Mark Skala

Mark Skala is the Founder and Creative Director of Skalawag Productions, a full-service video production company specializing in the food and beverage, lifestyle, and education industries. Skalawag’s team of fun-loving creatives are passionate about crafting high-quality videos that tell unique and impactful stories.

Before deciding to work full-time at Skalawag Productions, Mark served as a Video Production Specialist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Mark Skala talks about Skalawag Productions’ process for creating narrative-based videos for brands
  • The benefits of using both video and direct mail in your marketing efforts
  • Mark’s best practices for creating effective video advertisements on social media
  • How Skalawag Productions calculates pricing for each unique marketing video
  • Skalawag Productions’ holistic strategy workshop and how Mark helps clients envision and accomplish their goals

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Always Direct Mail, where consistency and simplicity meet to help you achieve your business goals. Are you searching for new customers with no avail? Do you spend too much time and money on expensive ad campaigns that bring in very little profit? If so, Always Direct Mail is here to help!

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Episode Transcript

Prologue  0:03

This is the Always Direct Podcast and we talk with movers and shakers of this world to learn about the ups and downs they went through to get where they are now. Let’s get started with the show.

John Rayyan  0:16

Hello, everyone. My name is John Rayyan, and I’m the host of the Always Direct Podcast where I talk to top movers and shakers in different business industries. Ask a lot of direct questions about the success journey. And we are here today with Mark Skala. And today we are sponsored by two companies, both of which I actually owned so I just want to let that be known. I’m not being sponsored by outsiders, So if you’re interested in running your own pizzeria, perhaps you should consider franchising with Papa Ray’s franchise Or if you own a restaurant in the country, United States, you want to consider using direct mail to market your business, direct mail or digital marketing, please contact never underestimate the power of direct mail. Unless you’re talking to Mark Skala who’s my guest today, who has a very amazing company called Skalawag Productions. They help food industry food and beverage brands create consistent, effective video content that moves people to take action. And the end of the day. Video storytelling is huge. And that’s what you do, how you doing, Mark.

Mark Skala  1:22

I’m doing great. How about yourself?

John Rayyan  1:25

Oh, man living the dream living the dream The COVID dream baby. So tell me tell me about Tell me about how you got into this because you look kind of young. We’re both very young actually.

Mark Skala  1:36

Yeah, yeah. You know, you kind of fall into it, right? You develop a passion for something and then you, you figure out a way to attack it. And then you keep going and good things happen. And bad things happen. Right? All together, especially through 2020 is a context for everybody. Um, you know, I’ve got I’ve been in video production for about 12 years now. I came out of school to mark my age in 2008, not a great time to graduate from college. And I had to figure out what, what the future held for me. So I started, I didn’t go to film school, I have a degree in multimedia. I was always engaged in lots of different digital content, digital avenues from photography, video, that web design and development, the whole gamut. And video was always sort of my passion sort of started to follow that, right after college, I incorporated as a business to do freelance work and try to make some money in that way. I did everything from web design, bad web design, to video, whatever people would pay me to do, I would do. At some point, I was able to get a full time job at Northwestern University and I was working, and then ended up running a, like an academic video production shop there, all while sort of building my business on the side. And then in 2015, made the leap. Here we are now four employees and cooking with gas, if you will, and feeling pretty good about our prospects for the future.

John Rayyan  3:03

Good. Yeah. I mean, so. So does Skalawag Productions. So it says here consistent and effective video content. Now. I did. I did. I did review your website. And so what is this consistent? Does that mean? Do you take on clients that want to make multiple videos throughout the year like consistently? Or do you eat? How often do you make your average client restaurant? How many videos per year are they making? Or how many videos per month? Give me an idea how that works? What’s your best clients doing or your average client?

Mark Skala  3:39

It’s really it really depends on on wherever and that this year is obviously a little bit of an anomaly. But I guess they’ll forget

John Rayyan  3:44

about this is this is the most Fw they don’t even talk this year, just it’s like a black hole. Don’t even talk about it. Let’s talk about maintaining before, okay.

Mark Skala  3:54

All right now, every every brand is different in terms of how much they want how much content they want to create, whether it’s volume, or complexity or specific single deliverables is sort of in their purview. When it comes to average, videos, like how many you do per year, we have sort of two tracks for our clients. We have clients want to do a single campaign or a single video. And then we have clients that have a need to create content all the time. They’re on a subscription model with us, right? So those are the two tracks and our goal is to you know, in everything we do be super holistic and goals driven when it comes to figuring out what they need because what happens if a client comes to us and says I need a video I say well why do you need a video and they go because videos the thing to do, and that’s a terrible reason to spend video. And so so it’s our job to figure out exactly what what are you trying to accomplish with video because video is a part of your marketing strategy should be a part of your marketing strategy, but it is not your marketing strategy is not a replacement for it. So we have we have brands that we work with CPG brands snack brands that are doing hundreds of videos a year. And we have other brands that we do one video a year, because they have a whether it’s like, oh, we need to tell a story about a certain initiative rehab, we need to explain how something one of our products, things like that. And, you know, for us, you know, we don’t work a ton in like with restaurants individually, and I’m super passionate about industry, the industry, hospitality industry in general. But, you know, in terms of like, who our clients are, we’re working with a lot of snack brands, a lot of food and beverage brands, you know, especially the emergence of e commerce right now, that’s been where a lot of our digital content is going. And it’s just, it’s just a matter of how do we help any clients whether it is a restaurant or or a bigger brand, achieve what they’re looking to do, you know, and help them develop a strategy behind that versus just putting videos out there randomly hoping someone you know, buys.

