March 11, 2016

How to make social video that works – Part 2: collaborate with your collaborators

As we may have mentioned, we make stuff that works. In a world where audiences roll their eyes and rush to the ‘skip’ button at old-school trailer-style/broadcast ads, we create video content that people love and enjoy and actively seek to pass on to others. Films you want to talk about, rather than mute.

Now, in this world, there are YouTubers, Twitchers, Viners…all sorts of creative online filmmakers, producers and personalities, each with their own huge and/or hugely dedicated audiences. And, of course, there are brands who want to reach those audiences.



Brands aren’t stupid. They realise social video has the potential to be an incredible way to engage audiences. They can see the success these high profile content producers are already having in achieving exactly that. And often this leads to one (very valid) conclusion: ‘a collaboration!’

We think brands are right to identify this area, and the collaboration approach, as bursting with promising opportunity – as we’ll go on to demonstrate. But first, a cautionary tale about the times when it doesn’t work.

The collaboration-commission collision

It goes something like this: someone wants to get into this space but, for whatever reason, they miss the ‘conditions of entry’ – like a lanky teenager determinedly queueing for a water slide without realising there’s a maximum height restriction. Unlucky, kid, but it is what it is.

Specifically, advertisers sometimes get caught between wanting a collaboration and a commission. There’s a desire to have all the ‘leverage’ of working with someone else whilst retaining all the control of something you make yourself. This leads to some strange conversations, along the lines of ‘we love what you do. Can you do something for us? We’ll tell you what it is and then you make it. Or, even better, we’ll make it and you…make it famous for us. That works, right?’

No. It doesn’t. It’s like the old mantra of ‘cheap, fast, good – pick any two’. It seems to us, anyway, that it’s another case where you can’t both have cake and eat it. Trying to make the most of a collaboration whilst still operating on a commission mindset is virtually a contradiction in terms. In these cases, we find things tend to go one of two ways:

  1. It doesn’t get made – some or all of the parties involved just can’t hand over enough control to one of the other supposed collaborators and (even if there was a really solid rationale for a collaboration approach) the idea sadly has to be abandoned.
  2. It does get made but doesn’t work – the commissioning approach wins out and the ‘collaborator’ agrees to do something with content essentially created by the advertiser. This usually backfires badly: the content lacks the characteristic traits people have come to know and love from the person endorsing it. That’s then exacerbated by the accompanying sense of inauthenticity. Ultimately, people just see it as an unappealing sell-out. The audience end up angry with both the brand and the person they worked with. (Is there a better example of trying to ‘leverage’ an audience without at all appreciating their terms than the now-notorious Rampart AMA?)

Does this mean all collaborations are a non-starter? Not at all! We think brands are right to see them as a great potential opportunity. They just have to be done right.

Collaborations done right

Last year, we worked with the genius that is Colin Furze to produce the ‘High Voltage Ejector Bed‘ as a collaboration with Taylors of Harrogate.

We’re happy to hold that up as an example of the good things that can happen when you collaborate with your collaborators. Think we can say that everyone involved was pleased with this bit of work:

  • the client, Taylors, were delighted both with what the film expresses about their brand and the number of people who’ve seen and shared it
  • the talent, Colin Furze, got to bring to life an idea that floated his boat (/ejected his bed)
  • the audience loved it – it raced up to more than 7m views, with 52k shares and piles of positive comments
  • the media were all over it – it picked up coverage from (among others) Buzzfeed, Devour, The Daily Mail, Gizmodo, The Huffington Post, The Independent, The Lad Bible, The Poke and The Sunday Times
  • and we enjoyed making it and get to be proud of the results.

Why was this collaboration so successful? Because we found a genuine collaboration, one where there was a great fit between what everyone involved wanted to accomplish, and which allowed all the parties involved to bring their strengths to the table (/piston-powered ejector bed). Perhaps most crucially of all, the idea came from years of watching Colin Furze. We already knew his style and wanted to work with the grain of that – and the brand tie-in wasn’t foisted on him or crowbarred in to fit an immovable set of demands. He already embodied the kind of character and energy Taylors wanted to articulate, so we could have the collaboration conversation as it should be: ‘We love what you do. Can we do something together? We’ll help you do what you do best.’

We love it when a plan comes together like that.

Are you thinking about a social video collaboration for your brand or agency? Want to do one that works? You can always call us.