GM and Senior Vice President for VidCon, Jim Louderback sits down with Mark Jones to discuss the power of partnering with content creators and Australia’s video landscape.
Jim Louderback, GM and Senior Vice President for VidCon, has stood at the coalface of the many cycles of disruption the media industry has weathered thanks to technology, including the dotcom crash in 2000, and survived with his good humor intact.
Wondering how? Jim says to stay relevant you have to keep your audience’s needs at the centre of every move you make.
“I’ve worked at a couple of television companies where you don’t have a direct relationship with your audience. When we were running magazines, we had that direct connection, and when our content started ending up on the internet, suddenly we had to deal with readers responding directly to our articles and not all of them were complimentary. We had to figure out how to manage that,” Jim says.
“I think for marketers, we’ve gotten a lot closer to our customers over the last few years to the point that your audience is shaping your brand with you. And if you don’t relate and communicate to them directly, your brand’s not really going to move ahead and you’re going to lose out.”
At the helm of VidCon, a multi-genre video conference that sees content creators and brands coming together to discuss their role and relationships in the changing media environment, Jim puts his ability to relate to and understand audiences to good use.
Jim says the time is now for YouTubers and other independent content creators to become a new voice of authority, and that brands have an opportunity to create long-term partnerships with these passionate creators who have an authentic, established connection with their audience.
“You need to find the creators you can partner with that really identify with and are aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish,” he says.
When it comes to brands working with content creators Down Under, however, Jim acknowledges there is a gap in awareness and growth compared to other demographics. Although, this is likely to change in the near future.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of people while in Australia, and have seen these creators are starting to get enough visibility and people are seeing enough value in them that they’re being approached by [brands] to be signed,” Jim says.
Tune into this episode of The CMO Show to find out how to leverage content creators in an effort to connect with your customers in a new and authentic way.
- VidCon Australia 2019
- Can Do: VidCon CEO Jim Louderback Explains The Creator Economy
- What VidCon Australia Teaches Startups About Leveraging Video Content
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The CMO Show production team
Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Host: Mark Jones
Guest: Jim Louderback
Mark Jones: I’m fascinated by the difference between influencers and content creators. Influencers, we typically see on Instagram and they’re famous and it’s all about me, and like this product and it’s very commercial and very short-term. Content creators, on the other hand, if you think about passionate YouTubers, create content for the sheer love of their topic or their area of expertise.
Mark Jones: So, as a brand storyteller, how can you find the people that are really passionate about their subject area, and how can you partner with them for long term success?
Mark Jones: Hello, friends. Welcome back to The CMO Show. My name is Mark Jones. Great to be with you. I am absolutely stoked about our episode today. My guest is Jim Louderback, and he’s General Manager, Senior Vice President at VidCon.
Mark Jones: So, for those of you who don’t know VidCon, it’s an event. It’s a big conference that is hosted in Southern California, the UK, and also here in Australia later this year, in September. It’s unique in the sense that it brings together YouTube content creators and the fan community, and also increasingly with brands who are trying to figure out how this whole thing works.
Mark Jones: It’s a big conversation that’s been going on in marketing circles for quite some time, but this is an opportunity to understand somebody who’s really, I think, at the leading edge of where all of this is going, because Jim’s, actually a bit like me. We actually both go back 20 years or more into the media space. But he’s really grown up with and seen how these influencers have become these incredibly powerful content creators. And the intersection between that and media disruption and the marketing landscape and brands and the whole thing.
Mark Jones: So, it’s a real blast. I just had so much fun catching up with Jim. So let’s see what Jim’s got to say about, not just VidCon, but actually how marketers are engaging with the communities of content creators.
Mark Jones: Well, my very special guest today is Jim Louderback. Thank you for joining us on the CMO Show.
Jim Louderback: Oh, thank you. It’s great to be here.
Mark Jones: Now, we are already on fire before we got recording here, we’re basically doing a bit of a trip down memory lane going back to 2000s, 2002, when we were both living in San Francisco during the Dot-com crash. Let’s start there. Tell me about that time in your career and what was going on.
