Gary Vaynerchuk, the outspoken CEO and founder of agency VaynerMedia, came to Advertising Week after facing a weekend of backlash on Twitter.
A photo of Vaynerchuk holding a sign that encourages people to work for free has been circulating widely on social media, along with criticism from people who say it’s a bad idea for creatives to give away their work. (One comment, “no no. don’t work for free. that’s dumb,” has over 4,600 likes.) The photo was lifted from a blog post he had written where he explains his position.
Vaynerchuk, known by his fellow marketers as “Gary Vee,” says the photo was pulled from a blog post he wrote, without the context that adds nuance to his position. But he says he stands by his words. Working for free can be a strategic way for someone to get their foot in the door, instead of getting into debt paying for college, he says. And he says he still often does it himself, speaking at Advertising Week without pay to gain exposure, for example.
“Obviously in the creative industry, a lot of people push against free work,” he tells Ad Age. “I have empathy for that ... I just think it’s a viable option that I’ve seen millions of people use for success."
Vaynerchuk, who is also chairman of communications parent company VaynerX, also spoke to Ad Age about what tech is inspiring him these days. He says he’s paying close attention to two things in particular: text messaging and TikTok. (At Advertising Week, Vaynerchuk interviewed TikTok VP Blake Chandlee.) TikTok is a social media platform that Vaynerchuk has already invested in, mostly because of its potential to reach Gen Zers, who he says can influence other generations as well.
“I always get excited when a platform starts hitting tens, if not hundreds of millions of users," he says. “Whether it becomes Vine or Social Code, or becomes Facebook or Instagram, I don’t know, but it’s hit the scale and consciousness that it now deserves attention.”
Texting is another marketing vehicle Vaynerchuk adamantly stands by. He recently started a platform called WineText.com, which texts users daily wine offers, an extension of his family’s business Wine Library, and has invested in beverage brand Dirty Lemon, which allows consumers to order by text.
“Over the last decade plus, we as humans have not let brands and companies into text. We let them into email, they ruined it, and we’ve been very cautious,” he says. “Over the last year, I’ve noticed more people are giving their phone number to be marketed to, to be sold to… It’s going to be a big topic in these halls in 24 months.”