons to play with toys and games traditionally associated with boys – 77% – which is 17% higher than cisgender females. And for cisgender males with no college education, four-fifths do so. Significantly fewer LGBTQIA+ parents encourage their sons to play with toys associated with boys – just 50%. For toys and games associated with girls, we saw similar results. Over two-thirds of all cisgender males encourage their daughters to play with toys and games traditionally associated with girls 71% – 15% higher than cisgender females. And again, cisgender males with no college education are the most likely to do so at 73%. Interestingly, even fewer LGBTQIA+ parents encourage their daughters to play with girl toys at just 42%. But perhaps the most interesting finding is that approaching three-quarters of cisgender female parents reported encouraging gender-neutral play for their children at 73%, 14% higher than males. Cisgender females with college education are even more likely at 75%, but again, the most likely to encourage play with whichever toys or games interest their kids are LGBTQIA+ parents at 77%. Christia, do these results track with what you see in your studies and observations about evolving attitudes toward gendered play?

Christia Spears Brown: Yeah, I think they exactly track with what we see in other research.  For cisgender straight men, we see this really across their lives. So when they’re boys, there are more gender restrictions on them. So they’re more likely to be teased for doing anything that’s outside of the gender stereotype. Their fathers are much more likely to punish and reward any type of what we call cross-gender play -so a boy playing with a doll, for example. So then when those boys grow up, when they become fathers, we see that cisgendered straight men are more likely to be the gender police with their children. So they are more likely to reward and punish gender-stereotypical play more so than mothers are. So, often when we think about gender stereotypes, we think about the ways that impacts girls – and they do in very real ways – but for boys, the real harm of gender stereotypes is that it’s so restrictive. So girls are really allowed a little bit more flexibility than boys are, and you see that same restrictions when those boys become fathers. The other part that tracks really closely with other research is that you see LGBTQ+ parents holding fewer gender stereotypes typically, and they seem to be more flexible with their kids. So giving kids more options to explore what their interests are, you see fewer gender biases when it comes to raising, when it comes to sharing household chores – in a lot of ways in which parenting practices play out along gender lines, LGBTQ parents are much more egalitarian and you can see that filtering down into their kids.

Adrian Tennant: In our study, respondents viewed a video about Mattel’s gender-free doll line, Creatable World. Each set includes a figure that looks like a prepubescent child and includes clothes traditionally associated with girls as well as boys’ clothing styles.

Creatable World Ad: Introducing Creatable World – create characters that are awesomely you. Add long or short hair, pants, hats, shirts, and skirts. It’s up to you. Mix and match for hundreds of looks. It’s so much fun. What will you create? Creatable World dolls, each sold separately.

Adrian Tennant: After watching the video, 60% of the parents in our study with kids aged under 18, said they would consider giving one to their child if it had been available to them. So Christia, is the toy industry making progress on gender-free play options?

Christia Spears Brown: I think definitely they are. I think there are more options available within the past two or three years than there were before. But I also think at the same time and perhaps related to it, you’re also seeing the toy industry leaning into even more gendered, stereotypical toys, kind of simultaneously. So you also see much more highly aggressive toys marketed to boys, highly sexualized toys marketed to girls. So I think what we’re seeing in toys is very similar to our divided culture politically, even as right now, you see this real division of a lot more gender-free options, more options that really celebrate gender diversity. And then you see some that are much more leaning into what I would argue are some of the worst gender stereotypes that we have about aggression and sexualization. So parents really are making choices as to which types of materials they want to provide to their kids.

Adrian Tennant: Christia, in addition to being an expert on child development, you’re the mother of two daughters. What were some of the things you did to avoid gender stereotypes as you raised your children and have they worked?

Christia Spears Brown: They’re still works in progress, so they’re 16 and 10 right now. But what I can say is that I definitely did practice what I preached about gender stereotypes. So I avoided using gender in my language. So, I refer to them as “kids.” I would change the language in the children’s books that I would read. The book on Curious George, where it’s labeled, “the man in the yellow hat”, I would label it, “the friend in the yellow hat”. I would just change as I was reading to make it a gender-neutral word to describe people. I wouldn’t use it to describe people unless it was really absolutely necessary. So I would say, “the person standing on the street,” or, “the mail carrier”, instead of “the mailman”. I brought a range of toys and clothes. I corrected gender stereotypes when the kids said them. I pointed out gender stereotypes when I saw them so that the kids would become better at detecting them themselves. I also talked a lot about how they could talk to their friends about having diverse preferences. So when one kid was getting made fun of for only liking superheroes, we role-played ways to talk to the kids that were saying negative comments to her, so that she would feel more confident in going against those stereotypes. You know, didn’t allow things like gender segregation of birthday parties. We said you either invite everyone or no one, right? We don’t do gendered-only parties of any kind. And really just talked about gender as this diverse kind of social construct and not a necessary function of what your private parts are. That it’s much more about how we express ourselves to the world. And also really avoiding heteronormative language and assumptions. Making sure to not assume what their sexual orientation or gender would be. And I think it’s worked frankly really well, both kids would approach gender and sexual orientation just as I would want them to. They have diverse interests. They have equal mix of male and female friends. They do some things that are typical of girls and some things that are very typical of boys. They both have positive views about their bodies and think that being strong is important. So, knock on wood so far, it’s going okay. But definitely it was a thing that I had to really focus on. And I mean, it does take time because I think gender stereotypes are so pervasive that I think parents really have to be committed to helping their kids learn about them. And push back against them. You can’t just hope having a one-time conversation is really going to do it or that you modeling a gender-egalitarian household is going to do it either.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the ways that people whose gender identity is inconsistent with the sex they were assigned at birth deal with that gender dysphoria?

Christia Spears Brown: So gender dysphoria is the idea that you’re really unhappy and it really involves a lot of anxiety or potentially depression about your gender identity. But the reality is if kids are having parents support their gender identity and they’re allowed to express it and there’s that real social support, kids are really well adjusted. So that dysphoria idea really goes away if you take away the social stigma of it, and if you give kids support and let them be who they are and support that. And if we don’t pathologize it, then evidence is suggesting kids are really growing up very healthy and happy and well adjusted. It’s really when they’re not getting that support, when they’re made to feel like something’s wrong, that then you start to see things like depression and rates of suicide and the things that you’ve seen in older generations, I think now we’re seeing a real shift in parents’ knowledge that there are a range of gender identities. And that our goal as parents is really to support kids. I think as that starts to shift culturally, you’re going to start seeing a lot more people just express themselves as feels good to them. And then we see fewer of those negative mental health outcomes.

Adrian Tennant: One of our qualitative research participants identifies as nonbinary, uses the personal pronouns, they and them, and there’s also a parent. They’re raising one of their two children as a “theyby” who will be able to choose their gender identity at an older age.” Christia, what are your thoughts about this from a child development perspective?

Christia Spears Brown: We know kids have a sense of their gender identity before about kindergarten. So they have it pretty early. The kids who identify as something other than cisgender when they’re accepted by their parents and allowed to express their gender seem to be doing really well. We don’t have a lot of research on the effects of raising kids in this way cause it’s a growing trend. And so I don’t really know that consequences as a true researcher, but based on other work, we can extrapolate some things and I see a couple of benefits. So one is it normalizes whatever gender the child is choosing. So it helps the child feel that they can pick whichever gender they want. And so we know that normalizing a range of expressions is always good. So there’s never going to be a concern about whether that gender identity is supported or not. We know it also reduces the use of gender as a way to categorize. And we know that that causes stereotypes. So it’s already going to be limiting the gender stereotypes kids are paying attention to.  Previously the concerns were really about peer teasing and rejection. Cause we know that kids in kindergarten are really focused on gender and gender categories and stereotypes. Kids in kindergarten are really big stereotype endorsers for the most part. But I think as this becomes more common, frankly, and as representation of people across the gender spectrum becomes more common, our attitudes are really shifting and I think kids’ attitudes are shifting. So I think eight or nine years ago, I would have been more concerned with peer feedback and like peers saying negative things. I think that that has shifted in the past few years, so that kids growing up now are really in a different climate than kids were 10 years ago. I think this is one of the areas where we’ve seen the most rapid cultural shift of any of the social categories we have. And part of it is this representation of gender diversity seems to be filtering into what kids are accepting of. Now if parents can give kids some strategies for how to talk to kids at school that might say something negative to them, if they don’t have a really clearly defined gender identity, then I think the other evidence seems to suggest that it could be positive. But again, we don’t have a big enough sample to say that definitively, but that’s my opinion based on what the other research suggests.

Adrian Tennant: Recognizing that the negative impact of gender stereotyping can start early in a child’s life, over the last few years, some European institutions have been offering gender-free education programs. Sweden, consistently ranked by the World Economic Forum as the fourth-most gender equal society in the world, has been a leader in the gender-free education movement. Its national curriculum requires that preschools quote, “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns”, unquote, by avoiding gender labels for toys and books. Teachers address children as a group with “friends” rather than “boys and girls” and individually by their first names only using a gender-neutral pronoun in place of the binary of her or hers and him or his. Curious about how US respondents would react to this scenario, in our study, we asked them to indicate whether they would approve or disapprove of the idea. Overall, 43% of all parents approve, but cisgender male parent without any college education were 12 points more likely to disapprove at 47%. Notable differences in response to the question also related to generational cohorts with parents aged 18 to 55 being much more likely to approve of non-gendered early education in contrast with those aged 56 and older, who are more likely to disapprove of the idea. And LGBTQIA+ parents are among those most likely to approve at 64%. Respondents who think of themselves as Republicans are significantly more likely to disapprove with 49% doing so- in contrast to the almost two-thirds of Democrats who approve – 65%. Christia, is there any evidence that supports the idea that gender-free education yields better life outcomes for children?

Christia Spears Brown: Well, there aren’t a ton of studies that are able to look at gender-free education because in the US, our education is so gender heavy-handed. But a researcher named Kristen Schutz has actually studied the gender neutral pedagogy in Swedish preschools. So she actually went to Sweden and looked at this research with some colleagues there and they found that kids that were in these gender-neutral preschools, where the teachers do exactly what you were describing, they had a greater interest in playing with unfamiliar kids of another gender. So they were more open to playing with a boy or a girl that they didn’t know. And they were also less likely to endorse gender stereotypes. So they were less likely to think, “Oh, that boy over there that I don’t know, he must be aggressive and get into fights a lot”, or, “That girl over there that I don’t know, she must be really caring and like to sit and play with dolls”. So they weren’t kind of unleashing all their stereotypes on others quite as much. So I think that’s going to ultimately lead to more positive outcomes. I think if you’re willing to interact with people that are different than you, that is going to lead to a richer, more interesting life experience, right? Mean, I think there’s a reason that education is really highly related to a lot of your findings. I think the more exposure you have to people that are different than you, it opens up your mind and allows you to see things from multiple people’s perspectives. So the study with the Swedish preschools is saying, when they’re not using gender, when they’re focusing on kids as individuals, they’re more likely to also treat new people as individuals and not as just a gender stereotype. I think that whenever we do that, that’s going to be positive for our life outcomes.

Adrian Tennant: Your book, Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue was first published in 2014. What have you observed has changed in the period since?

Christia Spears Brown: I think the big one is some of these issues we’ve been talking about, which is just the greater visibility and acceptance of gender-diverse individuals. So whether that be gender nonbinary kids, whether it be trans individuals, just a greater acceptance and awareness that gender is a real spectrum. And that there are lots of ways to express gender. I mean, I think things like celebrities and news coverage of people like Laverne Cox and even Caitlyn Jenner – I think those really high-profile cases that got a lot of media attention actually played a really big, important role. I think we sometimes think that, as researchers, we have to think, “Oh well that seems kind of silly just because someone was on a TV show”, but that representation has led to ripple effects and have been really profound for visibility. And I think when you have more visibility and more representation, it leads to greater acceptance. And when you have greater acceptance in the culture, it leads to greater acceptance for kids. I mean, I think you see that for every stereotype group we have. I think I was writing that book probably in 2012. If I was writing it again, I would have had kind of a different take just because the world has really shifted. And I think in great ways, ways that are positive for kids, but it’s been a really rapid and profound shift.

Adrian Tennant: Christia, I’m going to be looking out for the second edition of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, with the extra chapters.

Christia Spears Brown: Well, I’m actually writing another book that’ll come out in the fall called Unraveling Bias and it’s really looking at gender diverse youth and the ways in which we can be more accepting and how our cultural attitudes really are important for kids to have healthy development.

Adrian Tennant: Christia, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners want to learn more about your studies or your books, where can they find you?

Christia Spears Brown: I think Twitter’s where I’m most active. So @ChristiaBrown is probably the easiest place to find me where I try to be the most engaged in the social media world. And then just my regular website of

Adrian Tennant: Christia, thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Christia Spears Brown: Thanks for having me. This was fun.

Adrian Tennant: 2021 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for brands with a greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion within advertising and in the ways that advertising depicts people. Bigeye will be publishing a limited season of podcasts focusing on the issues raised in our national study. I hope you’ll join us for those special episodes that look at gender beyond the binary. Coming up next time on, IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Tim Moore: COVID was a big shock to our business. You know, 80% of our work was on location. And so when we couldn’t travel to the location we had to find a way to do things differently and with virtual production, now we can bring the location to us.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Tim Moore, CEO of the new Vū studio in Tampa – an environment that marries high-resolution, three-dimensional LED video backdrops with motion control, making it possible to capture complex, photorealistic imagery in-camera rather than requiring computer-generated imagery or CGI. A look at the cutting edge of video production, next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks again to my guest this week, Dr. Christia Spears Brown, Professor of Psychology and Associate Chair of Development and Social Psychology at the University of Kentucky. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked, “Podcast.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


Creative agency Bigeye’s podcast interviews Dallas Taylor of Twenty Thousand Hertz who reveals some of the stories behind the world’s most iconic sonic brands.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Dallas Taylor, Creative Director of Defacto Sound and host of the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, joins Bigeye to explore sonic branding. Hear how Dallas and his team approach sound design for clients like Disney and HBO, and what it’s like to work on shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld. Dallas also shares Twenty Thousand Hertz‘s production process, and we go behind-the-scenes to learn how the iconic Netflix sonic logo was developed, including audio clips.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Dallas Taylor: Being in this sound design world, there are all these really cool stories like the story of the Wilhelm Scream or the NBC chimes, or what’s that voice on your phone, well, who is that person? There are so many stories out there of these great sounds that have these very intricate histories that I wanted to tell!

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Changes in consumer behaviors and media preferences accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic have presented new opportunities for brands to reach target audiences through advertising on streaming TV platforms like Hulu, as well as digital audio platforms, such as Spotify and Pandora. But purposeful sound design is also an important aspect of computer games, mobile devices and apps, and even the sounds that your car makes. Our guest today is Dallas Taylor, a successful sound designer, and a sought-after expert on the emotional power of sonic branding. Dallas is the Creative Director of Defacto Sound, where he’s led thousands of high-profile projects ranging from blockbuster movie trailers and advertising campaigns to Sundance award-winning films and major television series. You’ve most likely heard Dallas’s work without realizing it as his company produces audio branding for media clients including Disney, Discovery, ESPN, HBO, and Netflix, as well as automotive brands like Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Ford, and Tesla. In addition to being the Creative Director of Defacto Sound, Dallas is the host and creator of Twenty Thousand Hertz, a bi-weekly podcast that reveals the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds. Dallas, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Dallas Taylor: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: First of all, what led you to pursue a career in sound design?

Dallas Taylor: I was a trumpet player for most of my school age. Back then I grew up in a really poor town, and somebody put a trumpet in my hands and I excelled at it. And so that took me through school and into college. In college, I had a bout of performance anxiety over playing the trumpet, which derailed my entire performance ideas in the future. At the time, I was also really into computers and composition and conducting and I kind of pivoted. One thing led to another, I got into a news station, which led me to an audio board, that led me out to LA. And then I was working for Fox and NBC. And then that led me to the East coast to work for the Discovery Channel, which led me to uh, making my own studio about 11 years ago – Defacto Sound.

Adrian Tennant: Dallas, you’re the company’s Creative Director. Can you describe a typical day in the life of Defacto Sound?