Jim Louderback: Well, the interesting thing is I got to San Francisco ’97, ’98, I think you got there a little bit later, but you’ve got to see a little bit of the run-up. And I don’t know if you remember the run-up, but-
Mark Jones: It was nuts.
Jim Louderback: Well, I was running a cable startup on the technology side, but I was running the content. My staff, all younger than me, they went to parties every night. They never had to buy food for two years or a drink. They would all come in hung over the next morning. I’m like, “Why are you guys hung over?” They was like, “Well, someone sold hats.com in a party,” or socks.com, or whatever it was. “Wow, you’re living the good life.” I had a new baby at home so I wasn’t going out.
Jim Louderback: But it’s funny, it all changed. And I remember, there was one night, remember Ask Jeeves, right?
Mark Jones: Yes.
Jim Louderback: Ask Jeeves did a party at Ruby Sky, but it was with Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, and I was as far from Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe as probably twice the distance from you and it’s not far away. And right before that, the industry standard had a party with keen.com at City Hall. And I remember going to both those parties, and you can already see the writing on the wall. And I was like, “This is the end. This is what is putting the stake in the ground of the Dot-com boom.” And it turned into the Dot-com bust.
Mark Jones: Do you think that was a jump the shark moment?
Jim Louderback: Oh, absolutely. You could tell. It was excess, over done, and industry standard, which is essentially the magazine that we both competed with, and it was out of business in six months, and or three months, I think, and all the people that had moved there, all left to go work in real estate for some reason.
Mark Jones: Were they atoning for their sins, maybe, I don’t know what was going on.
Jim Louderback: I don’t know, like, “What are we going to do now?” “Well, I’ve got to get my real estate licence and see if I can sell real estate instead of working on these Dot-com startups.”
Mark Jones: Well yeah, I mean if you look at the stock market chart in the run up to 2000, because the bust was in the early months of 2000, I think it was like March. Basically when I went to America, when I joined InfoWorld in San Francisco, it was, and I kid you not, about the same week or month that this whole thing fell over.
Jim Louderback: You know the thing that I think is most interesting about that, having gone through that and there have been additional boom busts I think we’ve both been through and seen, is that Gartner hype cycle really plays out, right? The idea that new technology comes in and it gets super hyped up and it goes into this, I think the term they use is the peak of inflated expectations, and then it all crashes and you go into the trough of despair, the pits of doom-
Mark Jones: Troughs of disillusionment.
Jim Louderback: … or whatever, disillusionment, thanks.
Jim Louderback: But then it goes up, and
Mark Jones: The slope of enlightenment.
Jim Louderback: The slope of productivity and enlightenment. And that’s exactly what happened. And you were there, I lived through it, but in that time of the crash was when the seeds of Google and Ebay and Amazon, they all flowered. And where everybody else was losing their heads, they kept their heads and built the amazing businesses that they are now.
Mark Jones: If I jump right to today’s world, and you’re obviously at Viacom and curating all this incredible content through the VidCon business, what are the lessons that you learned about curating content in those times?
Jim Louderback: I think the most important thing that I learned, and I didn’t have a journalism background, I fell into it when I started working at InfoWorld competitor PC Week, but was that you have to think like your audience. So when I think about, particularly on the industry track at VidCon, before I started at VidCon I ran an online video startup where, we were the early days of YouTube, and we had a lot of the early stars on YouTube were part of our network. And when I got to VidCon and started running the industry track, the business side of it, the way that I thought about it was, “I want to build the conference where everybody that used to work with me would come to me and justify the reasons why they wanted to go.” So I wanted every single person on my staff, if I was still there with my staff, that they would have a reason to justify it and I couldn’t say no if I was running that business.
Jim Louderback: So putting on the head of who are the potential people to come and then what do they want? And so when we started crafting the industry track of VidCon, it was around two different pieces. One was for the mid level employees, how do I give them the workshops and the masterclasses and the sessions that’ll help them go back to the office on Monday and put that stuff in place and start to make a difference as soon as they got back in the office? So that’s one of the reasons why on these masterclasses and things, it was like you couldn’t do one unless we could give that presentation to the attendees, and a week after the event you get all the presentations because you can’t go to everything. The other thing was I had a lot of great content, so you can’t go to everything.
