L&T asks an expert how marketers can harness the power of the visual web.

Have you heard? The emerging visual web is poised to revolutionize the way we communicate, share information, and tell stories. Earlier this year, the visual web experts at GumGum launched their computer vision-based programmatic advertising platform, improving the process of image monetization for publishers.

L&T sat down with Ben Plomion, Chief Marketing Officer at GumGum, to learn a bit more about the company’s new product — and how they anticipate visual storytelling will evolve in the coming years.

Like what you read? Join L&T in New York City on November 2nd for a panel discussion about visual storytelling and the future of photos. In anticipation for our event you can also check out Libris’ Q&A with Peter Krogh and Paul Melcher.

L&T: Can you give some context on GumGum, your role, and how it relates to the visual web and visual storytelling?

Ben Plomion: I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for GumGum — a leading computer vision platform for marketers. We’re known for inventing a form of advertising called in-image advertising, which allows us to scan billions of images within a website and determine the right time, right creative and right placement to deliver on top of those images on behalf of our clients. We’ve been so successful that last year we signed a deal with Time Inc. to run in-image advertising across all their 22 properties.

Now we want to expand the scope of the company and provide value to images on social media. So last year we launched a new part of GumGum: “GumGum VI,” which stands for GumGum Visual Intelligence. That allows us to scan millions of images on social media to learn about who’s posting them, and any overarching patterns in what’s being posted — and communicate those data points and insights to marketers.

L&T: What’s your take on the visual web and how it’s changed over the last 5-10 years?

BP: First and foremost, we have to define the visual web. By definition, the web has always been visual. But the visual web is an evolution of the Internet where images and videos have become the primary communication medium, and text has become secondary.

Think about these numbers: As human beings we process images 20,000 times faster than text, and there are more than 3 billion images posted on social media every day. We just ran a research study and found that 42% of the millennials we interviewed logged onto their Instagram account more than five times a day.

The visual web is really a chance for marketers to communicate a value proposition in a very short period of time in a way that is going to stick with the consumer — if you rely on text only, you’re missing this opportunity.

L&T: How has the prevalence of user-generated content (UGC) and changes in visual storytelling affected advertisers and marketers?

I don’t think visual storytelling is necessarily a new thing. Images have always been around in marketing, because as human beings, it’s a lot easier to process an image. What has really changed is the rise of the mobile phone and, as a result, the rise of social media and the ability to take pictures on the fly. That has some profound implications on the way we market branded images.

That being said, I think we’re going in two clear, very different directions — one is very elitist and the other is very populist. On one hand, many brands invest a lot of money in producing incredibly customized images to tell a story. For example, General Electric hired Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet to turn ordinary objects into works of art.

On the other end of the spectrum, consumers are increasingly interested in authentic images. So if you go to CalvinKlein.com or another popular fashion website, you’re going to see a combination of very high-end, bespoke images and some UGC. Across the board, we’re seeing brands using UGC because they’re looking to feature authentic, genuine stories, and establish that direct connection with consumers in the process.

L&T: What are the biggest challenges that marketers and advertisers face on the visual web?

BP: The visual web isn’t for everyone. There are a few brands that simply aren’t a good fit with visual storytelling.

For those clients who are the right fit, the biggest challenge they face is surrounding technology. I think there are two sides to the issue. The first: how to make sure you understand what’s being said about you by users on social media — and not in the traditional sense of what’s written, but what’s being shown. For example, we worked with a company using GumGum’s VI to understand how the brand’s salad dressing was being used by consumers. We found that the dressing, which was designed for salad, was being used for chicken wings.

Understanding how your brand is visually referenced on social media by consumers can give you fascinating marketing insights. To do this, you must use a technology that enables you to find images on social media related to your brand, even when there’s no text or hashtags associated with that image. The majority of listening tools on social media today rely on text or hashtag analysis, but we’ve found that close to 80% of brand-related images published on social media are not accompanied by any hashtags or text. So there’s a wealth of unmined visual data waiting to be explored.

The second: On the B2B side, it’s very difficult to get attention from key buyers, and the old days of putting together a PDF and hiring a technical writer are behind us. No one really wants to see another white paper unless it’s incredibly specialized. How do we turn a boring PDF into an exciting experience? There are multiple vendors in this space that can help you bring that content to life using interactive content marketing programs and other tools.

L&T: What role does image recognition play in visual storytelling and the future of photos?

BP: We ran a study last year where we interviewed more than 200 brands in the U.S. and asked them about the visual web and image recognition. 88% of marketers think that sight is the most common form of communication to the consumer. In the same study, 84% of marketers said a further advancement in image recognition was needed to unlock the full potential of the visual web.

There’s an understanding that visual storytelling is the most meaningful form of marketing, but the majority of images being put on social media do not include any identifier to help marketers find them. That’s where image recognition comes in: to give brands rich insight about the images that relate to their products.

We’re just scratching the surface, but I think image recognition today is where programmatic marketing was five years ago. It’s the key to unlocking the visual web.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer thought leadership services to turn your company executives’ opinions and insights into authoritative content that starts meaningful sales conversations. Learn more about thought leadership here.

Author Shayna Robinson

A graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School, Shayna manages social media for clients across all industries, monitoring the effectiveness of our social campaigns, manages social strategy, and spearheads breaking news coverage and the development of original, trending story ideas. She previously worked in media production and communications at an NYC-based documentary production company. Her interests include cooking, making short films, and traveling.

More posts by Shayna Robinson