Dallas Taylor: Ooh, it can kind of go anywhere. We are very focused on short-form now. So meaning advertising promos for networks. Over time, I really loved kind of the quick, concentrated creative things that are sub-five minutes or so. Most of our days a couple of people might be working on a Netflix trailer or there could be somebody on an HBO trailer. As you mentioned earlier, we work a lot with Discovery, Cartoon Network. So those commercials and trailers and promos come through daily. We also work with a lot of ad agencies on car spots or sneaker commercials, or really all kinds of stuff, everything from pretty straightforward things where maybe sound doesn’t have like a huge creative focus all the way up to very stylized sound design driving an entire story. So just every day is just completely new. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to start the company is I just wanted to work with just everybody.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned Defacto Sound designs sound for movie trailers and network promos. How far in advance of release or transmission are you typically working?

Dallas Taylor: Probably a couple of days, usually. So we’re right on the tail end, oftentimes, depending on our place. If it’s something that is very stylized on the sound design front, we’ll usually bounce things back and forth with the editor. We’ll really try to dial in this soundscape before it even goes to the client. Because sometimes it can go a little sideways if we’re not involved early enough. But on a lot of things, maybe stuff that is already really worked out with the editor and there’s a really clear vision for how they want to finish, that could be something anywhere from I’d say, probably a couple of days to maybe a week. So usually when we’re working on something, we see it come out within a week or two unless it’s a big ad campaign. We did the Ford Bronco relaunch announcement. I think we worked on that for like seven or eight months before anyone knew about it. So it all just depends on how concentrated the sound design creative is. But yeah, it just all depends.

Adrian Tennant: When you’re creating trailers, do you typically only have access to finished tracks or are you more often having to create soundtracks sometimes before the sound for the actual show has even I’m being recorded?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, that’s pretty fun. And that’s specific to the promo trailer world where we were doing a lot of recaps for Westworld and True Detective last year. Because we were so far ahead, we were getting raw tracks straight from the set. The show wasn’t even mixed yet. So it all just kind of depends on where we’re coming in. I’d say probably 60, 70% of the time, we’re working with tracks that may have been pulled straight out of the show, after being mixed and sound designed. But then there’s a good third, maybe more than that, where we’re getting tracks straight off the set and we’re cleaning those up, you know, cause what you hear on set and even recorded well never makes it to final. Because there’s a lot of sound editing we want to do and get rid of all the little pops and ticks and noise and all that to make it just really clear. But yeah, again, it kind of depends like how far ahead are we? How big is the piece that we’re working on? Back when Game of Thrones was in its last couple of seasons, we were working on a lot of those trailers. And so when we’re working on enormous stuff, usually we’re in pretty early, and then it’s just kind of scalable, from there. Now on the advertising side, which is a kind of a whole different world, I would say 98% of the time we’re building that entire soundtrack minus music from the ground up. So we focus very heavily on sound design, and we do some music, but only in a tonal, sound design-y sense. When we have like music tracks and stuff, usually it’s from a composer or from a library. But we kind of have a hard line between like, is this a track of music versus sound design?

Adrian Tennant: Defacto Sound’s website showcases the breadth of work that you do. In one of your showreels you say, “when we’re doing our best, when noticed the least.” Can you unpack that for us?

Dallas Taylor: We never want to like work on something where we’re doing it to be self-serving, where someone watches something and goes, “Oh my goodness, that sounds like it’s so good.” Now, if you watch our reels on our website or on Instagram, that’s very much designed to put sound in your face, just where you know exactly what we do. However, when we’re actually working on most projects, trailers, promos, documentaries, all of those things, it is very geared toward the mission of the story. It’s very supportive of where the story is. We never want anyone to be like, “Oh, that was a sound effect there.” We just want to mind-meld the listener and the viewer into the story. And so what I love about what we do is we’re usually the first people that actually consume a piece of content and its final in our rooms, even before a director or producer or writers. And the other thing that we’re just always thinking about is removing the boundaries of the framing. How do we support the cinematography by mixing in a way where we’re pointing through sound, pointing the viewer to where the focus is? But if they look somewhere else, they also hear that, but in a secondary way. So we’re guiding the eye around what the cinematographer is framing. But then, in the next step, we’re really trying to eliminate framing from the editor’s perspective. Sometimes we’ll highlight what the editor’s doing. Sometimes we’ll try to do the opposite, depending on where the story is. So sound is this thing that really can open up this framing and kind of wrap someone around and it could tell stories off-screen. It can kind of push you around the screen. But most of the time, my goal is to really erase the edges for the viewer and just get their minds like completely inundated into this story.

Adrian Tennant: Looking back over Defacto Sound’s history, is there one project in particular that you’re proudest of? And if so, why?

Dallas Taylor: Wow, there’s so many. I love just big sound design. That’s always fun, but I think that the ones that I’m most proud of are the ones that had the biggest emotional impact. So one thing I would say that I’m probably most proud of is a couple of documentaries that we did. One was called Blood Brother. It’s on Netflix. It won Sundance in both of the big categories. It’s about this guy who goes over to India to help support orphans who have AIDS. And it was just a very sound design-y piece. It’s very well crafted. We’d been working on this thing for years, working on the actual doc for months and months. Director Steve Hoover came in, sat down, and on the final day, started pulling music out of the documentary, which is something you really just don’t think to do at the very end of a process. But he had the understanding that he had been editing in scenes and now he really needed to give the viewer time to process rather than just have more music on them. And so I was really proud because there were times where he’s like, “Let’s just hear it without music.” And then the entire soundtrack just played beautifully without it. You know, on set I don’t even think they had a sound mixer, but we had filled the entire soundscape and it was very lush and we were trying to be very respectful of the actual locations and sounding real. You watch that film and you really never, at any point, think about the sound design, but there’s so much sound work just to blur the line between reality and this fakey picture thing. That one, and then the follow-up from that director was a piece called Crocodile Gennadiy that happened back when Ukraine was where there was a lot of Russian pressure going in. Atticus Ross, the other Nine Inch Nails person, was the composer on it, so it was just really heavy and dark. And then all of our sound design, like really supported that too. But beyond that, probably properties that I just love, like things like Westworld, Game of Thrones, Fallout Four, Fallout New Vegas. I got to mix all of these launch trailers and stuff, and I love games. So yeah, I think that those, but then also just things that like, I just naturally enjoy. We do a lot of cartoon mixing too. Whether it be Adventure Time or… trailers that is. Heck, even like True In The Rainbow Kingdom. Things that are for kids – and I have kids and I just love all of those things. But I’d say that the thing I love the most that I’m proud of is just how much different content we’re working on, on a weekly basis. It’s just always new.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also learning about their prospects and customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and collectively inspire the account, creative, media, and analytics teams working on our clients’ projects. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused consumer insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Dallas Taylor, who, in addition to being the Creative Director of Defacto Sound is the creator and host of the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, which he started back in 2016. In each episode, you reveal the hidden backstory behind a famous sound or sonic phenomenon. Dallas, what inspired you to create the podcast? 

Dallas Taylor: Even in the industry that I’m in, where we only have two human senses to work with – our sense of sight and our sense of hearing – it’s still like sight 99.9% of the time. And like hearing is this far secondary finishing thing. Yet, it’s a core human sense that can be really used to push people emotionally if it’s just taken seriously. So I started thinking about this podcast probably three, four years prior to even putting it out. And being in this kind of sound design world, there are all these really cool stories that we just tell each other as sound people – like the story of the Wilhelm Scream or, the story of the NBC chimes, or what’s that voice on your phone? Well, who is that person? Or what is this thing about – people talk about mastering, what the heck is that? And, yeah, so there’s like so many stories out there of these great sounds that have these very intricate histories that I wanted to tell and to hopefully just to get people more in tune with that sense. It’s not preachy. It’s just fun. It’s just like, “Oh, that’s a sound I’ve heard all the time. And now I know this entire rich back story of what led it from point A to point B.” And so the show is very much a show about sound for everyone, to really start to enjoy, hopefully, to open up their sense of hearing. And that was really the inspiration. I wanted to give this passion that sound designers and these audio people have to the rest of the world. Because if we let the rest of the world in on it and they get super excited about sound and they start working with sound and being creative with sound and changing your own sonic environments, then that’s going to move our whole culture forward. And so it’s very light for the most part. There are some serious episodes, but it’s very peppy, highly produced, and yeah, for everybody.

Adrian Tennant: What’s the origin of the podcast’s name, Twenty Thousand Hertz?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah. So it’s Twenty Thousand Hertz. H E R T Z, named from Heinrich Hertz,  who, I guess coined that term. So Hertz is a cycle. So if you think of a speaker cone that goes out, pulls back, and then goes back to the middle – that’s one cycle. The way that sound works in our atmosphere is it’s basically like compressing air and then it’s like doing a vacuum of air super, super quickly. And, one cycle is so low that you can’t hear it. You know, you get to about 20 cycles if you see a big woofer moving, and you kind of feel this “Whoa,” like really low thing. The fewer cycles, you know, 40, 60, 100 Hertz, you’re going to hear that as a super low sound. But Twenty Thousand Hertz is basically the highest average of human hearing. Well, for kids, not adults, because we’ve kind of lost all of our super, super high pitches. But Twenty Thousand Hertz is essentially the limit of human hearing.

Adrian Tennant: Previous episodes of Twenty Thousand Hertz have covered a really wide range of subjects, whether it’s discovering the inspiration for the sound of the lightsabers in Star Wars or interviewing voice actors, or deconstructing the elements that make up the most recognizable audio identities in the world. How do you come up with the ideas for each episode?

Dallas Taylor: My whole team is really diligent. Anytime an audience member sends in an email with a show idea or a tweet or a Facebook message, or you know, on Reddit, we always put that down on our list. We’re not really evaluating all the time, but anytime I have an idea or somebody on the team or just any listener has an idea, we always put it in a special place. And then when we’re looking for episodes, we’re going through every idea that’s come through our inboxes and ideas and stuff for the things that just really get us excited. And stories about things that sound really cool, that we don’t know the story behind, but is a huge cultural influence. The thing about sound though, I mean, we probably have 600 stories just sitting there because this well never ends. You know, by the time a sound goes away, a brand new sound replaces it. Like right now, the Netflix sound is not that old – I think it’s five or six years old – like we think of it as like the most influential sound in all advertising. Yet it’s not, I don’t even think it’s a decade old.  And what happened? What was that phenomenon? How did it succeed? What did they do to come up with that sound? And so we tell these like very human stories. And what you find out oftentimes is they have this deep meaning of like every split second of something means something to the brand. You know, even kind of Star Wars and stuff, there’s a whole reason why the TIE Fighters have an elephant in it – it’s just to cause fear in our “fight or flight” brains. So there’s just so much fascination with psychology and how our brains work and just nature and that all kind of comes together when we make these sounds. And I just wanted to highlight these really fun stories.

Adrian Tennant: In episode number 100, you reveal the never-before-told story behind the iconic Netflix sound. So Dallas, how did this episode come together? What’s the story behind the story?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah. This is about the Netflix, TA-DUM – that sound. So there’s a lot of ideas and speculation of where this came from. But we noticed that there was never an acknowledgment of actually where it came from. So there was this whole idea of like, “Oh, it must be the end of like House of Cards, season two.” There’s this part where Frank Underwood bangs on the desk and he goes “ba-boom” like that. And if you listen to it, you go, “Oh, okay. That sounds a lot like the Netflix logo, pretty fascinating.” So there’s all this speculation online. “Oh, that must be it.” You know, and I can understand if they want to stay away from that or whatnot, but I wanted to get to the bottom of that. So immediately just in my circles wrote the sound designer of House of Cards, who actually put the sound in. This person was Ren Klyce, very famous in the sound world. And I was like, “Hey, you know, a lot of speculation that the Netflix audio logo is this sound that you made or your team made…” And he immediately wrote back like no time at all, “Nope, not me. Like, you’d think that it sounds like that, but I know exactly who made it, this person Lon Bender, so reach out to him.” So then I went over there and then we talked and one thing led to another, I eventually kind of put it on Netflix and said, “Hey, you know, we got these people, but we really want Todd Yellin”, who was the client on this. So Todd Yellen was at Netflix, he was the one guiding Lon and Charlie to create some sort of sonic brand and they spent an entire year on it. But that really stalled because when you’re going into a multi-billion dollar company PR and they’re like, “Whoa, who are you?” Like, “What is happening here?” So we had to show our history, that first, they were like, “Oh, okay. What are you about?” I think it took us about a year to get Todd. The actual episode came together pretty well and pretty easily compared to many episodes. However, it just took a long time to get access. But once we had access to Netflix, everyone was super friendly, everyone was really open.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, let’s hear a clip from the episode. The first voice we’ll hear is Todd Yellin, VP of Product Innovation at Netflix.

AUDIO: First off and arguably most important, it had to be really short. And the reason it had to be short is, as opposed to in a movie theater when you have a captive audience and they’re going to be there and they paid their 10 bucks and they’re going to watch whatever you throw at them. So some of the grander sound idents you can imagine like THX – a great one. It’s really long. The “bom-bom-bom” from 20th Century Fox – long! Even Leo the lion was too long because, in our age of click and play, you get to Netflix. You want to be able to click. And there’s no patience. And you want that great experience and you almost want it immediately. So the first thing is that had to be short. Past that I said, “I don’t want an electronic sound that is reminiscent of a game platform like X-Box or a computer, like Apple operating system, like Microsoft launching because we are in the entertainment business.” And even though we are the double helix of entertainment and technology coming together, I wanted to make sure that it sounded more cinematic than electronic and computer-ish.

Adrian Tennant: The Netflix sound is heard countless times every single day, all over the world. Yet you were the first to reveal its backstory and learn what went into its design.

Dallas Taylor: So yeah – another thing that Todd said earlier in the show that really hit home for me. And even Todd didn’t really like sink into this thought, one of the first things he said on the interview, he was like, “Oh, we just needed something short. And it needed to be like, ‘TA-DUM, it’s Netflix’.” And I was like, it sounds exactly like what you just said. It’s like ‘TA-DUM, it’s Netflix’. That’s like the bones of what this was.  It’s just fascinating like that, that’s what they came up with, among multiple versions. They tried all kinds of like random sounds and random, ideas and it took them, I think about a year to settle on it.

Adrian Tennant: In that episode, we also learned that the Netflix audio identity might have gone in a very different direction, right?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, very much so. Surprisingly, they wouldn’t let me play the actual audio file, but they did say it was perfectly fine if I talk about it and perfectly fine if I do an impression of it.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s hear that clip now.

AUDIO: One thing I was initially attracted to was if we’re going to do that call and response that like create tension and then resolve it really quickly. I liked the sound of a goat. It was funny. I thought it was quirky and it was our version of Leo, the lion. And so for a while, we were stuck on that code sound and I thought that would be a good time. – – So I can’t play the sound for you, but I did hear one of the goat options they considered and it’s a very goatee, it was basically an ending response to the ‘TA-DUM’ we already know and love. Here’s my best impression of what I heard. – – Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Great! If you’d like to hear more of that, it’s episode 100 entitled, “TA-DUM, It’s Netflix” from 2020. Staying with iconic sounds, Twenty Thousand Hertz also produced an episode in 2019 focused on sonic branding in which you deconstruct some of the most impactful audio logos in history. Let’s hear a clip from that episode. The first voice we’ll hear is Scott Simonelli, CEO of Veritonic, a company that measures the commercial effectiveness of sound.

AUDIO: The big benefit of an audio logo versus a visual logo is that it stays with you after you’ve experienced it with a visual logo. You might remember what it looks like, but not in the way that you would remember an audio logo, and certainly nobody’s humming or singing a visual logo. As soon as you hear that three-note or four-note sequence, you know exactly where you’ve heard it before. That longevity, that memorability, and that recall is so powerful. – – Memorability in audio logos is key and it’s not always because the product is so amazing. Sometimes the audio logo is something we might call an earworm, something that just gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out. Mennen aftershave had a great example of this in the eighties. “Buy Menned.” It was so popular that it became the basis of a storyline in an episode of Seinfeld here, Georgia Constanza tries to make himself more memorable to a woman that he’s dating. “I’m like a commercial jingle first. It’s a little irritating. Then you hear it a few times. You’re humming it in the shower by the third date. It’s buy Mennen.” “All right, George, the first time we went out, I found you very irritating. We’re seeing you a couple of times. You sorta got it. Stuck in my head – Contanza”.

