Media Trading and Investing: Is It Right for You? With Media Tradesman Jonathan Sorkenn

Jonathan Sorkenn is the Senior Vice President of Evergreen Trading, a media investment agency powered by trade. In his role, he originates, executes, and manages corporate trade partnerships and oversees the company’s real estate practice. With over 10 years of corporate trading transactional experience, Jonathan has been involved in numerous pioneering trade transactions, creating innovative structures for the corporate trade industry. As a licensed real estate broker, he has more than 25 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry, having served as the Director of Real Estate Capital Markets and Investment Banking at PricewatershouseCoopers Securities LLC.

Apple Podcasts
Player FM
Amazon Music
Tune In
google podcast

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

  • What is Evergreen Trading and its role in media investing?
  • When e-commerce brands should consider media trading
  • The widespread roadblocks to media trading
  • A win-win-win scenario: Jonathan Sorkenn shares how he helped a company convert its assets into media
  • Which companies are not ideal candidates for media trading?
  • How to buy and sell media effectively
  • Why brands should invest in media
  • Jonathan’s passion for food and cooking — and his brush with fame
  • Jonathan talks about being a soccer dad

In this episode…

Inflation and other economic pressures are building up, and e-commerce brands are facing supply chain disruptions, forcing them to liquidate excess inventory and other assets. Rather than relinquishing merchandise and confronting major financial losses, brands can trade their assets for media. So what’s involved in this process, and how can brands maximize asset value?

Media trading and investing involves selling unusable assets to media buyers who exchange additional ad spend for a discounted cost. Through this method, brands receive media credits of equal value to their unused inventory, eliminating the loss that occurs from wholesaling those assets. While this seems like a straightforward option, many brands are hesitant since they often outsource media buying to an ad agency. Yet this presents a greater risk and yields less of a return, so trade partnership facilitator Jonathan Sorkenn recommends partnering with independent trade agencies to optimize your supply chain and save money on media ads. These corporations collaborate with marketing and finance departments to enhance value.

In this Up Arrow Podcast episode, William Harris sits down with Jonathan Sorkenn, the Senior Vice President of Evergreen Trading, to talk about how to convert your assets to media. Jonathan discusses the ideal candidates for media trading, how he facilitated a triple-win for a customer, and how to buy and sell media effectively.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is a performance-driven e-commerce marketing agency focused on finding the best opportunities for you to grow and scale your business.

Our paid search, social, and programmatic services have proven to increase traffic and ROAS, allowing you to make more money efficiently.

To learn more, visit

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris, featuring top business leaders sharing strategies and resources to get to the next level. Now, let's get started with the show.

William Harris  0:15

Hey, everyone, I'm William Harris. I'm the founder and CEO of Elumynt. In the host of the Up Arrow Podcast where I feature the best minds in E commerce help you scale from 10 million to 100 million plus. The guests that I have today is Jonathan Sorkenn from the down and dirty streets of Northern Bergen County, New Jersey. Cue the left check. At least that's what you had me right in there too. That was pretty good. Jonathan Sorkenn has evolved from a successful commercial real estate consultant in investment banker to one of the leading corporate barter specialists in the media trade industry. A soccer dad and self professed foodie Jonathan has eaten his way across the country helping major brands turn even the most challenging failed product launches, problematic excess inventories in corporate real estate into incremental EPS. That is earnings per share for those who are not in the financial world, in working media. And you were introduced to me by Ted Rubin, the brilliant social marketing strategist, best selling author, and keynote speaker. Jonathan, I'm excited to have you here.

Jonathan Sorkenn  1:12  

William, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. Really excited to spend some time with you today.

William Harris  1:18

And likewise, I do want to announce our sponsor quickly. This episode is brought to you by Elumynt Elumynt is an award winning advertising agency optimizing ecommerce campaigns around profit. In fact, we've helped 13 of our customers get acquired with the largest one selling for nearly 800 million in one that I peeled recently. You can learn more on our, which is spelled That said, let's get on to the good stuff. The first question that I had for you, Jonathan is well, have you ever seen the show This is us?

Jonathan Sorkenn  1:54  

I'm not a regular? I'm not a regular viewer, but I've caught an episode or two.

William Harris  1:59  

Okay, there's a character in there named Randall. And he goes to his his daughter's like parent, what is it? Job night or whatever words like describes what his job is, and he's a weather trader. And he tries explaining this to like, you know, sixth sixth graders or something like that. I kind of felt a little bit that way. When I first started talking to you. I was like, Wait a minute. So what do we call this media investing, media trading, corporate barter? Let me just start by saying, okay, Evergreen Trading, what is this?

Jonathan Sorkenn  2:31  

You know, you just, you just hit it on the head. And it's one of the struggles we have in this industry, media trade, corporate barter media investment. It is a platform, where it's a subset of the overall media buying market, a tactic and a program and partnership program that enables companies that advertise to turn redundant items in their supply chain, those redundant items could be real estate, excess inventories, equipment, really packaging, raw materials, anything redundant or impaired. So at a book value that's above the current liquidation value, we help those companies turn those items into incremental working media, and effectively create incremental revenue. Point the EPS point we were talking about, it's it's tough to get down to that point, or it takes some time to get people to understand but ultimately, we're this tactic, this platform, this partnership program that enables companies to extract incremental value from expenditures they're gonna make anyway, using stuff that's a challenge that no one wants to deal with as the as the engine for that opportunity.

William Harris  3:45

Yeah, I remember when Ted first said that with the introduction, I looked at Evergreen Trading and, and my dumb mind was like, I don't know, it doesn't make a lot of sense. If I don't get it right. Then once you and I talked about, oh, everybody needs to know about this, this is a really, really interesting thing. So let me try to re explain it in my own words, and see it correct me if I'm wrong on this. Let's say that I'm an e commerce Store. And I have a whole bunch of inventory that didn't sell. And maybe what I can do is, well, sure, I could just sell it for pennies, or I can wholesale it out or whatever. Or I can, more or less traded to you sell it to you. And you guys would buy that excess inventory. But you guys also have like inventory of basically media that you have pre purchased like futures of of media. So you are able to now have better rates on a lot of that stuff. And so you actually end up trading in your excess inventory for ad spend at a discounted cost.

