Will Gadea is the founder and creative director of IdeaRocket Animation in New York City. Will is a classically educated filmmaker and playwright and he now owns an agency. IdeaRocket produces beautiful “Explainer” Videos to help companies tell their stories.
“Explainer” videos take complex concepts and make them simple to understand. Explainers are also easy to use in digital marketing campaigns and effective. Will and his team at IdeaRocket have worked with companies of all sizes and produced great results.
IdeaRocket and Explainer Story Telling
In this episode of the Cognified Marketing and Selling Podcast, Will talks about his background, his passion for filmmaking and how that propelled him the entrepreneurship. The concept of explainer videos is an effective way for companies to tell their stories and focus on content that is effective in various strategic and tactical applications.
One Explainer is Different than Others
Telling stories with content today is not easy. Rising above the noise to “hook” your ideal prospect is easier with video. It is a challenge to create a video that tells a story that is engaging, informational and within budget. In the podcast, Will talks about the competitive landscape in his industry and why you,”get what you pay for.”
This is the 4th episode of the Cognified Marketing and Selling Podcast. Listen to Will tell his own story, learn about how he’s marketing his own company and hear about some early work that Will would rather forget.
Here’s the transcript of Episode 04 with Will Gadea of IdeaRocket
Joel Gaslin: [00:19] Welcome back to the Cognified Marketing and Selling Podcast. My guest today — I’m grateful to have him on — is Will Gadea. Will is the founder and creative director of IdeaRocket in New York City. I first met Will…We’ve never met in person, I don’t think.
[00:38] I first came across your company at a marketing meeting — I think it was ad:tech — in New York City, and I met Dan Englander from your company. He talked to me about what you were doing and different things and went from there.
[00:56] At Sightpath we’ve done a few projects with you. The work has been phenomenal. I’m just a big fan of you and your work. Also, lo and behold, I saw you on the front page of our business section in Minneapolis here, gave you a call, and here we are.
[01:13] I’d be grateful if you’d be kind enough to share a little bit about your background, Will, and anything else you’d like to get started with.
Will Gadea: [01:21] Thanks, JoelSightpath. Actually, I had forgotten that we knew you from Ad:tech and that you came to us through Dan. It’s good to be reminded of that.
[01:35] I’ve been an animator for 17 years now. My career path is very circuitive. I would not recommend it to anyone. I went to school at NYU, studying film. After film, I became interested in the theater. I was writing for the theater, for off of Broadway.
[02:06] I had two jobs. The one job was doing graphics at the investment banks, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, others like that. During the days — because it was an evening job — I would be writing plays and sometimes putting them up, working with actors, working with directors, getting a playwright’s collective together.
[02:32] It was a lot of fun. I never fell out of love with the theater, but I did fall out of love with having two jobs.
Joel: [02:39] [laughs] That’s understandable.
Will: [02:42] It gets to be a little bit of a grind. I said, “Hey, I want to do something creative for a living, and I want it to be my main thing.” I thought, “Well, look, I have the film school education, I have the graphics training from working on these graphics with these investment banks. Why not put it together, and learn about animation, and see if I can make a go of it there?”
[03:10] I took an adult education class in a software called After Effects. I put together a reel, then I got a job at MTV Animation, which I was pretty thrilled about, and worked on a series there. After that I had a little career in children’s television.
[03:32] Worked on shows like…if you have kids, maybe your kids are seeing “Word World,” and “Kappa Mikey,” “Speed Racer, The Next Generation.” There came a time around 2006. YouTube had just come out, and I was sensing something bubbling up, in terms of the digital space.
[04:01] I have to say, I come from a family of entrepreneurs. We’ve all started businesses at some point. I had a hankering to do that, so I started out as a freelancer, but eventually I found a new marketing channel.
[04:23] I made my first [inaudible] with Dan Englander. Now we’ve got a little company. It’s five full-time employees and a bunch of freelancers that work with us. We’re really proud of the clients we have, including your company, and having a lot of fun.
