Our special guest for today is the Henry Ford of video ads, Travis Chambers. Travis is a Forbes 30 Under 30 lister and founder of Chamber.Media, a growth and video agency with 100 employees that has tripled the revenue of 6 multi-million dollar DTC companies, driven $600M in tracked revenue, managed $100M in ad spend, makes 3,000+ videos a month for ads on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Travis has been a keynote speaker at Google Growth Summit, VidCon, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has been featured in Inc, Entrepreneur, AdWeek, HuffPo, among others. Travis led distribution and content strategy for “YouTube’s #1 Ad of the Decade,” Kobe vs. Messi with 140 million views and took Old Navy from 2M to 8M Facebook likes while at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, working with brands like Kraft, VitaminWater, Amazon and others.
Tune in now and learn from Travis how to create viral videos!
[00:01 – 06:09] Opening Segment
- Let’s get to know Travis Chambers
- Travis talks about his journey to ecommerce
[06:10 – 14:00] Creating Viral Videos
- The new way to reach the masses according to Travis
- Travis reveals how to create a viral video online
- He talks about his experience running an MMA business
[14:01 – 28:01] The 3 Ways to Live Life
- Want some Amazon refunds? Check out Getida
- Promo code: FTM400
- Travis shares his experience working 70 hours weekly for the man
- He talks about the 3 ways to live your life
- Entrepreneurship is just one!
- When to leave your current job
[28:02 – 33:14] Closing Segment
- Here’s a rarely talked about topic related to entrepreneurship
- Connect with Travis!
- Links below
- Final words
“At 12, I realized advertising was the blend of the pragmatic and the creative in the arts.” – Travis Chambers
“If you’re gonna be an employee and you’re gonna work for a wage, then don’t give your whole effort and soul to the organization. Live your life outside of your job.” – Travis Chambers
Send us a voice message and let us know how we can help you fire the man!
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Travis Chambers 0:47
So I get, my wife and I make this video. And we’re doing this dumb blonde impression thing we always have done. And we put it on YouTube to show her brother who didn’t have a smartphone at the time. It was the only way we could send it to him. It sat there for three months, and someone on campus discovered it and shared it. And from there it got 10 million views. We went on Good Morning America, Tosh point O, we had a clothing deal. I mean, we made like 50 grand in like three months off of this thing. Paid off student loans, bought a couple cars. So entrepreneurship is one route to fire the man but it is the least likely, most painful, and usually the worst option. Second is to find a job that gives you a decent lifestyle. So don’t ever work more than 40 hours a week for anybody. The second you’re over 40 hours you are a wage slave. And your life has no purpose, in my opinion, unless your job is something that you absolutely love. If you are a pro BMX racer or racecar driver, or I don’t know, maybe you’re a music producer or something, if you just love it, then you’re fine. Work as many hours as you want. So that’s my advice for firing the man is pick one of those three things. Don’t be an employee who wishes they were an entrepreneur, who just sits there and just is angry and jealous that they don’t own a business, and just craps on people that are doing it. Don’t do that, like pick one. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, then just do it. If you’re going to be an employee and you’re going to work for a wage, then don’t give your whole effort and soul to the organization. Live your life outside of your job.
Welcome, everyone to the firing the man podcast, a show for anyone who wants to be their own boss. If you sit in a cubicle every day, and know you were capable of more, then join us, this show will help you build a business and grow your passive income streams in just a few short hours per day. And now your hosts, serial entrepreneurs David Schomer and Ken Wilson.
Alright, welcome to the show, Travis. How are you doing?
Travis Chambers 3:10
I’m doing good. How are you guys doing?
Doing very well excited for this podcast. We were chatting a little bit before the episode and you noticed the burn the boats canvas painting in Ken’s background, and the Man in the Arena in my background, and was curious, like, when did you first hear these? Or how are they applicable in your life?
Travis Chambers 3:30
Yeah, I heard the man in the arena in college. And it’s been like my mantra. So everything that I’ve been through everything I’ve gone through is always just like, well, I’m in the arena and all these bitches are in the stands. So let’s go. All the criticisms, or the, whatever, the doubts or whatever limitations that you know, have come so. And then the burn the boats, early on in the business, we had a couple of client non payments happen. And it was pretty devastating. And I call a buddy of mine, Travis Sua. And he said, burn the boats, man. And we burned them, and man where would we be if we hadn’t? And he is actually an executive in the company now. Funny enough, he ended up joining us like year and a half later, but that was pivotal moment like without the burn the ship story, I probably would have just given up and gotten a job. So that’s how pivotal that was.