Jim Louderback: Well then the other side of it was for the more senior team, I wanted to have the vision stuff, where we get leaders in the industry to come in and talk about what they were doing and where the future was going and how they were crafting and thinking about the next five to 10 years. So hands-on practical, and then looking out in the future and that way I got “everybody had to go.”
Mark Jones: The interesting thing, again is this…You actually have the sense of what is the audience interested in. And if I think about the CMO show and our listeners we’re marketing executives, Comms leaders, and we’re in a corporate environment where there’s a strong focus on business outcomes. But what we’re speaking about here is a sense of how close can I get to the customer and what they’re thinking and feeling? You and I get that because as a journalist, you get in tune with your readers, right? You get to know what they’re thinking and feeling. Isn’t an interesting how today, those skills are actually at the core of what we otherwise think of as customer experience, and all these other forms of jargon? How have you seen that play out? Because I think just in here is a big tension point.
Jim Louderback: Yeah. I think, and look, we saw this, I’ve seen this in media before because I’ve now worked at a couple of television companies where you don’t have a direct relationship with your audience. I mean, one of the things, remember when we were running magazines, we had that direct connection, but we called it letters to the editor. But we also, as we got more and more on the Internet and more of the content that we did ended up being on the Internet. Suddenly we had to deal with actually readers responded directly to our articles and comments and not all of them were complementary, and we had to figure out how to manage that and how to have that.
Jim Louderback: It was enlightening and freeing, but also scary as all get out to have that direct relationship with your readers. And we all learned how to do it. The ones who didn’t, they’re selling real estate. But I think for marketers, you’ve gotten a lot closer to your customers over the last, how many years. Used to be these like, “I got my brand and I’m going to put it out there and people are going to like it or not like it, and I don’t care,” to the point of your audience is shaping your brand with you. And if you don’t have that ability to relate to them directly, and communicate to them directly and have that relationship and that community, your brand’s not really going to move ahead and you’re going to lose out.
Mark Jones: Right. And again, the tension point, if I use Lego, I think it’s actually a great case in point where they co-create products with their fan base. So their entire business actually is oriented around what are the fans want to do, what do the customers actually want to do? Whereas I would suggest that the dominant model when it comes to content, brand identity and a lot of these. It’s still command control and push down, right?
Jim Louderback: Yeah. But you’ve got to let go. I, was speaking at the Mumbrella Conference earlier, and one of the case studies that I used, talking about creators and influencers and all that, but it was another toy company, Nerf, and how Nerf went through a similar thing, where back in 2012, 2013, their young boy audience, was not buying as many Nerf products and their products plateaued. And they did a focus group of boys and were like, “What are you guys doing?” And they realised they were actually going on YouTube and watching some amazing things happening on YouTube, not going out and playing with the products, but are watching other people do amazing things, trick shots and things that, and through their research they discovered these folks Dude Perfect.
Jim Louderback: And Dude Perfect, now a huge success story, they’re going on a world tour, they make millions and millions and millions of dollars a year-
Mark Jones: This is a YouTube-
Jim Louderback: A YouTube … Yeah, right. YouTube creators. It’s a team of folks that were doing amazing trick shots. They take the basketball from the top of a building and throw it and get it in a basketball net 300 feet away. But they realised this is something that that teen, that younger boy audience was watching a lot of, and they did some research, they’re like, “Well, these guys …” and they were in Texas, they still had real jobs at this time, but they teamed up with them and said, “Let’s do stuff with these guys.”
Jim Louderback: And so if you go on Dude Perfect’s channel in 2013, you see these early Nerf videos, they’re still very raw and authentic. They definitely needed a director of photography to make the colours come up, but it was real.
Jim Louderback: And so they’re there doing amazing things with things like Nerf balls and Nerf footballs, and amazing trick shots. And it’s really turned into this partnership where there’s the crafted messaging that happens with Dude Perfect in the TV spots, and then there’s the integration that feels like a Dude Perfect episode that’s very different, but also brings in the whole Nerf component to it. Sales took off and six years later they still have a great partnership.