John Rayyan  5:52

Yeah, you know, what? Making making a video content is frickin hard, man.

Mark Skala  6:01

is most people find that out at some point. Yeah.

John Rayyan  6:03

They I’ve been there done that. Are you kidding me? You know, you know, you’ve heard of Chamber Media, right? Yep. Yeah. Yeah. So I called them one time by so this is gonna get us into this is gonna get us into pricing. Alright, so I call them one time. And I said, so they had this. They got they got me because I’m in the restaurant business. You know, so they sent me like a Facebook ad. And it got to me, of course, and they’re just good at like making funny videos. Really funny videos. So like I said, nikolova Let’s see how much it costs. Holy shit. So then I said, bullshit, I’m not gonna you know, excuse my language. I’m not gonna pay anybody. A lot of money that that was like crazy money. I said, I said, I sent him my wife an email as I’m gonna watch all these videos, we got to read we had to recreate these for Papa Ray’s. You know, she’s she knows how to do a little video editing. She’s pretty decent at that. And I figure I’m pretty funny. I think I’m funny, which nobody else thinks I’m funny, right? So anyway, I started creating, I started looking at video boarding and so I came up with a couple of different concepts we started to and it was just the timing. I don’t know what it is. It was just like, what am I doing? This is way harder than it looks. So yeah, I want you I give you mad respect for what you do. I saw your videos. They’re really clean. Really good. I didn’t see too many videos. Funny one, because I didn’t look at all but I don’t know, if you do any comedy ones you?

Mark Skala  7:28

Yeah, we do. It just depends on the client, what the needs are. Sometimes humor is the way to go. It’s actually a part of the company that I think we’re really strong at, but we don’t get to flex as much as we’d like to. We did just produce a three hour fake telethon for a brewery in Brooklyn. That was bananas crazy. And the craziest thing anyone’s paid me money to do ever. But But you know, so just,

John Rayyan  7:50

it was a fun though.

Mark Skala  7:51

It was super fun. It’s super fun. And so so like, again, you know, for us business, from a business perspective, it’s all about finding those good partners that by you know, trust you and sort of value what you’re doing. And and also part of it is an understanding that it is it’s not all fun and games, you know, like, I think my job is fun. I think my we have a lot of fun doing what we do, because we’re really passionate about it. But it’s not, as you said, it’s not easy. And so it’s a matter of like, you know, finding people that really have a specific idea or goal in mind and us being trusted and trusted that to like execute it and make sure that it’s success, whatever however they define success.

John Rayyan  8:27

So Mark, let me tell you, so one of the reasons so I’ve been in a pizza business, I’ve opened nine restaurants personally, like I’m talking like from from cleaning up the garbages to hiring everybody. I mean the whole shebang a bang. I mean, I am in it. Right now I don’t have any restaurants right now. I just own the company and I help I support my brother he runs one and he helps me out a lot. But my point is that the restaurant business I have found has been like so direct mail marketing, which is why I started direct mail marketing companies because direct mail for carry out delivery places. kicks ass, okay. People can make fun of it all they want. And people do you know, I don’t know. Yeah, you you don’t probably right.

Mark Skala  9:09

Yeah, no, I actually I have an interesting opinion that

John Rayyan  9:13

tell me about your opinion, because it’s very important because people think oh, video video video and video is huge. I’m a big believer in it. I have lots of video to support that however, it doesn’t replace direct mail at all direct mail call people make orders, video storytelling, like I don’t know it just makes you you don’t you don’t watch a video and pick up a phone and call a pizza place. Right But you don’t forget them. When it’s time to order, you go to the menu in the drawer.

