Stephan Beringer Of Mirriad: “Don’t compromise on something just because you’ve been asked to”

Don’t compromise on something just because you’ve been asked to. As you try to constantly watch, learn and optimize for your team and yourself, so do others who rely on you expressing your views, giving different perspectives or pushing back. I really believe that we all have a responsibility for each other, may they be […]

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Don’t compromise on something just because you’ve been asked to. As you try to constantly watch, learn and optimize for your team and yourself, so do others who rely on you expressing your views, giving different perspectives or pushing back. I really believe that we all have a responsibility for each other, may they be peers, colleagues, superiors, partners, clients, or investors. Staying true to this responsibility isn’t always easy, but it is the only approach to true value. Even when you lose a customer by having been outspoken about the real issues, such as trying to convince a market dominating mobile phone brand about a new strategy to remain competitive against a smartphone just being released in California, people need to know, even when they don’t like what you have to say.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephan Beringer.

Stephan Beringer is the CEO of Mirriad, an in-content advertising platform powered by AI and built on Academy Award-winning entertainment technology, that enables builders and creators of brands to engage with audiences at new levels of relevance and impact.

Stephan belongs to a small group of executives who’ve successfully worked across multiple disciplines in marketing and communication from creative, account leadership, strategy and business development to technology, data, media and digital. He is regarded as a true digital pioneer and as one of the leading forward-thinkers in the marketing, communication and technology industry worldwide with a proven track record of re-engineering businesses multiple times.

Blending long-term disruptive thinking with the building of implementable strategies, operational excellence and a highly inclusive people/talent approach, Stephan has led organizations to new heights in the immediate-, mid- and long term.

Prior to taking on the reins at Mirriad, Stephan worked for Publicis Groupe as the Global President Data, Technology and Innovation (2016–1018), Global CEO Vivaki (2014–2016), and as the International CEO Razorfish and Digitas (2009–2013). Before this, Stephan was part of Omnicom Group (1994–2009) where he held various positions, among which stands out President EMEA and Chief Strategy Officer WW: Tribal DDB (2003–2009)).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While I was in school, studying law, I earned money on the side to pay for my apartment, my car, books, etc. by doing production jobs in the film and television industry. At some point I got involved in productions of TVCs, which really fascinated me in terms of the strategic and creative “art” involved in marketing and advertising. I was so intrigued and excited by that, that after receiving my master’s degree in law, I decided to go into advertising as a creative producer for a very renowned agency. The next turning point came in the early 90s, where I guess I must have been one of the first to see the rise of the Internet and the impact it would have on literally everything including marketing. So, I started building the digital arm within our agency, by doing interactive CD Roms and first banner ads in 1994/95. From that point on I’ve tried to always stay ahead of what is coming.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I find it really hard to come up with THE most interesting story, having done so many different things in my career that luckily, so far, have all been very exciting and rewarding. With that said, a highlight was certainly working for Sir Sean Connery for a few months, launching an industry-first award for TV and movie script writers and co-building one of the most exciting agency brands (Tribal DDB). Another experience that comes to mind was turning around the programmatic media buying proposition and architecting the new data platform at Publicis.

However, the most interesting story is happening right now, as I’m heading a company that is bringing a true paradigm shift to the world of media and advertising with an AI-powered technology that is so fascinating, that one is tempted to think that adoption will come overnight. The truth is it doesn’t. It takes patience and persistence, the ability to adjust fast, the trust and backing from partners and investors, and a lot of energy in a great team. From the outside, this might not sound overly interesting, but when you’re driving it, every day comes as a new challenge and ends with many steps forward and backwards. There’s something unique about what I’m doing today, and it feels like having this big invention like a light bulb, a combustion engine or a computer in your hand, and the mission is to make the world see it, embrace it, and adopt it.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our technology can weave brands into films, television shows, music videos and even influencer content after production and in a way that it actually augments the drama, storytelling and viewing experience rather than disrupting it. This is the exact opposite of what advertising in its current form does, which is all about grabbing your attention by interrupting you when you’re passionately watching something or about to start viewing a piece of content. At Mirriad, our algorithms work to create a perfect symbiosis between the storytelling, the scenery, the emotions and the brands we insert. Because of this, there’s a guarantee that the experience will be pleasant. It will help everybody as advertising transitions from current practices to what we offer.

How do you think this might change the world?

We cannot change the world, but we can certainly change the game in the content, media and advertising industry. One of the key benefits of our technology will be for content creators. We are bringing a new monetization opportunity to the content creation space that does not compromise their creative product.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Our technology and stack are developed and geared towards marketing in content. We would put ourselves out of business if we did anything people could get concerned about. The superior experience of the viewer is always our North Star.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Interestingly, we have a constant flow of tipping points, versus one that stands for the sudden difference. Think of it this way: every outstanding result our solution delivers for an advertiser, motivates the advertiser to come back, and the next advertiser to test. Every new partner we onboard, motivates another partner to eventually accelerate negotiations with us. Every new tech development we bring to the market underlines our strength as leaders in this new category.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Adoption at scale will be the result of a progression across partnerships with content owners, engagement with advertisers and their agencies, and of course the integration with the ad-tech ecosystem.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