Joel: [04:44] Thanks, that’s great. When you think about the sales and marketing, my interest in this podcast is to talk about how people are doing things smarter to get better results and compress the sales cycles.
[04:59] The first time that I met you and Dan was really the first time I’d heard about the concept of the explainer video and put it in that way. It really made a lot of sense to me. I know you’ve worked with many companies and you’ve been in that vein of the works for about six or seven years now.
[05:18] I’m wondering what changes you’ve seen and where you see that going, because I think it’s a really effective way to work and I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts on it.
Will: [05:32] Sure. It’s a powerful concept. Video is a mode of media that has great recall, that has great comprehension on all the studies you see. It’s this combination of the visual with the audio. There’s also a lean-back mode to it.
[06:04] Usually, when you’re interacting with your computer you’re leaning forward. When you see video, you’re leaning back and letting it wash over you.
Joel: [06:13] That’s interesting.
Will: [06:14] It’s a powerful medium. In terms of how we produce it, you know how sometimes there’s software, it gets to a certain point and it gets as good as it gets? Like Word. It doesn’t matter if you’re using 2010 Word. It’s just as good as the Word you have now.
[06:43] In a lot of the video softwares, we are mature. Perhaps the exception to that is the 3D, the CGI kind of videos. They require a lot of computing power. I think that’s still evolving, and that’s becoming more available to people.
[07:10] I think we may see more of that Pixar look. Not Pixar quality, of course, because that’s high artistry that costs a million a minute, but something more in that technique that has this dimensional look because it’s not just created by computers. I think that’s the place where we might see things going to creatively.
Joel: [07:39] One of the things that I noticed when we were working together on the projects that we worked on was the importance of story. I was really impressed with how you and your team were able to distill a 60- to 90-second story out of a pretty complex idea. Tell me how you think about story and putting all that together.
Will: [07:59] I’m glad you put your finger on that because I think that’s the big value added that we offer, is getting that complex message and making it understandable by using story, by using metaphor, by using design elements. Boiling it down and making it easy to consume.
[08:26] How do I think about it? When you’re starting any story, oftentimes the first question that you ask yourself is who is the hero. Usually, I would say that’s your customer, is the hero of the story, but not always.
[08:51] Sometimes your business can be the hero of the story. Sometimes some third party. Maybe the customer’s customer is the hero of the story. If you can identify what is the best vantage point for telling this story and this message, that’s a good entry point, in terms of starting a narrative that can do the work you want it to do.
Joel: [09:20] What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on? You don’t have to say it’s mine, because they were small. I’m curious on the answer, because you’ve worked on a lot.
Will: [09:32] I have to say, you might have different preferences, but of the projects that we’ve worked together on the last one we did for you is my favorite. I’m really fond of the character animation.
Joel: [09:45] That was good.
Will: [09:46] To choose a favorite project, it’s like asking you to choose between children.
Will: [09:52] It’s hard to do.
Joel: [09:54] [laughs] That’s fair. I wasn’t meaning to put you on the spot. That is a good point.
Will: [09:57] Oftentimes your favorite project is the last one you worked on. Today, we just wrapped up a project for the city of Santa Monica. It was a video about fair housing. The interesting spin that they had, and this is their idea — I can’t take credit for it — is to have this art competition for elementary school kids.
[10:34] The winner of the competition got to get their art work made into a video by us. We made this video about fair housing, and we started it with this kid holding up his art and saying, “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’m the winner of this competition.”
[10:57] You zoom into the artwork, and it starts telling the story in this kid’s words of what fair housing is and why it’s important. It’s all designed in the style of the kid’s artwork. We were really happy about how that turned out.
Joel: [11:16] That’s cool. Where do they plan to run it? What will they use it for?
Will: [11:24] They’re planning on using it in social media in their area in Santa Monica, but they’re all so happy with it, they’re also talking about seeing if they can get some distribution, nationally, for it, maybe with some organization that favors fair housing.