Mark Skala  9:39

Exactly. And that’s and that’s that’s this sort of thinking about marketing as a holistic strategy. Practice almost is where a lot of people fall because they they rule out things that are not trendy or new. You know, like like video and I would not call video a trend at this point I think video is pretty ironed in is a pillar of what you want to be doing as business but also depends on market. or business you’re in. And you’re absolutely right that I think direct mail marketing, and there’s a book called The 1‑Page Marketing Plan that I think is a really great book. And they actually have a chapter in there called all about direct mail marketing and how people again, like you said, people think it’s like, a silly thing to do now, but actually, it’s one of the most effective things you can do for certain sectors market. And so I’m a big believer in that. And for me, direct mail might not be a good way to advertise my business. But for like you said, a carry on takeout place, is a perfect way because you’re in front of people’s eyes. And so when you think about marketing as a whole, you’re talking about at the very most simple funnel of a marketing funnel, you have brand awareness, you have interest in consideration, and you have conversion, right? That’s like the simplest marketing funnel, you can, you can buy or sales funnel, right? Yeah, and each thing can be good at different things, right, and depending on what action you want your customer to perform. And different tools and assets are good to do that. And so in your case, like someone who’s maybe heard of Papa Ray’s, or, or another brand, who gets a fire in the mail, this is a direct interest consideration purchase piece where it may drive them that coupon, oh, you know, I want pizza, boom, I’m gonna go do this coupon right now. Whereas if you’re trying to get your name out there, that also can be a pain piece. But it also could be maybe people are really interested in the story of how the restaurant started, or the struggles that it took to get there and entrepreneurial journey. And that’s another area where you’re right, they’re not going to pick up the phone in order right away. But it is in their mind, and they’re thinking about it. They’re dreaming about it, things like that. And so there, there’s benefits for all of these different strategies and tools. You just have to I think the biggest thing that people miss is having a strategy remain. And they just they just want to plug in different things to fix their problems, when really what they need to do is sit down and think about what is going to move my customers through this funnel and different businesses.

John Rayyan  11:49

There’s absolutely no denying, you’re an expert in your in your field. I mean, you’re definitely and you’re right, was it you said something very important. A lot of people they stick to what they know and are afraid change with into what they don’t know. Or people are so into the brand new that they don’t realize that some of the fundamentals are like, Don’t Don’t reinvent the wheel look, yeah, you can Dibble and dabble in Twitter and YouTube and Facebook, don’t get me I’m not saying don’t. But don’t don’t. Don’t forget how most of these businesses were founded through direct mail, through print material people, even millennials, believe it or not, and Gen Z’s and Gen x’s, they like print, they feel like it’s more, there’s more authority to it, that there’s a study on it that shows that when they have in their hands, they feel like it’s more realistic and more real, as opposed to a lot of the fake stuff that’s online. Because you have to constantly decipher who’s lying to you and who’s not what’s a scam and what’s not. You become, you know, what does that call when you’re you just shut down, you just stop stop thinking about it. Like, you know, you assume everything’s bullshit, and the one that comes in the mail something physical in your hand, it has a lot more legitimacy.

Mark Skala  12:59

And it forces you to make a choice. Whereas when you’re scrolling, you’re not necessarily making your choice. Is there if you’re looking at one or the other, after you throw this away? Or if I keep it? Yeah. And I think there’s something to that. And actually, that’s part of the strategy behind video, in some ways, especially with online advertising is how do I get people to start to make a choice? How do I get them to make a choice to stop scrolling? And that’s where like humor and things that are wacky or inventive or whatever can sort of play into the same idea. And this is why you know, at the end of the day, all marketing is the thing. It’s just different tools, different approaches.

John Rayyan  13:36

You’re damn right about that. So let me ask you a tough question. I think it’s tough. I didn’t tell you I was gonna ask you this question. So there’s because a lot of our clients are Always Direct Mail, We, we most of them are pizzerias. Okay. majority of them are pizzerias. We have some Mexican restaurants, we have some grooming shops, we have some auto repair. You know places places that do oil changes. You know, we have all kinds of in laws, law companies, R&R Law Group. How would the majority of pizza is how would you market a pizzeria? At to I mean, would you go after like the heart wrenching? were like, Oh, this is a story of how grandma came with the sauce. Oh, would you do more comedy?

Mark Skala  14:22

I might not do yet. I mean, what would you bring each? Again, I have to say that each business is different instead of the approach really does depend on the context of the business and where they’re getting sales, what demographics and things like that do play into how you approach how to target people. And like let’s just talk in the scope of online advertising, social media advertising things also

John Rayyan  14:44

most of my clients and most people I deal with do not have the understand they don’t even they’re not as sophisticated as that. You know, they really that is true. Even I would say some of my myself. I’m like that demographics. Everybody likes pizza. We all like pizza, old young, fast. skinny, everybody likes pizza. It’s not really as narrow daughters would be both. So what were you gonna say after that?

