Kevin Ryan Musings on The Wild, Wooly Web
Susan Bratton

Episode 161 - Kevin Ryan Musings on The Wild, Wooly Web

Kevin Ryan is one of the most wry of our industry's kingpins. Well connected, well intentioned and a well spring of knowledge, I sit down with Kevin at the adtech San Francisco event to see what he's been up to.

Always entertaining, this is a fun conversation as part of the "Muckety Muck Insights" series.



Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix.

I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and I’m here at AdTech San Francisco live in the speakers lounge and I have a good one for you. This is part of the Muckity Muck Insight Series.

I’ve put together some of the people that I think are the best and brightest of AdTech – speakers, advisors, attendees, you name it – and you’re going to get to meet in this moment Kevin Ryan.

Kevin’s a good friend of mine, personal friend of mine, and an industry veteran in primarily the search industry, but he kind of thinks he knows everything about everything and I’d have to agree. He’s the CEO of a company called Motivity, great name for a company, and we’re going to find out more about Kevin, so lets get him on the show. Welcome.

Kevin Ryan: Thank you, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be known as one of the Mucks.

Susan Bratton: You are a Muck. You’re a… I can’t even go there. Oh no, we’re already off to a bad start, you and I. That’s what happens when we get together.

Kevin Ryan: We have to keep it PG I think. Well maybe PG13.

Susan Bratton: PG13’s totally fine. Absolutely. So I guess the first thing we should start with is Motivity is a fairly new thing for you, last couple of years. So catch us up on what you’re doing, all of the different things that you’re working on.

Kevin Ryan: Well I actually founded the company as a consultancy so that I could help out my advisor clients while I was doing, you know, a lot of other work and representing other companies. So it’s, I mean it’s pretty entertaining. I went to full time again I think this January. And I’m just having a lot of fun. I’m working with a lot of different clients. It’s nice to be in a place in your career where you can sort of pick and choose the work you want to do.

Susan Bratton: And your focus is primarily search engine marketing with a focus more on SEO or PPC or both? How is that playing out for you now?

Kevin Ryan: Well it’s actually right now, it’s a variety of digital work. I have a couple of clients that are tech sector industry that are developing an entire digital strategy, so I’m working with them on that. And then I have a couple of clients that do specifically search, all disciplines of search. And I advise mainly on high level strategy.

Susan Bratton: So if I could deliver to you a perfect, a customer who had the ability to use you at your highest level, what would that engagement look like? What would you – I want to hire you to do the thing you do absolutely the best for me; what are you going to do for me?

Kevin Ryan: Sure. So there’s one very large financial services client that I’m working with now that I’m actually doing an entire digital audit for them to make sure that they’re engaged with the right vendors, they’re engaged with the right agencies, that interdivisionally they’re working well and working efficiently together and making sure that they had a lot of high level acquisitions, so it’s very important for everyone to get on the same page. So and a very high level engagement like that is very challenging, but it also is absolutely very rewarding. It’s what I love to do. In the entire process though, it’s pretty time consuming. Brings me to the world that I want to be in, so it’s very entertaining for me and a lot of fun.

Susan Bratton: What’s the world you want to be in?

Kevin Ryan: Avatar…

Susan Bratton: Me too man. I want to fly those birds.

Kevin Ryan: Not to get off topic, but I mean the people that just needed therapy after that movie worry me. But where I want to be…

Susan Bratton: What do you mean? Who needed therapy after the movie?

Kevin Ryan: Well I was reading a lot about people who saw the film…

Susan Bratton: Yeah?

Kevin Ryan: and just couldn’t deal with life after that, and they wanted to be in the Avatar world so much that they actually needed therapy to deal with real life as it is now. You know, and it’s happened before in history right; people that watch Star Trek think that that’s the way the world should be operating, so…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm, they like the utopian fantasies.

Kevin Ryan: Yeah, yeah.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: And we’re not there yet, you know. Will we ever get there?

Susan Bratton: It was a good movie though. Did you see it in Imax 3D?

Kevin Ryan: I saw it in 3D, it was very entertaining. It was very, I was entertained.

Susan Bratton: Me too.

Kevin Ryan: I wasn’t in love with the script, but you know…

Susan Bratton: Yeah, the script was a hunk of junk. But the visuals were killer, don’t you think?

Kevin Ryan: Yeah. Oh absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Kevin Ryan: Absolutely, great visuals. But I mean where I want to be professionally is working with these higher level clients that need the type of expertise that I can offer them. And I’m in a very unique spot because I did the software thing. I even did the tradeshow thing for a couple of years…

Susan Bratton: Right.