Joel: [11:37] What’s interesting is, with you as founder and owner of your company, you have to wear a bunch of hats, certainly. One of them is I can’t help but notice a lot of times, when I’m surfing and doing things on the Web, IdeaRocket things pop up.
[12:03] You must be working in that space. Are you doing that yourself? How are you handling getting your own story out there and using your…?
Will: [12:14] I imagine I’m probably in a similar boat as you, in the sense that we both help other people with their marketing, but we also have to do our marketing ourselves.
Joel: [12:27] Right. [laughs]
Will: [12:30] Sometimes the work you do for yourself is harder than the work you do for other people, just because it’s harder to toot your own horn than it is to toot other people’s horns. I go through a learning process, just like everybody else that does marketing. It’s a matter of experiments.
[12:54] You try something, you see if it works. If it works, you do more of it. If it doesn’t, you do less of it, and repeat and repeat and repeat.
Joel: [13:02] The old wash, rinse, repeat, yeah.
Will: [13:04] Yeah, absolutely.
Joel: [13:06] What’s working for you today?
Will: [13:09] What’s working for me is AdWords. We’re starting to do some email campaigns just from prospecting research on LinkedIn and other sources. We also do SEO. Basically, those are the main three. Of course, we also have repeat business and referrals.
[13:34] Altogether, that’s five channels. I guess I feel you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. You want to get a few and get really good at them. I’m kind of glad, because there was a time that we were all about AdWords, and I think that’s a dangerous place, just because you never know, and the competition’s going to get so fierce that it just blows you out of the water.
[14:10] I think, right now, we are a little diffuse maybe. We might find some other channel that works, but for now, those five are good.
Joel: [14:26] We focus our time now on, and it’s certainly an overused term, but content marketing. We really try and create good content, based on the personas we’ve developed in our client base and really push on those. Frankly, what you’ve helped us with is some of that content.
[14:45] It would just feel like a natural way that you…I see you’ve been doing some writing and things like that. How do you think through that? What’s next in that for you?
Will: [14:59] I guess I see SEO as being wrapped up in those, I see content as being wrapped up in those channels. I think you put your finger on what, for us, is one of the biggest challenges, which is generating that content.
[15:19] The content has to show your expertise, so it’s really hard to outsource that without a lot of supervision. If you’re going to create a lot of content and you’ve got a full day already, it’s like running two different businesses.
Joel: [15:39] And that’s why…
Will: [15:40] You’re running a publishing house and you’re also running an animation studio or a marketing agency, like you are. It’s challenging.
Joel: [16:00] As you may recall, the marketing agency that we run is really within a medical services company. What we struggle with is just what you mentioned. We have doctors who they’re doctors all day, and then they’re expected to work on marketing and things like that, and that’s hard. [laughs]
[16:15] You’re tired at the end of the day, and you want to go home and be a dad or a piano player, whatever it is you like to do. Very few people want to sit down with marketing, so that’s what we try and help with.
Will: [16:30] It’s funny what you do, because it feels like what you do is creating content that might be able to be successful in many different local markets. I get those emails from an employment attorney, and it’s talking about employment law issues. They are so well written, so entertaining, it’s just terrific content, very useful and also, it’s good to consume.
[17:07] I’m thinking, “Gee, this guy should be able to do this in any of these other local markets.” Do you know what I’m saying?
Joel: [17:17] I do, yeah.
Will: [17:20] There should be, perhaps, more of a licensing opportunity for this content. I’m not sure if that would diminish some of the value, but it feels like, for many customers, it doesn’t matter if content has been duplicated from somewhere else.
Joel: [17:40] No, and in fact, we’ve done that with one of the animations that you’ve done for us. We have licensed that out in several places, and it’s been very successful. We allow some of our clients to run it on their websites, and they get great pull-through from it, because it’s just good content.
[17:57] You’re right on the money, so that’s great. I have to ask you, what was funny garbage?