Adrian Tennant: So Dallas, did someone on your team just remember that episode of Seinfeld?

Dallas Taylor: I think what happened is like, when we were just talking about where we want to go with the show that may have just come up in conversation, like, “does anybody remember like “Buy Mennen?” And then I think someone else bounced off. I was like, “Oh yeah, the Seinfeld thing.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” And then like, I think someone found it, and then we just kind of wrote it into the show as a funny anecdote of how huge that, you know, the theme was, or that little jingle back then, but I mean, I find this fascinating. I think that anybody who heard that…  there’s just so many sounds, I mean, just like “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty, Liberty,” it just sticks with you. The brand almost doesn’t exist without their sonic logo. And I love that.

Adrian Tennant: If you would like to hear more of that episode, it’s number 48, entitled Sonic Branding. Where are the clips that you use in Twenty Thousand Hertz sourced from?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, usually it’s a YouTube pull. We have this amazing thing called Fair Use, that if we did not have the ability to have Fair Use, news would be different. If we’re using a sound or a clip or something as an educational tool – and now there’s a lot of nuances to this – but if we’re unpacking a specific sound and we’re commentating on that sound that is protected by Fair Use. This is how news stations can play things because they’re talking about it. Parody is also a big part of that too. If you want to parody, you know, SNL doing like a Lexus parody commercial, that’s protected by Fair Use. And so, we have a legal team that occasionally if we feel like we’re in sticky situations, we’ll pass it through them. They’ll say, “Oh, just, you know, make this edit, make this, that it make this edit” But for the most part, it’s all protected with Fair Use. When it gets hard is with music. Like if we’re doing something like mastering, or we’re doing a thing where we’re talking about the 808 being so prevalent throughout hip-hop, we have to be really careful with how we use the music. It’s one thing to say, “You’ve heard this in this piece”, and you hear, ‘dum-ta-ta-dum’ you know, whatever. It’s a different thing altogether to use that Jay-Z piece or something and put it under me talking. And so there’s a lot of aspects of how you can use things and how you can’t use things. And we’re extraordinarily careful. We’ve been like that since the very beginning, but usually, we’re sourcing it from a super high-quality YouTube video or something with the very high consideration of it being Fair Use. But do we need to get NBC’s permission to talk about or play the NBC chimes? No, because we’re using that as education.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned the 808. That’s the Roland TR-808, a drum machine manufactured in the early 1980s. You tell the 808’s story in episode number 72. As a drum machine, it wasn’t a commercial success at the time yet it accidentally changed music forever.

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, it’s still even such a huge, prevalent sound. 808 kick and the variations on it are still just what makes a lot of hip-hop sound like hip-hop. And it’s fascinating that Japanese engineers from Roland created a machine that ended up influencing so much of what we hear today. And those seeds were planted with a lot of these eighties hip-hop groups.

Adrian Tennant: From first determining the topic of a Twenty Thousand Hertz episode to publication, what does the production timeline for an episode typically look like?

Dallas Taylor: Usually it’s four to six months of time that it takes us to make a show. We’ve calculated it before, and usually, it’s somewhere between 200 and 300 hours of work to do it. Right now we have 23 episodes in production simultaneously, just because the lead times are so long, to make it. And some of the writers have full-time jobs, they’re freelance. We always hire external writers. So a quick, glossy overview of how we do everything is kind of: We have brainstorming meetings, we pick topics that just get us excited. And generally, I like doing fun episodes, but if there’s a serious topic we’ll tackle it. Sometimes I’ll do an interview with a guest before we decide to greenlight it. Sometimes the producers will do all the guests, the external writers. Casey’s our story producer internally. So he’s really controlling every sound edit and everything. So we’ll kick it off – me, Casey, and then the writer. Kind of just with big, broad ideas, the writer may bring an outline, may pitch certain elements to us. Then we go, “Okay, let’s do this. Let’s try not to do this. Let’s get this person. Let’s try to get this person if we can, if we can’t get that person, you know, do this.” So then there’s a phase of like, “Can we get the guests?” And usually, that takes a week to three just to get the right person. Sometimes we need celebrities, which takes longer. We get those recorded as highly polished as possible. Prior to the pandemic, we were sending everyone into a recording studio, or we were sending a sound recordist to their home or office. Now we’re sending microphones and giving people microphones if they don’t have one already. Or we’re just pulling out every trick in the book to get the highest quality recording possible. So we have a handful of different ways that we do that because sound design, music, all those things like really only work when you have a great beautifully clean warm microphone. Usually, we have two guests, sometimes three, maybe one, just depending on how compelling it is. And we’ll get these transcripts and then the writer will spend a few weeks just kind of hacking away at it. Trying to build a narrative, using narration to get us from point A to point B faster. If someone told a seven-minute-long story, that’s nearly a whole segment. So we have to chop that down and get to the meat much more quickly. So they do that, they go back and forth. We do a full table read of it. We do a first table read where I’m reading my part, we’re clicking on music. We’re clicking on sound ideas. We have the sound designer in it. We have the story producer. We have the writer just listening to it for the first time. They give a bunch of notes, the writer will go off, maybe come back and maybe we do another table read if necessary. Then we bring it into audio and then that’s a whole phase of probably a month, two months, of just crafting it. And then we just kind of rip it apart too, because some things on a script don’t work in audio. Telling an audio story is very different than print. It’s very different than what we see on a script. So sometimes something that looks like it’d be really good on a script does not work in audio. So we have to kind of rip it apart and make it work. So we back forth, back forth. About two weeks before we launch a show, I’m terrified it’s gonna be the worst show that we ever made. I’m, you know, “Everyone’s going to unsubscribe.” And then one day before we launch it’s polished to the max, we panic polish. We publish it, and it’s my favorite episode. Usually, the latest episode is always my favorite episode for some reason.

Adrian Tennant: Today, Twenty Thousand Hertz boasts over 100,000 subscribers. What has been your strategy for growing the podcast’s listenership?

Dallas Taylor: Well, the biggest things are being featured on other podcasts. So we got our big break with 99% Invisible. Roman Mars is the host of that and Roman played our second episode the day we launched our third episode. So that was a huge break. Roman and I know each other and he was just really complimentary of what I was trying to do. But once you get that attention, then it gets the attention of NPR and other podcasts, and then it just steadily grows. So usually, we’re just doing a lot of cross promos with similar types of shows – really highly produced shows that are kind of in our same range of listeners. Like if we think, “Oh, that podcast there surely those listeners would like what we do.” And the other podcast thinks the same thing about us. So sometimes, we’ll drop an entire story from another podcast onto our feed, but only if it sounds like a Twenty Thousand Hertz episode, to begin with. I’ll chime in, we’ll re-edit it, we’ll kind of make it a Twenty Thousand Hertz style. So yeah, it’s a lot of cross promos. The YouTubers really figured this out. Like YouTubers and collabs and stuff, they’re the ones that really understand how to grow an audience. And essentially, I follow that model in podcasting.

Adrian Tennant: Dallas, away from the studio what are your sources of inspiration?

Dallas Taylor: I like a lot of variety. There’s nothing like making a podcast to ruin all your podcast listening because it’s really hard in my position to listen to other podcasts and not think about the craft and what they’re doing and how they’re doing stuff. So I would say that since I’ve started the podcast, I’ve listened to less and less, but the more that we’ve kind of landed on our style, the less I want to be like overly-influenced by others. I like when certain podcasts do certain ideas and I’ll kind of borrow that, if I hear it, but I try not to get too much into this particular show, otherwise I start sounding like their host or we start editing in their way. Twenty Thousand Hertz has a very clear style now, and I want to make sure that we’re preserving that. Other things that really inspire me – this sounds so weird, and obviously, right now it’s not a good time, but I just love Disney parks and that stuff. I love the entire world that Disney has built. Especially prior to the pandemic, I was just going to Disneyland every time I was working out in LA. Anytime I could find myself in Orlando, just because the level of detail just reminds me that detail and love and care all the way to the nth degree matters to people. And so it just reminds me when we’re making this show and maybe we’re toiling over an edit and spending hours on something that’s only a blip of time, that it matters. And so I like very detailed, deep, like onion, you know, you think you’ve gotten to the baseline, but there’s another layer under it and another layer under it. Definitely music. I love classical music. I love bluegrass. I love hip-hop. I want to just devour all kinds of stuff, especially things that are surprising.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about Defacto Sound or the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, where can they find you?

Dallas Taylor: Defacto Sound’s website is However, what’s probably even more interesting is if you’re on Instagram because we do some goofy stuff on Instagram and we’re keeping that updated. So a lot of times we will find our reels there, any time we post an episode, we’ll post over there too. But we also do these funny things, like re-sound design serious clips and being silly. And so I would recommend following Defacto Sound on Instagram. If you want to take it a step further, and if you really like weird, funny, sound design videos, follow Defacto Sound on YouTube as well. Cause we’re doing weird stuff over there too. But I would say since everyone right now is listening to a podcast, I know you have the ability to go to Twenty Thousand Hertz. And tap subscribe. So Twenty Thousand Hertz is all spelled out without any numbers. So T W E N T Y et cetera, Twenty Thousand Hertz, big purple icon. I guarantee you no matter who’s listening right now, you’re going to find a topic that you just have to know about. Click on anything. The whole show is evergreen. You can listen to any show at any time. There is no through-line through the show, sometimes we do like a two-parter, but we make sure that every show is evergreen. Every show is self-contained. And I would say, the number one thing you can do above all things right now would be wherever you’re listening to my voice right now, while I’m talking, I’m giving you all the time in the world, go to your search. Twenty Thousand Hertz. That’s going to pop up and you tap ‘Subscribe’, and then you can either forget about it or listen right away. But go tap that subscribe button.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, this was so much fun. Thanks for having me

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on, IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Christia Spears Brown: Gender stereotypes are so pervasive that I think parents really have to be committed to helping their kids learn about them and push back against them. In a lot of ways in which parenting practices play out along gender lines, LGBTQ parents are much more egalitarian and you can see that filtering down into their kids.

Adrian Tennant: An interview with Christia Spears Brown – author, researcher, and professor of developmental psychology. Dr. Brown joins us to discuss some of the results from Bigeye’s national study of attitudes toward gender identity and expression. That’s a preview of Gender: Beyond The Binary, next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guests this week, Dallas Taylor, Creative Director of Defacto Sound, and the host of the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights”. Just click on the button marked “Podcast”. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


Kevin Keane of consumer neuroscience agency Brainsights explains how brands can de-bias marketing by evaluating nonconscious responses in qualitative research.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Kevin Keane, CEO of Brainsights, explains how his agency uses neuroscience to understand consumers’ responses to advertising at a nonconscious level. We learn how gaining insights directly from consumers’ brain activity can help brands de-bias their marketing content. Data from a recent Brainsights study shows the value of color-blind casting: Not only is there no downside to casting BIPOC individuals in ads, but Caucasians actually respond more favorably than non-Caucasians.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: In today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Kevin Keane: Neuro is particularly strong in understanding nonconscious response – why do people not remember our key message? Why is our message not resonating as much as it could or should? Neuro cuts right through to the underlying motivations of consumers. It’s unbiased.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Our guest today is a marketing research innovator. Kevin Keane is the co-founder and CEO of Brainsights. Based in Toronto, Canada, Brainsights uses neuroscience and biometric measurement to understand how consumers respond to advertising on a deep, nonconscious level. Gaining insights directly from consumers’ brain activity, Kevin and his team use the collected data to advise advertisers and media companies, enabling them to de-bias their content and ensure it’s engaging and persuasive. Kevin is joining us today from his home office in Toronto. Kevin, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Kevin Keane: Thanks for having me, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: So Kevin, what kinds of research questions do Brainsights’ clients typically have that traditional quantitative surveys or qualitative focus groups can’t answer?

Kevin Keane: So the biggest questions tend to revolve around why and how. Why do consumers feel this way or do this thing? Why do they remember my brand, but not the product I’m advertising? How should I cut down this video? How should I talk about race, about bias? How should I leverage this talent? So quant and qual get used to answer these types of questions too of course, but I would say versus quant and qual, neuro is particularly strong in three areas: granularity, understanding passive response, and nonconscious response. And so it makes it suitable for three broad areas of questions. On the granularity piece, where and how are consumers responding to my marketing stimuli or my product? In ad terms, how does the opening perform, the product demonstration, the final brand plates? How are people paying attention? Where are they resonating? What are they encoding to memory? And this granularity helps immensely to optimize things like video cut down. So how do I cut a 60 to a 15? But it also helps in diagnosing problem areas and experiences. Where do people disengage? Where is cognitive load too much? The second thing is passive response. So, you know, advertising tends to get optimized primarily based on the direct response that the ad facilitates: “click”, “like”, “share”, “visit the website”, things like that. But we’ve found hidden value that can really only be found in measuring passive response. So it’s like an impression quality, and this helps our clients understand the complete value of their media investment as well as how to optimize it, to unlock that hidden value of context. And then finally, nonconscious, preconscious. So neuro cuts right through to the underlying motivations of consumers. It’s unbiased. So clients will engage us to mop up problems. We help them to contextualize some of the problems that they’re getting with quant, qual, other methods. And some have turned away from those other methods almost entirely in order to do so. We get asked a lot of different kinds of questions: Why do people not remember our key message? Why is our message not resonating as much as it could or should? It’s important to understand that neuro is a tool. It’s an important one. I think it’s increasingly the most important one – of course I would. But we also use traditional quant and qual approaches to get at a complete understanding of consumers in our consulting work.

Adrian Tennant: When they hear you talking about neuroscience and brain activity, some listeners are probably imagining a very invasive setup. So could you explain how Brainsights taps into consumers’ brain activity and nonconscious?

Kevin Keane: Yeah. So we primarily use wireless, portable EEG or electroencephalography headsets. So sort of think of them like Fitbits for your head. Purists might critique our use of this kind of headset as incomplete. It’s not this hundred-channel EEG setup that plugs into people’s faces, the kind that you might imagine when you think about neuroscience and the kind that you’d actually find if you searched Google Images for “EEG” or “electroencephalography”. The reason we use these headsets is they’re flexible. We collect only the data needed for our clients, which is also best practice from a privacy perspective, and much more forward thinking in terms of where we think things are headed in terms of consumer privacy, in terms of collecting data that’s needed and being transparent about how it’s used. We then built a signal processing and data collection platform that allows simultaneous collection of data for hundreds of participants. You know, obviously that kind of scale breeds confidence. And it also helps to socialize neuroscience across more and more of the general public. And that accessibility, both in terms of social and in terms of economic accessibility, helps to drive market demand for these neuro solutions.

Adrian Tennant: In addition to electroencephalography, or EEG, do you use any other techniques?

Kevin Keane: Yeah, for sure, from a biometric perspective, we would also use eye-tracking and really this is about thinking at the millisecond level where people’s gaze is and how they’re processing what they’re seeing, which is picked up with the electroencephalogram. Our solution syncs those two at the millisecond level. And we’ll deploy those for UX-based studies, for example, experiential-based studies, where we need to get an understanding as to the field of view of a given participant and how they’re wayfinding through a specific experience, digital or physical, and how they’re processing that in their unconscious mind.

Adrian Tennant: Kevin, when it comes to designing a consumer neuroscience research study, how similar or dissimilar is it to a traditional quant or qual study?

Kevin Keane: There’s similarities and differences. You know, it’s similar in relation to questions you’re looking to answer and the development of hypotheses that you might have going in. I’d say it’s quite different, in terms of our approach. You know, we take a very attention economy approach. It’s our belief that we’re living in an attention economy, and as such, it’s not just your competitors you’re competing against. But it’s basically anything else that might be competing for your attention. So, in addition say, to comparing a pet food company’s ads to its competition, we’re also comparing it to a random representative sampling of what we could reasonably expect their audience to be viewing and consuming. Then we’re analyzing their neural response to that suite of stimuli to understand how does it break through against that random representative sampling. And then how does it compete against their competitors for attention, for emotional connection, and how it’s imprinting to memory.