Interesting. Interesting. Yeah, those are two quotes that both Ken and I really like. And it’s cool that that was the first thing that you commented on. So anyway, let’s back up a little bit and get into your background. So tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to the path that you’re on now.
Travis Chambers 4:45
Okay, so I went through a pretty crazy childhood. Had a mentally ill parent was locked in my room for most of my early childhood. And that was pretty wild. And I think that kind of set the stage for a lot of the things of I think created a sense of empathy and wanting to really relate with people. And that kind of, I think, drove me to the arts. I think telling stories and relating with people and empathizing with them, I think that’s the core of everything. And by like, 11 or 12, I had realized I wanted to be in the arts, but I believed in the stigma that artists starve and they don’t make any money. But I had the pragmatic side, my dad was in the corporate ladder climbing at Monsanto, with the Agricultural Chemical Company that’s killed millions of people, which my dad’s name is soon to be added to that list, which I’ll get to in a bit. But at 12, I realized advertising was the blend of the pragmatic and the creative and the arts. And so I decided at 12 that’s what I was going to do. And I studied it all through high school, I studied film, studied marketing, did marketing competitions, and then in college, when I was a PR major, I couldn’t hack it in business school, I couldn’t pass calculus. So I switched to journalism school, quickly realized journalism was dead in like 2012 2011. That’s when Twitter was starting to get big, and YouTube was starting to get big, and I realized that digital marketing was the new Journalism, it was the new way to reach the masses. My dad was in sales. And I didn’t like the fact that in sales, you’re pursuing someone. I really loved that digital marketing is you’re introducing information, but it’s completely voluntary. It’s a totally like decentralized sales experience. And I really liked that, because I didn’t want to just fly around the country knocking down doors for the rest of my life. Because my dad, he’d leave Sunday night and get back Friday. He did that my whole childhood. And it was brutal. It was brutal. So I got into some businesses, I started an MMA, started an MMA fight promotion, had a couple 1000 people showing up to that, started a painting company lost some money on that, all while I was in school skipping class, hardly went to class, doing all these entrepreneurial things. But I didn’t realize I was an entrepreneur, even though I was doing all that stuff. This was all just trying to get some quick cash. And my thing was, well, I’m just going to get a job because I want to be a family man. And I’ll climb the ladder. And I don’t ever want to own a company. I don’t want to be in charge. I’m not that guy. So I get, my wife and I make this video, and we’re doing this dumb blonde impression thing that we always have done. And we put it on YouTube to show her brother who didn’t have a smartphone at the time. It was the only way we could send it to him. It sat there for three months and someone on campus discovered it and shared it and from there it got 10 million views. We went on Good Morning America, Tosh point O, we had a clothing deal. I mean, we made like 50 grand in like three months off of this thing. Paid off student loans, bought a couple cars. I got a job, some random marketing company. But during this time, Kraft mac and cheese reached out and asked to license the video and it just happened to be the agency that I had always wanted to work at for like five or six years, which is Crispin Porter Bogusky. So I said, Hey, I’ll license it to you for free if you give me an interview. They gave me an interview and they offered me a job. And they basically just let me be the in house viral video guy. And so I was doing social media strategy for Old Navy and Triscuit and Vitamin Water, and all sorts of stuff. And then one day Turkish Airlines walks in the door and they say we want to make the most viral ad of all time, and you can use Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi. So I came up with this crazy plan that was between me and my boss, the Chief Digital Officer, Yvonne per ASTM injuries. He basically said, Hey, we can’t involve everybody in this project, or there’s going to be just too much friction, too much red tape, we’re never going to get anything done. So let’s do the legal ourselves. Let’s do the media distribution ourselves. Let’s do all this stuff. So I developed this plan that involved paying 650 influencers doing all this crazy Reddit viral seeding stuff, and sharing placements on websites, and a crazy, aggressive media buy and all sorts of wild things. We had 20 interns reaching out to 8000 Press in different languages around the clock and we got like 2000 Press features and lo and behold, this thing got 150 million views over 3 million shares. And we had done the most viral ad of all time. And neither Kobe or Messi had ever been in a YouTube ad with more than two or 3 million views on it. So then 20th Century Fox called in said, come over here. This is great what you’re doing I went over there and I kind of just got shelved. Just do the normal thing we don’t, so I just felt underutilized there and I really sucked at it. I just was not mature enough to like navigate Hollywood. Hated it, and well they let me go. Because I sucked. And then I started chamber media. And we’ve been doing that for seven years grown to like 120 employees now. And, that is the story.