Jonathan Sorkenn  4:49

You have it you have a pretty good handle on it. So maybe what I'll step back a little bit there's there's really two sides of our business right. So the first side is we use our balance sheet And we are almost we almost sort of like a private bank to the media community. So media vendors, pretty much at all tactics of the outside of paid search, and print, have different, that's where we operate, we deploy our capital, they have earnings challenges throughout the year, right, because they're at the mercy of advertisers and their agencies as to when they buy that media, and the type of media they buy, we might help an outdoor company solve some slow revenue challenges at the end of a quarter. But unlike a bank that wants principal and interest payments by back, we'll take a call on their future unrestricted media positions, say over the next 12 to 18 months at a below market price. So the media vendor does this because they solve the problem today. And what they're doing is giving away a little bit of their future upside to solve that immediate problem. So now we Evergreen we have these positions, unrestricted, the only caveat is if it's been sold to another advertiser, there's nothing we can do, nothing an advertiser could do working through their agency. So now we take this, knowing that we have this inventory or these positions, because it's really not specific inventory. It's not remnant in any way. It's completely unrestricted, like a call on this on this inventory across different partners across different tactics. We talked to companies that advertise that have some type of impaired asset in their supply chain, like we spoke about, we will buy those items at a premium price. So above what that liquidation value is better than what their other alternatives and sometimes if they have a process, that they're comfortable for most big companies do, they have a process for rationalizing excess, or close out merchandise, for example, we can put this as an overlay to that existing process if in fact, they don't want us to get involved as a principal with the with the items. Either way, we're agnostic, so we overpay them effectively, or give them an opportunity to recapture what otherwise would have been an unrecoverable loss, right. So if they had a million dollar book value on some asset that they would liquidate for $250,000, we will pay them a million dollars in a media credit, which is our dollar denominated currency, they would use that media credit, almost like a coupon to pay for a portion or settle a portion of their media invoices going forward. So effectively, you can think of it this way that if it's a retailer that has excess sweaters, or shampoo, whatever that happens to be, if they could convince their ad their media vendor where they wanted to place their ads, when the bill came to accept some of this shampoo or sweaters to settle a portion of the invoices, we wouldn't be needed. But that doesn't happen. So we're the conduit. We're the we're the ones that enable that to happen does that hopefully that starts it's phase one of the demystification process.

William Harris  7:57  

It does. And I think this is why this is so brilliant, because this is a common problem for a lot of brands that they run into. And oftentimes they're looking at it to your point where they say, I don't have a whole lot of options, I have the option of liquidating it that's not good, or, you know, discounting or whatever they're doing. But this is not ideal situation. But this is a way to almost kind of turn that less than ideal situation into a different sort of win of sorts. And I think that you kind of worded it before to me as like, it's a win win win. Everybody wins in this situation, in some ways that I think that's a very interesting concept. What are what are the signs that you would say, a brand, would look at this and say, This is our time for us to start talking to Evergreen Trading about doing this?

Jonathan Sorkenn  8:52

Like I think there were there's different different economic cycles, right? In an up market when everyone's doing well. And for whatever reason, in the economic cycle, a lot of companies are bailed out of their bad decisions by a rising tide. Totally. No. So they don't have to look to us because they feel act. We're good. Plenty of people say that we're good. Where we are now when there's some uncertainty? Is there going to be a recession? Is this going to be a recessionary environment? Is it going to be a hard landing? Is it going to be a soft landing, inflationary pressures is going to normalize all these different factors? The I would argue we would argue in the at Evergreen, the smart companies, the savvy individuals in leadership positions, are mandating Look, everyone all hands on deck to find every possible efficiency tactic. Now, a lot of companies can say that they're doing that, but not every company follows through with the actions. And one point I wanted to touch upon and why this is maybe something you don't hear about very on a very regular basis. To create. It's tough enough to create a single win. When you're talking to a new prospective company, now we create ultimately in a build, I agree with you a win win win, if it's tough to create one, when it's even tougher to create three wins across different areas of a company. So the marketing department obviously is very involved in our, in our program, the supply chain, or the asset holder, or the real estate department, for example, if that's where the excess there where the problem lies. And then you have the finance organization, typically that in a perfect world is a bridge between those two groups, because otherwise, it's an incredibly obtuse relations relationship to try to link. But wait a minute, slow moving inventory, and my brand spending to grow my business, like, everyone's got too much to worry about, and they don't want to get involved in everyone else's sort of business. But where this has been successful, somehow there's some I don't know. And it's not an industry specific variable. It's just we look back across our clients in this industry, where there's been the most success, every one of those companies, different types of assets, different types of media. It's someone in the organization for whatever reason, grabbed onto this, and really started to internally corral the different stakeholders and evangelize with us, because it was too important to let you know, oh, it's only a million dollars. Oh, it's only $10 million. What's the big deal? If you can find that and extract that from existing expenditures and media? It's wonderful. So that's Yeah, but the challenge is getting everyone to actually take the time from their day jobs, they're overwhelmed their core priorities, to take some time to understand this.

William Harris  11:43  

Yeah. And I think that's very similar to just lateral thinking, in general, I feel you know, a lot of times it's like you're so far in your your little hole, that it's hard to break out and see what else might be going on in these other silos. Take me through this. Let's say that I'm $100 million DTC brand. And what's, what's the scenario paint the picture for me what what's going through their heads as they're looking at their books, who is likely calling this out? Most likely, in saying raising the flag saying, okay, there, here's the issue, and how are we going to address that, like, what's what's going through their head? What does this day look like?