Mark Skala  15:07

So essentially, I mean, my first gut instinct on sort of businesses in that sort of sphere. Yeah. What’s working in your marketing strategy right now? Right. So if that is direct mail advertising, if we know that that’s true, how do I apply the same principles to that, from that to online digital advertising? Because there’s so many people right now and forever and forever and ever, that are just doing this. They’re taking their devices, and they’re going like this all day? You know, how do I get those people to stop scrolling? How do I get people to stop? How can I target people to figure out what their interests are? So I know if they’re a good ideal customer of mine. And like most people like that’s, that’s pretty a pretty universal situation. How do I take concepts of of what’s working over here that is giving me a positive ROI, and apply it over here to digital advertising, whether that’s with video or static imagery. I’m a big fan of being holistic in general, which I think I will say a million times on this on this podcast, because it’s all about starting with what’s working right now. We’re how do we expand it? And then once we’re seeing sort of a general positive situation, how do we then scale it rather than just throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks, being very methodical about it. So what I would do is I would not be doing a story, I would not be doing any of that I was first focused on what’s working in my direct mail advertising campaign. It’s probably delicious pizza, visuals, and deals. So that’s what I would do, I would go right there with digital advertising, how can I get people to one thing you can do and this is probably something that everyone in the audience knows, is if you have an email database of all your clients, which if you’re not doing right now for takeout or carry out delivery service, you need to stop what you’re doing and figure out how email marketing is. That’s that’s the next step of the journey. Right? And like, how can I start to target customers that are that already buy from me, you can create look alike audiences on Facebook advertising, yes, this requires some knowledge and things like that. But you can find people in Upwork and freelance sites or for hire, you know, we don’t do the media by advertising part of it. But like, you can hire people that specialize in targeting, and put whatever content you have, whether it be image stills, if you if you don’t have a budget, or if you want to do something a little bit more visual pizza poles, things like that. You can buy stuff like that showcasing deals that you can target people that are already your target customers, you can build a look alike audience based on their email and phone numbers, they will Facebook will find those people and generate people that are just like them are likely to like the same things that they do. You can just expand your geographical audience like that immediately. And so there’s, again, it’s like how do I take what’s working and scale it, whether it’s scale it and volume or scale it across? Okay.

John Rayyan  17:54

So I want to recap what you just said. So the past two months, one of the reasons I wanted to have you on is because the past two months I had an I have a video for And I created banner ads, which banner ads are kind of a waste of money if you do them alone. But if you do it in conjunction with a geographical area where you’re doing direct mail marketing as well, plus a YouTube video ads, and Facebook, Instagram still ads which match the banner ads, I figured all together in the same geographical area. Repetition is king, right? Wrong.

Mark Skala  18:27

Okay, yeah, it can be, you know, it does depend. But yes, let’s just say yes.

John Rayyan  18:32

Yeah. Don’t let me forget this. I want to ask you, how do you track? How do you track to see what’s working, what’s not working? Because in the end of the day, it’s about orders, right? So just don’t forget that. So. So we just started a new program with Always Direct Mail, where we’re doing direct mail, still ads for Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads, banner ads, and then we’re also doing video on top of it. So we’re doing 10 weeks of direct mail, 10 weeks of banner ads, Instagram and Facebook. And then we’re doing 10 ads of YouTube videos. It all in the same area. So like, we’re just trying to hit them in three different ways. What do you think about that?

Mark Skala  19:05

I think it’s good.

John Rayyan  19:06

Okay. I did not think about using the Facebook audience. He should have been Yeah, I’m gonna I’m actually gonna call my guy. Yeah, that’s good. I don’t know why I didn’t think about that. Yeah, You’re damn right about that. Can you do that for YouTube as well?

Mark Skala  19:25

No, he really is you can you can do targeting. You know, I’m not as familiar with how robust their targeting is. But you can definitely do audience targeting. The beauty of Facebook is that you can you can find the people you already have because they’re all on Facebook. And the algorithm can really find who they are and where the profiles are then. It’s, it’s crazy. It’s crazy. Really his biggest thing is no boosted posts, everyone who’s doing boosted posts right now, that pissing money away by it is not the way basically that Facebook’s algorithm works right now. I’m sorry, I’m offending anyone. I don’t mean, I mean, that’s

John Rayyan  20:04

why we’re here. Let’s piss people off. Come on.

Mark Skala  20:06

Okay, yeah. So essentially, when you when you put up a social media post as a business on Facebook, about 2% of your audience, if you boost it, maybe you boost that to a 5% of your audience, the only real way to get the only thing the effective way to spend money on Facebook is to do actual Facebook advertising. And I think boosted posts is an option because it’s easier. And it’s a way for Facebook to make more money. But it’s not an effective way to gain customers or purchases or ROI for your business. And this is across any any business type campaign, whatever you should be looking at how do i do actual Facebook advertising campaigns through the Facebook ads? Not through?

John Rayyan  20:49

So when you have your clients create compelling you know, storytelling videos, do you recommend them to go on YouTube? or Facebook? Or both? or Instagram? What what would be the like your top three?

Mark Skala  21:05

There’s no one size this is this is the this is why I’ll tell you why video is a pain in the ass. And it’s hard for people to understand. It’s because there’s no one size fits all strategy or piece of content. It is all custom, every single thing and every single strategy is a custom type of situation. So whenever you’re talking about who should I be, where should I be? It’s where is your audience? Or what do you want to build an audience? Those are the two factors that I consider. So if your audience is on YouTube all the time is on Facebook all the time. That’s where you should go if you’re if you’re if you’re a brand that appeals to younger generations, you should be on TikTok, you should be on the things that those people are using. Because you can’t just because you’re on Facebook, and that’s where you’re comfortable doesn’t mean that everyone who buys from me is now with pizza. I think it’s pretty obvious that you’ll have a lot of success. You could have a lot of success on Facebook. TikTok is not necessarily the way to go.