Very nice. And what does Chamber Media do?
Travis Chambers 10:15
So we make social video ads, and we also do ad buying and email marketing.
Okay. Okay. Very nice.
Yeah, Travis. So yeah, thanks for sharing your story. That’s an incredible story. Lots of stuff to dive in there. So David and I are both MMA fans, can you like, turn back the time and tell us how you made money from putting on MMA fights and parties in college?
Travis Chambers 10:37
I started going to this jujitsu club. And I’ve just always loved, even as a kid, I was the shortest smallest kid. So I was always just fighting everybody in school. And it was till fifth or sixth grade where it wasn’t enough anymore to just be the meanest kid in class, then size and strength started to matter. And then I turned into being everybody’s buddy and the funny guy because otherwise I’d get my butt kicked. So in college I got into jujitsu and I saw the movie warrior. And I thought, man, there’s no MMA fights here in northern Utah. So I started one. And it was all aboveboard. I mean, the Utah boxing commission there, we had paramedics, EMTs, we had health insurance for the fighters, we had all sorts of stuff. And I did all this crazy marketing, I went and flyered cars at football games, I got chased off by the cops. I put like 200 lawn signs in this valley of 150,000 people. And the cops chased me for that, too. I put a burner phone on the thing, and they never caught me. They never got caught me. And then what I did too, is I just walked around campus, and I just would talk to like 1000 students maybe in a week. And I’d say hey, if you invite 200 people to this Facebook event, you’ll get to come to you’ll get to have a plus one to this fight for free. So it just, it just blew up. I mean, 2000 people showed up to the first venue, but we can only fit 800. And then the second one, we got an ice hockey rink, and we filled the thing and it was awesome. But then we weren’t allowed to sell alcohol though. And I was a devout Mormon boy, so I didn’t really want to sell alcohol either. And that is when my MMA kind of career, I decided to not do that because I realized all the money is, in local MMA it’s all in alcohol. That’s where you make the money. So I was making like, I was spending maybe like 15 grand in costs in order to bring in 20 21 grand per fight. And it was pretty close to a full time job for like six weeks. So it was like three or four grand and a lot of risk. And there was a girl we had in a fight that broke her nose the week before her wedding. And I was just like, Man, this is just too much for me. This is too crazy. And there were some fights that broke out in the audience and one of my business partners, I think stole some money. I don’t think it was him I think it was his henchmen Rulon Gardner, you guys ever heard of that guy?
Yeah, he’s got nine toes.
Travis Chambers 13:14
Yeah, olympic gold medalist. Cool guy. I partnered with him on it. And I’m pretty sure one of the guys underneath him was taking money out of the till so, and Rulon was going bankrupt at the time and they were auctioning off his ring. It was just a crazy, it was just too much for me. So I moved on. And I handed it off to the guys that were really devoted on helping me and those guys to this day are still running that promotion. So it’s been running for like 10 years now. They’ve done like 30 or 40 fights. I run into fighters here in Boise and they’ve all fought in that promotion. So it was cool. It was a cool experience, fun adventure to be like a little teeny, micro Dana White here.