At Mirriad, we’re using a lot of social media tactics and are heavily leaning into public relations and comms. A constant “drumbeat,” fueled by a constant flow of news is key to our success. So, I would say that the innovation is less in the strategies and tactics themselves, but in the development and delivery of news and innovations that we can take to the market.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some of the brightest people in the industry who were my bosses, peers, team members, partners and clients. I could name a long list of people, but the reality is that I’m grateful towards everybody who intentionally or not has helped me understand, learn, correct, and move forward. My philosophy is all about curiosity, open-mindedness, respect, and agility. I firmly believe that my progress has been a result of that. I’ve kept learning every day, from everyone repeatedly.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The world is big, so I’d rather say the world I’ve been able to impact. Here I would say that I’ve been able to lead with ethical values that I try to live as much as I can myself. This, I hope, has had an impact on thousands of colleagues, partners, and clients. As to my strategic and creative capabilities, I’ve certainly been able to contribute to many success stories in marketing that helped companies on their journey. But, there’s also an important goodness factor in what we do as a business today, and where we’re headed even more in the future. By helping content creators with monetizing whatever they produce, our platform is contributing to funding popular culture, may this be in film, music or any other form of content. Advertisers who are investing into this new form of marketing and advertising are the main contributors, but I definitely see ourselves as being key enablers.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Don’t let anyone stop you from following your convictions, visions and beliefs as you build a business and your career. Successful products, services and companies are always created by those who see an opportunity to do something that is new, different and better, and who are prepared to go through tough times to achieve what they’ve set out to do. Beware: many people will say it’s not going to work or that it will be too difficult to pull off, others won’t even understand the idea, ambition and rationale behind it. This is where resilience, persistence and grit make the difference between achievement and non-achievement. This is exactly what I went through when embarking on our digital journey and building a new agency business. I don’t know what people thought when they were hearing our modems all day long or when they saw our enormous excitement about 5000 clicks on our first banners, it probably wasn’t anything overly positive. But we did it, without support, and somewhat against the odds. In hindsight, we could have gone much further than “just” building an agency business. We presented eBay to an online platform two years before eBay actually came to market, and weren’t bold enough to pursue the idea independently after the client had rejected it. We built one of the first web directories (before Yahoo) and did not pursue that, because management told us to focus on services rather than a product, the list is quite long.
  2. There are three ways to look at challenges: Things you directly control, things you can influence, and things that are outside of your control. Once you look at your world this way, you control almost everything including your own and others’ expectations. I find this understanding very helpful whenever I strategize and plan a year, a project, a business. It is helpful when you’re on a roll and when you need to ask yourself some anti-complacency questions, and of course when times are tough, and you need to get yourself out of the place you’re in.
  3. Validating views, convictions, strategies, and plans at all times is key. There are always more views to consider, so don’t go with the first you get — even if first instincts often give the best direction. Forcing yourself to ask for different perspectives is critical and it’s a process that requires humbleness, curiosity, and a lot of discipline. I had a true “aha” moment many years ago, when I was part of a Due Diligence acquisition team and we netted out with a don’t-buy recommendation. While we were right on the operational perspective and the EV, our Chairman and CEO decided to go ahead anyway, seeing integration opportunities across our wider group we just hadn’t been looking at.
  4. Mistakes are good, and if things are getting too easy, you’re probably not making the progress you should. Backslashes and failures are the most natural way to learn, correct, optimize, and move forward faster. This is also why striving for perfection is the biggest enemy of progress, and eventually the one and only mistake one should truly avoid. Changing the programmatic media buying model a few years ago was one of these moments. It felt like having the world against us. People said it couldn’t be done and that it was too difficult, progress was hard to track and measure during the transformation phase, and whilst we had a great plan, we couldn’t know how we’d exactly land the planes.On top of everything we got criticized by the press, as we went through some major pain. Twelve months later, we found ourselves with a streamlined new structure and process, growing satisfaction of our clients, +50% growth, and a new blueprint for the democratization of data and technology.
  5. Don’t compromise on something just because you’ve been asked to. As you try to constantly watch, learn and optimize for your team and yourself, so do others who rely on you expressing your views, giving different perspectives or pushing back. I really believe that we all have a responsibility for each other, may they be peers, colleagues, superiors, partners, clients, or investors. Staying true to this responsibility isn’t always easy, but it is the only approach to true value. Even when you lose a customer by having been outspoken about the real issues, such as trying to convince a market dominating mobile phone brand about a new strategy to remain competitive against a smartphone just being released in California, people need to know, even when they don’t like what you have to say.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m passionate about education, about exchange, respect and openness. In a world that is increasingly polarized and radical, where nobody seems to be listening anymore, I’d wish for news and information hubs that would offer a full spectrum of points of views, for anyone to see and hopefully reflect on.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 
 
Every day is the start into something new”

I really believe that everyone can go for the next chapter every day, both personally and professionally. I also believe that you need the freedom to be able to think and act that way, which is where your health comes in, which can stop you from everything. This is why taking care of yourself on both physical and mental levels is absolutely critical.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The three-digit billion dollar advertising marketing is ready for a big disruption. Why? Because people are annoyed by ads, they skip them, block them or avoid them altogether by going ad-free in streaming services. Something new needs to happen, so that advertisers can reach consumers and engage with them again in a powerful new way. That’s where we come in with our AI-powered platform. We blend advertising, products and brands into the content itself, making it become a seamless part of the movie, series, music video or influencer content itself. Viewers love it, the advertising impact is off the charts, and content owners have a net new revenue stream that is not based on the concept of viewing interruption but on the natural integration with the content. More and more advertisers and content partners are adopting the solution and we’re experiencing real momentum, especially in the US. Now is the best time to invest into what will become the new paradigm in advertising.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://twitter.com/stephanberinger?lang=en

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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