At the intersection of technology and marketing stands System1.
Relying heavily on cross-collaboration between its marketing and technology teams, the Venice-based adtech and big data company is constantly testing and implementing methods that are perfecting what advertising looks and feels like today.
“We are big believers in using technology to make our marketing team more effective,” says System1’s James Merrill.
We talked with James and two other System1 team members on the entrepreneurial spirit that guides their team and how the company is thinking smart about advertising.
WHAT THEY DO: System1 analyzes consumer attributes using pre-targeting algorithms and statistical and machine learning models to make advertising better for consumers and advertisers.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Venice
KARAOKE CULTURE: System1 parties are quite renowned for their impressive karaoke competitions — and many (including those below) have go-to songs.
OFFICE VIBE: In addition to being a block and a half from the Venice Beach Boardwalk, team members also benefit from System1’s daily catered lunches, twice-a-week catered dinners, Uber/Lyft to work, weekly workouts, happy hours, unlimited sick time policy, and more.
Clare Healy, Manager, Brand Optimization
Clare’s day to day is never the same, but the one thing that remains consistent is her role as a bridge between System1’s media buyers, front-end developers and editorial team.
BEYOND WORK: If it’s outdoors, you’ll find Clare there. Whether it’s long-distance trail running, climbing or backpacking, these activities keep her motivated and feeling re-energized when she gets back to the office on Monday morning.
GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: “I Miss You” by Blink-182. “Who doesn’t love screaming horrendously along to that early 2000s classic?” Clare added.
Tell us about your background — what attracted you to System1?
While I was extremely passionate about my previous content creation roles, I found myself seeking more direct linkage between the art and the science of advertising. As a creative, we rarely saw the performance of the campaigns we had created, but at System1, I was given the tools needed to innovate, build, optimize and see results fairly immediately.
Each and every individual is both expected and encouraged to constantly be ideating, testing and sharing. The opportunities for evolving performance and enhancing our user experience are essentially endless and, no matter a team member’s role, they can ignite change that provides tangible results within hours or days.
As your team develops creative campaigns for customers, what role does data play? How does data inform the creative side?
Simply put, data drives everything we do. Whether our media buyers are deciding what topics to drive traffic to, our front-end developers are deciding how to redesign a website, or our editorial team is strategizing content approaches, A/B experimentation and consumer insights are the inspiration.
Last month, we ran A/B experiments that determined which call-to-action button styles, display ad sizing, and intro paragraph length drive the highest conversions. And, before any website redesigns are rolled out, experimentation is leveraged to ensure performance will only be positively impacted.
[...] no matter a team member’s role, they can ignite change that provides tangible results within hours or days.”
How does System1 support employees in their own growth? What role does that value of entrepreneurialism play in employee development?
System1 offers, far-and-wide, some of the most generous and developmental tools an employee could hope for. Team members are encouraged to connect with coworkers and learn from them any day of the week.
Additionally, everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the company education benefit, which helps fund just about any form of professional development, from public speaking workshops to SQL courses — and these courses do not have to be in the exact realm of your role. We seek employees who want to understand the full funnel of our business. In fact, I am getting ready to take a coding class through this program. As a previous copywriter feeling stuck in my role, that is something I never dreamed of or was offered.
Quincey Klein, Online Marketing Analyst
Kept on her toes by the constantly-shifting need for creative solutions, Quincey is responsible for creating and managing digital marketing campaigns.
BEYOND WORK: In her free time, Quincey likes cooking and trying new recipes, which reinforces her creativity and need to be organized.
GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes.
What tools does the marketing team currently use? How do these tools enable your team to work efficiently and successfully?
Currently, the team uses some of our own internally developed tools, as well as some industry-standard tools like Tableau, Excel and Google Sheets, and Periscope. When I started my job search, I had just completed online courses on data analytics that emphasized these very same tools. My advice from a past coworker was that I could take these classes, but the skills could not really stick or be mastered until I could use them in a professional setting.
In my role, I use these powerful tools every day to make data-driven decisions. Through manipulating SQL queries or using drag-and-drop features in Tableau, I customize different views to fit my own personal needs.
It feels like the work you put in has a real impact on the overall health of the System1, and I think that realization is evidenced by everyone's commitment to their work.”
There seems to be quite a lot of collaboration between teams at System1. How does this play out for you and your team?
Recently, I worked with the data science team to enhance a new optimization tool to adjust bids programmatically on digital campaigns, all in order to improve profitability. From the data trends I observed, I was able to make suggestions to an existing model, which the data science team wasted no time in updating the model. It was exciting to see our efforts drive increased revenue.
As a junior employee, I did not expect to develop impactful tools that can be used by the whole team. However, I quickly realized that System1 encourages even junior analysts to come up with our own ideas to make meaningful business improvements.
What inspires you about working at System1?
I am inspired by everyone’s excitement in growing the company. It feels like the work you put in has a real impact on the overall health of System1, and I think that realization is evidenced by everyone's commitment to their work. There’s a real sense of ownership that makes me excited to do my best every day.
James Merrill, Director of Online Marketing, R&D
James and a team of two others head System1’s internal publishing division, and his responsibilities include driving forward new and unproven initiatives with high potential.
BEYOND WORK: A veteran surfer, James loves the balance of surfing provides: “It can be a very collaborative and social activity, while at the same time, be highly individualistic.”
GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: “I, unfortunately, do not have one,” James says. He's open to suggestions.
How would you describe your leadership or management style?
For me, I’ve never been a manager who would think twice about doing the actual work to help out the team. Having that hands-on experience allows me to better understand the team’s various challenges and set the tone of a high-performing marketing team. Last year, our team had been tasked to make display advertising a profitable source of traffic for our customers. I took the initiative upon myself to work closely with our analysts to figure it out. With all the placements, audience targeting and ad formats available to test, it could have taken us months to break through, but we were able to turn the corner within two months. Now, we have expanded to a fully dedicated display team of five driving huge revenue for System1.
System1 values its entrepreneurial environment. How does that value shape the employee experience?
When System1 onboards new media buyers, we provide training for them that covers best practices, various marketing strategies, as well as guidance and support. Once someone has the fundamentals down, we encourage everyone at all levels to constantly be trying new things and iterating on previous successes.
We hold weekly meetings for our marketing acquisition teams to go over what strategies worked, and many of our biggest successes today have come from someone just willing to think through the issues critically and trying something new and different.
Once someone has the fundamentals down, we encourage everyone at all levels to constantly be trying new things and iterating on previous success.”
Looking at the data and trends, where do you see the biggest opportunity for growth at System1?
We are big believers in using technology to make our marketing team more effective. This can include managing the day-to-day optimizations, reporting, alerting and the setup of a campaign. As soon as a process is relatively defined and established, we look to work with our engineering teams to start automating it. This, in turn, has allowed our marketers to focus more on identifying new opportunities and testing various marketing messages and value proposition. It’s part of the reason why our team members have been able to manage multi-million dollar media buys while hitting their ROI goals.
The next milestone we’re looking for is applying more predictive machine learning optimizations to take our campaigns to the next level. We’re excited to have some of our top marketers collaborate with our data science teams to break down our marketing approach further and create the next algorithm for testing.