Mark Jones: Right. And did they extend that out, though, like to the whole community?
Jim Louderback: They let it go. See the thing is Nerf said, “We’re not going to just put you in this scripted thing that we’re doing and we’re going to do a campaign and then it’s going to be over with. We want to work with you over the long term. And we’re going to let you take our products and interact with them and take our brand and interpret it in the way that makes sense for the way you’ve built your community and audience, not in the way that we think it should be done.” Very brave.
Mark Jones: Very brave. And I’d suggest in this country that we’re not there yet, and there’s a real struggle at a board level to get our heads around what it means to partner with content creators, to let the brand go, to take on board their ideas and actually go to the full extent to being customer centric. We talk about it, but we actually don’t want to go the whole way.
Jim Louderback: And the problem is, and I’m totally sympathetic because there are creators out there, influencers that really don’t care. They’ll work with you and they’ll take your money and they’ll just mail it in, or you might end up working with them and then they go off and get arrested or do something awful. And it’s like, “Wait, my brand’s getting hurt because of this.”
Mark Jones: Right. You’ve got risk.
Jim Louderback: And so, you’ve got to really focus on how do you find the right person that you can work with that knows your brand and knows what you do and that aligns with your values. And that’s not easy, but when it works, like with Dude Perfect and Nerf, or with what Lego’s doing it works really well. So it’s not just plug and play, and you can’t look at it like, “I got a media plan and I’ve got TV, I’ve got radio, I’ve got out of home and I’ve got influencer.” No. What you do is you need to find the creators you can partner with that really identify with and are aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish and with their audience.
Mark Jones: Give me the best practise guide to making that happen, because we definitely, I think in this country, have a media buying mentality to influencers, right? It’s a checkbox in a campaign, and it’s short term, and there’s lots of platforms now that automate it, and I guess they argue that they would help mitigate the risk through a platform because if you’re not there and not good, you won’t stay, et cetera, et cetera. What’s a different way of looking at this?
Jim Louderback: So I think in general what you want to do first is, as a brand, you have your keywords and the words that define you and hopefully you’ve done the work to figure out what you stand for. Let’s start with YouTube. One of the things you can do on YouTube, on the search bar, is start entering those keywords in. And YouTube will then start creating an automatic list, and do this when you’re not signed in, do this in an incognito window on Chrome so that your past viewing history doesn’t affect this. You don’t want it to be all, “Ryan’s toy reviews” if you’re doing something that’s not toys or whatever.
Jim Louderback: But anyway, so you put the words in and it’ll pull up the 10 or 15 most searched for and viewed terms around that word. So in Dude Perfect’s case, if they put in “trick shot,” there are a bunch of trick shot things, “trick shot fortnight”, “trick shot this”, ‘trick shot that”, but “Dude Perfect trick shot” was one that would pop up.
Jim Louderback: And then start looking at those suggested sets of keywords that include your words, and look at the creators behind them. Start looking at the ones that are creating content that appeals to the audiences you’re trying to reach? Who are those individual segments you’re trying to reach and do they match up and reach those? And then are they creating content that you could see your brand being a part of?
Jim Louderback: And then don’t think about having them do your message. Think about partnering to bring your brand and your message into their content in an authentic way. If you can visualise that, now you’ve got a list of people that you can start to think about, but then you have to take it a step further, because there are a number of creators in Australia that are very, very popular, but not in Australia. So you may end up with a creator that matches perfectly with what you want to do and is great and is located in Sydney or Melbourne, and you’re like, “I want to partner with them.” But it turns out 99% of their views are in Canada and the US. So you also need to take a look at where their views coming from, because you want to make sure that at least a good chunk of them are not only attracting the targets that you want, but also that are happening in this country.
Mark Jones: Right. And make sure that those stats are reliable by the way.
Jim Louderback: Yeah. And so there are a couple of products out there that you can do that with the one that we use a lot to identify creators to bring into VidCon is a company called Tubular. It’s expensive, but they allow you to dice the data across not only YouTube but Instagram, Twitch, Facebook and more to come. They’re not doing Tik Tok yet. I wish they would. I do think you really got to do your homework, but it can be, if you do it right, an amazing partnership and it can lead to great results.
