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Opinion and Insight

Why It's All About Silicon Beach Right Now

LBB Editorial , 2 years, 3 months ago

Industry locals pitch in with opinions on LA’s flourishing startup culture and what it means for the ad industry

Why It's All About Silicon Beach Right Now

Los Angeles is one of the most interesting and exciting media centres in the world right now. In addition to the glitz and glam of the movie biz, the city now boasts a creative ad industry that, while being smaller than its New York sibling, has some of the industry’s most innovative companies. And speaking of innovative, ‘Silicon Beach’ – dubbed after its counterpart Silicon Valley in San Francisco – is arguably the fastest growing tech hub in the States right now. So what does the coming together of these three media industries mean for the city and its ad industry? How do the three overlap and compliment each other? And why is LA the perfect setting for so many startups to flourish? LBB’s Addison Capper finds out...


Ted Markovic, Executive Producer, Video and Motion Design, Deutsch LA

A lot of tech talent from the Bay Area see Los Angeles as a more affordable place to start something in California, which is a very desirable place to live. LA is traditionally the hub of content creation. 

If content is king and this is a chess game, platform is queen. You can make all kinds of moves if you have the platform. Tech is the base for the new distribution model of content and it’s making “desktop distribution” possible, much like desktop publishing in the 1990s. YouTube, SnapChat, Vine and Influencers have more views and larger fan bases than top grossing film stars. Influencers are the new stars and platforms like Netflix and SnapChat are the new studios/distributors. Los Angeles is the place where entertainment, tech and ad industries converge. 


Heather Wischmann, Director of Interactive Production, at 72andSunny

The entertainment industry provides a rich environment for new products/services that support the content creator community in LA.  Companies like Famebit who is connecting YouTube celebrities and brands are taking advantage of that.  Also, LA's proximity to Silicon Valley makes it easy for startups in LA to stay connected to like-minded entrepreneurs and investors in the Bay Area who are likely to support and fund innovations in tech.  

This influx is great for the LA ad industry, as a few years ago it was a challenge to convince great talent to consider career opportunities in LA.  It's a very different story today. 72andSunny's talent team has found that both individuals and great tech companies from around the world are flocking to LA, creating a vibrant talent pool to draw from.


Stephen Larkin, Chief Marketing Officer, 180 LA

For years, the San Francisco Bay Area built a reputation for being the hub for technology and innovation. Some of the best and most influential tech brands were born there. Apple, Cisco, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and most recently Uber. However, there is a new innovation epicenter in California, Silicon Beach. The area is home to nearly 1,000 startups and has inspired the birth of Snapchat, TrueCar, Washio, and Dollar Shave Club. And, just a few miles south on the 405 in Irvine, the virtual reality head-mounted display, Oculus Rift was hatched, and then nabbed by Facebook for $2 billion. Because of this gravitational pull, we're even seeing brands from Silicon Valley such as Google, Yahoo, YouTube, BuzzFeed, AOL and MySpace open doors in the area.

So what gives?

One, Los Angeles has become a destination for great talent. The vibe is electric and you can feel the creativity. Second, you can't beat the weather. On average, there are 284 sunny days and the average high in July is 77 degrees (with little or no humidity). Third, trends start here. Before a style or behavior moves east, it was probably inspired somewhere between Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier.

The result, today Los Angeles is considered one of the hottest ad markets in the country. And much of this has been inspired by Silicon Beach. Ten years ago, there were maybe two or three great advertising agencies in the market. Today, you have some the most coveted agencies in the country, and we're seeing agencies from the East Coast and internationally looking to open doors here.

As the Los Angeles market transforms into an advertising powerhouse for the digital age, the market will continue to be a magnet for great brands and talent. 


Doug Palmer, Director of Technology and Innovation, INNOCEAN USA

LA is beyond perfect for tech startups for a ton of reasons. Firstly, there is a huge talent pool here in Los Angeles. You’ve got a ton of people who are passionate about coding, creating, making, publishing, shooting, directing, inventing and innovating. There are a huge amount of makerspaces popping up, open collaboration labs and community making groups are everywhere, and colleges and universities here like Caltech, USC and UCLA are constantly adding all new curricula in making, electronics, and creative technology. Add to that a massive creative culture born out of the tremendous LA arts scene – with the Brewery and Art Walk village downtown, the NOHO arts district, and the huge amount of money pouring into the city for creative endeavors in art, performance, and music – and you’ve got a hotbed of creative talent here to complement the tech side. 

On top of all that, our mayor, Eric Garcetti, is beyond committed to making LA the best place for tech startups – and has been for years – and he’s moving mountains to open up city data and services, attracting and retaining founders, and making the local scene very receptive and encouraging to tech companies and talent. There are a lot of examples, but just look at Snapchat.