John Rayyan  22:00

Well, I you know, I might say yeah, you’re probably right about them but TikTok is you if you make funny videos TikTok might be

Mark Skala  22:06

it can that’s that’s the hard part is anything can work in. But the idea the myth of the viral video is something to be sort of caution to everybody. Viral Videos are manufactured. They are not there’s there’s very rare circumstances in which viral videos are actually spontaneously viral these days. They are our backyard.

John Rayyan  22:26

Yeah. Doesn’t that defeat that doesn’t it like isn’t a definition of viral videos views that actually went viral accidentally, like, accidentally just caught on fire. That’s how

Mark Skala  22:35

it used to be and occasionally that still happens. But the majority of viral videos are planned and methodically managed and strategize to become viral.

John Rayyan  22:42

Interesting. Interesting. Okay, so can we talk pricing? Let’s talk pricing. I looked on your website couldn’t find pricing? Yeah. No, no, you you focused you do all of the Chicagoland area. Do you go out of state?

Mark Skala  22:58

Yeah, we do national and international. It just depends on the year and this year. Obviously, we haven’t done a ton of national we haven’t done a ton of traveling this year, which is which is odd for us, frankly.

John Rayyan  23:08

So you so you, you’re Oh, so your national, International, it doesn’t matter where you go anywhere as long as it makes sense for everybody. It makes you go. That’s right. All right. Let’s talk about where you don’t have to travel somewhere in the Chicagoland region. Let’s just say the place called Papa Ray’s pizza or like, No, I’m just joking. I have another customer called Bella’s in Carol stream. He’s a client of mine. And he’s doing 10 weeks of direct mail 10 weeks of the social media banner ads, still ads and then 10 weeks of video. I told him I will get somebody out there. I swear to God, it is true to get somebody out there to go do video. But then I was like thinking okay, who am I gonna show you get a company? Or should I hire some like college students that are in you know, I was just thinking, you know, but I remember how hard it was for me to do it who’s a very experienced restaurant or like, I feel like I you know, everybody thinks Oh, stand up comedy. I could do stand up comedy. It doesn’t seem that hard. And then you like holy shit. This is this is a nightmare. I don’t know what I was thinking which I actually did want that I actually got on stage and I never got back up. So yeah, same thing with videography. I have $1,000 camera here that I don’t even know how to use anymore because it’s been so long. And I have microphones that I have a lot of more microphones they hang that I that I thought I was going to need but I ended at one terrible experience. And I’ll show you the video when we’re not on live. So you can tell me that I would make a good decision by retiring. But so for Bella’s I want to make a 30-second clip, 30-second video that we can say that will go on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, whatever social media things and and be used for getting people to pick up the phone or go online place orders. How much would you charge the customer that doesn’t require you to travel 30-second video or 60? I don’t know how long How long is the average video for a restaurant 30, 60?

Mark Skala  24:59

there is the The thing these days there are no there is their average. You know, it depends what you’re trying to do if you’re trying to get people to buy if you’re showing them a traditional commercial, story based commercial or if you’re just showing them a deal, deal deal. It can be as short as six, as long as a minute. Just depends on on what what the what the approach is

John Rayyan  25:18

that okay, fast casual pizzeria. What would you take control the situation? What would you recommend?

Mark Skala  25:23

Yeah, no, for pricing. What I tell people, and this is this is the beginning going to be disappointing. And then I’ll try to give you a number. And what I tell people, every single video is is a unique situation. And so what then a good analogy that I use a lot is, if you ask it, go to a general country and be like build me a house. Okay. What do you want? Do you want marble countertops? Or do you want laminate? Do you want hardwood floors? Do you want carpet, all of these things that involve cost different prices. And so one of the annoying things with working with a general contractor is you don’t really know what the final cost is. You just say, Well, my budget sort of like in between here and here. Okay, I can work with that. Let me figure out what I want to do. So that is the struggle that we have with pricing video. So if we were to look at sort of like the bare bones type of our pricing structure, a 30-second Commercial, whether it’s on digital, whether it’s on broadcast, could be anywhere from  $2500 to $250 thousand. Okay, so right, that’s, that’s a pretty large range is