Will: [18:04] [laughs] Funny garbage was a studio. What the studio did was a show, I’m not sure whether you remember it, called, “Crank Yankers.” It was crank calls and they recorded these crank calls done by these comedians. They had these puppets that they would animate over the crank calls. It’s not an episode of my life that I’m proud of.
Joel: [18:44] Then I’m sorry, I’m just looking at your LinkedIn profile. I saw funny garbage. I wasn’t trying to take you down into an area you aren’t proud of. Let’s get back to what you were kind enough to come on the program and talk about. One of the things that we’ve talked about is the quality of the work that Idea Rocket does.
[19:12] What’s interesting to me is and we fight this in our business all the time, is there are people out there who work out of their garage. I’m not saying that’s good or bad but they try and produce this low-quality product and say that it’s the same.
[19:27] How do you fight that because I get text messages saying, “Send this for your $199 explainer video,”? How do you think about that or how do you fight against that?
Will: [19:44] The good thing and the bad thing about this business, the fact that I can own my own business is because it didn’t need a big investment. All I did is get a computer, get some people to collaborate with and boom, you’re in business.
[20:03] There’s no great barriers to entry but that’s also the bad part of it, that anybody with a computer can do it. There’s a lot of different skill levels. I’m not at the top either. It’s a kind of a market that goes from hundreds of dollars to people that are going to make limbs swing around in Pakistan and send it to you and call it an animation.
[20:40] There’s people that are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for big brands and create these beautiful pieces of art with teams that are 5, 10, 15, 20 people. It’s going to cost you six figures, a low to middle six figures. We’re in between there. I would say we’re at the top of the direct to business market, meaning that the elite houses usually work with agencies.
[21:19] They don’t usually market directly to businesses. We’re people that enjoy working with businesses directly because there’s no middleman. It’s not to say that we also don’t enjoy working with agencies but it’s nice to have that direct contact with the business. It’s an in-between place for us. I like where we are.
Joel: [21:53] What I take away from it is like some of the other things, you get what you pay for.
Will: [21:58] Absolutely. In terms of how do I deal with that? When you’re working B2B, I think a proof of trust that is worth a lot is your client roster. By now, we’ve worked with more than 20 Fortune 500 companies. We’ve got a pretty impressive client roster. I think that does a lot of the work for us.
[22:30] Other than that, it’s just putting the foot forward where you have a functional, not fancy, but well-designed website and you conduct yourself with a certain professionalism on the phone and in your advertising. You just tell people who you are in a variety of different ways.
[22:57] I hope you know that when we make videos for you that we’re kind of saying this is the level of professionalism that you can expect from us, from this company. This is something that is well thought out, that is pleasing to the eye, and has quality. You can expect the same quality services from this company.
Joel: [23:29] I would certainly be happy to sing your praises to anyone because we love the work.
Will: [23:34] Thank you.
Joel: [23:35] How did you come up with the name Idea Rocket? Where does that come from?
Will: [23:43] There’s many different varieties of names. You can come up with a descriptive name like General Motors. You can make up a word that is nonsense like Exxon or any of those pharmaceutical names.
[24:06] There’s a kind of name where you get two common words and combine them together. I, literally, made a column of two different words that represented the things that I would value in the company and I mixed and matched until I found one that I said, “Oh, that kinda works.”
Joel: [24:30] Hey, that’s cool. I like that. That’s a good story. What haven’t I asked you about that perhaps you’d like to talk about? What’s interesting that you’re working on that you’d like to share with the audience?
Will: [24:47] One of the things — I’m thinking just what is recent in my mind — that I’m working on now is landing pages. I think I’ve optimized the AdWords that count quite a bit. I’ve done my best on SEO. There’s a lot to do there. I don’t think I had put as much thought into the website as I should have in terms of developing landing pages.
Joel: [25:18] You mean your own, Idea Rocket’s website, are you talking about?
