Tech aims to take the mystery out of video marketing

Vancouver firms see market gap as demand for visual content grows in social media

Lumen5 Technologies Ltd. CEO Mike Cheng: “what we saw were big companies with big video budgets were winning that space – winning marketing, winning promotion” |  Rob Kruyt

Demand for video content didn’t emerge from the ether with the rise of Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq:FB) or Instagram stories, according to Mike Cheng.

“Look at televisions since the 1920s,” said the CEO of Lumen5 Technologies Ltd., a Vancouver-based startup that has developed a simplified platform for creating videos.

The difference now is most people are “carrying mini--televisions with us, effectively, all the time,” Cheng added, referring to smartphones.

His startup’s artificial-intelligence-powered tool has attracted nearly 300,000 users, including clients like Forbes Media LLC, LinkedIn, and Shopify Inc. (TSX:SHOP), after launching two years ago – a period coinciding with major growth in video marketing.

In 2017, 63% of marketers reported using video to promote their business compared with 81% last year and 87% in 2019, according to video marketing firm Wyzowl’s annual State of Video Marketing survey.

Cheng said growth is being driven by increased smartphone adoption and greater accessibility to mobile data plans that allow people to view video content on the go.

Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) have since responded by building technology to better support the proliferation of that content.

“And what we saw were big companies with big video budgets were winning that space – winning marketing, winning promotion,” Cheng said. “And everyone else was more or less losing out because creation of video is very expensive.”

Wyzowl’s survey results found that of the marketers not using video, 23% said they lacked time while 12% said they thought video was too expensive.

“All social media is quickly becoming visual, and that’s what we wanted to focus on,” said Ian MacKinnon, chief technology officer and co-founder of Later Media Inc.

His Vancouver-based tech company has developed a marketing platform for Instagram, where images, videos and audiovisual stories dominate the posts.

“One of the more interesting challenges we find is that with digital content, you have to use your own content,” MacKinnon said.

He noted an individual Twitter user’s feed might consist solely of retweets, or links to news stories or videos, while a business cannot rely on that to garner much of an interest in its products.

“For a lot of the visual marketing you have to have your own content, and that is a real problem for a lot of small and medium businesses,” he said. “At a certain strategic level, what we want to be able to do is give a lot of the marketing tools that larger brands might use to small and medium businesses.”

Cheng said a video creation tool powered by AI can “democratize videos” so that small firms can produce high-quality content to compete with larger enterprises.

The tool uses facial detection to ensure graphical elements are not placed near human faces. Algorithms are used to ensure framing looks more interesting by applying the rule of thirds (which decrees that dominant objects should not be placed in the centre of a frame), while natural language processing helps compile relevant visuals through stock media libraries if a link to a relevant blog post is included in the video.

Cheng said the young company now sits in the multimillion--dollar revenue range and plans to double its 21-person team in 12 months.