Over the last decade the way we create and consume media has changed enormously, adoption of mobile technology and self publishing has allowed anyone with an internet connection to have a voice.
The evolution of video has given birth to a new kind of creative — a New Media Creator — but why are traditional industries, and creative professionals struggling to understand this new age? And what does it mean for us all going forward?
The medium of video since its inception has caused controversy and polarized society, some declaring it a revolution and capable of creating lasting change within but not only politics, sport and lifestyle whilst making a medium more accessible to mass society. Others saw it as a threat to creativity and quality, a serious risk to the movies and their culture. Michael Newman in the brilliant book Video Revolutions describes this better than we ever could:
“A revolution is not merely a change but an upheaval. To use 2010's tech lingo, a revolution is a radical disruption of the status quo. To revolutionise, observed Raymond Williams, is to produce “a new social order” A revolution gives power to the people and moves the world forward.”
The new social order is currently being established, and the boat has not just been rocked, but flipped upside down. As it restructures, society becomes divided, choosing sides based on their ideological view of the world, or perhaps their decision is formed based on the impact this new paradigm will have on them as an individual.
People get scared when evolution of an industry happens, marketing managers for example; many of whom believed they studied to join an industry dominated by more traditional forms of advertising. The rise of digital and NMCs has caused them to be concerned for their futures, scrabbling to rip proverbial nails from coffins.
Video is causing chaos again. Decentralised publishing and unregulated content has given power to creative individuals, spreading fear and outrage through established industries and the status quo. In our humble opinion the medium of video is simply evolving. As networks such as YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat grow exponentially, it could be argued that they are the real revolution, in both the creative capabilities and the size of their user base. Facebook recently surpassed 1 billion users in a day, 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and hundreds of millions of snaps sent every single day. Industry publications often quote these numbers, but little credit is given to the creators and communities creating and consuming on these networks.
For a long time creators have been underestimated and actively ignored, the advertising industry have questioned if this whole thing has been a fad. However, 2014 felt like a turning point, channels and creators got so big the traditional world (who once sneered) are now starting to take notice — we are in a transitional period where people don’t understand what is going on.
Around the marketing departments and creative teams within agency land, conversations and keynotes sell the story about these new ‘digital influencers’ like it is a new concept. Referencing Pewdiepie and Sprinkle of Glitter, supposedly demonstrating their intellect about this ‘unknown industry’. Traditional media and journos are not helping the situation and are seen by creators to simply ‘just not get it’.
They write about ‘these kids’ being the next big thing 5 years after they surpassed the meaning of big. The majority of articles are around potential earnings of popular creators and drop names like Zoella (cue eyeroll), many of these points are superbly put forward here by Liam Dryden. The media often quote earnings figures that are simply misrepresentative of the vast majority of creators, misleading to the casual reader who may believe this is just the birth of a new marketing machine and not the wonderful new era of media creation.
A new paradigm
Demands a new kind of creative, but who and what are they?
After seeing this industry emerge up close and personal, we know the quality content these people produce, building digitally mobile audiences, multi-channel and across-networks. Explaining this new definition of a creator has caused us multiple issues with clients and media professionals alike.
Therefore they need a more meaningful definition of what they are and do — we call them New Media Creators (NMCs).
Through our day jobs as new media strategists and digital producers we are responsible for concepting projects and campaigns for brands, non-profits or simply collaborations with creators. Not only do we strategise the logistics of the campaign and its timeline, we decide who works in a particular role. The talents who fill the roles in our projects in both cast and crew, in most cases are creatives who have a publicly established audience. Taking into consideration the campaigns target demographic sometimes almost as much as their experience or talent.
The creatives we mainly work with range from YouTubers, Instagrammers, SnapChatters or Viners but you’ll never hear us describe them that way. We don’t believe a creator can be defined by the platform they (currently) produce content on. If a creator’s main platform of choice is Vine, referring to them as viners is simply not the way we see it.
For instance, Arron Crascall started creating content on Vine, developing an audience totalling over 400k followers on Vine alone, however his biggest audience and numbers happen on Facebook with over 3 million people following his content. What is Arron Crascall? A Viner, a Facebooker?