John Rayyan  26:26

  1. Makes sense? Actually, but 250? I mean, I guess you have a whole stadium for the people, right?

Mark Skala  26:31

Well, seriously, like, again, do you need Sylvester Stallone in his stunt double? Do you need Evil Knievel doing motorcycle tricks? Do you need a Cinema Camera crane coming down? Or do you need someone to pick up some B roll and do some motion graphics and give you an app? Right. And so that’s one of the things to think about. Now for us like we typically start working on projects in the range of $5,000 above. Now, it really for us is all about partnership, and how can we find a way to bring value, I don’t feel like I can bring value to you, I’m going to find someone else to care. And so if it’s not an art here, I can find that Freelancer that I trust, and I vetted. And if you trust me, you’re gonna trust this person ever. So that’s how I approach business. So for us, we have a baseline offering, like, the cheapest thing you can do with us is called the snack starter pack. And basically what it is, this is an opportunity, it’s geared towards CPG brands, snack brands, that are startups in the startup phase. And it gives them basically a three pack of 15 second, second digital ads that showcase their products, unique advantages in different ways. And it’s a way for them to start experimenting with Facebook advertising, social media, advertising, YouTube, pre roll ads, all the digital content advertising right now, and get a feel for it, see what works. And then my goal is I’ve provided enough value to you, as you grow, you’re going to come back to me for advice, or as a trusted partner. And then eventually, you’ll have a budget that will work for what we really want to be doing. But it’s a way for us to I can kind of control we do. It’s all in our studio, we shoot a bunch of tabletop work, and it’s super high quality, it’s fun, and it’s different for everyone. But it is a way that I can control different aspects of scope that don’t let the price get away from us. Because, you know, cameras, you know, cameras equipment, light, that’s it, it’s expensive to run a video production company. And so that’s one of the reasons that many that it’s expensive to do video right. Now, you can always opt for the person who’s gonna think that somebody’s nephew who owns a camera, and it’s gonna come shoot video for you. Sometimes that works out and sometimes that

John Rayyan  28:34

is most of the time.

Mark Skala  28:37

You know, there’s there’s things you don’t see in pizza commercials, and other food commercials, whether it’s on the web or on TV, like you don’t realize there’s there’s 10, 15, 30 people behind the scenes making that stuff happen. If you would not believe what it takes to get a perfect cheese ball on maybe you do actually a perfect cheese ball on a pizza on camera. It is it is not an easy thing to do, which sounds silly to talk about it out loud, but I’ve tried to do it many times and you need a lot of hands and a lot of stylists and people to get that perfect shot of the cheese ball. You know.

John Rayyan  29:12

So let me just stop you right there and tell you what I think it takes because I’ve actually done it and then tell me if that’s what you have had to do. You have to use provolone. And you have to use sliced provolone, not the shredded slice is huge.

Mark Skala  29:28

But what happens if it’s a fake meat company that were a meat alternative company that only uses vegan products in their in their? I don’t even know that’s where it gets tricky, you know so that that’s what but I think you’re absolutely right on the slice provolone. That is that is the key fork right that huge so anybody

John Rayyan  29:47

watching this was in a pizza business, sliced provolone. If you want to get good shots, sliced provolone is the way to go.

Mark Skala  29:54

The other thing No, I believe and then I think the other thing to think about for restaurants specifically Like, DIY is not the is not necessarily the the, you know, is the is a isn’t a bad strategy, especially if it allows you to sort of get your feet wet and how it works and what works and what your audience likes or doesn’t. And then you can always scale that, again, sort of starting small starting at a reasonable cost to you, whatever that is. Because every every business has a different cost structure of how they want to sink money into marketing, right? How do I scale that with things that are working?

John Rayyan  30:28

Yeah, you know, Mark, You’re damn right about that. But the truth is, being cheap is an expensive habit. All right. That’s what I like to say, it doesn’t work. Alright, because what ends up happening is, you might have saved a grand or two, upfront, but the quality of product you have it ends up being crap, or you spend money marketing it and boosting it and then pushing it out there and it doesn’t create any traction. And you’re not really sure if it’s working you maybe you liked the video, a lot of times owners find what they have they they really enjoy like, Oh, I love my video and everybody else is like, it’s okay. And you’re like what do you mean? This is great. like Wow, look at that. It looks grainy, the food Look, what is that? Is that a Philly cheesesteak, you don’t even know what it is. So we like to say when my brother and I are being cheap is an expensive habit. It’s not that you’re being you’re being cheap, like, you might not have the money but you know, the first thing people want to cut is marketing. First thing that you want to cause marketing and I would say that that is the last thing you should cut is your marketing and especially video and direct mail, right. Get the point video in direct mail. Never cut video on direct mail. No, but I mean honestly, video on direct mail is vital. It’s vital. I mean, you really can’t touch it. And I believe in video big time because nobody, nobody can touch it. I mean, everybody we’re all add now if it’s not moving quickly, we’re nobody’s watching. nobody’s paying attention. Nobody’s reading as much as audiobooks are now is the thing. Nobody’s even reading books that much anymore. I mean, there are people do you read?

Mark Skala  32:10

I actually do both. I am an audio book and a physical book person.

John Rayyan  32:15

Yeah, how old Are you?

Mark Skala  32:17

34, 34 Yeah,

John Rayyan  32:19

so you just above that professional, but these younger

Mark Skala  32:21

Millennials are here. Yeah, I’m, I don’t have a place in this world. I’m a misfit toy.