Adrian Tennant: 2020 marked a turning point in global awareness of racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter movement inspired marches around the world and sparked public debates about institutional racism and implicit bias. Now, research conducted by Brainsights was featured recently in the World Advertising Research Center’s online journal. Kevin, can you explain what your study revealed about the depiction of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in video advertisements?

Kevin Keane: Thanks for asking this question, Adrian. We think it’s incredibly important work. We partnered with one of the top advertising agencies in Canada, John Street, to look into whether there is a difference in advertising effectiveness if you cast a BIPOC talent – Black, Indigenous, People of Color – in advertising versus caucasians? Is there a difference when you put that advertisement in front of non-caucasians versus caucasian audiences? And the answer is no, there isn’t a difference in effectiveness. And, in fact, BIPOC talent can even increase the effectiveness of ads on caucasian audiences. There remains biases and systemic biases in the advertising industry. Even in a progressive place like Canada, where there might be open casting calls which from the experience of our collaborators over at John Street, could still imply white casting or default to white casting. And what we wanted to prove out, free of social desirability bias – so really using neuro to cut through to actual true response – was, is there a difference in effectiveness? Can we once and for all make this case, where, you know, there’s really nowhere else to hide, where BIPOC talent should be cast in a way that’s representative for our country, in advertising and our data was revealing that there’s  potential upside to casting BIPOC talent, in increasing advertising effectiveness. And that was the high-level summary of the study.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm, implicit bias is by definition nonconscious so neuro seems like a really ingenious way to figure this out.

Kevin Keane: Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: In November of last year, Brainsights published original research that looked at the importance of emotional response to video advertising. But your findings suggest that another medium represents an under utilized brand-building opportunity – and that is audio. Tell us what you learned.

Kevin Keane: And you know what, this research that you’re referring to, Adrian, really around  the potential of audio as a brand-building media surprised us. It’s kind of well-known that video historically has been the go-to brand building channel and that doesn’t go away. But when we looked at how audio performs versus video for key metrics that we’ve associated with, or  proven a connection with, brand strength – so specifically, our connection metric and emotional strength metric – we’re seeing comparable levels hit in audio as we’ve seen in video, across similar categories, similar types of executions. And the reason interesting is, you know, audio traditionally has been kind of viewed as a tactical activation channel and you get a lot of promotional messaging – you know, limited time offer, financing messaging, things like that. It’s not necessarily always used or thought about in terms of brand-building. And our research sort of lifted the lid on that and  I think helped to contribute to busting marketer bias around how channels should be used and thought about. Um, and when you dig into the data a little bit more and you start to understand the growth of innovative storytelling in the audio space. And also the – some might say – oversaturation of video and screen-based media, you can start to  understand the potential and the power of innovating in brand storytelling in audio. Which is funny I say that, but you know, this is how radio started – it was the soap opera sponsored by the big soap companies in the Twenties and Thirties and they were done as storytelling channels that they sponsored and sometimes even produced. And that’s covered in the research too, a little bit of historical context, which is really interesting. So, in a way, it’s  what’s old is new again. And that’s a really interesting finding from that research.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Karen Hidalgo: I’m Karen Hidalgo, Associate Account Manager at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising account professionals.

At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. By conducting our own research, we’re able to capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with your audience. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Kevin Keane, co-founder and CEO of Brainsights, a consumer neuroscience research agency. So Kevin, what first sparked your interest in consumer research?

Kevin Keane: Yeah I’m a coffee-on-a-sidewalk-patio kind of guy, you know, love drinking like a latte or cortado and just people watching wherever I am. And maybe it was that – maybe it was just that enjoyment, that pleasure, thrill, interest in seeing and observing the world, understanding patterns of behavior. When I was young and even something that I enjoy today and I think maybe led me down this route, and then in terms of marketing, I sort of fell, you know, ass backwards into marketing. Um, I think it is some people do and into digital attribution and digital media and digital data, back in 2008, 2009. And  you know, I was really interested in the possibility of blending digital media and the growth of digital channels with understanding consumers, understanding people, their motivations, why they do what they do, behavior. And then spent about six, seven years in that industry, figuring that out and then also coming up against  some of the limitations, the methodologies and tools that were used to understand advertising effectiveness. And that’s, I think, what propelled me or encouraged me to strike off on my own and start Brainsights because, a lot of startup entrepreneurs, you see, or you feel a frustration in some of the existing tools, to help you solve problems. And you set off and build something better. And my clients –  big cosmetics companies, banks, drinks companies would be asking, “Okay, well, you know, how does my creative perform?” Like “What is my creative doing to influence sales and influence results?” And I would ask them, “Well, how do you evaluate your creative?” And they would say, “We have these ad tracking studies where we ask people to sit” and it’s like, well, “You know that a growing body of research, a growing body of evidence, that’s saying that decisions are made at the unconscious level.” If you’ve ever read anything by [Daniel] Kahneman or Richard Thaler, or just like the growth of behavioral economics, and I was like, “You should understand that a lot of these mechanisms are happening at the unconscious level.” And so those tools didn’t really exist in an accessible format. Neuroscience, neuro marketing tools at the time were really only the preserve of the big, big brands, the big, big budgets. And so we set off to build a solution that helped to answer that problem and put into the hands of more people, the tools to better understand the mechanisms of the unconscious mind. And from that then grew obviously the interest in consumer neuroscience, neuro marketing, but also in understanding bias and understanding that these tools could be applied to potentially addressing some of the bigger issues of the day. You know, the biases that we have related to identity and identity politics, the biases that we have related to political decision-making, to understanding, and acting on climate change, and environmental degradation, these types of problems that that there’s a really, important role for the tools of neuroscience to play in helping to tackle those.

Adrian Tennant: Now, does Brainsights typically work with clients directly or is it more usual for you to work through an advertising or marketing agency?

Kevin Keane: It’s more the case that we’re engaged directly with the clients. Though, you know, more and more we’re developing solutions, again, just executing on the vision that I spelled out about making these tools as accessible as possible. We are working and collaborating with agencies to deliver more holistic solutions, and releasing tools that are better suited to the greater volume of advertising that they will be producing. And that they would require like, more of an off-the-shelf tool to be able to use for multiple clients.

Adrian Tennant: Well, during the pandemic, Bigeye has been very fortunate. We’ve not seen any negative impact on response rates to our online surveys and we’ve successfully pivoted to online platforms to conduct what would have previously been in-person qualitative research. How has COVID-19 impacted Brainsights’ business? Is an online or remote solution even feasible for consumer neuroscience?

Kevin Keane: Yeah. Our business has been impacted for sure, because, traditionally we’ve done larger scale, in-person data collection. So people come to our space. Speaking to our setup, it’s a sort of living room-type setting or an office-type setting, anywhere that we could conceivably think about consuming media. And, our business has been impacted with those lockdown procedures, particularly earlier in the pandemic. We’ve since done and had a touchless, contactless interface with our community in-person. In terms of an online solution, it’s something that we’re actively exploring. As you can imagine, there are challenges to helping people understand how to use EEG headsets and use them properly, like, you know, independent of observation. All I’ll say right now is watch this space. Because I think it’s going to be some significant innovation in the next little while on at-home, consumer neuroscience platforms.

Adrian Tennant: One of the advantages that large traditional research companies have, especially those that have years of data relating to particular categories of consumer goods, is their ability to tell a client how their results compare with other brands or the norms for the category. Are there such benchmarks in consumer neuroscience that help clients understand how well they’re doing?

Kevin Keane: Yeah. I mean, it’s taken a while. The industry I’d say as a whole, and this is an observation that I had made at the Neuromarketing World Forum back in 2019 was, you know, we participated there. We were with one of our clients, Bell Media, and presenting some of the interesting work that we have been doing. And, you know, one of the interesting observations that I’d made at the time was  the consumer neuroscience industry is maturing. And, there are some companies that have been around now for a while. So for us, we now have six years of historical data that comprise our norms. Even in that short amount of time, there’s a lot that’s changed with respect to how people consume media. You know, you look at the shift, for example, from linear television to streaming solutions. And that just gives you  one example. Look at the shift from video consumption on TV to on other screens, primarily mobile. And that’s another example. I’d say candidly, my opinion is there’s been a little bit of an obsession with norms, and if everything’s tagged to how we’ve done or how my competitors do, I feel like sometimes  it is sort of used as cover. And our clients, they definitely appreciate having the norms that we’re now able to provide. But they’re always moving forward and they’re always looking for how do they better connect with consumers and use some of these tools we’re developing, that other neuroscience companies are developing, to establish firmer relationships in the brains of consumers and tracking that, and understanding how customers are performing. Historical norms are important. Competitive norms are important. I think that there’s a bigger piece that perhaps, goes unstated. And that’s really about consumer norms and snapshot norms, about what’s happening right now and how that tracks over time as well. And I think that that’s something that our clients Uh, appreciate as we sort of you know, exist in this attention economy where we’re competing, not just against our competitors and not just against our past selves, but against future competitive threats. And the average end-consumer.

Adrian Tennant: Brainsights is focused on de-biasing marketing and advertising decisions. And we’ve talked about race already, but what other kinds of biases should marketers be aware of?

Kevin Keane: This one’s a little maybe controversial, but I would say they should be most aware of their own biases. Things like confirmation bias, where you’re seeking out information that confirms a previously held belief. It’s a cognitive bias that is, I would say, rampant and in consumer research and in marketing, just in general, availability bias. So we have available specific data sets, somehow make those better or rights then less accessible datasets because to hand.  You know, there have been many conversations where we’re presenting data that runs counter to the firmly held beliefs of our clients. And you can imagine Adrian that, that creates some uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable moments. And it can be quite delicate to deal with because we’re people, right? We’re humans, and there’s ego involved, there’s vested, interests involved. And so, like any kind of good client service person, you want to understand what those are. You want to understand what the minefield might look like. But at the same time, we have an overarching organizational philosophy called data respect and that infuses everything that we do: how we compensate our participants, our community for their data. We respect their data and we provide a transparent value exchange for that data. But that data respect philosophy also is about respecting the science and respecting what data comes back from people’s brains. And what that says about what motivates people and how effective marketing stimuli is at tapping into that. And sometimes those results are not necessarily favorable to what some of our client’s preconceived notions would be –  that’s part of the value and also candidly, part of the risk for neuro is you don’t really even always know what’s going to come back. And that’s something that I think anybody who’s kind of dipping their toe into neuro wants to understand how to use it. Once you understand its value you also need to understand that’s a distinct possibility for what might come back.

Adrian Tennant: So what are some of the most interesting research projects that Brainsights has undertaken?

Kevin Keane: We’ve live screened the entire Super Bowl to understand what ads actually work in the context of the Super Bowl and not just what works independent of that context. And the value of the context of the Super Bowl versus other contexts that we’ve looked at. So if I place my Super Bowl ad within the Super Bowl, but also place it within a drama or comedy on TV, or, some kind of digital platform, how does that compare? That’s always really interesting in understanding what is the impression quality value, the mental imprint that varies depending on the context within which a piece of content and ad is viewed. That work is always really interesting. Another piece of interesting work we did with a company up here called Home Equity Bank, who provide reverse mortgages, which is basically you have equity in your home and you can borrow against that for older Canadians 55-plus. And this is another kind of bias that marketers should be aware of – age bias. How do we talk to people that are older, that are in call them silver, golden years of their life? And the fundamental question that we were asked for this research, how do Gen X, Gen Z, Gen Y, how did they process the same stimuli, different than Boomers and how should we be configuring our advertising message to engage and persuade Boomers, their core audience? And we created a really beautiful study that busted bias around how Boomers want to be engaged. It’s not about speaking to this level of physical frailty, it’s about tapping into their internal view of creativity, guile, the things that most people want to see about themselves that weren’t being represented in mass media. And that was a brilliant piece of research and kudos to the team at Home Equity Bank for going down that path and putting their own advertising under the microscope. Again, like being brave in understanding that they probably made mistakes, and being open to learning and resolving that going forward. I think that that’s something that a lot of our clients share is that bravery, openness, and just relentless desire to improve.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we’ve seen the impact of COVID-19 play out in many ways. One of which of course is the acceleration of certain trends in consumer purchasing the adoption of e-commerce for grocery shopping. How do you see the role of technology in consumer research generally developing over the next five years or so?

Kevin Keane: I think it’s going to be a fine balance to strike. Because, and I mentioned this earlier, because of privacy worries, the disclosure, the unwarranted, reckless capture of consumer information. I think that technology’s potential is obviously huge and I think we’ve seen that obviously huge in delivering and surfacing ever greater insights and ever improved understanding of people. And that can be used for good, and it can be used for not so good. And let’s be honest, I think that we’re going to see increasing innovation and increasing importance in technology, in driving consumer research and a parallel to that is going to be a need for talent, both in the understanding and deployment of that technology, but also in more deeply understanding and deriving insights from the unique data that comes out of that technology. Equally that has to be blended or married with an approach that respects the consumers, the people that are using this technology and providing this data and are ever more aware of the data that they’re providing. And there has to be meaningful value exchange. Well, that happens with consumers for the provision of this data. And so I think that we’re going to see, I think, real innovation and technology that drives greater consumer insights. The ones that’ll come out and win are the ones that will provide that explicit, transparent value exchange with consumers, for the dues they’ll be providing.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about Brainsights, where can they find you?

Kevin Keane: Find us on LinkedIn, find us on Facebook, Instagram, but all of our material including our latest research or white papers around audio, around our holiday mindset studies, can all be available on the as well.

Adrian Tennant: And we’ll include links to that resource on the transcript for this episode.  Kevin, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Kevin Keane: Adrian. Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed the discussion and I really love what you’re doing here.

Adrian Tennant: That’s very nice of you to say, thank you. Next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Dallas Taylor: Being in this sound design world, there’s all these really cool stories like the story of the Wilhelm scream or the NBC chimes or what’s that voice on your phone? Who is that person? There’s so many stories out there of these great sounds that have these very intricate histories that I wanted to tell.

Adrian Tennant: An interview with Dallas Taylor, creator and host of the podcast, Twenty Thousand Hertz, that reveals the hidden stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds. That’s next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Kevin Keane, co-founder and CEO of Brainsights. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights”. Just click on the button marked “Podcast”. And if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your preferred podcast player. And you’ll also find us on YouTube. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


Eric Ortiz, EVP at Magical Brands, discusses the challenges of cannabis and CBD product marketing and the likelihood of marijuana being decriminalized in 2021.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Eric Ortiz, EVP at Magical Brands, shares how his marketing team navigates domestic regulations around cannabis, CBD, and hemp-based products on a state-by-state basis. Eric speaks candidly about the practical challenges facing the industry, and the importance of the MORE Act, which would decriminalize marijuana at a federal level. Eric offers practical advice for cannabis and CBD brands looking to engage consumers and remain compliant with social platforms’ advertising rules.

IMPORTANT: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: In today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Eric Ortiz: How do I let people know what this product is, in a highly competitive CBD market, and also stay compliant within the ad space to make sure that my ads don’t get disapproved?

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. The 2020 election saw marijuana legalized in all five States that had cannabis measures on their ballots on November 3rd. Then in December, the House passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act – also known as the MORE Act – paving the way for federal decriminalization of cannabis. And with Democrats taking control of the Senate in the Georgia runoffs, it looks like 2021 could be a big year for the cannabis industry. Today, 15 of the United States, which also includes the District of Columbia, have legal adult use markets while 36 States plus D.C. have approved medical markets. It’s interesting to note how society’s views have changed over the past half century. The polling from Gallup first measured the American public’s views of marijuana legalization in 1969, when just 12% of Americans backed it. By 1977, support had more than doubled to 28%. It didn’t exceed 30% until 2000, but has risen steeply in the two decades since then. Polling by Gallup in October of 2020, just a month before the election, found that almost seven in every 10 Americans – 68% – believe that marijuana should be legal. Our guest today has to navigate the complexity of state and federal cannabis laws and the regulations around CBD and hemp on a daily basis. Eric Ortiz is the Executive Vice President of Operations at Magical Brands, where he researches, plans, and manages the growth of the company’s CBD line and edible-making appliances. Eric develops Magical Brands’ go-to-market strategies, and oversees manufacturing, marketing, and performance analytics. Eric started his career as an entrepreneur while still in college, then entered the advertising industry, becoming an Executive Director at McKay Advertising and Acquisition in Tampa, Florida. Eric also serves as VP of Operations with South Tampa Football Club. He’s active in the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and is the immediate past president of The Emerging Leaders of Tampa Bay. Eric joins us today from his office in Port Richey, Florida. Eric, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Eric Ortiz: Adrian, thank you so much for having me. I could not be more excited. 