Kevin Ryan: And that was fun traveling around the world and meeting people and seeing, you know, how things operate. And I’ve also been on the agency side, so I’ve got a lot of different perspectives and it affords me the experience to do the things that these clients are looking for. Unfortunately, you know, I can’t come out and case study a lot of them because they hire me specifically confidentially usually.

Susan Bratton: Exactly. And what you’re really doing is you’re streamlining any agencies that they work with, any programs that they have to look for efficiencies, to find the best talent, etcetera right?

Kevin Ryan: To put it plainly, yes absolutely.

Susan Bratton: So you’re a hatchet man. That’s what you are.

Kevin Ryan: Slightly…

Susan Bratton: I can just tell it. I can see a smoking gun right over there on your holster. You’re kind of come in and some people are going to lose their jobs.

Kevin Ryan: You know, from time to time, you know, I…

Susan Bratton: Totally giving you crap.

Kevin Ryan: I really try to.

Susan Bratton: He loves it.

Kevin Ryan: Like I’m struggling for the… Yes. Yes.

Susan Bratton: “Yes, I’m a hatchet man.”

Kevin Ryan: Large caliber weapons. Yes.

Susan Bratton: So you’re speaking at AdTech, that’s why you’re here. Well no, no, you just came to do DishyMix and then you decide “Well while I’m here I’ll do some speaking.”

Kevin Ryan: I’m like there might be an opportunity to hang out with you…

Susan Bratton: Yes.

Kevin Ryan: so I came to San Francisco. While I was here…

Susan Bratton: Good decision.

Kevin Ryan: the folks asked me to do, there’s a new format with AdTech this year which is really kind of interesting…

Susan Bratton: Nice. Tons of new things man.

Kevin Ryan: So yeah, I’m doing the, leading the search marketing Master’s session, which is….

Susan Bratton: Bastards or Masters? I…

Kevin Ryan: Masters, sorry. It’s the… No, bastards is on Thursday. It’s going to be a very intense scenario.

Susan Bratton: ‘Cause I think you’ve been called a search marketing bastard.

Kevin Ryan: From time to time, you know. I mean I’ve, well you know…

Susan Bratton: As a matter of fact, I think the first time I met you that’s what I thought. I thought, “That guy’s a search marketing bastard.”

Kevin Ryan: “That guy’s a little full of himself, isn’t he?” Boy…

Susan Bratton: I met you out front of the Sheridan Palace and I thought, “Who is dude and what is he thinking?” And then I fell in love with you.

Kevin Ryan: Oh well thank you. Yeah, well I have that polarizing effect on occasion.

Susan Bratton: Me too man.

Kevin Ryan: You know, they either love me or hate me…

Susan Bratton: I hear it.

Kevin Ryan: You know, take me as you are, you know, that kind of thing.

Susan Bratton: What are you talking about at AdTech?

Kevin Ryan: So I’m doing a state of the industry overview…

Susan Bratton: Oh yeah, that’s good.

Kevin Ryan: and then I’m doing my, you know, my personal favorite, which is Best Practices, Worse Mistakes, and that’s, you know, a lot of easy targets there.

Susan Bratton: What are two of the worst mistakes people make that you see so frequently? Like what are our biggest bonehead moves we’re doing these days?

Kevin Ryan: Yeah, I mean right now it’s the disconnect between brand and search, and I know that’s been there for years and I know it’s a cliché, but it’s still happening so much. So I’ve got some really, you know, some examples of Walmart, some examples with Toyota, although Toyota’s kind of an easy target right now. And just some examples of new technologies that have gone awry…

Susan Bratton: Interesting.

Kevin Ryan: In Text advertising is amazing.

Susan Bratton: What do you mean In Text advertising?

Kevin Ryan: So basically as you’re reading editorial or as you’re visiting one of the portal sites…

Susan Bratton: Uh huh.

Kevin Ryan: like Microsoft or Yahoo, you’re scrolling over words and something pops up…

Susan Bratton: These are like a Zoogily things or whatever, right?

Kevin Ryan: Yeah, basically either an ad appears or a call to another activity appears. So you’re sending people into a search activity when they’re in editorial or you’re showing them an ad, reminiscent of the early days of contextual advertising when you really, you’re not sure where it should be. You know, a good example of that is I pulled some editorial from remember Boner from The Bone? I think he was The Bone. But he was in an 80’s sitcom, I can’t remember which one…

Susan Bratton: I wish you could all see my face now, I’m like “Now we’re talking about The Boner.” Okay. No, I don’t know about this, The Bone.

