Breaking the mould


Earlier this week I put some time aside to visit the ADMA Marketing, Media and Advertising Forum at the Sydney Hilton. Getting time out of the office for industry conferences is often a challenge but having done this it led me to the conclusion that every hour spent listening to what other media companies have to say about their business, saves multiple hours in contemplating the future of our own. Looking through the agenda, I honed in on a session to hear from Vice Media. An emerging media company who is building millions of views and subscribers by breaking the controlled distribution approach of most Global Media companies.

viceBryant Chou, who is the China CEO for Vice spoke about how Vice have built a network of story tellers who film, photograph and write content, the subjects of which most media companies are too conservative to publish. Vice started in 1994 as a newsprint monthly in Montreal, and is now a global youth media company that distributes via print, online, television, events and feature film divisions. Viceis an industry leader in creating original video content across the Internet, they publish more than 60 minutes of new video content every single day and have recently partnered with HBO to produce a series about North Korea. In his talk Chou kept drawing back to what makes Vice different than other media companies. Their strength and conviction was clear – tell interesting stories, without bullsh*t, in a way that consumers want to see them. Definitely food for thought as I find myself struggling to conceptualise how to move one of our Global clients towards their vision of becoming a Newsroom / Publisher. If you are interested in what Vice founder Shane Smith has to say about Vice’s business would recommend the interview with Charlie Rose

This led me to question why have they been so successful? What can we, as agency folks, learn from this approach? Why can’t we do this for all of our clients? The short answer is we can take this and learn, we can develop it and we definitely can trial this with our clients. Most of the answers on how to do it are already staring us in the face. The reason, I believe, behind Vice’s success is that they understand the creation and distribution of content better than anyone and that’s the challenge. Big multi-national media companies, multi-national corporations and multi-national agencies have some great talent and excellent stories to tell but they are big, often processes driven and too cumbersome to navigate in getting to the heart of telling their story and what they do. In Vice’s case, starting from a peer to peer type of publication, seeing the development of the internet as a means of distributing content, seeding and testing this content across digital and social media, coupled with understanding how to tell stories which people are interested in and developing them. These are the strengths which have enabled this media start-up to become who they are today.

Vice started to expand into China in 2013 off the back of a partnership with Intel to launch the Creator’s Project. I know it’s a couple of years old now but this partnership has taken Intel from a B2B brand that made computer components into a recognised brand and technology company that helps develop people’s creativity. The Creators project won a Cannes Lion for Branded Content and Entertainment, a cupboard full of Webby Awards and continues today across YouTube and Social Media.

In China, when they launched with Intel in 2013, Vice spend a lot of time learning to understand the people and the market. In China, where everything is regulated by the government, they needed to learn and understand the people and regulations in order to localise and get around challenges. For example, most Western Media companies have come in and really struggled to enter China. Google for example, threw loads of resources and people into the market and in the end had to pull out and operate via Hong Kong. If Google and all their wealth and resources struggled, then what does that tell you about a media start-up? Either way, they persisted and the opportunity was real.

With approximately one quarter of the world’s population falling into the Millennial demographic (Born 1980’s – early 2000’s) which works out around 1.75 Billion people. There is a huge opportunity for agencies and our clients to properly understand this generation and how to capture their interest through storytelling. In the words of Vice founder – decisions made in the boardroom don’t work. Keeping in mind that this is the generation who have grown up with the internet, they have grown up with instant access to information via their phones and un-vetted access to whatever content they wish to consume. Subsequently, they also have also developed highly trained bullsh*t detectors from being advertised at from every angle. Hence why I keep coming back to this vision about becoming better at good story telling and getting this content out across all platforms and devices.


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