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us first what Magical Brands is?

Eric Ortiz: Sure, I would love to. Magical Brands is our umbrella company that hosts a myriad of our companies underneath, but our most famous two being Magical Butter, our at-home kitchen appliance for cannabis edible-making consumption, as well as our CBD line, which is our finished product line that was just recently launched in 2020.

Adrian Tennant: The market for CBD and cannabis is highly competitive here in the US. What was Magical Brands’ founding story?

Eric Ortiz: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s a highly competitive sector, on a lot of different fronts.  We’ve been in business in the cannabis industry for about eight years, which is longer than the majority of CBD companies that are out there. Our origin story actually started with our founder and our CEO, Garren Angel had a friend, a neighbor in fact, who was suffering from some issues on the medical front, specifically Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s and he found out that through cannabis consumption he was able to ease some of his nausea, some of his pain, and some of the other symptoms that came along with these chronic diseases. He also has asthma so he wasn’t able to consume cannabis in the regular ways, via inhalation, smoking, or vaping. So Garren basically set out on a mission to help folks like his neighbor there that might be able to consume cannabis in a different way which then branched off into our at-home kitchen edible maker, the now famous Magical Butter Machine. From there, we’ve had quite strong growth over the past couple of years within the cannabis industry, developing our brand and our message, which is really about helping consumers find the best way to meet their own health needs. And one of the areas that has recently bubbled up within our cannabis space is CBD. It’s something that we’ve looked at as the market has continued to grow. And in 2019, we decided to engage and really go full in depth with some of our strategic partnerships in the space and decided to come out with a CBD line of our own.

Adrian Tennant: What is Magical Brands’ business model?

Eric Ortiz: So, we have a variety of different ways in which we sell the products. The majority is direct-to-consumer. So would that be directly through our website properties or through Amazon, we sell in about 17 countries at the moment, that’s for the Magical Butter Machine, and for CBD we’re in about four countries at the moment. Although we have some vetted partnerships, some with contracts, depending on kind of the territory is for a distributor play as well so that we can get into stores. And then most recently, we’ve actually been able to get into Macy’s and into Bed Bath and Beyond. So we’re really starting to bridge the gap into the mainstream big box market as well.

Adrian Tennant:  Could you tell us what your EVP role in the company entails?

Eric Ortiz:  I feel blessed and honored that I get a chance to really experience almost every part of the business. Whether it’s from marketing, from an operational standpoint, from an HR standpoint, from a finance standpoint. You know, what we’re doing as a business, as a whole, as we continue to move and create new structures. In different countries, find new partners in those countries, creating the proper processes and the existing markets that we have, to be able to  promote them, and rinse and repeat if you will, in these other markets, as we continue to expand, globally.

Adrian Tennant: We’ll talk about Magical Brands’ edible-making equipment and CBD products separately. But before we do that, could you just explain some of the differences between cannabis and CBD?

Eric Ortiz: Sure thing. Cannabis is a plant and within that plant you have structures called cannabinoids. So there are several different cannabinoids throughout the cannabis plant. One of which is THC, which is synonymous with the cannabinoid that gets you high. And the other one is CBD. There are a few more – CBG among others, that are in less concentration, but these are kind of the big two, in terms of the cannabis plant and the effects that you’re going to get from it. And CBD, that’s actually where you get a lot of the soothing and medicinal benefits from the studies that have been done worldwide from the cannabis plant. So, let’s say you’re inhaling, smoking flower, right? You’re going to get all of those different cannabinoids at once. So you may get high, yes. But you also will receive some of the medical efforts and benefits that the plant provides. The CBD category, as we see it at Magical, is really an attempt to start to provide those medical and healthy benefits of the plant to them in an isolated variety. So that you know, people outside of the world that want to enjoy cannabis for its psychoactive effects can also enjoy its  medicinal benefits without feeling like they are out of control or if they don’t prefer to use a psychoactive part of the plant, they don’t have to. 

Adrian Tennant: Eric, what does a typical Magical Brands CBD buyer persona look like?

Eric Ortiz: We did research and worked with a couple of different agencies and providers that allowed us to take a look at our personas as a whole. I would say, the typical Magical Brands CBD buyer generally has some sort of ailment or condition that they’re using the CBD to help with. But then they also probably have some sort of preference towards kind of organic methods or finding things that I know the ingredients are within it. There is a massive move right now to be conscious about what we’re ingesting into our bodies. And I think the CBD market just provides another example for those people to be able to move away from opioids and things of that nature and start to move towards more organic products – one of which being CBD.

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye conducted a national research study in 2020, looking at the consumption and use of CBD-based products. It’s estimated that about 18% of US adults have purchased CBD products, and based on our results, it seems like the vast majority of buyers intend to continue using CBD long-term, which is good news for the industry, of course. What is your most popular CBD product so far?

Eric Ortiz: Our most popular product is the classic tincture.  I think that there’s probably a couple of reasons for that. It’s  probably the most popular in terms of methods and in which people ingest –  you can drop it straight under your tongue, you can put it in your meal, you can put it in a drink. So I just think from the variety standpoint, there is a lot to be said about that classic tincture product. That being said, we’ve seen some really great success with things like our soothing gel, which people that still have kind of a stigma or they don’t want to utilize something that they’re going to have to ingest. Sometimes that form factor does make a difference in whether they’re going to try these particular products are not. And based on your research here, Adrian, it looks like it’s hopefully helping some of them because it seems to be that they are using it long-term.

Adrian Tennant: What’s your primary new customer acquisition strategy for CBD products?

Eric Ortiz: One of the things that I think Magical Butter has been extremely adept at over the years is combining our marketing department with various influencers in the space. Essentially, we have some pretty large influencers that we’re going to lean on to create content around it. It’s not simply about having one little mention or feature, but we really want to create a campaign with some of these folks. A lot of the people that we’re talking to some big names within the space actually have affiliation with our product and with our brand. Beyond that, we utilize the same types of platforms that we would for our Magical Butter product that we’ve seen so much success in. Whether that be our MBU group, our email campaigns, and then we also run some advertising around the CBD products, which can become difficult and the laws seem to change every day on that. So it’s important to be careful there, but, those are our basic strategies at the moment. And then thirdly, using marketing tools at our disposal to develop the proper flows and advertising that we need to make sure people know that Magical Butter has now moved into the CBD space.

Adrian Tennant: I’d like to return to something you said there about the rules around advertising CBD products – in what kinds of ways are you challenged by them?

Eric Ortiz: If you asked my marketing team here, they would tell you in every type of way, Adrian. It’s quite interesting, there are quite a number of rules on different products and different platforms that you might be able to use. Google and Facebook are very stringent on the words, even that you can use. They started to open up in the past year or so and being able to advertise some things. Like, for instance, I think Facebook, their official stance is that it can’t be an ingestible that you’re advertising, but then on top of that, you can’t use CBD in the ad. You can’t have CBD on the landing page or any of the associated scientific terms to talk about your product. So it becomes a tug of war, to be honest with you, Adrian, of how do I let people know what this product is and what it does and provide them with the scientific words that they’re quite honestly looking for when they’re shopping around in a highly competitive CBD market, how do I do that? And also stay compliant within the ad space to make sure that my ads don’t get disapproved? And, at least for Magical Butter, what we’ve found is that it’s kind of always going to be a tug of war. We’re gonna push where we can, but obviously we want to be respectful and mindful of what we can do on the various platforms. And I think we’ll start to see, you know, an emergence of more advertisers in the space, but right now it’s quite difficult unless you have  a programmatic partner that is really lenient or something along those lines. The big scale platforms like Google and Facebook are really, really difficult to kind of get going on at the moment, just because of the product that we have.

Adrian Tennant: Now, do you have an in-house creative team?

Eric Ortiz: We certainly do. And we love them to death.

Adrian Tennant: What kinds of facilities do you have to support them?

Eric Ortiz: Yeah. So in our headquarters here located out of Port Richey, Florida, we actually have an entire section of our office dedicated to creative. We have a cyc wall that covers up about a third of the room, maybe with lights installed. We have a studio kitchen and that we work through, and to do shoots and bring in talent and things of that nature as well as we’re set up for all the live streaming that we do. We do Amazon streaming quite a little bit. We’ve had concerts in here. If we do photo shoots, we do videos, we use them. And for all kinds of things in our firm, our in-house creative team, and really get to do some fun stuff as a company, even from our own organic perspective. We quite literally walk through a door and we enter a new world in terms of a production space. So it’s quite convenient to have.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. 

For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Eric Ortiz, EVP of Operations at Magical Brands. Before the break, we talked about your CBD line. Let’s turn now to your cannabis-related product, the Magical Butter Machine. Can you explain what inspired its creation and what the product is designed to do?

Eric Ortiz: So essentially, the Magical Butter Machine is a countertop kitchen extractor. So what that means is that it allows you to put herb into the machine and infuse, whether that be oil, butters, tinctures, salves, lotions, soups, a variety of different components. You’re able to then put your flower into the machine, put your oil in, hit two buttons, strain it, and now you have infused oil that you can use within your cooking. So it provided people not only with the ability to make consistent cannabis edibles to get the dosage that they wanted correctly, but to also then have a variety of different recipes that they can use, to actually consume their medication. So  I think everyone has heard of their friend in college who was making brownies in their dorm room or whatever it was. So now it’s not just about brownies. You know, when I answer the phone here for the customer service side of things, what I hear on the phone generally is an older person who has some sort of physical illness and now they’re being prescribed this medication by their doctor. They don’t want to eat brownies every day. They want to look for a new way to consume that medication without being unhealthy. So if they can do that within a butter, or an oil that they can cook into a healthy recipe or a salad dressing, I think it becomes a much more mainstream part of society and really opened up the culinary landscape, I think, for cannabis enthusiasts as well as the patient providers.

Adrian Tennant: How, if at all, does the Magical Butter buyer persona differ from your CBD buyer persona?

Eric Ortiz: They are similar, in a lot of ways. I think maybe the Magical Butter folks tend to slightly be more cannabis enthusiasts, I would say. Whereas I think our CBD line tends to skew slightly more medical. So this may be someone within our CBD line category, that may not be able to consume cannabis in the real form, or they would not like to, but they still want the added benefits that they may have had previously from consuming the plant and some sort of other way, or they spoken to their doctor and their doctor has recommended that they try this plant for their particular needs.  Potentially, the Magical Butter buyers may have more of an affinity towards DIY or do-it-yourself  because they’re actually making the tincture themselves.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Well, we talked a little bit about the challenges around CBD advertising. What has been your most successful customer acquisition program for the Magical Butter Machine?

Eric Ortiz:  I would definitely say it has been our digital advertising campaigns over the past year. I would add into that our new branding initiative, which I think spurred some of that growth. However, we have really found a stride, both in the programmatic space, on Facebook, on Google, and on Amazon, enable us to scale our marketing programs quite significantly without seeing that much of a reduction in ROAS. We also have another partner that we work with that assists us with the performance side of things but I want to give a huge credit to our team internally because the creative that’s developed, the copy that’s written, all of the advertising and all the monitoring really happens on the Magical Butter side and it has been a really  massive catalyst this year for us, as we continue to grow on what has traditionally really just been organic growth from our social media efforts.  Figuring out and dialing in our advertising to a point now where we feel we can continue to expand and grow that in other countries as well.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as we discussed earlier, prior to Magical Brands, you were managing digital advertising in an agency setting. Eric, what lessons did you learn from your agency experience that you’re applying to your current role?

Eric Ortiz: One of the things that I learned through my conversations with clients was really to find ways to lead with revenue. There may be 10 other really crucial, important marketing points that you and I know that we need to get to. And I know that we need to say that this is really important, and this is how it’s affected the brand. We’ve had unaided recall and, you know, a myriad of other different metrics that you can use.  But what I’ve really learned  is finding a way to weave in revenue first always made those metrics more actionable. So if I would say, “Well, we increased our unaided recall.” My client would say, “Okay, well, how much money did that make you?” And if I said “We had a great campaign, we did great from a sales standpoint. And also we increased our unaided recall.” Then we talk about unaided recall for 10 minutes.  Now, as I kind of internalize that and I promote what I would like to do with advertising and where we go, I still think of it that way, even internally to my marketing department, or to our CEO or to our COO, when I’m presenting an idea to folks, I really try to look at it as, “How does this affect a business as a whole first?” Most importantly, because the decision makers, that’s the first thing that their mind is going to. And then once you get past that, then it’s your availability to talk about all the beneficial things that you’re going to get. But in order to get that buy-in, I just think you have to put it in a business context. And then once you do that, then you can open it up to a marketing context, because not all CEO’s and CEO’s in the world are marketing focused, but they know it’s importance. So putting it in a way they understand, I think is one of the most crucial things I learned.

Adrian Tennant: Well, staying with the dollars and cents, if you had zero budget or very close to nothing to spend on marketing, what would you not want to stop doing?

Eric Ortiz: Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships. Magical Butter, as a company, I think has done a tremendous job of cultivating partnerships. And making them ones that last, so instead of  researching a bunch of different people that may be in the CBD space and sending them another tincture box, which by the way, they already got 12 of them. How do we start a conversation with someone? How do we say, “Hey, are you familiar with Magical Butter? Do you want to get to know us? Would you like to do  an episode or a series of shows with us here in   our headquarters under a nice camera under the production studio?” There has to be some sort of value that you can give to people that’s not monetary. And a portion of that is our reach as Magical Butter. A portion of that is the coolness that it comes with collaborating with the brand. But a portion of it is providing our resources. So for me, I think one of the most important things with the $0 is one to use your social media, use the ability to reach anybody that you would like to in the world as a brand, as opposed to, as a person, and then have a collaborative conversation on, ” How do we make the best project possible that sustaining? That’s not just about one post, but also that provides benefits on both sides, even though they might not be immediately visible from a monetary standpoint?”

Adrian Tennant: Well, on December 4th of 2020, the House of Representatives approved the MORE Act, a bill that could end the federal prohibition of cannabis. This is the first significant  action since the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which federally criminalized all aspects of cannabis production, sale, and possession. The MORE Act will next move to the Senate. The results of Georgia’s runoff election earlier this month means that the Senate is now under Democratic control. What do you think the chances are for the MORE Act being passed into law?

Eric Ortiz:  I think it’s much stronger now. I think we have a legitimate chance, with the Democrats being in control of the Senate of pushing this. It was also on a bill promoted by Kamala Harris, the Vice President. So there’s going to be support throughout the administration, I think through this. And there will be a lot of discussion around it. Like whether to deal with funding, the social justice program, as well as exoneration of folks who have had previous small cannabis  convictions. I think those are where the contentious issues lie. Ironing out some of the kinks that are within the MORE Act that I don’t think Republicans and Democrats are totally aligned on just yet. However, I have to say we’re in a much better place than we were previously now, knowing that we have a Democratic-controlled Senate, I think you’ll see a lot more to try to push this through.

Adrian Tennant: Now, many cannabis-based businesses are hampered by a federally-imposed ban on banking, which reflects marijuana’s illegal status at the federal level. This results in restrictions that force many cannabis businesses to operate as cash-only enterprises, even if they’re located in legal markets. If the MORE Act becomes law, what could some of the implications be for the industry in general, and your business in particular?

