IIeX North America 2019 Podcast Series

IIeX NA 2019 Conference Series – James Norman – Pilotly

Welcome to the 2019 IIEX North America Conference Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews James Norman, CEO and President of Pilotly.

Contact James Online:




James Norman, one of my favorite entrepreneurs in this space.  The name of his company is Pilot.ly. They are an innovative, video-based platform.  Respondents are exposed to any length of video from seconds to hours, and that feedback is automatically processed, analyzed, and delivered to you as the consumer.  And it really helps streamline the overall creative process. Enjoy the episode. You can always find James or any of his crew at the business.pilot.ly website. Enjoy.


Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is James Norman, the founder, CEO of Pilot.ly?




Yep.  We are live at IIeX in Austin, Day 2.  When did you get in?


Yesterday morning.


So, you’ve been here for the whole conference.  Any standout moments for you?


Not quite yet.  I’ve just been getting calibrated.  I went into a couple workshops, and I thought they were pretty interactive.  So, that was cool to be able to like jump in our people’s platforms and kind of walk through the demo with them.  So, I think that’s definitely something different than what I’ve seen in other places. I’ve just been running into people; run into you, which is cool.    


Thank you.  It’s an honor to run into you as well.  We’ve had a couple of phone conversations.  And I knew what you looked like on LinkedIn, but like context is really weird. And so..


Right.  I’m probably much larger than maybe you thought.        


You are, you’re a tall guy.  We introduced… I can’t remember if you came up to me or vice versa, but you said, “I’m James.”  And it was just like funny little moment where it took me, I don’t know, a minute. “Oh, you’re James.”  It’s just funny. Tell me about Pilot.ly.


I mean Pilot.ly is all about understanding the audience and using that understanding to make better business decisions.  And so, it all kind of started back when I learned about the traditional process of understanding content. Similar processes were being used to understand products and audio and whatever else.  But video is so much more complex. And so, I thought the things that people were doing and the things they say to me about what they do were very applicable when they came up with those processes.  If you were to be back in the 80s and you said, “Hey, I need to understand this promo or this TV show.” It would be a viable idea to put 30 people in a room or 20 people in a room and have a conversation.  But the lead time in doing something like that, the cost of something like that, the lack of ability to potentially do it at a rapid pace to get the actual audience you need to hear from, that process doesn’t make as much sense anymore.  And in today’s modern time, people are used to responding to things online and giving feedback. And so, you can actually with the right user experience get a pretty robust point of response from a consumer or your audience.


And we’re consuming video at a rapid… and it’s increasing too.  Not only is it the Number 1, it’s also the volume by which we’re consuming it is much greater as well.  So, people are getting a little more comfortable with communicating through video and then also they’re getting more comfortable with seeing it as truth like it’s a surrogate for an in-person conversation.  




So, are you dealing with recorded snippets or are you dealing with more conversational like real-time video?


For us, the only way that we deal with actual people’s faces is we’re integrating a Voxpopme into the platform.  So, we look for other startups too that have interesting signals that we can plug into our process. But, ultimately, our system is streaming long-form content most of the time in context.  So an ad will go inside a pod within a show to get a natural recall or intent. If I’m testing a film, you’re going to watch the whole film. Things like that. It can range from a ten-minute experience to a two-hour experience.


Wow!  That’s crazy.  That’s pretty cool.  Who are some of your clients?


Everybody from Viacom to CBS to Snapchat to Dolby Audio.  It’s a wide range. Like anybody who’s creating content who really wants to understand their audience is like, “We’ll provide that for you at rapid speed, at a low cost.”     


What does your ideal customer look like?


So, I think it’s someone who is…  I’ve been thinking about this pretty deeply recently ‘cause we work with a lot of researchers, right?  But I recently realized like by proxy I’m involved in market research, but I’m not actually a market researcher.  If I was to say that, then you’re going to ask me like, “Well, what about this company?” I was going to explain to you how we’re not like them.  So, if I’m not like anybody in that space, then I must not really be in that space. And so, I did a lot of studying and realized like we’re kind of in this newer space of like Signal, like data comprehension, data interpretation.  So we’re kind of calling it audience signal comprehension. It’s not just about collecting the data: it’s about looking at these things as individual signals and processing to come up with a key insight and do it in an automated fashion.  So, what I see from an organizational standpoint market research-wise is research departments aren’t necessarily seeing themselves as organizational thought leaders, right? They’re just operating as researchers. So someone in the business might ask a question and then they might answer that email a couple of days later and then they might call a vendor ‘cause they might be understaffed to actually complete the project themselves.  And in that long process, the person who originally asked the question might not have the question anymore. So now, I lost business, right? ‘Cause that person is like, “Ah, forget about it.” And they’re seen as not useful.


Right.  That’s a double loss.


Double loss.  And so, my ideal client is someone as a research department that is trying to position themselves as thought leaders.  So, it’s cool to have used these other outside vendors or yeah, call people, and have these long lead times, but if you want to be able to respond at the pace you’re going to need to respond in now and in the coming future, you need something that enables you to do what you do best, which is tell stories from information and do it rapidly.         


An interview I had with the Head of Insights from GoDaddy, Lori Iventosch-James, and she had this great quote, which I’ll, of course, screw up, right, but the gist of it was “Executives are going to make decisions; I need to provide them insights.  If I don’t, they’re still going to make a decision.”


Right, right.  It’s going to happen either way, right?




And so, you’d rather be part of that process and be able to put your stamp on it ‘cause otherwise, you’re going to be wondering, “Well, why is my budget dwindling?”  “Because people don’t value you.”


How do you get respondents?


So, we actually are pretty deeply integrated with another startup that we work with called PureSpectrum.  Big fans of their team. We’re kind of like hand in hand. With our system, it’s like fully self-service, right?  So you can not only upload your video and program the survey, but then you chose your target audience, build out your quotas.  You can be nested, unnested, whatever. And our system is able to translate that automatically into PureSpectrum, and they’re able to automatically capture 16 different panel providers right now.  But we optimize our panel providers based on our previous experiences. So it’s based on length of LOI; it’s based on device type; and, in some cases, certain demographic attributes. So, we optimize which panels we actually pull from.    


That’s great.  It’s a company I’m well familiar with.  So, awesome, man.


Of course, you’re familiar.  


So, how do people get in contact with you?


Easily, you know our website, business.pilot.ly, or you can always email us.  It’s just inquiry@pilot.ly.  Anybody who has a question about their audience, we’re here to answer and just try and improve people’s workflows so that they can win too, right?  They have customers; they’re our customers, but they have customers. I’ve just really realized what we’re here to do is enable you to be the best provider to your customers.  You know what I mean?


100%.  James, pilot.ly, thanks for being on the podcast today.  


Thanks for having me.


Have a great rest of your day.


Thank you.  You too.