Former Tech Wunderkind Is Trying to Revolutionize Viral Video

Letting machines optimize videos

Brent Rambo just left a cushy executive job at Sony Online Entertainment to join, of all things, Orabrush—the startup that makes tongue scrapers for people and dogs—as the company’s first CTO. He got his 15 minutes of fame last year when a 1992 Apple spot, starring the now 37-year-old, went viral. Rambo hopes to inject Orabrush’s YouTube videos with the same tech genius that propelled him into the Apple ad years ago. But digitizing creativity can be tricky.

Why did you leave an electronics giant for a tongue cleaner?

Even though I had a lot of leeway at Sony, I really wanted to go to a startup. Orabrush wanted to ramp up its marketing scale, and I felt like I could get them there.

Orabrush has had great success with video. How do you intend to improve on that?

We are going to advance the work humans are doing with a technology platform, optimizing the videos for paid search, YouTube Adwords, banners, etc. We’ll have sales conversion rates, [view] rates and age group demographics. It lets creative people focus on creative and analytics folks work on analytics. It will eliminate their so-called grunt work.

Will your system affect what consumers end up seeing?

Some videos will not be 100 percent completed by people. They will be dynamically created. For example, based on data, we will put out 20 or 50 versions. There will be versions cut up and carved out by a machine.

It sounds like you’re turning editing over to robots. Is this software new in the video space?

I feel comfortable saying we will be one of the first [to use the technology] on the digital marketing front. But there are the Facebook [Look Back] videos, which recently went into everyone’s timeline. That’s dynamically created content.

What else do you have in store for your new employer?

[Orabrush sister brand for dogs] Orapup ran a campaign where they manually tested 46 price points, 30 packages, 245 landing pages and 55 videos. With the machines, we can narrow [executions] down to the fastest path to success.

Long before becoming a video ads innovator, you were in an Apple TV spot. How did that happen?

They were running a national contest for junior high kids. I won by reverse engineering [software] on Apple’s platform. I kind of manipulated it to do things it wasn’t supposed to do. It got their attention. Apple engineers actually called me and asked me how I did it.

Did you ever think that ad would resurface, much less go viral?

Ha, not at all! The video of that commercial is on Betamax tape—to give you an idea of how old it really is. Somebody evidently dug it up out of Apple’s archive and put it online. Next thing you know I got 500 Facebook invites and my email inbox is blowing up. It was fun. Everything kind of came full circle.

How did you become a software wunderkind in the first place?

When I was 8, I told my mom that I was getting bored after school. Then, she got my first computer. From there, I was consumed. To this day, I am on a computer nonstop at work or home. People always say, “Do what you love.” So yeah, this isn’t a job to me.

Is it OK to call you a classic nerd?

[Laughs] To the extreme.