Eric Ortiz: I think this is one of the biggest and most contentious issues right now for cannabis business owners. If you ask them, it is literally one of the biggest hindrances that the businesses have to deal with. You know, as a bank, you have risk analysis or assessments criteria, right? To see whether or not, if I’m a bank, am I going to give you money or not? So that could be on a variety of different factors. It could be on  “you have too much short-term liability on your balance sheet.” Could be, “Hey, you know, there’s too much long-term liability. We don’t think you’re going to get out of this. I’m not sure that you have that contract that you said that you’re in place.” Or it could be “Because of the industry that you’re in.” In this case, the cannabis industry due to the schedule one listing of cannabis as a federally-prohibited drug. So I think as you start to open that up and you start to get banks with institutional capital that can start to assess and provide and deploy some of this capital to some of these cannabis companies that are doing a good job, that are managing their books, that are becoming profitable. That is really when you’re going to start to see the spur of the cannabis industry.  So it’s really, really exciting to know that we have come so far, both in a legislation standpoint and an economic standpoint as companies, and that’s without the funding that every other company nearly has. I could not stress that enough. I think it’s going to be a massive shift to how cannabis companies address markets and how they expand.

Adrian Tennant: What does the immediate future look like for Magical Brands? Are there any new products on the roadmap that you can tell us about?

Eric Ortiz: Yes, there are a couple of new products that we are continuing to roll out consistently. We have our kitchenware line that will launch in both Q1 and Q2, accessory products to the machine. And we are currently prototyping as well for the brand new machine that will come out in 2022. We’ll have plenty of info on that. But believe me, , when it comes to designing and developing these things, Magical Brands takes as much time as possible because we want to release the absolute best product that we can. So there’s probably a hundred whiteboards in our office with different thoughts and ideas around what the new machine could be and will be. So as we work through that and figure out what are the features that we are definitely going to include versus not, and review through all the prototypes, we’ll actually have a better announcement for you hopefully in the late Q2 and the next year.

Adrian Tennant: Eric, in addition to your professional life, you are also very active in your local community, volunteering for a number of causes. How do you manage your time to be optimally productive?

Eric Ortiz: I’ll start with it’s a learning process every day. I don’t think there’s anybody that can tell you for sure that they have everything down pat. If they do, I’d assert that they’re lying. However, I think what’s important for me – I am involved in a lot. I run two adult soccer clubs. I obviously am very invested in the business, that I help run every day as well as some of the other extracurricular programs that I’m involved in and some board seats in the area, but to me, and what I say is the things that I do outside of work, fill my cup. And if my cup is not filled and I go into work and I’m annoyed and I’m like, “Oh, why am I doing this?” I’m just not going to be as productive as possible. So really what I’ve found from a time management standpoint is starting to really realize that being selective on what are the things that really truly make me happy. Not in for the moment, not for a week, but really I can look back on and say, “I am proud of this. I’m happy I did this. This was a great use of my time.” And what I really did was just double-down in those areas. So as opposed to trying to find everything in the world to go do and be constantly worried about being late for something or running to another thing or whatever it is. So if I’m simplifying my total number of the responsibilities that I do have and that I do keep, now I have more time and energy and focus and I can get the most out of those that I want to. And then the second step is figuring out what things you’re going to cut and how you’re going to continue to provide your hundred percent effort in those areas because nobody wants someone who’s involved in 10 things and only at 70 percent. I guarantee you people will have more respect if you say, politely, “No, I cannot do this because I won’t be at a hundred percent,” than saying, “Yes,” and then getting there and it’s only at 60% and now you’re struggling to figure out why you’ve accepted. It’s always, in my opinion, better to do the former.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners want to learn more about Magical Brands, where can they find you?

Eric Ortiz: I would tell them to follow us @MagicalButter. That’s MagicalButter on Facebook, on Instagram. You can also find us on LinkedIn or YouTube – we have a massive channel of recipe videos if you’re interested or wanting to learn more. Also our two websites, one for the Magical Butter Machine is And then if you are interested in the CBD finished product category that we were talking about earlier, that is actually on our sister website,, which you can find both linked to on nearly all of our social media stuff.  And yeah, I hope you’ll follow us.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we will include links to that on the Bigeye webpage as well. Eric Ortiz, thank you very much indeed for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Eric Ortiz: Thank you so much, Adrian, for having me. It was a pleasure and an honor.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Kevin Keane: Neuro is particularly strong in understanding non-conscious response – why do people not remember our key message? Why is our message not resonating as much as it could or should? Neuro cuts right through to the underlying motivations of consumers. It’s unbiased.

Adrian Tennant: A conversation with Kevin Keane, CEO of Brainsights, a neuroscience-based research agency predicting the effectiveness of communications. That’s next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week. Eric Ortiz, Executive Vice President of Operations for Magical Brands. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights”. Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” And if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, or your preferred podcast player. If you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


Quantitative market research agency Bigeye’s podcast features Lana Novikova of Heartbeat, an AI-driven tool that decodes human emotions from textual data.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Emotions are central to human decision-making, but research has traditionally lacked the tools to accurately capture and assess them. Building on her experience as a quantitative researcher and studies in neuroscience, Lana Novikova has developed a tool that decodes human emotions from unstructured data. In this week’s podcast, we hear how Heartbeat AI provides marketing researchers with unique insights that can be applied to the creative development of advertising campaigns.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: In today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS…

Lana Novikova: We market researchers have responsibility to understand our consumers and shoppers at the deepest possible level. And I wanted to build a tool that can reflect the nonbinary nature of human emotions. Heartbeat is all about emotions.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond.

Thank you for joining us. Many of us like to believe that as consumers, the buying choices we make are rational – based on reviewing what’s available and considering the alternatives. The reality however, is a little different. Many neuroscientists and psychologists have concluded that emotion is a necessary ingredient to almost all purchasing decisions. Emotional responses to advertisements strongly influence consumers’  reported intent to buy a product. Studies conducted by the industry have consistently found that likeability is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales. Because emotions can greatly influence or determine our buying decisions, researchers use specialized tools that attempt to identify consumers’ often unconscious feelings, for example, when exposed to TV advertisements, or while shopping in a store. Our guest today is an internationally renowned research expert who has published papers on the role of emotion in consumer behavior. Lana Novikova is the Founder and CEO of Heartbeat AI Technologies. Based in Toronto, Canada, the company’s text analytics platform measures emotions to understand the customer experience and identify the drivers of human behavior. Born and raised in the former Soviet union Republic of Kyrgyzstan and educated in the US, Lana’s career has taken her from the United Nations field office in Central Asia, to UNICEF in New York, and on to corporate market research and analytics, including several years with Nestle. Lana has designed, executed, and managed research studies for dozens of clients in a wide range of industries. She’s also a serial entrepreneur with an award-winning portfolio of research inventions. Today. Lana is joining us from her office in Nicaragua. Lana, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Lana Novikova: Thank you so much, Adrian – thank you for inviting me to be a part of this podcast. I’m honored and excited.

Adrian Tennant: Well first, as I mentioned in the introduction, your company is based in Toronto, but you’re currently in Nicaragua. Why are you there?

Lana Novikova: Interesting question. You also mentioned that most decisions that we make in life are not rational, so I guess it’s a result of one of those emotional decisions! I came to Nicaragua exactly a year ago with my  daughter for a meditation and yoga retreat for just a couple of weeks to unwind. And that was my first vacation after five years of running a technology company. So I came here and I really fell in love with the country, and, come March. I decided to come for a longer time. So I came with my dogs and my kids and, lo and behold, COVID happened. And I made a decision to stay, instead of going back to Canada. And the longer I stayed, the more in love I got with the country. So I ended up buying a piece of land and hopefully, we’ll build a dream eco village here in this country, while still traveling to Canada a lot, traveling around the world, when the travel happens. So it’s an emotional decision.

Adrian Tennant: Well conducting background research about you for this podcast, I read some of your published papers and it’s clear that you’ve been interested in interpreting human emotions in the context of market research for quite some time. But what first sparked your interest in consumer research?

Lana Novikova: I have an educational background in linguistics and my master’s degree is in journalism and public relations. I wanted to work in PR and my first job ended up being in research. And then I discovered my natural inclination to be an analyst, and I went back to study statistics and market research methods and became a very strong quantitative researcher. We’re talking 2000, that’s when the data was still collected using pen and paper surveys and online surveys just were appearing as a new technology thing. So that was my journey in market research: six years in quantitative market research I really learned how to ask good questions, good, closed-ended questions. And then one unanswered was the “What if we ask open-ended questions in surveys? Can we learn more about consumer behavior by asking the combination of questions?”

Adrian Tennant: You have described your company, Heartbeat AI Technologies, as existing “at the intersection of human emotions and unstructured data.” Let’s unpack that. First, how do you define emotions in a consumer research context?

Lana Novikova: Back in the 1800s, William James, the American psychologist, posed the question, “What is an emotion?” And, after more than a century, psychologists and neuroscientists can’t agree on what exactly is emotion. Do animals have emotions? How do human emotions appear in the brain? And how do we express emotions? But, I’m glad you asked it within the context of consumer research and, after thinking a lot and reading a lot of literature about emotions, I very simply define it as: emotion is a conscious, explicit manifestation of that complex process we have in the body and in our mind in different parts of our brain that manifest in different ways and that’s what we call data, right? It manifests in language, how I can express emotion about a particular product, service. I can say it verbally. I can show it in my face. The emotion can go and you can see through my body, including pulse including biometrics and so on. And that’s why it’s so hard to measure emotions in the context of consumer research.

Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways have market researchers typically attempted to measure consumers’ emotions?

Lana Novikova: In a quantitative market research world, you know, we ask closed-ended questions because we want to control what data we get back. You can present a question, a context, “How do you feel about this product and this brand?” And give a list of emotions. You can show smiley faces and little cartoons and responders will pick the one that’s more closely related to their presenting emotion. Biometrics for example, it’s not very easy to use in field research, but the more and more they’re coming, possibilities of using  EEG devices to measure your brainwaves. And, you know, certain measurements for brain waves indicate high effect, low effect, attention, no attention, eye tracking is another way that can help you show attention. And if you measure pulse, you can see what people look at and if the pulse is increased, for example, we know that the person is in a state of affect. We don’t know if it’s positive or negative. We know that, you know, your heart beats stronger when you look at that particular brand. For example, that’s why I called my company Heartbeat AI, because there was an experiment that actually, 150, I think unmarried women were given a box that looked like a Tiffany box. that’s a turquoise kind of blue color box without even a brand name on it. But they were given a Tiffany box and their heart rate went up considerably, I think by 30% or something and like that. So their heartbeat went up. And then the reason why for unmarried women the heartbeat goes up? Because they associated the Tiffany box with a  surprise proposal of marriage. Think it’s such a beautiful story

Adrian Tennant: Why do emotions matter in market research?

Lana Novikova: Back in my corporate career days, I was running  consumer and shopper research for Nestle ice cream category. And imagine how emotional the category is. We wanted to know why loyal users of Haagen-Dazs go in the middle of the night to a convenience store and buy a small tub of ice cream for $6 or $10, and then come home and eat it all at once. Hiding it from their family. You see, this is the consumer action all driven by emotion. It’s – none of that is rational. So I wanted to know why it happens. Beyond that, you know, it’s yummy, it tastes good, but what actually drives that human behavior? So why it matters? Because I think we market researchers have responsibility to understand our consumers and shoppers at the deepest possible level. Not to be satisfied with very shallow observations, with very shallow insights, with just boxes and charts putting people into segments. So, for example, if I identify frequent users of premium ice cream, and I know what’s the segment of population, and I know their demographics and even psychographics, I still don’t know why they do what they do. The behavior that I just explained. So I wanted to go as deep as possible to understand what drives that human behavior and yeah, that’s actually one of the reasons why I left market research eight years ago to study psychotherapy and psychology and neuroscience

Adrian Tennant: Well, anyone that has used social listening or text analytics tools is probably familiar with seeing posts or open-ended survey responses classified by sentiment. So that is either positive, negative, or neutral. But I know Heartbeat AI goes way beyond that. Can you explain how?

Lana Novikova: Yes, and it came from my understanding of psychology and psychotherapy. Actually, after I studied psychotherapy, I ran a practice for two years, sitting with clients and listening. When you work as a shrink, you get presented with a lot of emotions. And that  confirmed my belief that people are just not negative, positive, neutral. They experience way more emotions than that and can experience negative and positive emotions at the same time. So imagine, we have these binary measures of sentiment in the market, but in reality, they don’t reflect how we humans experience emotions. Right? And I wanted to build a tool that can reflect the nonbinary nature of human emotions. And that tool is Heartbeat.  We took one of the most comprehensive segmentations of emotions by Gerrod W. Parrot of George Brown University in the United States. And he qualified about 136 secondary emotions going up to 8 primary emotions and the sentiment. So we scaled it down a little bit. We edit a category of body sense, which is not an emotion, but an indication how people feel in the body: whether hungry, thirsty, pain, and so on. So it’s a very useful category for some surveys or for some data. So we adjusted the psychological classification of emotions to market research: shopper insight, patient insight, and so on. And so we came up with 100 secondary emotion categories, the sub categories laddering up to 9 primary and 1 body sense emotions. And then we built a taxonomy of words and phrases. So each word and phrase in English that indicates emotion falls into one, or most likely, two or three different categories of emotions – that’s how it goes. So for example, we can show 15 different kinds of anger, 14 different kinds of joy, 5 different types of trust. And so that’s how we build it. So we can give you a little glimpse of what’s inside and that provides high accuracy of text analytics. It provides obviously, depths. Some clients still need to see a hundred emotions, you know, some categories are very dry, but it’s good to differentiate between trust and joy, for example, when you talk about your clients in your bank or your insurance company. So those are just a few examples.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Lauren Fore: I’m Lauren Fore, and I’m on the operations team at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as agency professionals and reflects the way that Bigeye puts audiences first.  For every engagement, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers. This data is distilled into actionable insights that inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – and guide strategic, cost-efficient media placements that really connect with our clients’ audiences. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Lana Novikova, founder and CEO of Heartbeat AI Technologies. As an agency, our typical use case is the analysis of quantitative data that we’ve collected through online surveys. Do you have any recommendations for writing open-ended questions to provide good quality data for emotional analysis with Heartbeat AI? And is there anything researchers need to avoid?

Lana Novikova: When we really care about the quality of the data and about the responder feelings, we want surveys to be shorter. What’s important really to find out? What would you want to learn from your shopper and consumer from your responder? Like in any conversation, when you start a conversation, it’s good to ask. How do you feel about this category or that? So I would put, open-ended questions about emotions at the beginning, not at the very beginning, but after pre-qualifying questions. So somewhere where people are not tired yet. We can go into neuroscience and understand where the answers come from. For example, if you ask closed-ended questions with multiple choice, it’s a very left prefrontal cortex action. So your brain needs to analyze, look at different choices, and select them. That’s what our prefrontal cortex does. When I asked, how do you feel about elections in the United States? Right away, most likely it’s not a prefrontal cortex question. It’s a very emotional question. So people will answer from a combination of the amygdala and hippocampus in different points in the brain.  And, you know, there’ve been great studies to actually show what happens in the brain when people talk about emotional subjects. Right? So I would say knowing that, ask very simple open-ended questions earlier in the survey in a context, and give people a reason to trust that the data will be used in a good way. And just like in any conversation or they will reveal deep, amazing insights. And sometimes it’s not just the lines, it’s not just the words. Sometimes people write a few phrases or if a few paragraphs even, and with the text analytics tool like Heartbeat, it’s very easy to analyze long responses, and the longer [the] responses, the more rich data you get. So very, very simple. Ask good open-ended questions early, don’t fatigue people, and, yeah, just let people trust you and they’ll give you good information.

Adrian Tennant: So just to understand the mechanics a little bit as a client with survey data, including open-ended text responses, does the researcher upload the data to an online platform? How does that work?

Lana Novikova: Once you collect your data, it’ll be closed-ended and open-ended responses. Say it’s an Excel or CSV file. So once we have a CSV file, it’s very simple to upload in our system. You know, our clients will get the password and then they can upload themselves or we can upload for them. We show all the metadata, all your closed-ended questions, your demographics will be on one side. And the open-ended responses we’ll show in a dashboard. Each word and phrase that is emotional in open-ended responses will be tagged into one or many categories of secondary emotions. You will actually see in our survey, words highlighted in blue, with anger, and you’ll see that word or phrase, it represents anger in that particular context. We use human curation to clean the data and we want to guarantee 95% accuracy. So we’ve worked with every data file. We clean it. F or example, the word cheesy. Right? So they drew a cheesy showing up in your survey responses.  When you talk about “pizza” or “pasta” [it] is not an emotional word. If your context is advertising for shampoo and you say, well, “The ad is cheesy” that’s an emotion. So things like that are full of disambiguation. So we would clean the data for those words to be disambiguated. So again, I explained to you what’s going on the back [end] and then the front [end], you see a very clean, very easy to use dashboard where you can slice and dice by gender, geography, and all your metadata. And see each word and phrase in the level of primary emotion, the level of sentiment, you see positive, negative, neutral, charts, and there’s all kinds of data mining also. You can do it through the dashboard. It’s very easy and fun to use.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most interesting consumer insights that you’ve been able to yield with text-based emotional analytics that isn’t typically possible with other methods?