We look past the platform. We see art directors, producers, editors, sound and lighting experts, copywriters, DoPs, actors, animators, creatives and strategists. In fact most roles creative roles can be filled with them, especially those created specifically for the digital arena . These multi-talented creatives are digital natives, with a deep understanding of social networks. They have been creating content for years, away from the public glare, amassing their 10,000 hours in the comfort of their bedrooms, building honest and loyal audiences that help them crowdsource their creativity and ultimately their craft. This ongoing two-way dialogue through the networks communication channels such as RTs, comments and likes — NMCs have a connection with their audience that has simply never existed before on any scale, never mind instantly and global.
Over the past five years we have individually and collectively worked with creators to imagine new concepts and formats. We help in-house teams and agencies build enduring brands. Ben, as head of audience development took the reins of social for the originally Google funded football YouTube channel. COPA90, nurturing it alongside some great people from obscurity to global prominence, through a new kind of audience development and NMC led content with gaming YouTube channels back in early ’13. Registering 500,000 young people to vote ahead of the UK’s general election 2015 with youth democracy group Bite The Ballot.
Our election strategy and campaigns were heavily collaborated, concepted, created and delivered by UK based NMCs with major credit to Alex Odamand Harry Hitchens for their brilliant and super professional production on many a campaign. Too many others to name, but some included celebrities like Eliza Doolittle and Rick Edwards and creators such as JacksGap, Jamal Edwards and Rosiana Halse Rojas. While in-house at Bite The Ballot we worked with creators such as Lewis Parker, Jazza John, Lucy Moon and Darcy Cole when they joined to help produce content.
Many people are focussing on the wrong thing as they try to understand NMCs: ‘how can we get them to work with us’ or ‘how can we use them to make money or as part of a marketing campaign.’ When we work with them we don’t just ‘get them to create a video for us’ — they are experts, and we treat them as such.
People need to stop thinking about the commercial impact these people could have and start appreciating their artform and thinking about the possibilities, but what do we mean by ‘these people’? Let’s define what we mean by NMCs.
It isn’t just kids in bedrooms
Often described as ‘Influencers’, but what does this even mean? Calling someone ‘an influencer’ is not only lazy, but it doesn’t even scrape the surface of the power and complexity of a New Media Creator.
When marketing articles refer to influencers, they are often referring to something different. Usually the article is written with the intention of getting more people to view a blog, or how to increase your twitter following — they are certainly not talking about working with NMCs. Of course NMCs are influential — they can drive millions of people to a site, a product or campaign. When done correctly of course!
New Media Creators create original content through their owned established channels across new media networks. They create rich media content which can engage global demographics, across many different industries to plant firmly topics on the social agenda, or simply to entertain and have fun.
They inform, educate and get signatures on a petitions relating to their causes, they inspire action within their communities through content, created with relevance to social issues — like Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, Russell Brand, and John Oliver. When integrated to a campaign intelligently and given creative freedom they can help spread important messages to empower generations, such as the NMCs that worked with President Obama on health.org, — we often joke, if it’s good enough for the President of America to work with NMCs, I’m sure it’s good enough for you. We creatively led a groundbreaking campaign — Leaders Live — in collaboration with Bite The Ballot, ITV and Twitter, a world first in content creation — concepted, created and driven by NMCs.
NMCs can launch new innovative apps and products globally, like the new video social network Beme, created by NMC Casey Neistat and his team without huge marketing budgets, just a mix of skill, talent, dedication and a loyal audience.
Many are walking talking media empires, some started as individuals with just a camera like digital entrepreneur Jamal Edwards who created SB.TV or Jackson Harries and his brother Finn who started out uploading footage to YouTube from their gap year. Individually Jack and Finn may have reached a creative limit, yet NMCs understand the power of collaboration and cross-pollination of audiences. Talented people in roles such as producers, writers and DoPs, NMCs like Ciaran O’Brien or Adrian Bliss and Lucy Moon.
Younger generations now take their social cues from Tumblr, Vine, Reddit and YouTube rather than what’s on primetime TV. Memes, catchphrases, and trends are born, and played out online and into the playground- ‘see ya later’ or ‘get in my basket’. Athletes who are popularised through video games such as Akinfenwa, capitalised on his new found popularity to create the BEAST-MODE merchandise and make money through social networks — making him an NMC.