Mark Jones: So in other words, you’re using them as your independent third party, not relying on the YouTuber to get the data.
Jim Louderback: Yeah. Exactly. And the stats are there. There are other stats, we’ll do it there as well. The other thing to keep in mind is, again, it’s not just a line item on a media plan that’s going to happen for a week or two or a month and be done. Really, you want to find people that you can partner with for six months, a year or longer. And what I like to say, we used to see this when I was running Revision3, the network that I ran, is don’t come in and just scattershot and leave, come in and help me take the creator and their community, because remember, the fans of these creators are not just like, “I’m a fan and I’m looking up there and you’re on stage.” But there’s a real community. There’s a sense of connection between the creators, their audiences, and the audience the communities connected to each other, take them places they can’t go.
Jim Louderback: So let’s say it’s a travel and adventure, and you find a great travel and adventure person travels all over Australia. But by you coming in and being part of their community, you the brand, we’re allowing them to do something, like maybe they’re just low budget and we’re going to go take a low budget traveller and put them in a high budget Four Seasons. I don’t know if you want to do that or not. I’m obviously not a marketer, but take them places they can’t go and do things that they can’t do, but do it within the context of what they’re doing.
Mark Jones: How do you get the balance right between sponsored content and advertising and product placement and all that stuff?
Jim Louderback: Well, now you can go a little bit further down that path, like, “Do I create my own content?” But I think the balance has to be, if you’re doing sponsored content, make sure again, you’re doing things that are of interest to your audience. I don’t know what the right mix between sponsor and between integrations, but do what’s right for your audience, what’s going to give them real information and then, how do you go down the path of creating your own content? That’s the next step, right?
Mark Jones: I think so. The underlying theme here is the short-termism, which we talk about. It just seems to come up all the time in CMO circles at the moment. So how do you move from one mindset to the other?
Jim Louderback: Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a short-term mindset, but you need to do it within the context of that longer term partnership. If you need to sell something today, there are creators who are really good at selling things, that are really good at moving the needle, make sure that you’re looking at that as well. But hopefully that creator that you work with to try and do sales today is somebody you’d want to continue working with to accommodate other things down the road.
Jim Louderback: One of the really interesting things happening with video is that, even television, it used to be that you couldn’t stop TV. You probably remember seeing this, it was like, “Oh, people are going to buy stuff on TV. It’s going to be like shopping.” Well, that never happened, right? The only time it ever happened was some Star Trek marathon where people bought pizza.
Jim Louderback: But now, as more and more consumption of video is happening on our mobile devices, I used to think, if you had the same video showing on a TV screen in your home, a big 70 inch or two metre TV screen or whatever, it’s a big screen, one metre TV screen, whatever, and then you had your phone in your hand as well, and the same content was running, you would watch it on the big screen because it’s the best screen in the house. I was wrong.
Mark Jones: Yeah, right?
Jim Louderback: It’s the most convenient screen. And the thing is if you’re a millennial or a Gen Z, most likely, even if you have that big screen running the same show, you’re going to watch it on your mobile device because it’s convenient.
Jim Louderback: That’s kind of funny, but it’s also an opportunity because it means now, if you put an ad or a sponsorship or an integration and somebody is watching it, they can pause it and go to your website or go buy right away, and we’re starting to see this behaviour. It used to be that we would think about, oh, views and engagement and all that. Now it’s about can I actually sell stuff? Are people pinning this for later, for example, in Instagram, pinning something for later is an amazing stat that says, “Oh my God, this person is interested enough that want to go back to it.”
Jim Louderback: So you can get those kinds of actions. But you need to think about optimising for that and then finding a creator who’s good at getting people to do that.
Mark Jones: If we step back a little bit from this whole world, and the phrase that comes to mind is share of eyeballs, right? What are we actually looking at? How do we consume content? And we know that video is a big thing, but you are competing with streaming platforms. And also TV is still big. So what’s going on in terms of consumption patterns and trends, and where this video, I think of it as a bit homemade, but the content creation universe, what’s happening there? Are we seeing a really long term trend unfolding here where it’s going to become harder and harder and harder for the professionals to get those shares of eyeballs?
