The creative services industry is going through something of a renaissance period, experiencing an unprecedented era of change which I’m not sure even the industrial revolution could match for sheer speed.
In 2001 nobody knew what broadband was but in 2013 YouTube is getting one billion views a month. That’s quite a leap! At its heart, anyone’s job in the creative industry has remained pretty much the same – to continually look at a blank piece of paper and ask what you could do with it. The difference from, say, 20 years ago is that there are a lot more things you can turn it into, viral video being one of them.
Five years ago, businesses didn’t want to take viral videos seriously. It’s a big challenge for them. Generally their brand and their marketing teams have been trained to regurgitate their brand doctrine over and over again. In a social world they had to a little brave and let go of what they wanted to say the whole time. Funnily enough most audiences don’t want to sit on the end of a funnel for brand advertising. In this new connected world, brands need quality content that people will hunt for and which rewards them for sharing it, whether that is in cultural currency or yet more content.
It has been a long process for brands to understand this and realise that they can no longer just push bland branded messages to their audience. For those companies which have embraced this wholeheartedly and produced really good quality content, audiences now will actively hunt out branded content; even share it with their friends to look on-trend. The content might not reflect the product (what do extreme sports have to do with a Red Bull sticky drink for instance?) but the logo is pasted all over it and reinforces the name over and over again.
As an advertiser, in 2008, I was attracted to creative content but it was becoming clear that there were boundless possibilities on the horizon; possibilities which never could have been achieved through traditional advertising channels. You can now reach millions of people with niche content on a very modest budget. And not only will people watch it but also share it, comment on it, give you feedback and perhaps even apply their own spin – extending the content’s lifespan even further.
However, as someone turning 40 a scary realisation soon dawned that young creatives were probably better qualified than me in this area. While there used to be a strict hierarchical way of climbing through an ad agency, now we are having to fast track these young creatives as they are completely immersed and plugged in to this online world. They should become any good agency’s cultural antenna. If you are a young person now, likelihood is that you are already part of numerous social networks where sharing, researching, creating and connecting is everyday practice. Well that actually makes you extremely well prepared for the modern creative industries.
What I have noticed is that, within modern social networks, if you are willing to continually make things, you will soon build a community from your efforts.
The tools for digital creation are so simple these days that you can try every idea you have and gain attention as you do. I think that is doubly important for a new agency because, nowadays, you can build an audience that will quite literally follow you throughout your entire career; and that is an incredibly powerful asset to have when approaching potential clients.
But while it’s never been easier to publish content to millions, be it through Tumblr or YouTube or Twitter, it’s probably never been harder to gain attention due to there being so much content available. Our job is to find a way of making people click on a piece of branded content – which they generally don’t want to do – instead of the latest K-pop dance craze or screaming goats. We also have to be very aware of the anti-advertising atmosphere on social networks and first be able to answer ’what permission does this brand have to invade an audience’s space?’ It’s a sensitive balance and can be a real turn off when companies jump aboard audience-created trends.
So engaging a mass audience is a tough ask, but with the right angles it can be huge and there are no agencies or individuals better positioned to take advantage than young, upcoming ones.
There’s a good chance that you’ve already seen a piece of Rubber’s work, likely in an email marked YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS! Their web videos Bodyform Responds and Vango Space Camping went viral last year, clocking millions of views in just a few months.
Illustrated by Nick Raven
- One Thing I Know