Lana Novikova: I like examples from patient experience and employee experience because usually that’s where we get very rich data, very emotional data.  If it’s collected well. For example, a few years ago, we worked with  qualitative data, actually – [they] were interviews with patients with multiple myeloma, which is a very late stage of cancer.  A number of interviews where patients were asked their journey with their disease at the beginning before diagnosis, then later through treatment, remission, and now they’re at the last stage. So imagine it’s a lot of words, a lot of uh, dialogue. And when a human analyzes this qualitative data,  they usually pull topics and themes, it’s very, it’s impossible to quantify emotions in that situation. What happened is we split interviews into different stages, journey of that patient, downloaded the data, and it showed a very simple chart showing the emotional journey of the patient. And, it showed a very interesting spike of joy at the last stage. So there was a lot of joy, the beginning, then the patients go into that, you know, fear and anger stage, and sadness. There’s a lot of dark emotions, obviously. But then at the end of the last stage, when they kind of reconcile with the disease, joy showed up  – and a very particular type of joy – bliss. It was unexpected. We went into the data, looked into the joy and we found quite a few people were at peace with their life at that stage. And once you quantify that insight, it becomes very strong and it was beautiful, a marketing campaign for fundraising for multiple myeloma. And because of that insight, the campaign was built in orange colors with a beautiful picture of this older woman with glasses and with a big smile, instead of their, you know, typical kind of very dark, very sad campaigns. I love working with data like this, the rich data where manually it’s impossible to find it. But the system pulls it very quickly. And then the intuition of a researcher and a marketer will tell you, “Well, that’s interesting,” as something comes up, unexpected, “Let’s go deeper.” And when you go deeper, you uncover that gold mine.

Adrian Tennant: Now, you’ve mentioned the use of artificial intelligence and a combination of human and machine learning. But as you know, such systems can be biased based on who builds them, the way they’re developed, and how they’re deployed. So Lana, how do you mitigate the risk of bias in your technology?

Lana Novikova: It’s a very, very important question for all of us and for the future of technology. We mitigated from the very beginning. Our algorithms are not based upon deep learning. Our algorithms are based on supervised learning. We, you know, we engineered our system. Then we manually coded a taxonomy, the training data, I think we started with 10,000 words and phrases and manually coded them into those buckets of emotions. And that’s been done by professional, psycholinguists. So, first by one person, and then a few other people validate it, and that’s how we dealt with bias.  When, you know, a few people code the same word in the same bucket, we believe that that’s an emotion is such a… it’s not numbers, it’s a matter of opinion or the feeling. But when a few coders agree, that’s good coding. That’s how we build the system at the very beginning. And after that, we build a lot of algorithms that can take that solid first taxonomy, first training data, and extrapolate it into more words and phrases. So after that semi-supervised machine learning is used. It takes longer, but it’s worth it, because the accuracy is there. And then if we ever discover a mistake, we know exactly where to go and fix it. So I never liked black boxes, I always like open systems where I know where to go and fix it. So we just took a different approach.

Adrian Tennant: Now, how do you see the role of technology in consumer research specifically, developing over the say next five years or so?

Lana Novikova: I think it’s going to be even faster than the next five years. The transition to research companies to merge with technology companies. And you know, I’m biased, of course I’ve been running a software company for five years now, before that I was a researcher on the supply and on the client side. But now knowing the tech world, knowing how fast, how innovative the tech world is, to have a chance and having a job and career and business in market research, researchers will have to keep up with technology. As hard as it is we have to become aware, not to hide. We have to re-educate ourselves. It doesn’t mean we need to become programmers, but for example, if you are a statistician, knowing the principles of machine learning, text analytics, we’re already 80% of the way there. For example, the multivariate analysis or the algorithms that are used in machine learning, often statistically are similar to what we use in stats in multivariate. So it’s the same tool, same principles. So researchers need to kind of be brave and go and retrain themselves and just open up to technology instead of pushing against it. But it goes back to 2000 where, you know, the traditional pen and paper, quantitative researchers were saying that, “No surveys will never go online.” And lo and behold now, we know where this story is, right? In the same way, you know, embrace machine learning – it’s coming and better be friends with that than not.

Adrian Tennant: How do you keep up to date with the constantly evolving landscape of technology platforms and possibilities, and perhaps equally importantly, how do you determine what’s most deserving of your attention?

Lana Novikova: I’m an innovator. I’m very excited about anything new. Five years ago, actually, we got an award for best innovation in market research,  in Amsterdam at one of the big research events. So that sparked even more to keep looking for new things. For example, I’m very, very excited about chatbots, and how chatbots are going to influence research from data collection  all the way to analysis. And we are going to launch our first chatbot this year. I just love playing with things. So I guess if you’re curious, if you’re open, if you’re not afraid of technology, the rest is just play with that. And, I allocate time in the schedule to look for innovations, always read, keep up with innovations in market research and also outside of market research, because it’s very important to see what’s out there and what could be brought to market research. For example, Alexa or Google devices. You know, can they be used in a survey right now? We’re all at home, right? Can we use it as an interviewing device or collecting good qualitative data? For example, all of that could be done. And of course I have a team of programmers and that makes it easy for me to experiment and to program things. So I can just imagine it and my team can program, which makes it easy. So I’d say curiosity,no fear, you just go for it. And yeah, it’s, it’s easy to get lost in all these new things happening, but after a few years, you kind of develop a taste and you look for, “Okay, here’s the actual trend,” or “This is just a fad and is going to go away.” And, of course, Heartbeat is all about emotions. We’re not doing anything else but understanding emotion. So it’s really easy when you focus so deeply on one thing to do it really, really well. So any research that new things that come about emotions in neuroscience, I keep track of that with passion or obsession, I would say so. Yeah. And that keeps you going and innovating. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Well Lana, in parallel with your professional career, I know you’ve also been a very active supporter or there are a number of causes, but you mentioned a plan for an eco village in Nicaragua. Could you tell us more about that?

Lana Novikova: At the beginning, when you introduced me, you mentioned that I worked for the United Nations in Kyrgyzstan, and then in New York. So when I worked in Kyrgyzstan, it was 1993, for a couple of years. We ran UN offices just opened in my country. And I was a project manager. So we did beautiful work of building capacity in the poor country, building schools, building orphanages, and bringing Western knowledge and tools into a poor country to help people and that feeling of building something. For children who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to go to school because it was destroyed by earthquake. That was one particular project. The feeling of meaning and purpose that it gave me was unforgettable enough so that I worked for many years in a corporate environment in North America. And I will always miss that feeling of fulfillment of doing something for people. So now in Nicaragua, I mentioned that I bought land and  I was planning to build a home on that land for me and my family and friends, maybe a few small homes, like a small eco village. But just a couple of months ago, we had  two hurricanes actually hit this country from the Caribbean side, and many, many families lost their homes. You live in Florida and you understand what’s happening, the more hurricanes will be coming. And  more people will be displaced by the environmental disasters. And this country by itself cannot support people who left without homes, the government is doing only so much. And the international community is doing so much. So that kind of opened my heart to think, “You know, I have the land and I can fundraise actually to build not five homes, but maybe 50 homes on that lot of land that I bought and just donate it to the village for people who otherwise wouldn’t have homes.” So that’s my dream to do it. It’ll take some time, but that’s another dream, so that’s back to the feeling of fulfillment and purpose.

Adrian Tennant: Lana, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners want to learn more about Heartbeat AI Technologies, where can they find you?

Lana Novikova: I would love them to find me. We have a website at And to reach me directly, you go to It’s my email. Yeah. I would love to have conversations and I would love to offer mentorship to people who really want to be in the field of text analytics, sentiment analysis, because I know it very well and I would love to share my knowledge with young professionals who want to come and maybe even work for Heartbeat one day.

Adrian Tennant: Lana, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Lana Novikova: Thank you so much for inviting me and thank you for your time. And I look forward to our next conversations.


Adrian Tennant: Next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS…

Eric Ortiz: How do I let people know what this product is, in a highly competitive CBD market, and also stay compliant within the ad space to make sure that my ads don’t get disapproved?

Adrian Tennant: A conversation with Eric Ortiz of Magical Brands, on navigating regulations around its CBD and cannabis-related products, that’s next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Lana Novikova, founder and CEO of Heartbeat AI Technologies. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights”. Just click on the button marked “Podcast”. And if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.



How do you grow revenues over 400 percent in 3 years? Mason Dorner of Fattmerchant shares secrets of successful B2B digital marketing for financial services.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: Bigeye discusses the growth of payment technology company Fattmerchant with the company’s VP of Marketing, Mason Dorner. Sharing some of the tactics that have made Fattmerchant a poster child for Central Florida’s tech community, Mason outlines his team’s structure, marketing technology stack, and his personal philosophy for keeping ahead in a highly competitive industry. Mason also reflects on differences between performance and brand campaigns for high-growth companies.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re In today’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Mason Dorner: Once somebody commits to a brand search, it’s usually pretty tough to peel them off which is why competitive advertising and search typically doesn’t perform all that well for most people.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us for our first episode of 2021, which also marks the start of our sixth season of IN CLEAR FOCUS. According to a report from MasterCard, US retail sales rose 3% during the 2020 holiday shopping season powered by the shift toward online shopping. In fact, holiday e-commerce sales jumped 49% making up almost one-fifth of total US retail sales for the entire year. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of IN CLEAR FOCUS, during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have embraced new options such as buy online and pickup in store and contactless payment technologies. And it’s not just the big stores that have had to adapt – small and medium sized retailers have adopted technology to offer their customers more ways to shop and pay for goods. Our guest today sees how shopping is continuing to change for consumers and retailers on a daily basis. A seasoned, data-driven digital marketing leader, Mason Dorner is the Vice President of Marketing at Fattmerchant, an Orlando-based payment technology company. Fattmerchant offers credit card processing solutions designed for a variety of business types and it was named Best Credit Card Processor of 2020 by US News and World Report. It also has the distinction of being the region’s second-fastest-growing private firm with 467% revenue growth in the past three years. Prior to his role at Fattmerchant, Mason held digital marketing positions with Bonnier, Universal Orlando, and The Walt Disney Company. Mason, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Mason Dorner: Thank you. Appreciate you having me on today.

Adrian Tennant: So first, could you tell us what Fattmerchant does?

Mason Dorner: Yeah, absolutely. So Fattmerchant, as you said, is a payment technology company. So we compete most directly with Square and with Stripe. So Square tends to specialize in in-person credit card processing Stripe tends to specialize in online and we can actually do both through a single API. So it used to be that if you were a store owner, and you also had an e-commerce store, you actually needed two different payment processing solutions, and you’d have two sets of books that you had to reconcile two different vendors to deal with. And we can actually do both in a single API so that you’re dealing with one vendor getting one statement and only one set of books to reconcile. And then in addition to that, we’re also cheaper than both of those options that I just listed off and then cheaper than the traditional payment processing model.  What most people don’t understand is to take a debit card transaction from MasterCard only costs about half a percent, but those competitors that I just listed off are going to charge you around 3%. So that’s about a 500% markup. And so what we do is we charge a flat monthly membership, and then that gets you access to the wholesale cost of credit card processing. And that typically ends up saving business owners around 40%. Uh, So we’ve been both disruptive in our pricing strategy as well as in our technology

Adrian Tennant: What is Fattmerchant’s founding story?

Mason Dorner: So the founding story is our CEO was in merchant services for several years. And the industry has a poor reputation – deceitful sales techniques are used by a lot of companies. The service is not great. The pricing is expensive and it’s really all about, how can these companies get the most money out of each small business owner? And so they make it very hard to understand what business owners are actually paying and the rates can be variable. So your rates will go up randomly over time and there’s all kinds of hidden fees. And so just not a great experience, it’s almost like you compare it to a cable company, the way that the industry has typically run. And so our CEO was in that world and just realized there had to be a better way to do this. There’s gotta be a way to provide a good experience and still make money and be a profitable business. And so that’s where she got the idea to start this subscription-based processor that would be transparent and that would save business owners, money but still be a profitable company. And so she left the company that she was with and went out on her own and started Fattmerchant.

Adrian Tennant: Now I’m guessing that as consumers, most of us probably don’t give a great deal of thought to payment processing, other than maybe whether our personal debit or credit card is accepted, or if a digital payment method is available. Mason, could you give us a primer on the business of payment processing?

Mason Dorner: Sure. So like you said, the average consumer, they swipe their card. They don’t think anything else about it. It’s much more top of mind for small business owners though, because as I said, typically three or four percentage points at every transaction are going to go to the payment processor and that’s how payment processors make their money. Now within that three or 4%, there’s also what’s called interchange and that’s the wholesale cost that Visa and MasterCard charge. And that varies anywhere between one and two and a half percent depending on the type of card that’s used. And then the amount of above that is what the processor captures as their kind of piece of the transaction. And so what the processor does is when you swipe that card, the processor is physically taking the money off of the consumer’s credit card. And then they are moving that money into the retailer’s bank account is in a nutshell what credit card processors do in a very simplified manner.

Adrian Tennant: As VP of Marketing at Fattmerchant, what does your role typically entail?

Mason Dorner: So my role entails really anything marketing-related. So I report directly to our CEO. So I oversee everything from our branding, our PR, our content marketing, our digital advertising, anything really that has our logo on it. And then anybody outside the company sees is typically something that I’m involved with.

Adrian Tennant: And what does a typical Fattmerchant customer look like?

Mason Dorner: A typical Fattmerchant customer is a small or medium-sized business owner. They’re typically doing at least $10,000 a month in credit card transactions. And the reason I say that is because that’s the point at which they typically see the most savings. From us below the $10,000 Mark, the subscription pricing, doesn’t save them as much money. And so it’s a little bit less compelling. However, we still make sense for those smaller business owners. We can still offer rates comparable to Square or Stripe. It’s just, it’s going to be one-to-one and not so much of a savings. Whereas once they graduate up to that subscription-based plan, that’s where they really start to save money. And within that, where we work with most businesses, but there are certain businesses that we find we do really well with medical, professional services – so like lawyers and accountants – field services. So think like HVAC, electricians and then retail. So those are our four focus verticals. Again, we do work with other businesses outside of that, but those four where we really excel. Just because they get the most value out of our technology because we started out just being the cheapest credit card processor and having these transparent rates. But we’ve since moved beyond that, where we built a lot of our own tech stack and a lot of proprietary technology such as our bi-directional sync with QuickBooks and we actually beat Stripe and Square to market for that capability. And so that saves these business owners a lot of time where they can export all their transactions directly into their accounting software and save a lot of time doing manual reconciliation. So that’s just one example of the tech that we’ve built and those four business types benefit the most from that type of tech and from the analytics that we provide as part of their package. So we’re able to add the most value to those business types and really supercharge their business with the additional tools that we provide as part of their subscription.

Adrian Tennant: You have experience in both business-to-business and business-to consumer marketing. How do business-to-business customer journeys differ from B2C, if at all?

Mason Dorner: They absolutely differ. It definitely depends on the type of business. But in general, a B2B sales cycle is going to be longer. The leads are going to be more expensive. Your cost per acquisition is going to be higher. The audience sizes and the addressable market is smaller. So the sales cycles take longer. There’s typically more decision-makers involved as well versus a consumer and all of those things get bigger and longer as the business size expands. So a large business is going to have more decision-makers, a much longer sales process, probably take more ad spend and sales enablement dollar spent to get them on the hook, versus a consumer, you’re just dealing with one person a lot of times, depending on what you’re selling it can be an impulse purchase. So it’s typically a faster process to conversion and most sales take place in the B2C world, they take place directly online instantly. Whereas with B2B services, there’s more research. There usually has to be a real human conversation that happens. So like in our sales process, we bring in the leads through digital channels, such as paid search and Facebook. But once the lead is submitted, they get assigned to one of our payment consultants who then walks them through the rest of the purchase process, helps them select what products and what solutions make the most sense for them, helps them feel comfortable and build this custom package that’s going to make sense for their business. And so that’s a component that isn’t typically there in B2C marketing.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’re leading a team of data-driven performance marketers. What are your team’s key performance indicators?

