How in-house advertising works at Wix.com, the website builder with a $100 million marketing budget

Most large brands use external advertising agencies to advise them on marketing and to create commercials.

But not so Wix.com, the website creation site that has 110 million registered users and an annual ad budget of more than $100 million, according to its latest financial report.

It used an in-house team to come up with the idea for "Chef Felix," its Super Bowl commercial this year, an action spot starring actors Gal Gadot and Jason Statham that has been watched more than 5 million times on YouTube. The ad topped a ranking of the most engaging Super Bowl ads ahead of the NFL championship in February and there is a "high chance" the brand will be involved with the "biggest advertising event" of the year in 2018, according to chief marketing officer Omer Shai, who spoke to CNBC by phone.

Shai said the brand brings in directors and production companies to make the commercials, but the ideas are generated by the in-house team.

"We believe that marketing is part of the core of the company, (it needs) to sit by close to the product and in order to tell the story you need a lot of depth, to understand the vision of the company and more, and (it allows you to) move quickly and execute quickly," he said.

Shai has a team of around 200, made up of designers, broadcast and communities' specialists, among others, and says people who use Wix.com include designers, photographers and small business owners. In August, it ran a competition for a photographer to win a dream shoot — this was won by Japanese photographer Reiko Wakai. She created a "Zero Gravity" series of pictures featuring model Stav Strashko floating in midair, shot on a plane plunging at a steep angle from 34,000 feet to create the zero gravity environment.

Photographer Reiko Wakai shoots model Stav Strashko on a zero gravity flight, in a campaign run by Wix.com
Wix.com
Photographer Reiko Wakai shoots model Stav Strashko on a zero gravity flight, in a campaign run by Wix.com

Wix has also worked with model Karlie Kloss on an ad showing her creating a website. "We really like to tell the story through the product and with users who actually use it," Shai said. It has also partnered with City Football Group (the parent company of Manchester City FC) in a deal that is in talks to extend for another two to three years, Shai said.

The CMO credits the in-house approach for the firm's creativity as well as its efficiency. "Everyone can contribute, even someone who is doing acquisition (marketing) can come up with a creative idea," Shai said.

He plans to scale up the number of staff in the marketing team (there are currently seven open positions listed on its website) and said Wix will double the number of projects it works on. With this will come an increase in advertising budget, with expenditure listed on its annual report as $113.2 million for 2016 against overall revenues of $290 million. Shai won't be drawn on how much Wix spent this year, but it will go up, he said.

Omer Shai, chief marketing officer at Wix.com
Wix.com
Omer Shai, chief marketing officer at Wix.com

Wix lets users create websites for free, and then charges for features such as increased storage, no Wix ads and a personalized domain name, with premium plans starting from £2.55 ($3.39) a month.

But does marketing convert people into subscribers? "The thing that converts users from free to premium… it's only if they are happy with what they created, the marketing is not responsible for converting users, the product is what is responsible for this," Shai said.