Moments Matter: Risk, Opportunity & the Speed of Culture – Sightly at the Brand Safety Summit 2022

Adam Katz and Rob Rasko on stage at the Brand Safety Summit in New York November 3, 2022

Adam Katz, Chief Revenue Officer & GM, Sightly joins Rob Lasko, President of the Brand Safety Summit Series on stage at the annual Brand Safety Summit in New York, November 3, 2002 to discuss what we’ve learned over the past year about controversy, values, safety and real-time response.

Rob Rasko:
About a year ago, you might remember if you were here with us, we had a moment up here. We were supposed to have a certain celebrity speaker join us, but that celebrity had a pretty bad day, let’s just say. And so you could find out, we’ll tell you over drinks later, but anyway, but what ended up happening for those of you there is we all got to know Adam Katz a little bit. Adam and I had a moment on stage, which we planned about 30 minutes earlier. We were like, “Okay, we’re going to do this.” And it really went really well. But the other side of it is I got to know him as a human over the last year. And so I want to bring Adam back up here to share a little time and just reflect on the year and to talk a little bit about moments. Adam.

Adam Katz:
We had a crazy moment last year, obviously changed my career. I got to talk about how I see, feel and think about things. And obviously Yale Cohen and Tom Burns (from Publicis Media) were just up here talking about brand integrity. At Sightly, we focus heavily on what our concept of that is, called Brand Mentality, which is focused on letting brands center their perspective in one place and move it at the speed of information. We’re excited where we’re going and obviously you had some questions about that since then, so I’m happy to answer.

Rob Rasko:
Moving at the speed of information is an interesting sound bite, right? But I think that’s what we’re doing here live. We’ve always prided ourselves on, I think I said this earlier, that we’re fluid when we create these events, and there is the right amount of produced content and the right amount of us just getting together, hanging out. So how do you think about those moments like the one from last year? And even what we just talked about with Elon Musk. Part of the challenge is, that guy may be too reliant on the tech and not enough on the EQ.

Adam Katz:
Where I stand is that I think all of us have very different opinions. I think we could all agree upon that. I work with people every day with a different opinion and we talk about them, right? But aside from our opinions, I think we could all center ourselves in similar values and have discussions and be able to figure out where things are.

What we focus heavily on is trying to help brands have those upfront tough conversations. I think a lot of people are shying away from those conversations and that creates zero ability to look at risk and opportunity on the fly.

Look at our situation last year. I took the opportunity when I think most people would’ve considered that a massive risk. When you think about risk and opportunity, it comes down to your values, what outcomes you’re looking to drive. And I think in our industry, we focus too much on the ROI so quickly versus the consistency that we need to put out there.

Rob Rasko:
It was a risk. I mean, in that moment, without going into too much detail, there were questions that I had to ask you that were uncomfortable because of the situation you could have been in. So anyway, kudos. Kudos. I’m trying to pick out, make media decisions, media planning, and take it down to the level of some of the things that we deal with every day. Life happens, I’ve got to plan, I’ve got to decide to run media or not run media.

Adam Katz:
So let’s use Kyrie Irving as an example. For anyone that knows what’s going on with Kyrie Irving, it’s personal to me as a Jew, I don’t like what’s been going on with him. I can put myself in the mentality of a situation. That’s how we believe as a company. And for me to get to a place where I’m going to block a piece of media takes a lot. I’m not a very sensitive person so I can easily get to a place where I can be open minded to a lot of things until it gets to a certain place.

We have a profile where you answer very, very specific questions around what’s going on in the world from your brand’s perspective. And what ends up happening is if we don’t have a question about a topic that’s going on in the world, we pick up on how viral it is and we add that question into our platform.

It gives you the ability to always stay a step ahead with questions, that’s the starting point of how to plan in our platform.