But what does that mean for the ad industry? Partnerships. Inspiration. Collaboration. Agencies are always looking for the pulse of culture, and how to help their clients’ brands participate in, and push the boundaries of the culture conversation. Storytelling has always been the core competency of agencies, but now there’s a tectonic shift going on towards real-world utility, dramatic life improvement, the measurement of humanity, and life on demand. That shift requires real, product-based, innovative thinking in addition to great storytelling – and brands are beginning to not only see that, but demand it from their partners. Providing that is a million times easier when that culture and those concepts are being shaped right here, right now, and you can collaborate and innovate in person with startup creators. Ad agencies have a lot to offer tech startups, too – and the startups here seem to get that, and are more than willing to partner up. That combination doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country, or the world right now.

The combination of tech, advertising and movie businesses is unique – both in terms of geography, and history. Never before have these three industries been so closely intertwined within one local culture. It’s definitely a situation that screams “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". You’ve got world-class talent in all three industries, migrating here from all over the world to be part of each culture. Once they get here though, they get exposed to so much more creativity, technology, and innovation than they normally might in San Francisco or New York – that the saturation point is just higher. They see more, integrate with more folks in different fields and with different backgrounds, and collaborate and cross-pollinate more. It’s basically the old American melting pot story – but updated for a digital city in the connected age. It’s definitely a recipe that’s opening doors to radically innovative ways of answering consumer needs and solving clients' business problems, all while making people’s lives better. It’s absolutely the most exciting time there’s ever been to be in the ad industry.


Fredrik Frizell, CEO, Stopp

LA is the perfect setting for startups to flourish because the vibe is eclectic, companies allocate space and time for outside of the office activities that boosts creativity. For example at Stopp we’ve given ‘’board meetings’’ a new meaning. There’s already a presence of every major established tech company in LA today where incubators, accelerators and talent is growing exponentially. The diversity of people is also a great market for start-ups to test new products. 

I believe we will see more innovation through tech in ad executions stemming from LA, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree kinda thing. The already established tech magnates are bringing business and growth in itself but will undoubtedly spill over innovation into advertising. Take virtual reality or Snapchat for example and see what that has done to the ad industry and consumers in the last year. 

Tech, adland and Hollywood being so close together in one city is the most exciting thing about LA right now, they will fuel each other to greater things. Hollywood will help the new products get traction faster and the technology will help the ad industry with innovation to hit consumers on more emotional levels and apply new mediums to eventually make them mainstream. It will complete the circle for innovative content, products and tools. I also think we will see companies and products at a more rapid pace where we go from concept to execution faster then ever. It sure is a thrilling time and I’m very excited to be living here.


Scott Friedman, Co-founder, Wildlife

Los Angeles has always had a creative spirit and valued the ability to tell a good story so it's no surprise to see that energy drawing new blood into the technology space. Wildlife's motto has always been "Technology changes, story doesn't" - and one of the big reasons VR has started to blast off is that filmmakers and storytellers are beginning to show people the potential of that technology as a storytelling tool, something beyond the limitations of a gimmick or tech for the sake of tech. 

Brands, networks and film studios are realizing the value and critical importance technology plays in engaging consumers and letting people connect. In order to capture eyeballs, we're seeing the creation of new platforms and methods of interacting with content, experiences and people near and far. The quickest way to an audience's heart is with a powerful story and today's hottest tech companies are either doing that or providing a tool to share those powerful experiences after the fact.


Brian Pettigrew, President, TVGla

One thing Los Angeles is not lacking is money. Successful people are always looking for the next investment to become even more successful so from that point of view it makes a lot of sense for the start-ups to flourish. But what you see with the Yahoos and YouTubes creating bigger footprints is the desire to be near the creative talent that exists in LA. Storytelling is always at a premium whether that be for content creation to be used on media channels or for the creative advertising created to support those channels. The film industry is incredibly supportive of new technology.They are creating and launching 10 to 20 new brands every year and they are in a constant search for the next big technological tool that will help them reach the elusive audiences and create that magical branding that comes with partnering with the right new startup. Maybe most importantly the television and movie studios are willing to take chances which are often the very thing a start-up needs to find its legs. All of this makes for a perfect environment for the three elements to thrive.


Levi Brooks, CEO & Creative Director, Use All ⑤

The current setting in Los Angeles is feverous and fascinating, but also fractured. You have one large, mature industry (film) with two growing industries surrounding it (tech and advertising).  

Tech and advertising are growing incredibly well in LA because the film industry has created a perfect creative environment, investment sources, and physical space for them to occupy. But I still feel the three industries are not interacting with each other as much as they could. 

This lack of dealings I believe is due to a misunderstanding of each other’s culture and how each industry works. This will change in LA as people jump jobs from one industry to another and bring fresh new ideas, contacts, and experience. 

The ad industry is the one that needs to take the lead and hire more from start-ups and the film industry to rethink advertising for the 21st century. The agencies that I’ve worked with who follow this diverse hiring pattern create some of the freshest work in the world (think Droga5 and 72andSunny). 

Nevertheless, LA is set up to rethink all three industries better than any other city in the country or world. I’m excited to see what’s next.