Jonathan Sorkenn  12:26

In that example, $100 million DTC brand, we're probably going to be your we're going to hope to get the attention of the CEO, or the CFO, or possibly the CMO, but I'm guessing at that size company, we're dealing in the C suite. And that's a, there's a benefit there. Because the for that size company, they're probably not very decentralized. The the the C suite individuals, it used to be that they would all sit in the same floor when in adjacent offices, but even our ones in Los Angeles, ones in Miami, and ones in Chicago, they're still centralized, right? And they're communicating. And if we have the opportunity to just have a conversation with someone who's willing to, you know, honestly give us time to hear it out. It will resonate. But it's tough, like easier said than done.

William Harris  13:19  

There are, what are some of the roadblocks or objections where if somebody ends up getting at least having a conversation, but they say not, this isn't gonna work for us? What are those things that they think are preventing people from moving forward with this?

Jonathan Sorkenn  13:34  

Number one, and this was especially acute during the pandemic, where there was this incredible disparity, the haves and the have nots of businesses, some businesses boomed in record years for unanticipated demand. Others, for example, we were talking to a paper manufacturing company that was closing a factory, an old, obsolete factory, before the pandemic, we were ready to do the deal. And as it turned out, the demand for pizza boxes skyrocketed during the pandemic, and they added extra shifts to this factory and a deal didn't happen. So how do you get their attention? I'm sorry, if you could go back to the question. I know when I screw this up.

William Harris  14:18

No no, it's just the idea of, you know, what are things that blocked them from saying, Okay, I want to move forward with this?

Jonathan Sorkenn  14:26

Bandwidth. Bandwidth is number one. The other thing is, well, it's too good to be true. It's, it's, it's almost if they haven't experienced this, it's a little incongruous, mentally, and there's this like cognitive dissonance. This can't work. Or I got an ad agency that handles my media buying on the media side of it. I'll outsource it to them. You know, I don't need to do something differently. And then we get introduced to the ad agency and the ad agency, even though many of the larger holding companies they used to push back on this platform, but recognize that it really creates value. They've tried to maintain and become defensive and hold this in and try to do this themselves. We don't believe they do it as well. And it's important to work with what are the value propositions or points of differentiation is Evergreen as an independent player, we're not owned by one of the holding companies, we work across holding company clients. But they do try because they use it and say, if if we can create, say, a 20% benefit on media through our investments, let's just make that up. The holding companies can probably create, I don't know, close to that as well, if they follow the same tactics, but what they do is they don't pass through all the savings to their clients, and they use it as a margin enhancement tool. We just are too objective, we're trying to be transparent. We'd rather give more value to the client and have that 20% Share most of it have a reasonable discussion, how much should be shared to you for value, what's a reasonable profit for US based upon our risk profile, and making these investments to solve this problem for you? To get your company is just one path of least resistance. That's one of the big hurdles we have, you know, this is fine. This is the way I've done it. But where we've had success, it goes back to that one individual typically, in whether it's a marketing individual, a supply chain, individual procurement person, or CFO, and says, Wait a minute, this is too important. No, I don't want you know, single digit savings. I want double digit savings. And we're gonna work through this and we're gonna optimize our supply chain. Yeah,

William Harris  15:01

maybe you can't name companies. And if you can, even better, but if you can't, that's fine, too. What's an example of somebody that came to you that you were able to solve this in? clearly shows the Win Win win in that situation for them?

Jonathan Sorkenn  16:51

Yeah. Boy, do I have some stories? As you can imagine, when company because quite frequently, the first time out? If someone's going to dip their toe in the water? They they do some underwriting and they say, Okay, how do we, how do we plan this restructure this unit, this initial deal. So if everything goes to hell in a handbasket, we really haven't lost. So it typically means starting off trading is something that, you know, we talked about liquidation value where there's some liquidation value, they might start out with not something with no liquidation value, and we want to earn our seat at the table. And we were party to a very lengthy RFP process, which is not how it always goes, but a procurement driven RFP process with a global retailer, I can't use the name we want, we were very happy that we went through this lengthy process and were selected. However, once we won, and we started talking to them about the assets and the process. We thought that the companies that came in second and third were really the victors, not us. But they said, here's some signage, here's some old wooden planks that we use in some of the store fit outs. But we did it and but most importantly, it was, can you do more media? Can you execute the media in the same way that we would through our agency? Now we just handle activation, we don't handle the planning and the strategy, nor do we set the rates. So what's most important is all those standards stay in place. We are buying what should be the same like for like media, and allowing them to pay you some of that excess signage or wood planks to fund a portion of the of the media and your or your seat at the table. They see that it works. And lo and behold, that process and that partnership grew where we got a phone call at the end of a holiday season. And they said, hey, you know, this is really working, we got a big problem. Because now we're blessed. Right now we're we're improving partner, we're part of the strategic plan. It's the end of the holiday season, we've marked as much stuff down in the store base and online as we possibly can. We have no more room in the DCS and in the stores for the spring merchandise. Can you buy every remaining piece of merchandise throughout the North American store base, and we need it done in the next 45 days? Well, we did it. And it was you know, very significant, very successful referenceable type, you know, success. And we live for another day. But that's a lot of times how it has to work, that same company before we got to the valuable product that we ultimately traded to an acceptable secondary market retailer that they wanted it to go to, but that's not going

William Harris  19:37  

to ask about to do with that. Okay, well,

Jonathan Sorkenn  19:39  

the secondary market retailer they were comfortable with, you know, they would mark the labels so the product couldn't be returned to primary retail. And but they were not going to pay the price in a normal process. But let's say they were going to pay $3 per unit I'm making up a number that wasn't acceptable, but that's what they were going to pay and that's what they could afford to pay and they're driving things, what we were able to do was take the $3 from the secondary market retailer and turn that into 10 mil $10 per unit of media credit that the client could use to offset its and that's what they needed the $10 made up numbers is what they needed to, you know, come out of this hole through the use of those the the media currency, we paid them. That's one but there's a lot of crazy stuff that same company in between the the apparel and the signage. They had a division of one of their brands that had headless mannequins throughout their story base that were literally scaring some of their customers kids. But it was a great idea. At some point, someone made the investment. We bought all the headless mannequins because they said it's a crisis, we have to replace all the mannequins with mannequins with heads, they showed up at our warehouse literally, like headless bodies wrapped in blankets with spare lenses. Well, it was a pretty crazy scenario. So that's, that's that's one story.