Jim Louderback: I think that we’re seeing this fractured media mix, particularly in visual media. There’s only so many hours a day you can actually watch visual media. Right? I mean, think about it. It used to be when you had a big TV, it’s four or five hours at home at night. But now you’re carrying a TV in your pocket, or something that’s able to deliver visual media to you. So if you’ve got five minutes to take a break, you can watch something. If you’re commuting, you can watch something. So the amount of time we’re spending with visual media has certainly expanded.
Jim Louderback: But also because there’s so many different options, the amount of time being spent with traditional television is decreasing. But that doesn’t mean that the content desire is going away. It really means that you as a marketer have to do a better job figuring out who your targets are, what media they consume when, and what are the right places for you to be in the right message you want to get across, and it’s, unfortunately a lot of work because less TV, but more on what we call the SVOD and the AVOD platforms, I had BVOD when I was here. I guess that’s a term locally.
Mark Jones: And what’s that?
Jim Louderback: Broadcast VOD, I don’t know, we’re owned by Viacom, we bought this company called Pluto that live streams new channels over the Internet. But you just start watching. It’s not like, “I want to watch a Spongebob episode,” and you just click a button and it starts, just like, “Oh, there’s a Spongebob marathon going on all the time and I can jump in in the middle of a cartoon and just break up fully and watch as long as I want.”
Jim Louderback: So there are all these different ways to get out there. And also interestingly, these platforms are no longer for video. They don’t just sit at the top of the funnel. It’s not just about awareness. That ties back to the, “I can get people to buy things.” But you do need to get a sense of where’s your target audience spending their time, what are they watching? And you need to be aware of all these different platforms because as people watch less traditional TV, it’s not like they’re watching less TV, they’re just watching it on Netflix or watching it on on-demand versions of Foxtel or other things. Or they’re watching it on YouTube or Tik Tok or LinkedIn or Snap or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Twitch. I could go on, but you know what I mean.
Mark Jones: Yeah. So, the parallel trend that’s going on, of course, there’s the integration, and even the Netflix series creators are doing this with the parallel track. There’s the podcast and there’s the video series on YouTube and on and on and on, right? All the spinoff content. And in the marketing universe, we’re getting more and more sophisticated as it comes to integrated marketing communications. So actually these big picture campaigns, the command and control model I used before, is still going to happen regardless. And we’re getting better at bringing all of that together.
Mark Jones: So how do we then, or how do you imagine the future will be with these highly influential content creators who you would seek to partner with? You may even bring them in. I mean are we going to see a future where they’re coming into the creative process at the front end and maybe helping you curate something even bigger? What’s it going to look like?
Jim Louderback: Yeah. I think you’re right there. The idea is as brands become more and more storytellers, they’re creating the content or working with other people who are. I think it’ll happen more where the creators who really match up, maybe they should be hired. Maybe the companies will start hiring them and building their own networks of creators that, maybe not employees, but they’re tightly bound for a year or two, and they become part of your creative process. The partnership between Dude Perfect and Nerf, I don’t know if they’re doing product development work together, but I would imagine that they are doing a lot of deep stuff together.
Jim Louderback: So thinking about how, if you find creators that you like, and it’s like dating, you’re like, “Ooh, we like you, let’s do a little bit together.” “Oh, we you a little bit more, let’s do a little bit more together.” And it’s like, “Wow, we’re really aligned. Hey, how’d you to get hitched? Maybe not forever but for a year or two.”
Mark Jones: Yeah, just a contract.
Jim Louderback: Yeah, exactly. But I do think we see more and more creators starting to align themselves and becoming part of that. And by the way, there may be folks inside your organisation who are already doing things who might be ideal for that too.
Mark Jones: Are these content creators getting smarter? Because they come into it through a passion and a hobby and then suddenly they’ve got to be business people. And I imagine some of them are good and some of them are really average. So how do you make this work from that point of view?