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Travis Chambers 15:28
Yeah, my job at CPB was pretty good. I was just your little millennial, entitled douchebag that thought the world owed me everything and that I was working too much. And I was working too hard, and the system was too hard. But then after, when I look back my job, CPB was pretty awesome. It was pretty awesome. And it wasn’t till I really matured and embraced the real world to realize what I had there. But I went to 20th Century Fox for more money, and even my boss at CPB is like, dude, what are you doing? You’ve got a great gig here. Why are you leaving? And I was like, money, more money. But I went there, man. And it was so chaotic. I mean, I saw a guy doing cocaine on his desk, fired 20 people including me. And we walked out of there and somebody said, hey, just show up tomorrow. Like he’ll forget about it. Showed up tomorrow, the guy totally forgot about it. So the time I really got fired was actually the second time I got fired. But that time, it was just me. It wasn’t the whole group. But it was just crazy. And it was hectic. And it was also stupid, like, the marketing for social media then was writing tweets, and doing graphic design images, but like, they’d put all this work and resources into these tweets, and the tweets would get, I mean, they’d get like, five likes, five retweets, or whatever. And by the time the movie came out, you’d have like four or 5000 followers on Twitter. It’s just like, guys, who cares. And I was supposed to be there to change that paradigm to do some video production stuff, and to do something actually interesting but the problem is, they’re not actually willing to let anybody do anything cool with the actors or on set, or with literally anything. And at this time, Hollywood directors didn’t care. And not only that they didn’t like, social media was like taking away from Hollywood, and you had all these little influencers growing, who had more influence than like, the actors in the movies, and the actors hated social media at this time. Most of them weren’t on Instagram. They didn’t, they hated it. They like they want that gate, right? They want the gate to the elite, to control Hollywood. And now you just look at it now Hollywood’s totally collapsing. It’s, if it wasn’t for comic book movies, Hollywood would basically be gone at this point. So I just was like, Wow, this sucks, man. I can’t do anything cool. But meanwhile, I was working like 70 hours a week. And I was way out of my depth. I didn’t know how to talk the talk. And so at this time, we had a baby. And I couldn’t take any time off because I hadn’t qualified for it yet, I hadn’t been there long enough. And so I was exhausted, wife was exhausted. I’m working like crazy hours. And I just got to the point I’m like, what is the point? What is the point? Like I’m making 120 grand a year in LA, which is like, slightly over paycheck to paycheck. I was like, what is the point to all this. And around that time, my dad, who had just a year prior, let me know that he had Parkinson’s, got cancer. And it was also around this time that he was divorcing my mom. And I told him, Dad, you got to get out of there she’s crazy. You got to get out. And he did. So I’ve watched this guy work for 25 years, making money for this corporation that not only didn’t really ever take very good care of him, but he was growing the roundup brand, which is the brand that is making millions of people sick and die. They spray the fields with Roundup, so that it all goes to seed at the same time. And then they immediately harvest the whole field. They harvest a field that’s been drenched in Roundup, and roundup disrupts your neuro, it disrupts your neurology in your brain. They’ve done studies, it’s proven. And people are starting to win lawsuits from it now. So anyways, I’m just I’m looking at this guy. He’s got Parkinson’s, and now he’s got non Hodgkins lymphoma, which is the cancer you get from Roundup, because he was covered in it. His first few years of his career showing farmers how to use it. He’s got emails showing that they covered it up in the first place as a senior sales director. And he was the one that was primarily one of the most successful guys at expanding round up into every store and every franchise big box retailer in the country. And I’m just like jeez this guy, what, spent his whole life to grow a brand that’s killing him and killing other people. And he worked 70, I mean, holy crap, what is the point of all this stuff? It’s so pointless. And that’s when I thought, you know, well, I just got laid off. And I got a little bit of severance, because the guys that were directly in charge of me were awesome guys, like beard guys. And I was like, well, I’ve got three months of living expenses. And I cannot find a job in advertising for less than 60 hours a week. It just doesn’t exist. There’s too many people here in LA that want to do that job. So I thought, you know, I’m just gonna start my own company. I read this book called The Four Hour Workweek, which I thought was BS. And it is BS, four hour workweek is stupid, it doesn’t exist. But it’s a great way to unlock your mind to think differently. But the second book was the $100 Startup and $100 Startup, is just dozens of examples of companies that started with no money. And I didn’t have any money. I didn’t know any wealthy people, I didn’t have any connections. I didn’t even have any good ideas. But I thought, well, I’ve got a skill, I could sell my skill. And if I could sell my skill well enough, then I can create an agency and sell other people’s time. So that’s what I did. And I started with the service, and my goal was, I don’t care to make a lot of money, I just want to not have a miserable life. I don’t want to waste my life. And, I want to be able to have more time with the family. But I also want to build jobs and create jobs that give other people more time with their families. And we’ve done that. Two years ago, we started a four day work week. And so 120 people that work for us have a three day weekend, every week. So that was the impetus for this whole thing.