William Harris  21:00

So then you sold that to an LA film crew for a horror movie. And yeah, some

Jonathan Sorkenn  21:05  

Some of them we actually ended up donating to design schools and a lot of the other pieces we try to stay you know, at a we try to be good corporate stewards relative to sustainability. And we broke it down into its components and recycled the metal recycled, the the wood recycled the plastic, but that's one. Another one that I just love is as a story was a QSR. So a quick serve restaurant client, that while they were renovating stores in the United States, they didn't want to lose the benefit of people coming into these stores while the store was being renovated. So they had these very large, almost like mobile restaurant trailers, they had a couple of these that they would pull into the parking lot and could at least serve a limited menu while the store was being renovated. Well, they had renovated their store base and these two big restaurant trailers were just sitting literally rotting in upstate New York and a you know uncovered parking lot. And they dip their toe in the water, they saw the value this was we actually started working on some media and proved ourselves first, and then they backfield with these with these assets. They needed, I don't know, half a million dollars was their original cost, let's say for these two units. And we had to send people up there, make sure the hydraulics worked, I mean, put air in the tire. And then you have to arrange for someone to actually drive these out. And they're wide loads. So you need you know, you ever see those wide load cars, yeah, flags and the flashing orange lights. We had to arrange for that as it went from state to state we ended up selling it and this is the real fun part. We sold it to an individual who had a number of businesses and are made all these arrangements and pulled these trailers out to California. They were retrofitted so rescanned updated, modernized. He put the investments in. And this individual had the right to set up mobile cannabis dispensaries at music festivals. So insurance talking about sustainability earning a an old redundant mobile restaurant trailer into a modern mobile cannabis dispensary. I think that's pretty cool.

William Harris  23:16

Yeah. Wow. I mean, that's just the kind of thing that you you think about you? How do you fit all those different pieces together? And that's, I think, where the geniusness of this comes from, because it's, I wouldn't come up with that idea.

Jonathan Sorkenn  23:31  

Very complex. Nor did I and nor did this is, you know, an industry that's been around for probably, I don't know, 3035 years, it's definitely become more mainstream. It's less fly by the seat of your pants, it's more institutionalized. And evergreen, we've been around 12 years, and we just try to be focused on what we know, we do really well, which we're not trying to be the largest in the industry and do business with everyone if we can keep our a nice successful stable of 30 to 35. Clients, and continually grow and make everyone referenceable. And even people if we don't do business with them, if we become friends with them. That's fine, too. And we hope that over time by doing the right thing, and not giving people a slow No. And actually, I know this is going to sound really crazy. Doing what people ask you to do. Or don't do things that people say don't do. And unfortunately, in a lot of business environments, someone will say, call me back in two weeks, and you know, they're banging on the door the next day. We just try to take an appropriate approach and it's more of a long game and doing the right things. You know, like your parents told you say please and thank you and smile. I don't know. It doesn't seem like rocket science to me. But apparently in our industry, it is to some extent.

William Harris  24:51

It is just in general, I think to your point. There's a lot of, I don't know, we don't listen very well as a society. I don't know how to fix that. But I do think to your point where it's like if you say, hey, two weeks, then it's two weeks. It's not a week later. I tangentially here. I actually had Harley Finkelstein, on the podcast as well, president of Shopify. And one of the things that he appreciated was, when I tagged him on Twitter about something. I think he said, Alright, reach back out to me in two weeks. And I added it to my calendar that said, Alright, two weeks, right, and I put it on there. And I sent him a screenshot, write that in there. It's a great, it's on my calendar for two weeks. So one, he knows that I'm serious. But also, he appreciated that he said, Alright, make it three weeks, and you've got to deal kind of thing. And so but to your point, where it's like two weeks is two weeks, it's not tomorrow. It's not two months from now, it's two weeks. And I think that being able to follow through on that as it is.

Jonathan Sorkenn  25:53  

You know, it’s interesting not not to, not to give Ted Rubin a plug, but his whole mantra of return on relationship. It matters. And when when I met him at a conference probably a little over four years ago, for the first time, something I was moderating. And he was the emcee. It's right. It's just Yeah, it's it's relationships. It's people, it's going out of your way and actually doing something and not expecting something in return. I mean, I know that again, that's crazy to some people. But yeah, I don't know. Life's too short, man.

William Harris  26:24  

Yep. So you called out something. I think that's important. Also, that this isn't for everybody. You specifically said, you know, not giving them the slow? No, which means giving them the quick now, what's an example of somebody that is probably not the right fit for being able to do something like this, specifically within the DTC? e-commerce, retail space?

Jonathan Sorkenn  26:45  

That's a fantastic question. So we try to have different qualifications, right, we try to bracket the ideal candidate. And unfortunately, it seems like you get the attention of companies that have massive problems in their supply chain, oh, my God, this company Evergreen can solve our problem. And God we'd love to, but it's a company that either they're selling b2b, they're not advertising significantly enough to a consumer marketplace, or their entire marketing plan is, you know, through Google. And sure, SEO and search, it's just not going to work. But if there's, as a general statement, if you look at the advertising in the marketing funnel, where we live best is mid funnel up. It doesn't mean that we can't live mid funnel down. But in a perfect world, we'd live mid funnel up or, you know, just below mid funnel. That's where it's most impactful, that's where the greatest efficiency can be created. Although that continues to evolve. So if you asked us three, four years ago, it was probably only the top quarter of the funnel. And I'm guessing that in the next 12 to 18 months, were going to be, you know, pretty busy in that bottom third of the funnel as well, just because at a competitive necessity. And as people's objectives change, it used to be people would buy their whole year, they'd lay down all their ads for the year at the beginning of the year, or even the beginning of the prior year. And, you know, put it on auto auto play and then just go out to a lot of nice lunches. It's just not the reality anymore. So we have to be nimble, our positions have changed people used to by linear video, well, that's not just going to work. Now. It's it's all the digital extensions, or the CTV space. So from a DTC, advertiser, or retailer that are active in those different areas. If they have problems, we can absolutely help them.