Kevin Ryan: It was one of those… Growing Pains, he was in Growing Pains in the 80’s…

Susan Bratton: Yeah, I never watched that. That looks so stupid to me, I couldn’t believe it.

Kevin Ryan: Oh it was, he just passed away recently…

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Kevin Ryan: and within the write up of his death the word body appears…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: And when you scroll over an ad pops up for some body wash, some…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: some, you know high end soap, and I’m like “Body…”

Susan Bratton: That’s a cadaver.

Kevin Ryan: Right, we’re talking about corpse here folks…

Susan Bratton: Yeah. Exactly.

Kevin Ryan: Maybe that’s not the best place for your brand to be.

Susan Bratton: But it’s rose scented. No, I’m kidding.

Kevin Ryan: It will take care of some of the problems with a decaying corpse, but it’s just not, you know, well come on, we’re all going to be decaying corpses so day, you know.

Susan Bratton: Oh, and as a matter of fact have you ever read that book Stiff by Mary Roach?

Kevin Ryan: I have not read Stiff.

Susan Bratton: It’s awesome. It’s what happens…

Kevin Ryan: But it’s a good follow up to the Boner conversation though.

Susan Bratton: Totally.

Kevin Ryan: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: It’s what happens when you die, what happens to your body. You’re so bad. Okay, yeah. I just have to…

Kevin Ryan: There we were… What were we talking about…

Susan Bratton: We’re going to go onto another, you have a favor for DishyMix listeners. You’re doing something. What do you have for me?

Kevin Ryan: You know, there’s an area of the industry that I’m really excited about and I’m starting to, I have a couple of clients in it. Well let me back up just for a second. I recently, you know, I’ve done a lot of writing, done iMedia, Media Post, Search Engine Watch…

Susan Bratton: Where are you writing the most now?

Kevin Ryan: Most I’m doing iMedia and I just started writing a couple of months ago for AdAge…

Susan Bratton: Okay. Oh hey, that’s great. Good for you.

Kevin Ryan: Thank you. I’m actually really excited about it. The first few pieces that I’ve submitted we’re really well received or at least well received by the publisher.

Susan Bratton: I got to get you on my RSS reader man.

Kevin Ryan: It’s some interesting stuff I’m throwing out there. So, you know, I started writing for these folks but I’m, my next column that appearing this week, so now I appear twice a month in AdAge. And I, you know, there’s a segment of the industry that is not the wealthy ruling class, you know, the ridiculous spenders, the people who get access to everything. And then there’s a class way at the bottom, which is the small business category, which is not ready to happen yet. But I think there’s this middle ground, this what I call “No man’s land” where you’re not spending enough money to get a personal email back from Google, and that’s really the category right; you either get an automated response or somebody actually sends you a response.

Susan Bratton: What’s the price that you have to spend to get a real person these days at Google?

Kevin Ryan: God, I’m going to say either you’re a top tier brand or you’re well in excess of 7 figures a year, well in excess of 7 figures. There’s this whole category of the “No man’s land”, folks who really need access to tools but can’t afford them, they can’t afford 6 FTE’s – they’ve got the money but can’t afford 6 FTE’s to fill those roles, to really use them. So there’s this whole new generation of tools coming out that are really, really fantastic that makes it easy to build landing pages, it makes it easy to track activity, that makes it easy to bring it all together and they’re independent shops that, or independent companies that really allow you to get access to something other than having to buy things from the, you know, or having to manage your campaigns that you buy your media from, which I think is just totally insane.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: So that’s the category, like “No man’s land” is going away, it’s becoming like the magic land.

Susan Bratton: And you said that you had some special thing for my listeners around that. What was that?

Kevin Ryan: Ooh, some gems. Gosh…

Susan Bratton: Like what are some of the tools you recommend?

Kevin Ryan: Well there’s a couple of them out there. I mean I really like and I’ve been working with (unintelligible) Software. As an independent company I just like the culture of the company and like what the tool does.

Susan Bratton: What’s it do?

Kevin Ryan: It manages essentially paid search initiatives…

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Kevin Ryan: and on a very high level. So it’s specifically engineered for very large campaigns.

Susan Bratton: Okay. What’s large campaign? How do you quantify that?