Mason Dorner: So there’s actually a lot of them, I’ll try to pick the ones that are most important, but we’re an inbound lead generation marketing model. And so the way that our funnel works is we have MQLs that then convert into SQLs that then convert into customers. And so those are our three stages of the funnel. So we have volume metrics tied to generating enough marketing qualified leads or enough leads, but we also have efficiency metrics that’s tied to a cost per lead, cost per qualified lead, a cost per customer. And then also conversion metrics. We have benchmarks that we know that a lead is supposed to convert to a qualified lead at X percent and a qualified lead is supposed to convert to a customer at X percent. So we have cost efficiency metrics. We have volume metrics. We have conversion efficiency metrics. And then even beyond that and something that makes I think our marketing team unique because most marketing teams are really just focused on driving leads –  “Okay. I got this many leads and I got this cost per lead. I hit my number for the month.” We’re focused beyond that. We’re focused on lifetime value and on revenue generation. And that’s where a lot of marketing teams in the lead gen space tend to drop the ball as they generate the lead. And they say, “Okay, my job is done.” We spend a lot of time tracking the lifetime value of our customers so that we can go out and use that data to mine for more high quality customers. And so even lifetime value and upsell, cross sell opportunity after they become a customer. Those are things that we have KPIs for that we actively track and that come full circle back to the front of the funnel. We use that data to go out and find better customers.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the key components of your martech stack?

Mason Dorner: So the main piece of marketing tech that really runs our whole company is HubSpot. HubSpot has several different solutions. We use all of them. So we use their CRM. We use their marketing cloud. We use their email deployment system. Their customer service system. So all these pieces within their suite of products that bolt together and they integrate together, we use all of them and that’s really the hub of our marketing stack and any tools outside of that that we’ve acquired. And there are a couple, but the first question that we always ask is, “Does it integrate with HubSpot?” – which is our core – if so, “What does that integration look like?” Because adding additional tools that don’t necessarily talk to the rest of your stack it creates problems. You need to have everybody looking at the same data at the same dashboards and everything, talking to each other so that you can make true apples-to-apples comparisons versus having different departments working in different tools. So for, even for our additional tools outside of HubSpot, they all have to talk to each other, but those additional tools a week, a landing page builder called Unbounce. We are always aggressively A/B testing. So that’s an important tool to us. We have several hundred landing pages within that tool. We also use Google Analytics also Google ads, Facebook ads, a couple of other lesser-known ad platforms that I would say comprises the majority of our tech stack.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Mason Dorner, Vice President of Marketing for Fattmerchant. Mason, immediately prior to Fattmerchant, you managed digital marketing campaigns for Walt Disney World Resort and before that for Universal Orlando. What, if any, strategies or tactics from your time in those entertainment and hospitality driven businesses have you brought to your current role?

Mason Dorner: There’s definitely been a couple of them that were brought over. First and foremost would be just testing aggressively when it comes to new tactics, new ad, creative, new capabilities within the ad platforms. When I was with those organizations, I got to test a lot of things way before they came to market. For example, like Facebook 360 video ads that you’ve probably seen where you can move your phone around and it looks around inside of a video or inside of an app. When I was at Disney, we were the first ones to test that out. We were also the first people to do dynamic product ads on Facebook. So the dynamic carousel retargeting ads, we were the first ones to do that in the travel industry. And we saw massive ROI from it. And at the time, Facebook now has a product called dynamic ads for travel. But they didn’t, it didn’t exist several years ago. And so we actually hack together a way for dynamic product ads to show hotel inventory. And it proved that this concept could transition. From e-commerce and work really well for travel. And so now every hotel chain in the world is using this ad product that we helped Facebook pilot. And so that’s something that my team has carried forward into fat merchant is always looking for that next piece of tech, that next capability that no one else is doing, because it’s going to provide you an edge, even if you don’t do it necessarily well, If you’re the first one to use this new piece of technology or this new integration or this new capability that nobody else is using, it can do a lot to help you stay ahead of the competition. One area where we did that was with Google actually. We’re in their accelerator program where we basically get enterprise level support, even though we’re a startup company because we’re high growth and they’ve identified us as a high potential company. And we behave like an enterprise advertiser, so they treat us like that. So we actually were one of the first companies in the world to start importing our offline conversions into Google ads. And we used that to build audiences to go out and find more qualified customers. So we had actually ported over our SQL and customer information into Google automatically via Zapier. And that allowed us to then go and say, “Okay, we’ve got all these customers that we’ve piped into Google, Google now knows what our customers look like. And then they can bid accordingly against our audiences and against our search terms based on who they think looks like our customers.” So instead of most marketers at the time, and we actually implemented this almost two years ago now when we first did it, but most marketers at the time were bidding towards cost per lead. And we were actually able to leave that completely behind and start bidding towards cost per customer and cost for SQL. We completely stopped bidding towards cost per lead, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we weren’t up to try this new, somewhat scary integration that Google wanted us to pilot for them. So, in summary, it’s always aggressively testing, always looking for that next new magic bullet that maybe nobody else has tried yet to stay a step ahead of the competition.

Adrian Tennant: With its amazing growth, Fattmerchant is a poster child of Central Florida’s startup sector. It was announced in early December that a Knoxville-based investment firm, Greater Sum Ventures LLC, has taken a majority ownership stake in the company. What does the immediate future look like for Fattmerchant?

Mason Dorner: The future for Fattmerchant doesn’t look that much different with this new investment in terms of, we already had a really solid product roadmap. What this investment and these new partners are allowing us to do is to do it much faster and much bigger. So we started out as a merchant services company that sold payment processing and payment technology to small businesses. And we built an amazing tech stack that we provided just to our SMBs. But what we realized is there were software platforms out there that could also benefit from this API. So different business management tools that didn’t have a payment component but that could benefit from having one. So a real life example is a software for electricians. It helps electricians manage and run their business. The one downfall to the software was there was no payment component. And so the electricians would use this piece of software to do their scheduling, manage their  inventory. But then when it came time to take payment, they would have to pull out another app, pull out their swiper from another company to actually take their payment. And so this software company came to us to integrate payments into their platform. And so we were able to hook them up to our same API that we use for our SMBs to where they could process payments within their platform. Now they have a stickier user experience, their users aren’t having to switch in between multiple apps. And so it allows them to own the whole customer experience and have a stickier product. And these softwares, many of them have thousands of customers. And so by adding just a couple of software partners, we can exponentially grow our book of business. And now the end user doesn’t necessarily know who Fattmerchant is. They don’t know that when they’re running a payment through this electrician software, they don’t know that’s us or who we are, but they become our customers by proxy. And so that’s the vision that Global Sum Ventures saw because they come from the software space, they’ve bought and sold many software platforms, and they understand that it is really hard to combine payments and software and get it right. And so what they saw in us as we were the one company that figured out how to do that, and so that fit their vision and fit their portfolio. ‘Cause this is the space that they’re in. And so now we’re able to grow into this space and also help them supercharge their other software platforms with this same payment technology. So that’s really the future is that we’re becoming more and more of a software SaaS-based company, more and more of an integrated payments company focused on this independent software vendor space. So our SMB space will always be there, we will continue to grow it aggressively, but now we have this whole other business unit that is focused on the software space.

Adrian Tennant: So we’ve talked a lot about performance marketing. It doesn’t sound like there’s much of a role for traditional brand marketing campaigns in your strategy. Is that fair?

Mason Dorner: Yes and no. So we’re in a space right now in marketing, where I think we’ve almost gone too digital and too trackable to where we’re overly focused on dollar-in dollar-out. It doesn’t mean that there’s not still value to brand marketing and there’s not value to traditional media. In fact, traditional media like TV and radio is cheaper than it’s ever been. I think the challenge though is figuring out, “How does it fit into my attribution model?” Like “How can I track back some dollars or some impact? I don’t need to track all of it, but I need to have enough to have a gut feel that it’s working at least.” And so I think that’s where it gets hard. And like display advertising and Facebook advertising, even though those are digital, they’re not offline – what I was just talking about. There’s a lot of people that will see your banner ad and see your Facebook ad and then will go to your site and convert. Google and Facebook will count those conversions, but you won’t see it in Google analytics. You won’t see it in your CRM. And so when I look at my reporting and my reporting says display advertising isn’t working, it’s doing horrible because we don’t see very many post-click conversions. But then I look in Google and it says, I have a ton of post view conversions. So Google is telling me, “Hey, these hundred people converted through this channel.” My CRM is telling me two converted through this channel because it’s only looking at post-click. And so I think that’s where you have to go with a little bit of a balanced view and a little bit of a gut feel of, “Okay, my branded search is probably not doing as good as what I think it is because branded search is all driven from somewhere and my display, or even my offline media is probably not doing as poor as what my charts and graphs say it is because it’s driving that paid search where I can track everything.” And so there’s a certain level of blind spot between the brand marketing and between the performance marketing that I think we as advertisers need to be okay with and accepting of. And as long as there’s enough leading indicators on both sides to where there is some data tie up, like again, I see all these conversions in Google. I don’t see them in my CRM, but there’s enough there that I can tie up that, okay, this is an attribution problem. This isn’t a performance problem. I do think there is room for marketing and branding. It’s not where I would start. If I’m a small business, I’m starting at the bottom of the funnel with paid search and with retargeting. But as I get bigger and as I go upstream, I do think it’s important and it’s important for us. Our goal is to be a billion dollar tech unicorn, and we’re not going to get there without people knowing our name. And we’ve done a good job showing up when people are shopping for payment technology, but we’re at a stage now where we don’t want to show up just when you’re searching for payment tech. We want to be the first name that you think of in payment tech before you even searched for us, you’re already aware of us because once somebody commits to a brand search, it’s usually pretty tough to peel them off which is why competitive advertising and search typically doesn’t perform all that well for most people, because you’re trying to peel off people that have already committed to another brand. So if we can be the first brand that people think of, that’s where our growth is going to come from because the bottom of the funnel is only so big.

Adrian Tennant: Mason, how do you keep up to date with the constantly evolving landscape of marketing technology platforms? And equally importantly, how do you determine what’s most deserving of your attention?

Mason Dorner: Yeah. So I’m going to answer the first part of that here. So the digital marketing landscape is constantly changing. What worked six months ago will not work now, especially when you look at advertising and the ad platforms, what works on Facebook? What works on Google? A year ago, or two years ago, everybody was bidding by hand on Google. Now you’re, you’re crazy and you’re losing out on opportunity if you’re not using auto bidding. On Facebook, a good size audience used to be 500,000 people. Now, if your audience has less than 5 million , it’s too small to be efficient. And so with these platforms changing so rapidly I’ve made it a priority for myself and for my team to always continue learning and actually block off time during the week just to learn and see what innovations are out there, whether that is attending a webinar , going to a networking event , going to a conference for one weekend during the year, reading a book, whatever it happens to be but to make sure that we carve out time for it uh, because as marketers in this day and age, if we’re not constantly learning, you’ll be obsolete in six to 12 months you’ll fall off very quickly. And so I really think it’s just a matter of prioritizing and actually blocking that time out on your calendar every week as if it were a meeting or some other commitment so that you actually do spend that time to enrich your knowledge and get a good view of the landscape of what’s new and what’s changing. Uh, to answer your second question in terms of how to determine what to focus on. That all to me, it comes back to ROI and effort versus what it’s going to yield. So whenever we’re taking on a project within the business or adding a new capability or a new piece of software, a new tool, I’m always looking at it from how much time and effort am I, or my team going to invest into this and what’s it going to bring back? Obviously, we prioritize the low-effort, high-yield tasks first and then work backwards from there. So, you know, It all comes back to ROI and what lines up best with the business goals, because especially within the marketing and tech space, there are so many shiny objects that are very cool from afar but cool doesn’t make money. And so it’s important to keep the business context and keep the ROI in focus ahead of what’s shiny and new.

Adrian Tennant: Mason, in addition to your professional life, you’re also very active supporting a number of causes. What are some of the most rewarding volunteering experiences that you’ve had?

Mason Dorner: Yeah, so I’ve always enjoyed helping people. It’s something that I was raised doing. It was part of my family culture. We used to take trips to Mexico to help build houses in some of the poor areas there. In high school, I took several trips to the Bahamas to help build an orphanage. So it was just something that I always grew up doing and always found a lot of fulfillment from. And I would say helping people is far more rewarding than anything that I’ve ever done professionally. So some of the things that I’m involved with now I’ve done some pro bono work here and there to help nonprofits with their marketing. So there’s a few nonprofits where I’ve set their search campaigns up or I’ve audited their website, or help them optimize for SEO. So it’s a fun cross section of my professional life and this kind of personal passion of being philanthropic. And then another passion that I have is public speaking. And so I’ve built up a pretty good network over the years of influential people who have the means to help when called upon and a lot of these people have platforms and access to audiences. So like several local pastors in the area, people like that. And so when my wife and I have run across a cause or a person or a group of people that we felt like we needed to help, I was able to combine this passion for public speaking that I have with also helping people. And so I’ve been able to call some of these local leaders and say, “Hey, I have this group of people or this family, here’s their need, can I come speak at your church or can I come speak at your company and tell this story?” And they’ve been gracious enough to allow me to come in and tell those stories and to raise money, to help these individuals, which has been that’s definitely the most rewarding, most fulfilling thing that I’ve feel like I’ve ever done personally or professionally is being able to help people like this and, leverage these platforms and leverage  this network. And it’s just, it’s something that fulfills me, especially because it’s helping a real person, a real group of people that I’ve, met and seen versus giving to a charity, which is great, and if that’s what you’re into, that’s how you like to give that’s how you like to help the world, that’s awesome. There’s a lot of charities that do great things. For me personally, I like seeing where the time and the effort and the dollars are going and knowing that it’s impacting real people. So I like you, you’re doing this more targeted approach of finding a person or a family or a group of people, and then working backwards and going, “Okay, where can I find the resources to help these people?  Who do I know in my network that this would resonate with, that would be willing to jump in and solve this problem or help this cause.”

Adrian Tennant: What are your daily sources of inspiration?

Mason Dorner: I would say first and foremost, my wife she’s a huge motivating factor for me. Everything that I do personally and professionally that I’m working towards is really to provide a better life for my family and for her. So she’s a huge source of motivation. She’s always got my back, has always pushed me forward. Whenever I’m maybe starting to get worn down or burned out. So definitely she’s at the top of that list. Outside of that, I’ve always liked doing things that are hard or that are difficult, or that few people are willing to do. Just being able to achieve is something that has always motivated me personally and doing things that are difficult.I guess I have, I’ve always had a fear of like being average and that’s not good enough for me uh, to just be your average, kind of run of the mill nine-to-five type person. And so that’s something I’ve always drawn on is I want to be better than that. I want to be the best that I can be.  I don’t want to get to the end of the race, one day when I’m 80 years old and not have left it all on the field, and not have achieved all that I could achieve. So I guess I, I wake up every day, not wanting to waste that opportunity and wanting to make sure that I make the most of the opportunity that I have in front of me.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners want to learn more about Fattmerchant, where can they find you?

Mason Dorner: They can find us at as well as on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Be sure to give us a follow.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Mason, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Mason Dorner: Thank you. It was great to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Mason Dorner, Vice President of Marketing for Fattmerchant. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under insights. Just click on the button marked podcast. And if you haven’t already please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, or your preferred podcast player. Next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Lana Novikova: We market researchers have responsibility to understand our consumers and shoppers at the deepest possible level. And I wanted to build a tool that can reflect the nonbinary nature of human emotions. Heartbeat is all about emotions.

Adrian Tennant: An interview with consumer insights expert Lana Novikova, creator of Heartbeat AI, a unique text analytics tool. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.