John Rayyan  32:26

You’re a miss. Okay, so I got a question for you. Are you COVID-19? How bad is this screw you guys up?

Mark Skala  32:35

Um, you know, I think the word of the year for us is fortunate. Because then we’ve been able to piece it together. I think part of that is our strategy for businesses really strong. Part of it is luck. And part of it is we’ve invested heavily in the people that we like to work with. And there’s a lot of trust in our partners, like from a client perspective. And they’ve been really helpful to us sort of keeping us together. So we’ve we’ve been okay, there’s so many people that are not okay. We’re feeling fortunate. That’s That’s it.

John Rayyan  33:10

got good. I’m happy to hear that. So. So, you got a team of people, where are you located?

Mark Skala  33:16

We’re in Westown. So we have a studio in Westown about like Brandon Damon, it’s called the ICNC Building. It’s like a big, crazy, like 250,000 square foot startup incubator that not a lot of people know about in the city of Chicago, but it’s a really cool, really cool place to work. We don’t get to go there as much because we’re all working from home now. Except for shooting in the studio. We’ll go there for shoots peepee and sanitizer, and it’s like a Six Flags Mist spray of hand sanitizer when you walk in? What’s it called? It’s called the ICNC Building. It’s like make city Chicago is the initiative. If you’ve heard of like The Hatchery, it’s like they’re like a founding member of The Hatchery.

John Rayyan  33:58

They make movies or

Mark Skala  34:00

they make like, no, it’s not like your thing is in a space where they make movies. They’re down, down in the south side. And this is like basically granted, Damon right across the street from the Chicago Teachers Union Building.

John Rayyan  34:13

Gotcha. That

Mark Skala  34:14

it’s a little known. It’s but it’s awesome. It’s such a cool community of like, young and old companies that are sort of all in this crazy weird space.

John Rayyan  34:22

So if somebody wanted to do ad space with you do would you do that? Or would you would you would you like partner with you have a partner that you work with? Or how do you so let’s say you make the video, but then you want to actually see the results. Like, you know that if you give it to this client, it’s gonna get butchered, which is I’m sure a lot of times you’re like, holy crap, I cannot let you I might give you a piece of artwork, but you’re gonna trash it because you’re not gonna do with it. I need to take control of it. What do you do at that point?

Mark Skala  34:47

We do and we do this from the beginning, which is one of the one thing that says this does is apart from like our video production competition is we, you know, this holistic approach that we talked about is is manifested in what we call strategy workshop. So what we do is From the beginning, before any cameras are on or anything like that, we are talking about what are your goals? What action Do you want to people to perform, while after watching this video? Or what? And where is it in the sequence of your funnel, we ask all these marketing questions, all of these story based questions, what are you actually trying to do, because oftentimes I find that people don’t know what they’re trying to do. And that’s not a good way to spend money. So this is a way for all the players to get involved, all the decision makers, and to really understand what it is they’re investing a bunch of money in, because I don’t want people walking away from my business or our endeavors or partnership and saying, Man, that was a waste of money. That is my worst nightmare. And so this is a way to ensure success, however we define it because that’s the important thing is like, what are we trying to achieve? Did we achieve it, that’s the biggest thing. And so what it is, is we do that that’s a $5,000, I’ll give you that. That’s our ability to give you a price. It’s $5,000 for that workshop, but it goes into the project budget. So there’s almost like a no lose situation, if you’re willing to invest in video that goes into the project budget, to sort of contribute to contribute to what what we’re going to be doing. And so in terms of ad spend, we determine where it’s going to be airing Well, before we roll the cameras, there’s no there’s no deciding afterwards, you know, we are all on the same page, we strategize. And so when it comes to the media buy, if the company doesn’t have infrastructures for media buying things like that, we go to some partners that we have people I know or sometimes I just recommend, like, here’s a couple people we’ve worked with on Upwork, or a freelance websites that are really good for this. And you don’t have to spend X amount of dollars to work with them. And they will get you started methodically on how to scale this into a right way. And for people that that’s one thing that people don’t realize is like, the media buyer is not part of creating content. So when you’re thinking about content, that’s important. This is why I say like starting small and scaling it up, it’s really a good way to start doing this, get your feet wet, you can understand some core things. So when you’re investing the money, you will see you’re more likely to see that ROI that you’re looking for. And you have to make sure that the pixels and because that’s there’s a lot of complicated web development stuff that goes into Facebook advertising or any advertising where you actually want to see if people are getting driven. And if they get driven, you’re upset, they’re dropping off. Why is that a UI issue or UX issue? Is that something else is it that Internet Explorer six and your website doesn’t run on IE six, things like that, they can sort of make sure you’re seeing where things are breaking down in that sales funnel. And that’s important, but not every business owner has the acumen to be able to navigate that. But again, finding trusted partners that you can work to to sort of be these these arms of your business, if you’ve seen that are important ones. That make sense.

