‘Celebrity Apprentice’ gives Philly Tech a boost


‘Celebrity Apprentice’ gave this Philly tech company a much-needed boost

Lauren Hertzler Staff Writer- Philadelphia Business Journal

Center City-based Neat Co. got some airtime on the NBC reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” Monday night. The show’s contestants were assigned a task to create a TV ad boasting Neat’s cloud-based Smart Organization Systems. The winner got $40,000 ($20,000 of which was from Neat) to contribute to the charity of choice.

Neat’s Chief Marketing Officer Evan Kramer and Rafi Spero, a co-founder of Neat, appeared in the episode. They announced the celebrity contestants’ tasks and judged them on their execution.

The airing created a national buzz around Neat, Kramer said. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The show demonstrated our desire and ambition to migrate more toward a software business, relative to where we were as a hardware business,” he said. This opened the doors for new partnerships, like the one made with HP last year, Kramer said.

“It’s a lot easier to explain now with the national stage set up [Monday] night,” he said.

Being on TV can give a big boost to a growing tech company.

Remember EmergenSee? CEO Phil Reitnour didn’t snag a penny in funding on “Shark Tank,” but he did garner significant exposure. He said his mobile personal security app had “hundreds of thousands of downloads,” within 12 hours after the airing.

Kramer said Neat had a similar outcome.

“For the most part, we live in a world of social media and reality television,” he said. “Sometimes your message is very difficult to get across in traditional advertising. I can create a multi-million dollar ad for TV, but there’s Netflix, On Demand and DVR. I think it’s not necessarily about reality TV, but it’s about product placement. And product placement is becoming critical to marketing strategy.”

Asked whether he would advise other companies to go a similar route? He said he would, but that it’s important to be cautious of “how the brand may get presented.”

“In this particular episode, we spent a lot of time with the producers coming up with the storyline and the task,” Kramer said. “If you don’t have this kind of control, you don’t know where it’s going to go…the reward is worth the risk, but just be cautious about how much creative control you have in your marketing message.”

Neat hosted an invite-only viewing party at the Comcast Center the night of the show’s airing. About 150 Neat and Comcast employees, small business executives and people from Philadelphia’s tech community attended. Two celebrity guests (Vivica A. Fox and Kate Gosselin) as well as Comcast exec David Cohen and Mayor Michael Nutter showed up for the fun.

“It was a great celebration of community,” Kramer said.

Lauren Hertzler covers technology, education and venture capital.

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