That’s pretty incredible, like so it sounds like you had a very impactful moment in your life. And you kind of reflected on what you wanted and the story about your father. And so you made a huge pivot. And then you were like, basically screw it, I’m going to go out on my own and make what I want. What is your advice to anybody listening to the show, and the show is firing the man right? And so what advice would you give everybody, anybody else out there that’s not happy with their life or their career, or their job like, and that hasn’t had that impactful moment yet. What advice would you give them to strike it out on their own?
Travis Chambers 22:33
So there’s three ways to live, you’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs like me like they’re telling everyone they should be entrepreneurs. That’s not true. One in 10 people are entrepreneurs, the rest are not, don’t try to be because you will fail, you will ruin your life. And most people that are entrepreneurs have some kind of trauma that they’ve dealt with, that fuels them to have enough grit to deal with how horrible it is. It’s horrible, by the way, so entrepreneurship is one route to fire the man, but it is the least likely, most painful, and usually the worst option. Second, is to find a job that gives you a decent lifestyle. So, don’t ever work more than 40 hours a week for anybody. The second you’re over 40 hours, you are a wage slave. And your life has no purpose, in my opinion. Unless your job is something that you absolutely love. If you are a pro BMX racer, or racecar driver, or I don’t know, maybe you’re a music producer or something, if you just love it, then you’re fine, work as many hours as you want. But for 90% of us work sucks. So don’t ever work more than 40 hours. You’ve got to like your boss, you’ve got to like the people you work with. Because you guys have seen those graphs about who you spend time with throughout your lifetime. And in a lifetime, you spend the majority of your life with your coworkers, not with your wife, not with your family, not with your kids, not with your parents, not with your friends. That middle chunk, that bell curve of your life of social interaction, which just slowly decreases over time is mostly spent with your coworkers. So if you don’t like your coworkers, you’re also wasting your life. The third option is to be purposely poor. And this is an option that a lot of people are doing with living in the van life and they’re traveling and you don’t have to live in a van to do this, if you could just cut your living expenses to as low as possible, right. So doing a homestead or living in a tiny home or living in somebody’s guest house or just having tons of roommates. Just lowering your cost of living so low that you really don’t have to work very much to support yourself. Now this is really difficult to do with a family. And this is also not a great long term solution, because most people who go and live this life don’t do it long term, because they get lonely, they get lonely. And over time, it just gets less desirable. They see all their friends and family, excelling and progressing in a lot of ways that they wish they were. And a lot of times, you just don’t develop into the person you’re supposed to become in this route. But if it brings you happiness, then do it. And I wish I would have lived this lifestyle for a couple years, I wish I would have lived in a van and surfed for a couple years. The problem is, if I had done it, I may have just stuck with that and missed out on having children, being married, and doing all sorts of other really rewarding things, and becoming who I was supposed to become. So those are the three ways that you can live when you’re talking about firing the man. And the second option has gotten more appealing than ever with remote jobs. When I first was looking for a job after I got fired in LA, my first thing was I wish I could find a remote job. But they just didn’t really exist yet. Not really. But now they’re everywhere. So COVID, I think has opened up the best time ever to have a decent quality of life job. So that’s my advice for firing the man is pick one of those three things. Don’t be an employee who wishes they were an entrepreneur, who just sits there and just is angry and jealous that they don’t own a business, and just craps on people that are doing it. Don’t do that, like pick one. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, then just do it. If you’re going to be an employee and you’re going to work for a wage, then don’t give your whole effort and soul to the organization. Live your life outside of your job. Like the founders job is to be miserable and lay awake at night, it’s not your job. So if they’re making you do that, and it’s excruciating and there’s one of two problems, one is you’re immature, and you’re weak, and you have not developed enough character to just do an honest day’s work. The other possibility is that you’re being mistreated, very significantly mistreated, and if that’s the case, go get a different job, go somewhere else. And if it takes two or three jobs to find a good one, that’s okay. But you just have to find a good one. And I guarantee you there’s 10 or 20 people at Chamber Media right now that think Chamber Media is the worst, most toxic, horrible place ever. But the other 90 or 100, who have worked other horrible jobs previously, they love it, then you go ask any of them and they decided this is the best place they could ever be. So firing the man is kind of, I’d say 10 20% of people want to really fire the man. But the truth is, they can’t make it on their own. They don’t have what it takes to fire the man. They need the man is kind of what I’m saying.