William Harris  28:45  

Yeah, and to your point, because this still exists more middle funnel type of funnel. And I know you said getting into the bottom of funnel as well. But a lot of times, I'd imagine that the stuff that you're able to buy up inventory of is more middle top of funnel. And so if you're a brand that's not currently advertising in middle and top of funnel, because you're just so focused on bottom of funnel, then you spending on the top of funnel might not do anything for you. Because you don't even have the assets for advertising that you don't know you don't have your plan figured out. You're not sending people to the right pages and not saying the right things like it wouldn't be as effective for you. And so you might have gotten the media cheap, but you did a terrible job with it. And it just was well yeah,

Jonathan Sorkenn  29:25  

we would never, we would never take something on if we weren't confident that it would work. It's just not worth it. Right. The downsides to significant, but what you also find, and this is this comes back to like, why do companies resist, right? Why wouldn't they want to do this? Certain people historically, especially in the bottom half of the funnel, they're used to keeping their hands on keyboard in the programmatic space, something where you know, programmatic display programmatically purchase video, that's all really fertile ground for us. But all of a sudden, if you look at the percentage of each dollar that's actually going to working idea in that space, it's in many instances, it's not even 50%. Now, because of all the different layers and agencies that are controlling their clients and leading them around, they, they I mean, there was it in was it meet the parents, when he has the Ben Stiller has the suitcase on the airplane. And you know, it's like a death grip on his suitcase. Yeah, baggage, well, they don't want to let that go. They don't want to let that because it's there. It's the margin and the fees. So some companies, some brands don't care, they trust their agency, working through us in that example, if you'll let our experts have hands on keyboard, we can increase that percentage of working media, the dollar or the percentage of the dollar going into working media pretty significantly, but, boy, you're going into a hornet's nest. So I just throw that as a caveat. And like, everyone's allowed to make their own decisions.

William Harris  30:55

Yeah, I think that was Ben Stiller. And I think that were exact what was bom bom bom bom bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, something like that. Right? But yeah, to your point? Agencies? That's an interesting topic. Because I know we talked about this a little bit that sometimes agencies can be a roadblock to this. How is it? Because you told me the agencies shouldn't worry too much about this, that you guys play very well in the sandbox together? Why should agencies not be worried about this? How is this not disruptive to what their business is?

Jonathan Sorkenn  31:27

Well, it's interesting, we find that many, a lot of this comes down to if we have a strong enough client sponsor, who recognizes the importance of the value we're going to be creating through this partnership. They communicate that clearly to the agency, that we have this new entity Evergreen, they're going to be involved in this process, you are going to play nicely with them in the sandbox. And frankly, we feel as though we have a joint, we should have a joint fiduciary responsibility to our shared client, we're not always welcomed with open arms, and you know, they're bringing us meals and cookies. But that's emotional. It's an emotional dissonance. It's an emotional, you know, oh, my God, I work so hard to get this relationship with this client, what's going to happen, but the other piece is, if all of a sudden, we're able to deliver additional value, which is what our model does. There's this insecurity. And they wonder, Oh, my God, is my client going to think that I didn't do my job? Well, if all of a sudden, like, where are we buying media inefficiently, what the smart agencies, what they realize is that, well, over time, what they don't realize is that these are two different business models. So if they're insecure and worried about us, I don't know making them look bad, because we're buying media more efficiently, completely different models we spoke about earlier in the conversation us as a principal making investments versus an agency that's getting paid for paid for paid a fee for service. Now, what's interesting is over time, the savvy agencies, since we don't take a fee, we deal with net dollars. So whatever fee arrangement is in place between the client and the agency, we suggest strongly recommend that remains intact, the savvy agencies and it takes a while. All the even if they were complaining in the beginning, they start to realize, wait a minute, I have the same revenue coming in. And I have this evergreen entity handling all the activation, all the buying all that iterations that my people don't have to do, I'm actually coming out ahead here. But that takes some time for them to for that light bulb to go off in that realization. And that just when that happens, that supercharges, this sort of three party partnership between us, the agency and the

William Harris  33:40

client, as well. And let's just even say if you're an E with a focus agency, then this is even better. Because not only is all that other stuff true, but your client is now in a better profitability situation, which allows for more investment into other things that are going to help to drive up your better products, better ad creative, more money to be able to spend on good advertising, a lot of ways in which this can boost it improve that relationship there as well. Yes. What else should I know? When it comes to Evergreen Trading in about just this whole media investing approach that we haven't already talked

