The Confessional #1: Ad Agency Executive

This is the first interview from my new blog series The Confessional. The Confessional is a series of anonymous interview with influencers, brands, marketers, agencies and MCN executives. The Confessional is all about creating a platform for people within this space to candidly share their valuable insights and thoughts.

My first guinea pig is a partner at a digital content studio that works with Fortune 500 brands and top YouTube talent with millions of subscribers.

In this extensive interview we covered a lot of ground, including how marketers can overcome the total confusion around the roles of MCN’s, management companies and managers, all the work that goes into selling ideas to brands, etc.

In my opinion, the major highlights from our interview include:

  •    Navigating branded content production with creators
  •    The best types of creators to work with
  •    How to define great content
  •    Defining the roles of MCN’s and managers
  •    What brands and creators should know when they work together


Launching The Confessional

 “Brands you don’t seem to understand social media at all.”

That’s according to English YouTuber, Doddleoddle, and a sentiment shared by thousands of other creators who make their livings by working with brands.

It’s easy to nod in agreement and think “Yeah, brands suck!”

I know I’ve felt that way countless times.

But… is this sentiment, part of the problem?


YouTube Channel Building For Brands: Hero, Hub, Help Content Strategy, Optimization, and Community Building

Take a guess as to how many brands are in the top 100 most subscribed channels on YouTube? How many brands do you think are in the most top 100 most liked on Facebook?

There is not a single brand in the top 100 most subscribed channels on YouTube, but there are nearly a dozen on Facebook.

Why is this?

On Facebook, you can buy your way to success. However, you can’t buy a community of subscribers on YouTube the same way you can likes and followers on Facebook or Twitter.

YouTube takes some actual effort, but it’s not rocket science.

You’d think that brands with their millions of dollars, thousands of staff, and countless resources would be able accomplish being in the top 100 most subscribed channels. But they’re not!

In fact, they’re being beat out by 16 year old’s.

So, how can brands succeed? What can they do?

In this post I’ll cover these principles as well as specific tactics and to creating a successful YouTube channel. This is the most essential stuff, distilled after a decade of tinkering with what works and what doesn’t. Everything else is details etc. this is the most essential stuff. Learn this first.


PewDiePie – The Underpaid Millionaire

In a montage video released to commemorate 10 billion views to his channel, YouTube star PewDiePie plays computer games, sings “Let It Go” while dressed in full-on Anna-from-Frozen drag, and lifts up his shirt to reveal poop emojis covering his nipples. For the diehard audience of millions who watch the Swedish expat’s show on a regular basis, this is unsurprising behavior to witness. Despite his bombastic weirdo hijinks, PewDiePie has cultivated an attentive collection of fans around the world.

His success comes with confusion and criticism by people who think he earns too much money.


Who’s Really Breaking The Internet?

In April of this past year, I was fortunate enough to speak at one of my all time favorite conferences – The Next Web: Europe. I talked about YouTube stars, their rise to prominence in mainstream media, and how they’ve actually been influential for a lot longer than we tend to think. I also talked about how those of us in advertising need to change our mode of thinking to focus on what’s effective vs what our peers our doing. You can see a video of my talk here, I’ve also embedded the slides below and added a slightly modified transcript of my talk below.


The last year has been pretty incredible within the YouTube ecosystem.

The space has gotten a lot of buzz and a lot more ad dollars flowing into it. Previously brands were experimenting, but not quite investing the way they should.

A lot of this really changed when Disney made a huge investment in the ecosystem, when they purchased Maker Studios about a year ago. When Disney spends half a billion dollars on something people tend to take notice.

The ad dollars really started flowing in as a result of the credibility that Disney lent to the space. The acquisition also kicked off a string of acquisitions and you could really sense and see the hype in all the PR and press that had flowed out of the space over the last year.

YouTubers were on the cover of Fast Company, they were on the cover of Variety, celebrated as the future of celebrity. They were on the cover of Adage and Adweek. And the overarching narrative throughout this was that YouTube is the future of media, entertainment, celebrity, advertising, and within the ad industry everywhere you looked it was YouTube is the future, the future, the future.



This video generated 3.1 million views in its first 3 days… and I can’t stand watching it. I don’t want to watch it.

Would you watch 10 hours of this? Probably not. But, that doesn’t make it any less effective as a marketing platform.

Millions watched Two and A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory and those shows are utter garbage (in my opinion). Yet, those shows were never lacking advertisers.

PewDiePie, meanwhile, has nearly 40 million subscribers and over 10 billion views. Just last week he generated over 51 million views, beating Two and a Half Men’s record viewership of the season finale of 13.5 million people. Every week.

To put that into perspective, Super Bowl XLVIII drew 111.5 Million Viewers.


Vidcon 2015 Recap

Vidcon, the largest YouTube gathering/conference, just wrapped up its sixth annual event.

Over twenty thousand executives, YouTube creators, and fans were in attendance. The Anaheim Convention Center, where Vidcon took place, was packed – the event entirely sold out. For comparison, there were only 1,400 attendees at Vidcon’s inaugaral event six years ago in a Los Angeles Hotel.

Vidcon is a microcosm of the digital video ecosystem, and the growth in attendees in reflective of the growth of the industry. This year there were more fans, brands, platforms, and creators all vying for attention than ever before.



Late last year, NewMediaRockstars made waves with their coverage of an exchange Maker Studios had with a potential advertiser, the advertiser had $30k for influencer brand deals and Maker responded stating they didn’t do deals under $200k.

Many creators were outraged by this information, and a reporter for NMR went so far as to say that this should be a “red flag to creators currently signed with Maker because it essentially says that a lot of money is being left on the table strictly because the MCN doesn’t want to deal with helping mid-level and smaller channels — creators who could really benefit from ANY added income — which is the majority of their client base.”

It’s expected that some are frustrated with MCNs – thirty thousand dollars is likely more than most creators in Maker’s network make off their channels in a given year, and I agree that creators need to be cautious.


MCN Acquisition Roundup [Infographic]

2014 was a big year for the MCN space. Maker was acquired and this kicked off a domino effect of sales and acquisitions. Long established companies such as ATT, Disney, and Dreamworks to jumped into the fray plucking up a number of MCN’s. To help consolidate all this information I put together an infographic of the acquisitions to date–


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Limbic Resonance – The Science Behind The Success of YouTubers

I’ve seen it time and time again with the campaigns I’ve worked on.

YouTubers crash websites with a single mention, drive tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of fans to visit a website, like a facebook page, submit content, or appear in droves to events at the simple mention of a specific time and place.

For years I struggled to articulate what was unique about video and why YouTubers can wield their audiences at scale. We produced results and made the brands happy, but left brand managers a bit confused on the mechanisms behind it.

What was so compelling about these ‘influencers’? Why do they have so many fans? What’s the appeal?