Will: [25:21] Yeah. What I actually did, I started working with a company called Instapage. What you can do with them is it’s kind of like a drag and drop website builder. The advantage of having all these different landing pages, and maybe this is old news for you, but just in case it isn’t for a person of your audience.
[25:53] The advantage of having all these landing pages is that you can optimize them for different purposes so that you have just the right landing page for a particular search term. The headline matches the search term. You can have a landing page that’s optimized for a particular organic search term. There’s these other factors that have to go into account to optimize that.
[26:23] I guess, previously, I created this website that I thought was pretty cool and it did things but none of the pages were optimized for their purpose. I’m getting into that. I’ve got a lot to learn. We all have a lot to learn. It’s just a matter of trying things and getting better at them.
Joel: [26:48] Have you used that Yoast plugin at all?
Will: [26:52] I have, yeah, and that’s pretty useful, I have to say.
Joel: [26:55] I think it is, too. There’s a company called landingpages.net, is based here in Minneapolis. I used that for a while and one of the things that I’m a little wary of on that and I’d be grateful to have you help me think through this is the fact that those landing pages, they don’t live on my site. They live on landingpages.net’s site, so I don’t get that benefit.
[27:26] Whereas I use on my own personal blog joelgaston.com, I use a theme called X Theme and it’s got a lot of drag and drop capability. Like you, I have a lot to learn but I’ve figured out how to hack these little landing pages together and I save myself the money of landingpages.net because I think they were charging me $500 a year or something like that.
[27:55] How are you doing it? Are you OK with them living there and you’re good with the traffic coming back, get the list, and move on? What do you think about that?
Will: [28:02] This is, literally, what I have been thinking about for the last two or three days. I’m trying to figure out, with the help of some other people, Joel, so you’re right where my head is at right now. The nice thing about Instapage and I don’t know about Landing Pages, maybe they have a similar thing. They have different ways to let you publish your landing page.
[28:26] The organic pages, I sent to a subdomain called try.idearocketanimation.com. That actually lives on the Instapage server. Then, they also have this other thing where you install a plugin in WordPress and that lets you push their pages onto your WordPress and it’s living on your server.
[28:57] For the organic pages, I’m pushing them onto my server because my SEO guy tells me the subdomain isn’t going to really get all the juice from your site. That’s the solution I’ve found. Maybe there are others, I’m sure there are others.
Joel: [29:17] Landingpages.net has that, too. They have a WordPress plugin and they were very helpful with me getting that set up. I had learned how to use this software and this X Theme they have. It’s very user-friendly. I just went on their forum and asked the question, “Do I still need to pay this drag and drop landingpages.net fee if I’m just going to do it this way?”
[29:41] The overwhelming response I got from folks who I think know a lot more than I do is you don’t really need to spend that much money unless you just find it’s much easier. I think you’re right.
Will: [29:51] Once you have it on your page, then you’re good to go, right? You could probably cancel your membership.
Joel: [29:59] Yeah, which is what I’ve done.
Will: [30:02] For me, I’m very early in this experiment with Instapage. Maybe six months from now, you’re going to hear a different story from me completely.
Joel: [30:14] It’s just fun, right? [laughs]
Will: [30:14] For me, I’m willing to invest that money just for the flexibility of being able to keep on making changes and keep on optimizing and doing AB tests and all of that without having to go to a designer or without having to go to a developer, which is expensive and frustrating.
Joel: [30:38] It is expensive. I’m very grateful for having you on the show today. I look forward to keeping in touch. I think we’ve got another video coming up here pretty quick we’ll be calling you about, so we’ll, hopefully, be talking again in the not-too-distant future.
Will: [30:56] Sounds good, Joel, and if you’re ever in New York City, look us up and we can have a real face-to-face.
Joel: [31:03] I’d like to do it, Will. Thanks. Have a good night. Thanks again, everybody, for coming back to the Cognified Marketing and Selling podcast. Grateful to have you here. Hope you enjoyed what you heard from Mr. Will Gadea.