Jonathan Sorkenn  34:18  

about? I think we've covered we've covered a lot of it. But what I what I find really interesting is that it's people opening their minds. It's the willingness to try something differently. I mean, I sat down once I remember years ago with a very senior powerful Chief Operating Officer of like a fortune 50 company, nervous like dressed up in a suit and tie which you know, and of course, he's in there with a golf shirt and then, you know, always slacks if you guess what's with the tie because I only wear a tie at a funeral or if I'm giving a college commencement address anyway, got right to the point why would explain the business model here he was aware of But why? Why wouldn't more people do this? And I said, for us, the biggest struggle we have in organizations is people want people in organizations, irrespective of what department, they're in, believing that creating a million dollars of incremental savings or revenue was meaningful, and he smacks his hands down at the desk and goes, I've been fighting that battle my whole corporate career. Sure. So if you can get people to pay attention, it's like, yeah, like a penny per share of EPS. And that varies by the size of the company, how much revenue that is, we had a CFO of a large grocer, who was one of our sponsors, who said to his marketing team, I'm not going to make you do this. But let's just say a million dollars was the number it was probably much larger, we got a viable program here with your participation to create this incremental revenue in, which is a penny per share. And our stock is trading at a 18 Multiple, which translates to, you know, all this incremental enterprise value, and oh, by the way, that's how you're well compensated, familiar with the incentive. You don't have to do it. But we're a pennies business when it comes to margin. And if you don't do it, how many extra heads of lettuce through your marketing campaigns, you're going to get people to buy for us to make an extra nickel, a head of lettuce to get up to this incremental penny per share, you know, the eyes go wide, and all of a sudden, yeah, we're gonna give this a try. And it turned into a very significant long standing relationship. So you got to try something different. And it brings me to a point when evergreen when we were redoing our website five or six years ago, and we all put a quote out there, you mentioned that I'm sort of the self professed foodie, you can see that I could, I'm not gonna I'm not gonna waste away missing a meal. Anthony Bourdain, so many people listening, you're going to who he was, unfortunately, left us too soon. Had a quote, and I'm going to read it. And it says, because it's relative to food and culture, and opening your mind and experiencing different things. And I think it's very appropriate for our business, because you have to get people to think differently. It says, Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive and moribund. So I just think that's the case. And in this in this business environment, companies that are not willing to do things differently. And they all say they are. And we mentioned this earlier, they have to try new things. They have to have some type of, you know, innovation program. And it's tough, because it's not just that one party. It's bringing everyone together, how can they coalesce around the solution, and at least dip their toe in the water or try it? We're not asking for a long term commitment. This isn't you know, you're locked in for years and years and years. We want to earn our seat at the table. We're passionate. We believe it works. We know it works. But people have to open their minds and be willingness willing to allocate a little of their their bandwidth to better understand the program. That's

William Harris  38:04  

great. And like you said, this is a really interesting approach to solving other problems in the business. And I think it's at least worth exploring. You talked about Anthony Bourdain, though, and so this is a good time to transition into the personal section of who is Jonathan Sorkenn because if I understand correctly tell me why this song Why I'm going to sing this song every move you make right? Alright, you know a song that says right? I'll be watching you every breath you take every breath you take every move you make

Jonathan Sorkenn  38:42

is my favorite band of all time the police. Okay,

William Harris  38:46  

so why am I singing this song? Talking about Anthony Bourdain. How does this relate to Eric prepare Okay, so

Jonathan Sorkenn  38:53  

Eric repair as as someone who follows food and I credit this to my late father who always did the cooking in the house so like growing up holidays company he was doing all the food you know, food preparation and menu creation and I mean literally printing out menus for people coming over for Thanksgiving when my mother did the the more mundane daily cooking for us as kids growing up right. I took on that and adopted that and now my son has actually followed in my footsteps and he's blown me away. He's like a sushi master with he and his fiancee. The stuff he does in the OMA Casa sushi he puts together is unbelievable. But anyway, Eric repair the chef at Liberty den in New York. I've been fortunate enough to be there to eat there a couple times just so wonderful. I love seafood Eric repair and Anthony Bourdain were very close friends. That's the connection. Unfortunately, Eric repair was the one that found Anthony Bourdain when he you know, a time of his untimely death in France. Up Eric, I was at a food conference, a restaurant finance conference in Las Vegas. A number of years ago, I knew Eric repair was going to be speaking. So I was really excited just to attend the event than his session. And as I'm with one of my colleagues and were in the hallway of one of the big hotels in Vegas, and having a sandwich or something, I see Eric repair walk by, I bolt. I literally run down the hallway into this conference room and find him at the front to pose for a picture and tell him what a wonderful person he is. He just came out with an amazing book called seafoods simple, I'm not getting paid for this plug. It's just a wonderful that simple for him. Short Hair two Michelin three star chef at Liberty den in New York City. And we pose for a picture the nicest most genuine down to earth individuals. Just wonderful experience with meeting Eric repair.

William Harris  40:52  

But here's the thing. This is not a one time thing for you. Why does this ring a bell now when I'm the same topic?

Jonathan Sorkenn  41:00  

So one of the few times I remember I think I was flying at a, there was a holiday Monday in January or February. Maybe it was Presidents Day, and I'm flying for meetings on Tuesday in Los Angeles. And again, one of the few times I was actually upgraded on a flight maybe because it was a holiday. And I'm in the front of the business class section, the plane lands in LA. And we're going to deplane mid door. So the first row has to go back. And there's all this commotion behind me a few rows behind me and people posing for pictures. And I'm Oh my god, this is this is unbelievable. Who could this be? And it's a it's this. Two men and one of them looks Asian from Yeah, he looks Asian. And I'm going and I'm getting this inkling like there's someone famous here like someone that means something to me. And lo and behold, it's George Takei, a loving Sulu from Star Trek, who became almost even more famous through his interactions with Howard Stern in the Howard Stern Show. And he's with his partner, his husband, Brad. They get off the plane. They're walking down the concourse at LAX. I have to wait to get out. Everyone's taking their bags down again. I'm running down the concourse at LAX, George bread. Oh my god, you sir. Great. You're great. You're great. I'm a big fan. We post for a picture and I even got the Oh my It was it was wonderful. Yeah, I'm a little I'm a Yeah, I'm a nerd. No,

William Harris  42:34  

that's good. As long as you don't start chasing me down the hallway here too. But now I'm giving you a hard time about it. George, yes, definitely became famous, obviously from Star Trek, and then through some of the Howard Stern stuff, too. My favorite thing though, is just seeing him play himself in the show Psych. So I'm a big psych nerd. Like such a big nerd like that. Literally even the psych phone case. And so I know he played there a couple of times too. And it is

Jonathan Sorkenn  43:02  

such a good sport. And just it was that was that was really fun. I mean, I that was now again, I'm a nerd that was that was pretty cool, light. Cooler than even when I was very young flying in college flying up to Boston, and there's a woman they clear it out the first row of the at that time. I think it was the Pan Am shuttle before it was the Delta shuttle. And this woman is sitting there with her feet up on the bulkhead. Shoes off reading the New York Post. With the big glasses. It's Jacqueline Onassis.