Jim Louderback: Well, yeah, I think the ones who get better and better, they’ll have more and more people coming after them. So agents and managers and other people. And I’ve been talking to a lot of people as I’ve been in Australia over the past few weeks, and more and more seeing that these creators are starting to get enough visibility and people are seeing enough value in them that people are coming out of the woodwork to try and sign them up.
Jim Louderback: And these creators, they don’t know. Some of them are being taken advantage of. We saw this in the USA a couple of years ago, and so some of them are getting smarter, some of them are doing their first set of dumb contracts which they’ll learn from. But there’s some really very reputable talent agents and managers here who are working with a lot of these creators also who can be good partners for brands too. You’ll pay more, but it’s more likely you’ll get what you want. So that’s not a bad thing either.
Mark Jones: Yeah. Okay. So, it’s going to require a bit of both, right? So the talent being supported by good people and then I think savvy marketers who can get a good read on what’s going to work well for both, because I can see possibly some brands exploiting those people too, right?
Jim Louderback: Oh yeah. I think it’s got to work on both sides and there’s definitely the stories that I’ve heard, even the last few weeks of people who, a creator is like, “Oh yeah, I signed that brand deal. Do I really have to do it? What do I have to do? Can I just mention it and then move on?” No, you actually mentioned you are going to do this, this and this. Then on the other side, the brands come in and say, “In the deal it specifically says you are going to say: Cherry Soda is the best soda in the world and it’s the only thing I drink ever. We put that in your contract, didn’t you read it?” And they’re like, “No, I just signed it.” And then they’re forced to do it.
Jim Louderback: So, let’s make sure there’s some trust there as we get into it, but it’s got to work on both sides. And I think those are growing pains. We’ll work through those. And that’s where I think some talent agents and managers and smart people can really help, as well as some of the influencer platforms can help as well to make sure that what we’re doing is something where both sides are winning and both sides are doing things that make sense versus, “I’m not going to put that on my Instagram channel because everybody knows that it’s going to be an ad,” and as a brand you don’t want to do that anyway because then everyone’s going to be, “Oh, you just paid for that. Oh, we’re going to ignore that.” Whereas if you do an integration that really works within the context of what the creator makes, then you’re capturing people when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Jim Louderback: Because if you love a creator a lot and you’re watching their content, watch every episode, you’re open. Because you love them. You love the content. And if you intelligently bring a brand along on that journey, chances are you’re going to love that too. You’re much more receptive to the message.
Jim Louderback: So it’s not about getting your message in the mouth of the creator. And to the creator, it’s not about just a throwaway mentioned and being done with it. Both sides have to understand that we need to work together and that’s how we both get the most value.
Mark Jones: Yeah. And to me, this all gets back to storytelling again, right? So what’s the story we’re trying to tell? How can we co-create that story? How can we tell it in a way that is consistent with how people understand story, right? How we engage with it from an empathetic point of view, from character development, all the tools and techniques which we won’t go into now. It requires, a really nuanced view of how to create and craft story. Right?
Jim Louderback: Yeah.
Mark Jones: And my view is that we’re at the leading edge of, marketers really getting their head around that and separating that content and, if you like, artistic view, from the commercial view. And generally speaking, the commercial view dominates at the moment in terms of our thinking. We come from the marktech world, there’s a lot of data, we’re trying to impress the CEO and the salespeople with their results and so on and so on. But actually, this whole space that we’re talking about really does rely on being able to craft a story.
Jim Louderback: Yeah. And maybe there’s, for marketers who are serious about this, maybe they need to bring someone on who is actually a storyteller who can help craft these things. I’m thinking full employment for us ex-journalists. But there’s something to that, right?
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Jim Louderback: Because I think you’re absolutely right about story, and the way that these creators who are working across these platforms that are very different from most of the people making decisions in companies, come up on Tik Tok. Everybody listening, by the way, should download Tik Tok and at least experience it. The stories are very different, they’re 15 seconds long. Having storytellers who really understand how to work with creators in the medium that they’re working in is really important too.
Mark Jones: So then, what are your predictions? This is the grand question. And I ask you this because I saw some VidCon videos and your speakers talking about predictions for 2019. So, you’ve got a bit of a sense of the Australian market. What do you think, what’s going to happen?
