Zack Rosenberg is the founding CEO of CatapultX, a pioneering “on-stream” video company that is empowering today’s top brands and publishers to harness the power of AI to truly connect with consumers at the moment across all digital channels. Zack has played a key role in helping the leading brands, agencies and publishers to unleash the power of revolutionary digital media and advertising technology solutions since 2006.
Before co-founding CatapultX, Zack served in key sales and leadership roles at Keywee (now Anyword), Buzzfeed, SmartBrief and WebMD. During Zack’s tenures at these companies, he generated revenues nearing $100MM.
Zack has also helped lead the industry through his founding and leadership roles at 212, First Wednesdays and SixDegreesofZR. Through these efforts, Zack helped find jobs for more than 50 people and many more through mentoring opportunities. He holds a BA in Sports Management from Towson University. In addition, he is the proud father of 3 amazing boys in Chris, Ethan, and Ronan.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN THE MEDIA AND ADVERTISING INDUSTRY?
All the way back to college, marketing became a passion. I vividly remember a sports marketing class where we were allowed to create campaigns for various brands. For example, my group presented an ad for IKEA to turn a baseball stadium into a living room using items from their catalogue.
Creativity, persuasion, hitting bigger and bigger numbers are things that began to drive me throughout my career.
Post-college, looking for marketing jobs, an opportunity at WebMD presented itself, and I’ve been a part ever since. Joining committees for the 212 Advertising Club, operating a newsletter for several years to help others find careers in the field, and starting my own ad tech company.
HOW DID THIS LEAD YOU TO FOUND “CATAPULTX”?
In my previous role, I worked with hundreds of media companies from around the world. Helping them overcome their struggles, find audiences, and use social media, it became clear there was a void. What sports talk radio was for my dad’s generation, sports talk social would be for the next. So, we started as a sports media company.
We hired sports to talk radio hosts from across the country, acquired the rights to independent sports leagues, and began generating over 600K viewers a day across social and our website after a few months.
WE DID IT! Except, this led to a mere $11 a day. There were no expectations we could retire, but I’d say we did expect to earn enough to buy lunch.
We created a product to insert brands into the video using new formats and smarter placements to achieve this goal. That product was called CatapultX, and it started to generate $1K per day.
It wasn’t long before the product became more interesting than the sports media company.
Now, CatapultX uses AI to match advertisers to contextually relevant moments in the video. But, again, we do it across multiple channels programmatically.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
Nights run late, and days start early. Some of that has to do with having 3 kids. Both them and the pandemic have pushed me out into the garage, and it’s become my place of peace and quiet.
Armed with a laptop, second screen, and plenty of snacks, the days go fast, and they never, ever feel productive enough.
Part of our core principles is to go the extra mile, inspired by the explorer Robert Falcon Scott who set out to be the first to cross the Antarctic. Sadly he didn’t make it, but the lessons live on. Had he walked just 11 more steps per day, he would have succeeded.
We encourage all of our Catalysts to send that extra email, write that one extra line of code, send someone a birthday card. Success is just 11 extra steps away.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY SINCE THE PANDEMIC, AND WHY?
Video viewership is on the rise because of the pandemic. Levels that had been projected by 2025 in terms of consumption were being shattered every month. Some habits take a while to create but aren’t broken easily.
Where, why, how video is being consumed is here to stay. Multiple channels, formats, devices, more content is on the way.
We, collectively, realized how important video was to us, plus we used it in new ways. I took a ton of online courses. My kids discovered classic rock through videos on YouTube. My wife became excited to follow along with famous chefs as they cooked together.
We never did any of this before the pandemic and believe these habits are here to stay.
CAN YOU INTRODUCE CONTEXTUAL AI TO OUR AUDIENCE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE TERM?
Sure, in two parts. First, contextual refers to understanding what someone is consuming and not who they are. In our case, what video is being watched? Second, who is in it, what is happening, what brands, products, or events are referenced or shown. All of these help us tell a story to advertisers about where the best alignment for their products is.
That is where our contextual AI for video comes into play. Knowing what is in a video is quite more complicated than understanding what is on a webpage. For example, many companies look at the transcript of a video, but what if someone says, “WHOA!”? Was that a goal being scored? A car crash? A great gift? These all have completely different alignments for potential advertisers.
Others will look at the page a video lives on, but several of our partners feature new videos adjacent to that day’s news and therefore have nothing to do with the webpage.
CatapultX understands all of these nuances and makes determinations based on a holistic view of the video.
HOW DOES A PUBLISHER MAXIMISE POTENTIAL REVENUE FROM EVERY VIDEO WHILE USING CONTEXTUAL AI?
Through our On-Stream platform, video creators can establish a net-new revenue stream by creating additional inventory for their video content that is uninterrupted and incremental to their existing efforts.
HOW DOES “CATAPULTX” DIFFERENTIATE FROM OTHER ADVERTISING PLATFORMS, AND HOW IS IT UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO HELP PUBLISHERS?
CatapultX developed proprietary technology to create the On-Stream video advertising platform with seamless integrations into video players and DSPs across multiple video channels.
This sets us apart from nearly all other video advertising solutions. As a result, we are uniquely qualified to help publishers earn more while keeping their audiences engaged — publishers’ number one priority.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT “CATAPULTX” AT THE MOMENT?
Our mission is to achieve the deepest level of understanding of video through artificial intelligence (AI). With this knowledge comes the power to make decisions that improve the experience for audiences, the yield for publishers and results for brands.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS ON GROWING REVENUE WHILE NOT COMPROMISING THE VIEWER-FIRST EXPERIENCE?
By doing so, they will be rewarded. Many of our publishers have, in fact, chosen to remove pre-rolls ads (which 84% of audiences will leave, 65% will skip immediately, and 25% will block) in favour of just using the On-Stream experience.
Though early, they’ve found that more people watch and for longer than they did before. Our formats reward those publishers with the ability to deliver more non-interruptive advertising the longer the audience is engaged.
It’s the way video advertising was meant to be.