William Harris  43:36

Nice. That's fine. That was

Jonathan Sorkenn  43:40

pretty, pretty cool. Back in the day. Anyway, just some extra stories. So

William Harris  43:46

we've got another story here to you're telling me about fun road trip story with the Special Forces. I don't want to spoil it anymore. Well, yeah,

Jonathan Sorkenn  43:59  

so one of the things about we and our business dealing with companies in different industries, they're located in different places. We don't typically break out by geography or even industry because it's all about the uniqueness of finding an individual who will grab onto this. So we traveled domestically a lot. You know, we see a lot of the country. And as in the intro, we sort of eat our way across the country. So there was one particular trip. We were going from one city in Texas to another and it's almost like a goof. It's like how many different things can we try? We started on the way back to this airport to the airport. We found what was supposed to be the best gas station taco joint in this part of Texas. I mean, literally, I think the guy making the tacos was like changing oil in someone's car. Prior to washing his hands it looked like you washed his hands or at least you rubbed them, you know wipe them with a with an oily rag. The most amazing tacos love it. Fantastic. Stick get back in the car. And at that time, I had never we were we were talking to try to do business with another QSR in Texas. People are familiar with water burger. The orange triangle never had a water burger. So let's go try water burger we go into water burger first work in a split one. We ended up getting our own they get all these wonderful condiments and side dishes. We have a second so now it's that's a lunch number two. We get into the airports like

William Harris  45:28  

Frodo and Bilbo Baggins here right you're gonna get Yeah, it was out of hand

Jonathan Sorkenn  45:32  

and again look at me I'm such a slob. So we go in and now um, this was early enough where in the Northeast Chick fil A had really not expanded and covered the market living in the Northeast. You don't get a lot of Chick fil A it's it's a special treat. Of course there's a Chick fil A Chick fil A in the airport that doesn't have a long line. So we got to get a big thing of chicken nuggets at least. So we do this my colleague who Yeah, big you know I don't have to worry about security use around he's been in the Special Forces. He's a wonderful individual who were very close and have had some great stories and successes together. Well, we've we've eaten all this food and somehow I guess my constitution was a little stronger than his he goes dude, I have to get to the bathroom there's gonna be like otherwise they're like immediately you know the sweat starting to break out? We've

William Harris  46:23  

all felt that Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So such a brutal

Jonathan Sorkenn  46:28  

and this that's not it's not the football it's kind of funny, right? If it's not you, but it goes into this. So I just I'm waiting with the bags and you know outside the men's room at this airport. He goes running in. Five minutes goes by and I see him coming running out hysterically laughing so somehow this whatever just went on, but settled his stomach and overcame this emotion in the sweating. What the hell happened? He couldn't spit it out. So he's in such apparently goes in. All the stalls are taken. They're all closed. He thinks one is just the doors closed, but no one's in it. He grabs onto it. He's a strong dude. He gives up like this Mongo like from Blazing Saddles Yank rips the door open. There's a guy in their pants down at the ankles trying to go to the bathroom going what the earth what the earth my friend closes the door. Trying to get out of there just horrified. Well, he had broken the lock, the door swings back open, the guy's gonna what he jimmying the lock he's trying to he finally gets it, you know, locked enough. And that's when he came running out hysterically. And while he's trying to tell me the story of the guy that was in the stalls coming out now humiliated and horrified, you know, covering his face just trying to run by so that's one of the road stories we we have better road stories. But that's that's the byproduct of, of trying to have three lunches in one day.

William Harris  47:58  

I love it. Yeah, you have to be careful about that. We've all felt that feeling. And there is something though about the hole in the wall restaurants where it's you're willing to take your chance on it because it's so good. It reminds me not nearly as good of a story as yours. But it reminds me of I was on I was I was in this marketing company. And I flew out with the CEO and the National Sales Director to a trade show. I think it was in Vegas, but don't quote me on where we were. And I love Indian food. It's my absolute favorite. And we go to this hole of the wall Indian restaurant where the the way that we're certain like water from the back of the table with like a hose. You can see the hose coming from the back of the restaurant to the front of the restaurant, you can see you know, the extension cords coming from the back of the restaurant to like service, the front of the restaurant. And I look at this and I'm like, This is my kind of place, right? Food was amazing. The the CEO at the time that I was working with though, I don't know why he asked this question. But he asked him he was like, Hey, who are you voting for in the election kind of thing. And the waiter gave the best political response I've ever heard. Given in a way that's just completely not offensive. And he said, Well, right now I am Democrat. But when I make a lot of money, I'll be Republican. That was a really great, there you go. That's a That's a great answer. Way to dodge the question. Yes.

Jonathan Sorkenn  49:18  

It's funny when when I pride myself, you know, some people like the fancy white tablecloths in a restaurant and you know, the, the valet

William Harris  49:27

goes to Yeah, to the

Jonathan Sorkenn  49:30  

valet parking and which I find especially pretentious if you're in a suburban shopping center with shooting, but whatever. For me, it's not about the rating on ambience and service. It's about the quality of the food and with my family. They've been horrified and colleagues, horrified sometimes when I'm going we have to eat here. We pull up and they look at this place to your point. Think I'm not going in there. And we go in there and it's the most amazing extreme perience that because it's the quality of the food, it's something local. It's something ethnic, it's, it's, it that's, it's wonderful. It's finding some unique type of food and the unique dining experience in some out of the way location and that just I just think makes it even better.