Kevin Ryan: I would say anything above $50,000 to $100,000 dollars a month. So, you know, you’re really at the smaller end at $50,000 a month. But then again, that company’s in a constant stage of evolution as well. Just started talking to Yield Software, which is, I’ve played around with it a bit, I haven’t really tested it with any clients yet, but it really, that brings it at a very low price point landing page data along with search data along with advertising data and allows you to manage it in one place. And the easier that gets for that “No man’s land” category ultimately everyone would benefit ‘cause there’s a lot more money will pour into the category and pour into the market. So I think it’s pretty exciting. You know, I just started working with some of the listing companies. I don’t have one specifically.

Susan Bratton: What do you mean by a listing company?

Kevin Ryan: The listing, they’re listening. I’m mumbling, I’m terribly sorry.

Susan Bratton: Oh, listening companies.

Kevin Ryan: Yeah…

Susan Bratton: So social listening platforms like Radian Six or Buzz or…

Kevin Ryan: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Uh huh.

Kevin Ryan: You know, and a few companies building a professional services model around the scalable asset…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: which is really, you know, seems to be more successful because the clients don’t, there’s just so much data the clients don’t know what to do with it.

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Kevin Ryan: So they really need somebody to explain to them what they need to do with it.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: I mean to the extent that they’re multiple departments could actually use this data and some of the listening data goes to human resources. Some of the listening data goes to the financial groups in the company.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: So it really takes some people figuring out where that information should go. I mean lets face it the CMO’s and the marketing staff, they don’t have the resource. You know, they’re not going to get the full time equivalents. So it’s really important to make sure that you have access to not only the intelligence but the resources to allocate the information internally. I mean the next generation of company is not only just engaged with social audience, but they’re also keeping track of what’s happening there using the information appropriately and internally, and then expanding upon it.

Susan Bratton: It’s a whole new world of employees and talent we need, that’s for sure.

Kevin Ryan: It certainly is.

Susan Bratton: So speaking of talent, you know, you get around and you…

Kevin Ryan: Well yeah, sure.

Susan Bratton: you’ve done the SES shows, you’ve been a big part of AdTech, you’ve a big part of the iMedia shows, you know a lot of people, you’re a networker, you’re very well liked; is there anybody in our industry that you don’t know that you admire and would like to meet? Anybody that comes to mind that you’ve kind of had your eye on?

Kevin Ryan: Yeah, you know, I’d really like to spend some quality time with Steve Ballmer. And I haven’t, I met him in passing…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: But I’d really like to spend some time with him and find out what’s really happening in his head. I mean it’s probably one of those things that would really happen…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Kevin Ryan: But it just following the progression over the years of his interactions and the press associated with this big blowout with Google, all of the fun things that are happening in that world. And I’d really just like to spend some time with him, find out what’s going on in his head.

Susan Bratton: That’s’ a great one. I’d love for you to interview him sometime.

Kevin Ryan: I’ll keep trying.

Susan Bratton: I’ll tell you what, if you set that up that’s your DishyMix episode…

Kevin Ryan: That would be my episode?

Susan Bratton: To interview Steve. How bout that?

Kevin Ryan: There are Microsoft PR people having chronic, having anxiety and heart attacks right now all over the world…

Susan Bratton: Just thinking about that. Last question for you Kevin; what’s one thing that you’re doing right now to improve yourself either personally or professionally, something that you’re taking yourself to the next level with?

Kevin Ryan: God there’s so much. You know, I’m approaching 40, you know, and you’ve made a lot of decisions – you know, I got married this year and moved back to…

Susan Bratton: Congratulations.

Kevin Ryan: Thank you. I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s just bliss. You know, seriously I married the greatest girl in the world. But you know, so there’s a lot of stuff that comes along with that. So you know, I don’t ride my motorcycle as much anymore because I, you know, I’m worried about all the crazy people out there, and gee wiz, you know, I’d hate to leave…

Susan Bratton: You found something more important that riding a motorcycle.

Kevin Ryan: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Keeping your body safe and sound for your girl.

Kevin Ryan: Absolutely. You know, I got to be around. You know, so I’m doing a lot of self improvement stuff, doing a lot of volunteer work, much more so than I had ever done before, like German Sheppard Rescue, I spend a lot of time with them…

Susan Bratton: Nice. I love German Sheppards. They’re such beautiful creatures aren’t they?

Kevin Ryan: Beautiful creatures…

Susan Bratton: They’re so smart. Such good dogs.

Kevin Ryan: Very, very intelligent, amazing. So and I’ve, you know, I’ve looked at, you know, how I’m eating and, you know, spending a lot more time working out. You know, I’m up to like this ridiculous regimen of like four days a week and…

Susan Bratton: Good for you.

Kevin Ryan: Absolutely. You know the last year kind of was very difficult, I was working 18 hour days and working for this tech company and kind of let myself go a little bit. Yeah, that was a little unfortunate…

Susan Bratton: You can bring yourself back.

