At what point did you realize that video platforms like YouTube and Vine could be a boon for brands?

Larke Paul, Defy Media’s Senior Director, Creator Program and Partnerships

There wasn’t a single “AHA” moment; for me, it was following audience growth and engagement consistently. It’s a must to closely monitor the platform landscapes as they ebb and flow and understand the personalities and intricacies of both established and emerging platforms. As we saw audience numbers grow and engagement between talent and their fans became more profound and transactional (i.e., twitter conversations, direct comment responses, fan shout-outs in videos, merchandise purchases), it seemed to be an advertiser’s dream set-up.

Many of today’s digital stars have a genuine connection with their audience, combine that with the massive reach of their content (which is often times larger than traditional programming) and you start to see the real value for brands to get involved.

What are challenges that content creators have when being approached by brands to work with them?

Similar to celebrities who garnered fame via TV shows/movies, digital talent will have similar challenges and need to ask themselves: is this a brand that I genuinely like and engage with, is there anything about the brand that may conflict with content I’ve produced in the past or are they asking me to do something that doesn’t mesh well with my content or my brand attributes These are all key questions to answer when considering a brand opportunity. Since creators know their fans the best, they are usually the best judge of how to incorporate a brand into their content in a way that will benefit all.

It’s important to find the right balance between the brand message and the creator’s natural content format and to weave that message in without being heavy handed. This balance is key to keeping the content authentic and engaging for fans while also aiming to achieve the advertiser’s goals.

Do you have a personal favorite campaign you’ve worked on that utilized influencers?

My favorite program is the partnership DEFY Media forged with Coca Cola for the brand’s “The AHH Effect” campaign which is now in its second year. We worked with Coca-Cola and their agency connecting them with YouTube artists Kurt Hugo Schneider and Mark Crilley (both members of the DEFY Creator’s Program) to create an original series of videos that incorporated use of Coke bottles in awe inspiring ways.

Mark contributed illustration work and created two mind-blowing videos that featured coke bottles while Kurt created two music videos that used only Coke bottles as musical instruments and were later aired as commercial spots during this year’s “American Idol” season premiere. It was a thrill to see these creators absolutely thrive and see their content connect with audiences so deeply and emerge as some of the campaign’s most engaging content.

What are some tips you feel would be important for marketers to know before embarking on creating their own content for YouTube? What about tips for would-be creators who look up to those like Smosh?

When marketers are working with creators, they should absolutely get to know the talent — watch their videos, research social posts, and get to know the style and point-of-view of the creator. If a marketer is creating content outside of a single creator, then it’s a mix of age-old rules and new rules. The writing and concept has to be solid — if they’re going for funny, it really needs to make people laugh and smile”“ and hopefully share. If it’s a more serious message, then it should really evoke emotion with the audience. Be cognizant of the video’s length and engage with the audience through comments on YouTube and other social platforms. Creating a smart launch and distribution strategy around the content or channel is key and should be part of a comprehensive strategy that includes PR, marketing, social media and a well thought out YouTube rollout schedule. Whether it’s a smaller campaign or a longer term initiative, connecting with your audience across all of their touch points matters.

What’s next on your Watch Later list?

I’m hoping for new content from Hello Denizen and I’m excited to catch the latest from Kingsley’s Mid-Year Overexposed Series, Brusspup illusions, Minute Physics, and Chriselle Lim.