I think you make a really good point about the entrepreneurship and how maybe it’s, you know, only one out of 10 people are cut out for it. And there’s one thing that you mentioned that I’ve never heard this, but as we’ve been talking, it’s kind of been stewing, you said a lot of entrepreneurs have experienced some sort of trauma. And as I kind of go through the list of successful entrepreneurs that I know, man, a lot of them had messed up childhoods, a lot of them have had something. And can you expand on that a little bit more? I just, it’s fascinating, and I, oftentimes when people think of being an entrepreneur, they’re not thinking about like life events that have shaped them that way.
Travis Chambers 28:39
I think so I think what trauma does is it does the same thing that money does, it makes people more evil, or it makes them more good. And if you watch any fictional movie, any story in history, these villains and these heroes are always, they’re always made in trauma. They say, if you live long enough as a hero, you’ll eventually become a villain. And that’s because the trauma. And people make a decision when they’re abused, and they’re hurt, and they’re mistreated and they’re betrayed. They choose the direction and I think entrepreneurs usually choose, they usually choose starting a business as a direction and a lot of times they do it to try and prove to themselves that they have value. And a lot of times they’ve been so mistreated, that they don’t understand they have value just as being a breathing human being. And that was me. And so we go and we seek this validation that we are a valid person that can do things, in a capitalist society that means making money. That means growing a company, growing a brand, it means being known, it means. But that’s the thing, right is capitalism is based on greed, but the byproduct is that we end up just serving is what we do and we end up solving problems. So these people, they choose this route in trying to fill their void within their soul, they usually end up helping a lot of people and solving a lot of problems for people. And there’s a stereotype that they take advantage of people. But that’s usually not the case. Usually their pain, and their empathy ends up helping and serving everyone else. And I think that’s where most entrepreneurs come from, because I meet them and they’re all crazy. And it’s just a matter of, are they kind and giving crazy? Or are they take and evil crazy? And the evil crazy ones usually don’t make it. Eventually, it just crashes and burns. So that’s been my experience. And I’ve even had clients that are like, flipping about something or other and I’ll just say, look, you’ve got problems, you’re mentally ill. And I can say that because I am too. So just chill out, man, get some therapy, things are going to be fine. And stop seeking your whole identity on this thing. It’s not my fault that you have this identity void thing. They’re crazy, entrepreneurs are nuts. I think it’s Peter Thiel said that most entrepreneurs are mentally ill. And it takes that, sometimes it takes that trauma also to just have enough pain to want to do something better, to be protected from pain, and money and security is a way to protect yourself. And I’ll be the first to say, the more money I make, the more secure I feel as a person. And it’s sad to say, but it’s true.
Thank you everyone for tuning in to today’s firing the man podcast. If you like this episode, head on over to www.firingtheman.com And check out our resource library for exclusive firing the man discounts on popular e commerce subscription services. That is www.firingtheman.com\resource. You can also find a comprehensive library of over 50 books that Ken and I have read in the last few years that have made a meaningful impact on our business, for that head on over to www.firingtheman.com/library Lastly, check us out on social media at firing the man, and on YouTube at firing the man for exclusive content. This is David Schomer
and Ken Wilson. We’re out
Before you go fun fact for all you Amazon sellers out there when you start selling an international marketplaces, all of your reviews come with you. At the beginning of this year. Ken and I sat down and talked of ways that we could double our businesses in size and landed on international expansion as our number one initiative this year. We partnered up with Kevin Sanderson from maximizing e commerce and he has made the process an absolute breeze walking us step by step through the process. If you want to grow your revenue and reach new customers head on over to www.maximizingecommerce.com/fire and connect with Kevin Sanderson today. Now back to the show.
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