Skyler Mattson, Managing Director, WONGDOODY Los Angeles

LA’s rapidly growing tech scene, “Silicon Beach”, doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it’s the perfect complement to our city’s unique strengths in entertainment and advertising. LA has long been a hub of creativity, culture, and commerce. As both entertainment and advertising become more and more technology-focused – and technology-dependent – it makes sense that our city is becoming more intertwined with tech and content game-changers like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, and others. Working together, we’re able to drive new content creation and delivery platforms, stronger analytics, greater personalization, and an all-around more cohesive and engaging experience for consumers. We’re now at ground zero for experimenting with the most cutting-edge trends like the connected home, virtual reality, augmented reality, 360-degree filmmaking, and so much more. 

Ultimately LA’s unique intersection of advertising, entertainment, and technology makes each industry richer. There is such a feeling of community between these industries, and an optimistic energy about what we’re doing professionally that matches LA’s sunny and vibrant atmosphere. Silicon Beach is a welcome addition to our local adland and promises to take our industry to new heights.


Mark Pytlik, CEO, Stinkdigital

With Silicon Valley reaching a boiling point in terms of both physical capacity and talent, it was only a matter of time before some of that brainpower and ambition migrated south to LA. There’s already a huge overlap between the startup and the advertising communities as it is; having both industries in the same city will make those similarities even more pronounced. For example, advertising is now generally more interested in creating things that are functional and utilitarian, and that’s a direct response to startup culture. It’s also not uncommon for designers, technologists and producers to move back and forth between the advertising and tech startup industries, which means that two otherwise distinct sensibilities have started to bleed into each other. Both the advertising and startup worlds are heavily under Google’s sway, which means there’s a certain degree of shared experience there, too. When Google decides, for example, to roll out a new design language like Material Design, it affects workers and standards across both spheres. 

We talk a lot in advertising about what it means to be truly ‘integrated’, but more often than not we try to force integration rather than create the right conditions for it. An environment that’s equally informed by the startup, advertising and film production communities has the potential to create some truly next-level talent. I wouldn't be at all surprised if LA becomes a breeding ground for the next hyper-media literate generation of creatives, technologists, artists and entrepreneurs. 


Victor Knaap, CEO, MediaMonks

Silicon Beach rapidly becomes a powerful place where talent of the entertainment, digital and advertising industry converge to ‘hang out’. While the individual industries are already larger than the economies of many countries, the real economic impact and creative potential lies in the crossovers between these industries. The first signs are manifest: stories are being told with technology; film directors are involved in advertising campaigns; advertising agencies are making products; and startups are disrupting old-economy business models.


Francis Pollara, Special Projects Manager, Luma Pictures

I don’t know if Silicon Beach is the fastest growing tech hub and I’d probably venture to say it isn’t the fastest growing. I do think Silicon Beach, compared to other growing hubs is the most likely to become the new tech mecca. There are so many factors involved but from a broad perspective, cost of living in Silicon Valley will continue to exceed that of Silicon Beach. In many cases startups have already been forced to open their doors in the Santa Monica, Venice and the Marina areas due to the cost of living and office space. Being in Southern California also brings startups closer to the talent they are seeking between colleges like Caltech, UCLA, USC, Art Center College of Design and close proximity to Hollywood. Lastly, the lifestyle play is a big part of recruiting the notable talent beside stock options and free meals. 

I think the advertising and marketing industry is already converging with tech in some very cool ways. I’m sure geographically speaking, having people in the same city thinking about these topics will catalyze new unseen opportunities and will inevitably bring better marketing experiences, media and activations to end users. Silicon Beach based Snapchat is a perfect example of this integration for obvious reasons.


Ryan Pulliam, CMO, Specular Theory

LA is the entertainment capitol of the world. Being close to the cutting edge technology scene allows the LA advertising industry to experiment with emerging technologies to engage viewers in a whole new way. We can leverage technology to immerse viewers in storytelling like never before, and we can collaborate with major tech giants that are right down the street. 

For Virtual Reality specifically, content is king. The volume of channels available to viewers has increasingly challenged advertisers and successful work comes down to compelling storytelling. We have the best storytellers in Los Angeles that can engage audiences without being too overt with branding, which is the key to most successful advertising campaigns right now.

We are working at the intersection of filmmaking, advertising and technology with our VR projects, tailoring the technology and creative approach for each project with storytelling as the driving force. We can now fully immerse audiences and this is a game-changer for the way brands and advertisers connect and engage with consumers.

Without a concept that fully embraces a VR viewpoint, the technology can never be fully leveraged in a way that will reach audiences and trump other mediums, not just match them. Being at the centre of filmmaking and a growing tech scene is exactly where advertisers need to be.


Jason Botkin, Executive Producer, Cap Gun Collective LA

Many people think of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area as being hotbeds for innovation, but there’s no doubt that LA has a very consistent history serving as the source for what’s new and cool. In the late 90’s during the dot-com boom, LA was dubbed the Digital Coast, and when Silicon Alley Reporter editor and founder Jason McCabe Calacanis launched Digital Coast Reporter in 1998, he said that Silicon Valley was about the plumbing, while New York and LA were about “what goes through the pipes. 


Main photo credit: GlobalPhotoJournalist