In our eyes NMCs are fresh and passionate.. They’re able to direct, inspire, and instruct the audience they have amassed. They can influence change, whether politically or cause based. There isn’t a day that goes by these days without a major social media trend being kicked off by an NMC across the major networks.
Whether it is parenting, world affairs, music, cooking, beauty, fashion, sport and everything in between. The one thing that is true of NMCs is that each individual creator is passionate and extremely knowledgeable on their own given subject. Thier passion helps craft their individual style and content of the vast majority of their work and they use this to find like minded people to form their audience.
”No Niche is too small” — Hannah Witton
Many have used their position to champion LGBT issues, help fight against bullying, support those with depression and many more difficult issues that affect their audience. These issues can affect people at all times in their lives, and for people who are looking to the internet for answers, creators can help people deal with extremely difficult problems — they listen, they respond, they care.
Creators understand the power of authenticity and audience. They build trust, motivate and enable others to change (esp. in their communities). They instinctively share a two way relationship with their audience which is core to their success, and is crucial to everything they do. For these reasons and many more we’ll discuss another time, working with NMC’s has become a very attractive proposition for brands, agencies and organisations, with increased intensity in recent times. We are naturally advocates of such things happening, however only when things are done correctly.
Brands vs NMCs
We want to address something around the commercialisation of NMCs now. There are a lot of old white men in suits scratching their heads and thinking of ways to ‘capitalise’ on this industry, and while it is great that creators can and do generate an income for themselves in the process, we are calling for a longer term view on this.
An NMC is a brand. Full stop. They have consciously or subconsciously created a branded digital presence, whether global stars such as Cara Delevingne, six second narration king Thomas Sanders or writer, director and reluctant audience participator Khyan Mansley.
Just as companies have to protect themselves, it is just as integral, if not even more so, as an NMC could make one huge mistake and not have the capital or fight to turn round their fortunes. A creator’s audience is arguably their most valuable asset. Once a community rejects you on the network you predominately create content on, it can be very difficult to make on that platform without the comments turning into a warzone split by support and opposition. The super brilliant Hank Green neatly explained this at the beginning of his Medium post titled; Theft, Lies and Facebook Video:
”I’m a professional YouTube creator. Some people think that this is some kind of joke but I have 30 employees. All of them work in the online video industry, about half of them work directly on producing videos for our educational YouTube channels. We’re a small, profitable business.” — Hank Green
Draconian advertising methods are prevalent in the way brands and agencies approach content creation with NMCs, making them seem so out of touch with these experts of content creation for the new media age. NMCs are fed up of being told ‘this will be good for exposure’ or ‘think of the experience’ by brands. It is like asking your friend who is a professional photographer to come and film your wedding in Las Vegas, but they are to fund the trip themselves. Sending template emails in mass mailouts to creators is no way to begin your collaboration. Massive awareness and education need to happen before we see industry standards and norms form, but brands interested in what really ticks off a creator, listen to Dodie Clark’s recent rant for a few tips.
A point we really like to zone in on when discussing NMCs with account execs is the point Dodie focuses on — NMCs being experts. Do your research and ask yourselves some questions, who is the NMC? What do they focus on in their content, and perhaps importantly who will their audience be? This is very easily done by looking them up on their channels across social networks and having a click about.
If they are making you a video, brief them on what you are trying to do, not what you want them to make. Explain why you are contacting them and referencing some of the work that brought them to your attention. Be upfront with budget, we always try to be, if you are a not-for-profit or cause be honest, and if it’s something they have already shown interest in they will get involved. And finally when giving the NMC a creative brief ask for three ideas back to begin with, a safe idea, a funny one and one without limits. Give them some freedom, trust us, you’ll be amazed.
Safe to say we are all going to have to navigate a way through the inevitable adoption of a new way of the creative industries working. It would seem brands and NMCs are destined to work together, collectively we can make this a smoother transition. We could waffle on about this for ages, we regularly do, but enough tips now.
Looking at the evidence it is clear there needs to be a wider debate around the medium of video, content creation and advertising rules and regulations, should be led by the creators who understand what is going on in this new industry. A healthy democratic discussion with NMCs at the heart of it.
We have already witnessed Hollywood’s rise and the power being held by the few. Now we stand on a new dawn, we have a chance to shape this one together.