Hacking the Content Production Process

 

Seth Hillstrom (SH):

Video content is really expensive to creative.  And it doesn’t always hit the mark.  Producing it is a consistently expensive gamble – and one not all business and brands can afford to take. That’s why we’re chatting with Jonathan Mills, longtime video and entertainment industry executive, for our weekly eBev Global Interview.  I have my questions for Jonathan, but don’t hesitate to ask yours.  Jonathan, thank you for joining us today! 

Jonathan Mills (JM):

Thrilled to be here and adding my voice to the conversation!

SH:

We’ve spoken at length on your views on the current content production model, and you’ve made it clear that you believe it’s broken. Or at least not working for the majority of companies out there. What is it about the current model that you believe is limiting the potential for many brands to produce powerful videos?

 JM:

The current production model isn’t “broken” per se, but it’s terribly exclusionary for businesses that don’t have a sizable marketing budget to support it. The problem is, like many mature businesses the overhead costs and margins are a sizable portion of production budgets…and they have become bloated. There are a number of caveats to this, but when you’re talking about live-action content creation, agencies and prod co’s charge a huge premium…big companies are happy to pay it, but SMB’s have been largely shut out. Powerful films don’t have to cost tons of money.

SH:

With that in mind, you’ve been considering founding a new kind of production agency for some time now – and recently you made the leap and launched Main Street Content. What motivated you to do it?

JM:

I’ve been writing, producing and working around brand content for a number of years and over the last five years there has been a quiet revolution in terms of image capture technology (as anyone with an iPhone is now aware of) and this technology means capturing amazing sight and sound is now a much less expensive proposition, even at the professional level. Couple this with the proliferation of great creative talent entering the work force I saw an opportunity. MSC (Main Street Content) is designed to take advantage of these two market dynamics by offering cinematic, story-driven content solutions to small businesses. And now, distributing that content over social channels means that small businesses can more effectively compete with big business on a platform like Instagram, if the content is great. (they will never be able to outspend them, sadly)

SH:

I think you’re right about the revolution, and I myself have described what you’re doing as “hacking the content production process,” something I think our friend Bonin Bough would appreciate. Give us a look under the hood. How is it possible to make truly professional content that doesn’t break the bank?

JM:

Great content always has inherent costs associated with it, permits, lighting, location rentals, talent…but MSC was designed to create ‘documentary’ style films. We’re focused on helping businesses tell their own story in their own words. This means we’re not on the hook to book a celebrity spokeswoman or rent Staples Center – so costs are already headed down. We’ve also cultivated relationships with Film Programs like the New York Film Academy, which means we sourcing and curating the best young talent in the market. Beyond that, we have a proprietary production process and set of best practices that give us cinematic outcomes and come an authentic place, which is key to relevant and meaningful brand conversations.

SH:

Absolutely. So going a step further, ultimately using that video effectively and generating ROI is what it’s all about – especially for brands working with a tighter budget. How do you work with clients that may be in the earlier phases of their content strategy to ensure that they’re getting their message to the right folks, and communicating something likely to be fun, interesting, or add value in some way for their consumer?

JM:

In my experience big brands and small brands want the same thing; engagement and awareness…which generally lead directly to increased sales. The most important part of a great content strategy is GREAT CONTENT. Big companies use big media spends to reach millions of people. Small brands can’t take this approach, but the solution is publishing content that CONNECTS. Video is highly concentrated information! MSC works with the business owner or marketing team to identify key elements that separate that specific enterprise from the competition and helps to create a narrative that resonates. It could be process, location, consumers themselves or even the voice of employee’s. We use a variety of techniques to capture what we believe is the most authentic form of connection: storytelling!

SH:

Okay, so you’ve you’ve told a great story, you’ve made the beautiful piece of content…now you have to get it out there. I read a recent survey report that indicated that 41% of senior ad buyers said the best channel to launch new campaigns is Facebook video, compared to 25% who said television and 10% who chose YouTube. What are you thinking about in terms of distribution strategy as clients bring new campaigns to market – and how does this impact your production process?

JM:

84% of digital marketing spend is focused on Google and Facebook. This is an incredible number and suggests that understanding how to use these platforms is absolutely critical. Look, a Super Bowl Ad or advertisement on television still has huge value, but the digital space is catching up. Gen Y watches Youtube, Gen Z is mobile first and on social media…these are the spaces that people are living. One of the ways MSC reduces cost is by shooting for digital and not broadcast (there are different specs to this) we also approach each video package knowing that there will be, ‘cut downs’ that fit Instagram and Facebook specifically. 7 seconds, 15 seconds and 30 seconds. Understanding distribution via these channels is incredibly straightforward…but leading with relevant messaging remains the critical component in a highly fragmented culture of consumption. Quality still counts (ask anyone who has watched those horrible how-to animations)

SH:

That’s sound advice for so many of you small and mid-sized beverage brands I work with! That said, I’d like to try to mine your brain for a few additional takeaways to leave folks with. You’ve had an extensive career in helping to produce incredibly successful content for the likes of Mercedes-Benz USA, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Michelin and many other industry leaders. What are the most important lessons you’ve taken from you work with the world’s largest companies. What does or doesn’t translate? And how might these insights apply when you approach a brand with a more moderate marketing budget, such as my friends in craft beer?

JM:

This is a fantastic question. What I’ve learned is that regardless of the size of your budget or the complexity of your organization…most companies want the same outcome. Connection. Impact. Awareness. As I said before keeping people’s attention is hard and motivating them to engage with your brand, voluntarily is even harder. But over time I’ve realized that authenticity is what drives that connection. Big brands like Mercedes spend big money to create content that is ‘authentic’ to their brand and it works. Small brands should be thinking the same way. “How do I connect with my local consumers? How can I help them understand what I do?”

The same questions must be answered regardless of the scale of the company and the type of product it produces. We also know that quality increases engagement. So does humor, but chasing viral hits using cats and pianos isn’t a viable strategy. You can be funny but still be true to your brand. In my opinion small brands should be thinking about how to extend their brand voice into video and MSC is a great way to do so without spending huge amounts of money. Which will help that ROI figure!

SH:

Jonathan, thank you so much for chatting with us. I will leave it here, and for anyone with ideas about creating powerful content that doesn’t break the budget, please share! And feel free to ask Jonathan to give his thoughts on any content production challenges you’re facing…

JM:

Thank you, Seth! I’m here to be a resource and encourage anyone to reach out to me here or via www.mainstreetcontent.com

 

For questions or comments please visit:  https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6354712798051868672/

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