John Rayyan  37:42

Yeah. Very important. Very, very, very knowledgeable. Very, very impressive. Thank you. I I learned something right there. So what are what is the so have you worked with any pizzerias in the past? Just curious?

Mark Skala  37:57

No, I don’t think so. I’m trying to think we might have no we have we haven’t worked with any direct pizzerias. We’ve worked with restaurants before. But it hasn’t been a huge part of our business just because margins are so tight in the restaurant world. No. Historically,

John Rayyan  38:13

you damn right about it. That’s that’s that’s a hurdle everybody’s trying to get over. So and you know, and that’s why like, if you’re selling Groupon, right, Groupon videos would make sense, right? Because you make a video by this $15 get 30,000. But they kills pizzerias, it’s not good for them, but you you can pay for right away, you click on it, you pay for it, and you don’t have to use it right away like buying a gift card. So So what’s next? Do you think you think next year’s gonna go back to normal once the spring comes around?

Mark Skala  38:48  

You know, I’ve learned this year that I can’t predict anything, and I shouldn’t but what I what I will say is the signs right now are pointing to and really it was right after the election. And requests for work started jump a lot. And I think that was the uncertainty that people were worried about. And I think slowly even though cases are still rising, the amount of planning for next year is still happening. Now like the floodgates have opened a little bit and that makes me feel a lot better about prospects for next year for my business and I think for hopefully for a lot of businesses. The restaurant is just I don’t I don’t know what’s happening. It’s gonna be such a hard hard business for restaurants to figure out a plan anything because there’s just no

John Rayyan  39:36

they just shut down California outdoor dining Yeah.

Mark Skala 39:43

Yeah, outdoor dining.

John Rayyan  39:45

They’re trying to I don’t know is I don’t have it wrong. Nobody wants people to see people die. But that’s, that’s rough.

Mark Skala  39:52

Yeah, it wasn’t. It’s just like there’s no there’s no good. There’s no good choice. There’s no it’s just it’s like it’s like virtual or impressive. In school, like there’s no winning choice, no matter which way you go.

John Rayyan  40:05

Do you have any? Do you have any kids?

Mark Skala  40:07

Yeah, I’ve twin three year olds. So Oh, wow. behind the veil here is this is why I have this seamless that because it’s just toys.

John Rayyan  40:17

I’m sure. Yeah, I hope my wife does it. My wife doesn’t watch my crap. But let me tell you, if I had to be at home, I would die. I would die. Thank God, she is so much better than me when it comes to that. Thank God because right now, I’m torn zoom and one just you gotta teach her manually. And which is fine. I mean, you know, it’s called parenting, but every day. I it’s that’s rough. Ya

Mark Skala  40:44

know, I feel like we’re in this weird, like purgatory where we still have daycare. And so it’s like an in person day in home daycare, and it’s been the best thing in the world.

John Rayyan  40:56

Do you mean to come to your house?

Mark Skala  40:57

No, it’s like, it’s like, it’s like five blocks away from us. It’s like licensed daycare in somebody’s home. But it’s small. It’s only five or six kids. Yeah. So it’s been like the best decision we ever made at this point. And we were very thankful for her because it was,

John Rayyan  41:13

yeah, how much is your say? How much is your sanity worth?

Mark Skala  41:16

Yeah, I wish she she said we needed to put our price to buy here. Here’s a second cash from the bank. Here you go.

John Rayyan  41:23

Yeah. You know how much they wanted to die. I live right next to a Kiddie Academy. Which is a pretty big franchise, and they do a great job. I used to bring one of my kids over there. But to bring all three of them there three days a week only. It was like, I think 800 bucks a week. I was like, $800 a week. I mean, I’m okay, I make good money. I think God, but I just can’t justify that.

Mark Skala  41:50

You don’t get any you don’t get a discount per se. That’s when we learned when we had like, oh, there’s no discount for purchases sending to it’s just at the same time. It’s just, you know, it’s just you just figure it out. That’s it. That’s all all you can do. Figure it out.

John Rayyan  42:05

That’s it. That’s all you can do. Mark. That’s the end of our conversation for the podcast is a pleasure meeting you. You’re really you’re really good conversationalist, my friend. A lot of times, it’s not easy. It’s weird with the zoom. But you know how to carry the conversation. And I think I’m very happy to meet you. And I think that we’ll be doing business together one day in the future.

Mark Skala  42:25

I would love that man. And it was great to meet you as well. And you know, it is you know, I understand what it’s like to be an interviewer position. And so I like to make everyone’s job easy as much as I can.

John Rayyan  42:36

Thank you. Thank you once again Skalawag Productions,, call a man. Great guy. From what I can tell awesome reviews and awesome videos. I love it. Don’t do it yourself. That’s all I gotta say. Cuz it you will just embarrass yourself. I can contest. Okay, take care of Mark, nice talk to you. Thanks. Bye.

Conclusion  43:06

Thanks for listening to the Always Direct Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

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