William Harris  50:19  

I'm absolutely right there with you. I also wanted to talk about soccer dad. So you've been coaching reffing for 15 years. Tell me a little bit about being the soccer dad. Yeah, I

Jonathan Sorkenn  50:31  

think I was of the generation of an age that soccer first generation, right. So if you were born in the US, you're in your parents where they didn't play soccer growing up. So soccer was new. I mean, I remember when I was probably seven or eight years old, playing soccer with the first time it was the first year. They even had a soccer program or rec soccer program. And that was around the time of the North American Soccer League. So the cosmos and Pele, which at that time, it was the best players were all basically washed up players that played in other countries coming to the US for a swan song because Warner Communications at the time, owned the cosmos and was an investor in the North American Soccer League know that. So they threw all this money into it. So that was, you know, the early heyday until it went bankrupt because it couldn't support itself. So I grew up playing soccer that was that was my sport, was recruited to play in college, sort of got burned out, didn't play. But some of my best experiences were soccer. And as when we had kids got involved, right, because everyone has to volunteer. And if there's not enough volunteers, nothing's going to happen. So I started coaching. So that led to coaching, even in a travel program, we had professional trainers who knew much more than me, that was always good, and ended up running a local travel soccer club. So I did that, and then got on this league board. So there's a league in northern New Jersey and Southern New York, I don't know we have about 1500 teams at different clubs. And it's not the top top level. And it's not the bottom level, it's sort of that middle 60% kids who want to play in high school, some of which might go and play in college. So I've been on the board, volunteer gig, got my referee license when I was coaching, because I felt like there were referees that didn't know what they were doing. So I won't know the rules. So if I was going to yell at them, and then ultimately get yellow carded, or sent off, although rarely sets off as a coach more as a parent, but that's a separate conversation. I wanted to know the rules, so I could at least challenge them with the facts. So I do that for fun. And I do to give back and you come full circle. Now that my kids are older, they all played through high school, they played high level, all three of my kids ended up playing soccer in college. It's just a wonderful life. And that whole travel soccer, and other sports, it's keep people who have kids playing travel, basketball, or baseball or whatever the sport is lacrosse. You go to tournaments across the country, those parents and their kids become your social circle, because you're literally living with them with this shared passion. And I would do it all over again. I mean, that that's, it's over for me now. But I would keep doing it other than being on the board and roughing and trying to give back and take a different approach as a referee of yet not yelling at people to you know, to, I don't know, to put your foot in the ground about your authority on the field, but rather, let me try to educate you a little bit. You got to calm down. Yeah, you're a little over the top. And I'm telling you that because that was me, I get it. I was over the top and it's a big problem we have in youth sports these days is parents getting really crazy and abuse of referees, abusive coaches. It's an and frankly, unfortunately, the things that parents say to their own kids. There are these whole thing called the sideline project out of the DC area, really trying to educate parents that it's about the kids and just as adults, let's let's shut up. So yeah, we're trying to do the right thing.

William Harris  54:09  

I'm right there with you. My daughters are certain travel volleyball, which has been a lot of fun first year that they're doing travel volleyball. And that's been just like you said, it's, you're hanging out with these people a lot more. It's a lot of fun to be a part of that. Basketball was my sport. I didn't play volleyball though. I do love volleyball now. But I can remember the first year that my daughter was old enough to play basketball. And I stepped on that court with her. And it's like, there is a little bit of a flood of emotions and everything that comes back over years. It's like, this is my domain like you will be the best right? And it's like, okay, wait, settle down. She's six, you know, let's just play. Let's just have some fun. See if she can actually even you know, get the ball in the hoop at all. But

Jonathan Sorkenn  54:50  

well, as long as it's still their passion, and they're having fun. We always said to our kids the first day you don't want to go to practice. It's over, because we're not going to force shoe and expose them to different things and let, and it doesn't have to be a sports passion. I don't care if you're playing the violin or you're doing dance or gymnastics or playing a sport. Let them follow their passion. And Chef. Yeah, it makes your life a lot or a chef. It makes your life a lot easier when your kids are having fun. You're someone told me what, if you have multiple kids as a parent, we are only as happy as our least happy child.

William Harris  55:24  

Are that? Right? Absolutely true. Yeah. Jonathan, this has been absolutely amazing talking to you today. Oh, likewise, thank you. Well, yes. If people wanted to work with you, or wanted to follow you, what's the best way for them to get in touch or stay in touch?

Jonathan Sorkenn  55:41

They can find me on LinkedIn. They can find me through Ted Rubin because Ted Rubin seems to have the biggest social following of anyone I know. But LinkedIn or the Website. Really, it's it's really been a pleasure, William, thank you very much for this experience. And if there's anything I can do for you in the future, you let me know I'm here for you.

William Harris  56:00  

I love it. Thank you very much, Jonathan. And thank you, everybody, for listening. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thanks.

Outro 56:08  

Thanks for listening to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris. We'll see you again next time. And be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

We think you'll also like...

The Joys and Challenges of Taking a Retail Brand Public as a Female CEO With Stephanie Pugliese

On this episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, William Harris welcomes Stephanie Pugliese, the former President of the Americas at Under Armour, to talk about how she became a respected CEO. Stephanie shares how to scale past $100 million in annual revenue, the role of authenticity in corporate settings, and how she balances her personal and professional life.

Using DTC Marketing Tactics To Grow Your Brand With Cindy Marshall

In this episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, William Harris welcomes Cindy Marshall, Founder and CEO of SHINE Strategy, to talk about DTC marketing strategies. Cindy discusses the SHINE roadmap, common challenges in the retail industry, and universal e-commerce branding advice.

The Future of Ecommerce With Shopify's President: Harley Finkelstein

In today’s special episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, the President of Shopify, Harley Finkelstein, joins William Harris to discuss how to prepare for the future of e-commerce. Harley discusses the role of cryptocurrency in Shopify’s ecosystem, provides advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and explores the evolution of entrepreneurship.