Jim Louderback: Well, I think that, an overall sense, and we’ll see this here, but everywhere is the government leaning in on all of these platforms. We’re already seeing that with Google and Facebook. The idea that these platforms are just going to go out and do whatever they want is over.
Jim Louderback: And so as the governments tend to lean in and try and regulate a little bit, or a lot, they won’t have the understanding of technology that they probably should have, and that there will be missteps. But it’s going to be a different landscape there. I think, on the platform side, we’re starting to see brands in Australia have real success with creators. There’s certainly been some fits and starts, but we’re starting to see that happen, and I think we’ll see more and more of that. And there will be, you’ll see it at VidCon, we’ll have case studies of success stories here in Australia. You’ll see more and more of that happen.
Jim Louderback: On the flip side, we talked in the beginning about the Gartner hype cycle, and influencers are just riding down that hype cycle right now. And so there’s a lot of backlash on influencers. We’ll continue to see that, I mean everything from, Sunrise going out and setting up that fake restaurant in Melbourne where they’re trying to have a honeypot to catch influencers asking for fake food to some terrible folks holding restaurants hostage to that place in the Philippines, it was like, “I don’t want any influencers here any more. I’m not giving you free food in a place. Get a job. Pay the 40 bucks a night.”
Jim Louderback: So the backlash on the influencers is going to continue to happen. But you go up that slope of productivity or whatever it is, the companies that are working with real creators that really care about their brand and work together will start seeing real results. So definitely watch out for fake influencers and fake creators and all those people who are just in it for the money. But don’t throw the whole thing out. I think that’s going to be a real trend to watch.
Jim Louderback: And then on the technology side, because we’re both geeks and we’ve worked in the tech space, we’re seeing more and more incredible use of video to do things deep fakes, where they can actually fake … Two examples. One, go look right now, search for “Elon Musk baby.” I don’t know, did you see this?
Mark Jones: No. But already I want to search that.
Jim Louderback: There’s a YouTube creator, a YouTuber in his baby and they’re great videos of him. Somebody took that and took Elon Musk’s face, and using video mapping technology, mapped Elon’s Musk’s face onto the baby. And the baby was giggling, but it’s Elon Musk’s face.
Mark Jones: What a horror show.
Jim Louderback: It’s so weird. But those sorts of faked videos are going to happen more and more, and we all need to understand where they’re happening and see what’s there.
Jim Louderback: And the other side of that is, dead rock stars are touring again. Frank Zappa’s on tour, he’s been dead for 30 years through a Hologram. Amy Winehouse was going on tour. So technology rate of change is going to continue to accelerate. If you find the newest technologies and can take advantage of them as a marketer early on, you’re going to have a leg up on everybody else.
Mark Jones: Amazing. Well, we have covered an incredible swathe of content and topics., thank you so much for being my guest on The CMO Show.
Jim Louderback: Well, thank you for having me. It’s awesome to be here and have a chat with your audience as well, so thank you.
Mark Jones: So that was super fun. Like with every show, there’s always chats and conversations that go on before and after a recording. And this was a lot of fun for me because it was a bit of a trip down memory lane, Jim and I are talking about the Dot-com crash days in the early 2000s, some 20 years ago, and then just spanning those crazy days of the Dot-com era today. And it’s interesting on reflection that the networks, if you think about the mobile networks and the technology now, has become so powerful that we’re in this world where video is streaming without an issue, and where online communities are operating in real time. It’s a really intense media environment where there’s quick reactions and interactions if you like between brands and content creators and fans.
Mark Jones: And it’s interesting to reflect on that with the perspective of a couple of decades, because we’re now, living in an era that 20 years ago was the only imagined, and so it’s exciting to think about how our brands, and if you’re a marketer or somebody in communications trying to get your head around this, now you have an opportunity to partner with people who are as passionate about your industry or your sector or even your products as you are, and how can you actually bring them into what you’re doing. And for me that’s really exciting because in that space, you start to become, a really professional brand storyteller, somebody who understands that actually the heart of storytelling is what’s really going to engage an audience.
Mark Jones: That’s it for this episode. Until next time.