Then once that moment happens, let’s just use Kyrie, he’s having a moment where he’s learning, yesterday he ended up making a donation towards hate speech, which I appreciate the growth. Right now it might be a changing moment where you’re bifurcating yourself in your head that I’m going to lean into that content, but you were not leaning into the content before. You may want to take Kyrie out of your whole mix.

So how we do that, just in a very, very simple example, you fill out the questions in our profile, we’re connected to a lot of different news sources out in the world and we feed that into what’s called our Anticipation Software. You could pick up on the news moment with our AI we’re able to connect back what your actual answer was to that moment and push it back into content. And that’s how we do it.

Rob Rasko:
Got it. So you got a solution. Do you think the market thinks this way?

Adam Katz:
No. I think the whole market thinks about risk all the time because nowadays if you make a mistake, it’s a tough situation for people. And I think that’s kind of sad personally as somebody who grows every single day. If you know me throughout the time in the industry, there’s a lot of people here that know me for a long time. I’ve gotten better, smarter in rooms, less aggressive. You change over time. Listen, I’m real about myself. You’re not going to improve by not learning. And so that’s why I look at it as a mentality. I know we heard integrity, it’s a different word. I look at it as how you are built, how you think about the world, because ultimately we all are going to make decisions based on that. So I always use this good example for people.

Me, I won’t buy Ben and Jerry’s anymore, that’s my thing. Other people may still do that and I’ll look at them and be like, “I still respect you,” because that’s my style in the way I think. Ultimately it comes down to being open-minded now, to create opportunity, we also need to give brands a little slack. We got to a place where any time a brand makes a mistake, it’s like we’re going to go after them in a tough way. I think that’s a really tough thing.

The other part that I find to be very hard is somebody taking that responsibility in an organization, somebody willing to answer the things that they would do and when they would do them. Because the nature of our business has been to find out a moment, send an email to somebody, send an email to somebody else, figure out what they think, and then jump on it. That’s been the way it’s been.

Rob Rasko:
Your comment, your theory—and we’ve got a real life panel here, so let’s test it—is that the market’s risk-based. Reactive, not proactive. How many people agree with that? Agree. Do you agree the marketplace is proactive? Hands? Or do you believe the marketplace is reactive? Hands? Okay, so it sounds like everybody agrees with you.

Adam Katz:
I don’t know that everyone agrees in the whole stance, but I would say they agree with that. But I think ultimately that’s what we need to all work on, right? Yale just said it the same thing. We all need to get together, start listening to each other, work on these things so that we all can help each other. And I think it’s so cool. I was there on Tuesday and I really enjoyed the event and I thought I learned a lot about how brands are thinking about different things in DEI and how they’re trying to drive different things. I’m there to hear and learn, right? So I think we all need to get more open-minded, have conversations with each other, be comfortable that people are from different places, different walks of life. They’re learning in different ways and I think we need to get together and start doing that.

I also think one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give, I was actually talking about this earlier, is put people on brands that have similar values to the person running it. I think one of the biggest mistakes I see at the agency is they have a person on a brand that doesn’t agree with that brand’s values and it puts them in a conflicted place from their own bias whether they want to admit that or not.

So I think it’s pretty important to have people working on brands that agree with the values and I think it’s also important for brands to get to a place where they help the agencies, where they know their values so that people can actually take advantage of opportunity. If they don’t know an agency, how can they do anything with it? So I think our challenge to the industry is getting people to talk about this stuff up front, get them to have a standard that they’re comfortable with and how you measure us, how you do all that will leave to all you guys. That’s kind of my take. And I think if you’re measuring it and you’re buying it, that’s all that shouldn’t happen. So that’s kind of my instinct.

Rob Rasko:
Interesting. Like the mentality of folks who work on the brands with the brands or not is an interesting stance and live in the moment. That’s to sum it up. So sum it up, closing thought because we got to go.

Adam Katz:
Thanks for having me.

Rob Rasko:
Thanks for coming.

Adam Katz:
I’ll see you here next year, same time.

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