Creator Networks – what, why and how?

MBA’s Libby Wright explores the role of Creative Networks…

By Libby Wright | October 27th, 2015

Back in 2007, a twelve year old kid proved the power of content sharing platforms and social media. He proved that you could create something in your bedroom and find an audience for it. This was the start of Justin Bieber’s career.

That YouTube generation may feel old-school but it’s still true today – anyone can make great content whether at home, at the office or even on the bus – and it’s easier than ever thanks to the ubiquity of high-spec mobile devices and constant connectivity.

And, it’s not just the PewDiePies, Zoellas or even the Biebers of this world. Influencers and talent can play a key role strategically, but there’s another evolution we’re excited to see growing and that’s Creator Networks.

According to a recent study, more than two thirds of Millennials rank “being creative” as an important ambition in life and they’ve never had greater access to the tools and platforms they need to do it. This means we’ve seen huge growth in individuals expressing themselves through film, photography, animation and art, ultimately leading to the democratisation of creativity, breaking away from studios and galleries and surfacing in our social feeds.

These creators offer an exciting and innovative way to create content. By recruiting young artists to produce their interpretation of a brand message we can inject energy, vibrancy and a peer-to-peer tone that helps a brand break away from standard advertising or corporate messaging. In content environments where competition for attention is fierce and generating cut-through is the ultimate challenge, innovative and diverse creative can be an incredible tool.

But how do you go about commissioning these artists? Enter the creator network.

Creator networks recruit artists and creators into bespoke communities designed to offer them opportunities to respond to brand briefs, develop their profile and earn rewards as they do. This way, rather than us having to seek out and brief artists individually, we can work with a network to develop a central brief and they can support in managing responses. This can lead to the delivery of exceptional value per piece of content

So it clearly has the potential to be a powerful solution to deliver great content for our clients but, as with any approach, there are a few key things to remember. Here’s our take:

Getting the brief right. It may sound simple, but striking the balance between what the brand needs the content to be and inspiring young artists with an intriguing challenge, that still gives them freedom of expression, can be a tricky line to walk. This stage is where we as MBA can play a crucial role in combining our understanding of how content creators work and our knowledge of our client and their brand in what they are trying to achieve. This allows us to ensure we’re delivering quality content that does a job within the system and feels authentic within the community.

Talking of authenticity… Working with creators is similar to working with influencers in that we have to respect the creators’ interpretation of the brand challenge and brief, even more so when we’re asking for an artistic take on a brand challenge. If we have a brand that has a lot of visual requirements, we need to consider how they should apply that to the content, what kind of guidelines we can give that still allow for creativity and, ultimately, whether creator networks is the right route to go down at all.

Doing a Job. As with any content, understanding the job we’re trying to do for our clients should always be the start point and Creator Networks are no different. Without a doubt, video is the most popular type of network with companies like MoFilm, Genero, Zooppa and Vidsy being well-established but we need to ask if video is the right kind of content for the client and the campaign. Networks like Talenthouse have a slightly different focus on artists offering creative briefs across fashion, illustration, art and animation and this space will continue to evolve.

Whatever the objective, we should ensure we’re pursuing outputs that align with the overall strategy.

Quality. Another key consideration is what level of artist or creator are members of each network, as not all are created equal. Some focus on supporting amateur and hobbyist artists whereas some pursue relationships with professional creatives and both have value. There is a vast array of talent in the amateur sector and often this is where we will get the most creative and authentic work, especially from young creators.

Value exchange. To be clear, these creators don’t quite work for free. There are two main ways of working; either an upfront brief that gets submissions of work and then the client selects those that they want to use with some kind of reward, or the community responds with treatments and the client commissions a selection of these incorporating some level of feedback. Different methods attract different types of creators and the same goes for rewards – these don’t always have to be monetary, sometimes exposure, working with a lead creative agency or having their work used within a global ad campaign can be enticing enough. As with other considerations, ultimately this needs to align to the strategy in terms of the content we are hoping to receive and who we think we want to work on the brief.

We believe that creator networks can play a key role in a content system – they offer a platform to artists of all kinds across the world and offer brands the opportunity to create unique content, making the future of creativity truly exciting for both brands and creators.

Even Justin Bieber.

If you want to see the kind of work we’ve done with networks such as MoFilm, check out the Bose #ListenForYourself case study to see creator content in action.

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