Kevin Ryan: But I’m very much so bringing myself back and I’m actually looking forward to digging into some of your content because…

Susan Bratton: Oh all the new e-books and all the products we’re creating.

Kevin Ryan: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: Dude, I got great stuff for you.

Kevin Ryan: I need to advertise myself so that I can go to a restaurant, sit down and think “God, that salmon, that’s where I want to be.”

Susan Bratton: Oh, I can definitely do that…

Kevin Ryan: pulled pork sandwich…

Susan Bratton: Yeah. The Naturally Slender Quick Start is the hypnosis audio files you can put right on your iPhone and listen to them everyday to keep yourself motivated. That’s a really good one. And then there’s another one…

Kevin Ryan: Is it just iPhone? I mean there are people out there who do not have iPhones…

Susan Bratton: Oh yeah, they’re MP3 files. You can listen to them on your computer, you can rip them to a CD, you’re being a smarty. And then the other one that you might like is called The Overeating Cure, and that one is actually, it’s Geralyn Gendreau and she teaches you how to put yourself on a short-term program that actually resets your base brain perameters. The idea is that your rational mind can tell you as many times as it wants not to eat that pulled pork sandwich, but if your base brain wants it, your reptilian brain, it’s going to get, it’s going to eat it. And so it’s about literally changing your behavior. She uses a lot of the cutting edge neural science practices to actually reform the way your base brain approaches food by teaching your system that there are things that are even more important than the pulled pork and how you do this thing she calls ‘front sliding’ instead of back sliding so that you actually change your behavior.

Kevin Ryan: I’m in.

Susan Bratton: Totally.

Kevin Ryan: I mean I got to check it out. I mean there’s a lot of that stuff because as – you wouldn’t know this – but as you get older – because you don’t age – as you get older you start thinking about (unintelligible) things. You get younger every time I see you.

Susan Bratton: Thank you.

Kevin Ryan: It’s incredible.

Susan Bratton: You know I have to brag about something I feel so happy about. This is a total chick thing, but maybe you’ll understand it.

Kevin Ryan: I enjoy women.

Susan Bratton: I was just digging out some – I know you do – I was just digging out some clothes to wear here to AdTech, ‘cause you know I basically run around in my bare feet and jeans all the time when I work. Not really even shoes, no. And I found my wedding dress in one of the many closets that I have my many clothes in, and I thought “Well I’m just going to put this on.” I’ve been married to Tim  now in June 17 years. I put it on, that baby fit. Dude, 17 years later I can get into my wedding dress. I’m super psyched about that.

Kevin Ryan: That is pretty incredible.

Susan Bratton: I feel so good about that.

Kevin Ryan: Very few people can actually say that.

Susan Bratton: Well and I can tell you that Geralyn Gendreau is the reason I lost 30 pounds, and she’s the one that I created The Overeating Cure for ‘cause I follow her system and I lost 30 pounds.

Kevin Ryan: All right, I’m in. Sign me up.

Susan Bratton: There you go, ‘cause I had to fit into my Burning Man clothes, my super cute, you know, Burning Man outfits and I’m like, “Oh man, you have to help me.” It’s awesome.

Kevin Ryan: It’s got to be it, here’s the timeline…

Susan Bratton: Exactly, my countdown to Burning Man…

Kevin Ryan: This timeline is that needs to happen…

Susan Bratton: Exactly. She made it happen. So anyway, they’re yours. Kevin Ryan, thank you so much. Motivity and your easy to find, follow you at iMedia, follow you on AdAge now, that’s awesome. You have a – you’re not a Twitterer.

Kevin Ryan: I tweet like MoFo.

Susan Bratton: Oh you are a Twitterer.

Kevin Ryan: Oh absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Awesome! Okay.

Kevin Ryan: I think I’ve gone overboard.

Susan Bratton: Kevin M. Ryan.

Kevin Ryan: @kevinmryan.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, @kevinmryan. All right, that’s what we’ll be doing. I’ll make sure – I don’t know if I’m following you. If you tweet like a MoFo I’m not following you.

Kevin Ryan: Yeah, that actually kind of hurts a little.

Susan Bratton: I feel bad about it, I didn’t mean to hurt you baby. I love you, you know I do. All right, you got to meet Kevin Ryan. I hope you had a good time. I did. And if you did, that makes me happy. Thank you so much. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. Have a great day. We’ll be back for more DishyMix Muckity Muck insights episodes. Stay tuned.Susan Bratton