The StopPress Podcast #5: Fiona McLeod, CreateMe

We live in an increasingly fragmented media environment. Audiences are not in one space anymore, and brands need to spread in order to reach them. Divide and conquer is one solution to the challenge, with brands commissioning a range of specialists to meet their content needs, but in the past years, we’ve also seen an alternative in media companies offering one stop shops that manage all parts of the process from conception to execution.

TVNZ Blacksand has been doing it for quite some time, and more recently NZME’s CreateMe has also joined to the party. Which leaves the question, is there still a need for brands to look beyond media companies for the creation and running of campaigns? I’m joined by CreateMe managing director Fiona McLeod to talk about the formation of CreateMe, how it’s going nearly one year in, and where to next for both it and New Zealand media.

Hi Fiona, how are you?

Hi Erin, I’m really good, thank you.

Do you want to start off by explaining what role CreateMe plays at NZME?

It’s quite simple really. The role of CreateMe is to work collaboratively with clients and agencies in developing content led creative concepts that really engage our audiences across all of our assets. We can either take a fully formed, creative thought or idea and amplify it, or if a client comes to us and wants us to help with that, and provide a full service from ideation to creation and distribution, then we have the capability absolutely to deliver on this.

Having said that, it’s important to say that we’re not positioning ourselves as a media or creative agency. We’re very happy to work either way depending on client requirements.

Why did NZME make the move to formalize the creative process?

With such a huge organization, as you know, we have such a huge array of fantastic brands and assets that really we needed to put structure and process around that to enable us to navigate our way through and find the best possible solution for our clients in the most efficient and effective way. By doing this, we’re working way more collaboratively than we ever have done before. The end game really is to produce really engaging campaigns for our audiences which produce obviously great results for our clients.

How do you differ to an agency?

We only work across our own brands, of course, but we know those brands and our audiences better than anyone else. We know what is and isn’t possible, how we can push the boundaries, provide insights that only come from within these four walls. By working more closely with agencies and clients and truly understanding their business challenges, we’re able to really push those boundaries internally resulting in hopefully innovative and ground breaking campaigns.

How do you see it collaborating with agencies?

The real beauty of CreateMe is our flexibility. As already mentioned, we’re happy to work with an existing idea or help come up with a central, creative thought. The key really is being brought in by agencies as early as possible in the process so that we can have as deep an understanding of the challenge in hand as possible, and we’re able to dedicate time and resource to finding the right audience across our assets and in turn strongest possible solution.

Some of our best work has come from working with agencies. Recent examples would be our work with MediaCom on Fonterra and Dynamo on Gem.

In 2016 advertisers need to think about more than just one platform. How do you see this happening in your experience?

Audiences, it’s true to say, have become far more sophisticated and demanding in the way they consume content. I’m sure you’re no different and I know I’m certainly no different. Audiences are engaging with content on multiple platforms and environments all day, every day. Marketing strategies really need to reflect and deliver on what audiences are now actively seeking out. They just want more engaging, entertaining, rich content and it’s clear that marketers recognize the most powerful campaigns are the ones that talk to people across multiple touch points in their lives.

Social is an increasingly important area for everyone, but particularly for us. We’ve actually brought talent into the business recently to create, to help us upscale in that area.

Do you have any examples of how this has been operating at NZME through CreateMe?

I do. Fantastic recent campaign that we worked with Dynamo on, the client was Gem. That’s a really good example. We took Gem’s central thought which was an eight-word plan and we produced a fully integrated campaign across multiple platforms. The concept focused on getting your eight-word plan down on a digital sticky note, for your chance to win your dream becoming reality, courtesy of Gem. We ran radio promos on The Hits and ZM, supported by New Zealand Herald.

We then amplified the promotion across digital, print and social with the entry mechanic being by The Hits and ZM websites. Eight word plans were then shared on social media in the form of this digital sticky note, which I believe was the first time this had ever been done. Our digital services team helped us pull that together.

Our vision team then filmed the winners dreams becoming reality, producing some fantastic video content which was then distributed across The Hits and ZM websites through our social channels.

Branded content, or native advertising, appears to be booming at the moment. Why do you think that is?

It’s really clear that consumers are hungry for deeply engaging stories, whether they’re watching, listening or reading. We know that if we deliver truly great content, whether it’s paid for or not, consumers will actively seek out and engage with it. This is why we’re seeing exponential growth in this area. There are just so many companies out there with fantastic stories to tell. Branded content really allows these companies to have a voice, tell that story and create a level of audience engagement that they often can’t get through traditional methods.

Doing it really well is obviously another key to why it appears to be so popular at the moment, and I believe that we’re truly achieving this. As a content creator, NZME knows our audiences and what they consume and how and when they consume it. We’re therefore uniquely positioned to be able to produce the content directly for these audiences as we have been for over 150 years.

In your opinion, what type of advertisers can use branded content?

Really any client who has an interesting story to tell has the ability to create fantastic content. From large to small businesses, banks to retailers. There’s no pattern to the type of clients that we’re seeing benefit from our content marketing services.

The key really though is that the story we’re telling is newsworthy. It has to be content that the audience wants to engage with. It really is all about finding that golden nugget and building the content around that. I know that when we get that right, audiences will listen, watch and read in their droves.

Who do you think has been doing this well, in your opinion, locally and around the world?

I would say that T Brands Studio, The New York Times are doing it absolutely brilliantly. We’ve looked at lots of their work, and that’s what we’re aiming for in terms of quality of content that we’re producing. The work for Netflix on Orange is the New Black and Narcos is some of the best work that I’ve seen of late.

The BBC have also been trialing some new formats recently, and although they aren’t commercial, they’re just fantastic examples of highly engaging, truly immersive digital content experiences that we can learn from.

From a New Zealand perspective, I think that we’re producing some fantastic work, but then I would say that. We’re always looking to learn and innovate and push to the next level. The recent work that we’ve produced for Fonterra as I’ve already mentioned, Westpac and Spark have exceeded the client expectation in terms of performance and engagement. This is really a testament to the quality of the content that we’re producing.

So what do you think is the next big thing for New Zealand media?

We launched CreateMe because we listened to our audiences and our clients. With this in mind, we believe that this content led, integrated approach for sure represents the future. The old media landscape as we knew it has already changed and continues to evolve. Traditional models, in time, won’t exist and some media agencies may well go back to the full service model. I think we can already see that happening in some instances.

This isn’t just happening in New Zealand but all over the world. In the US, I think it’s about 32 percent of the big Blue Chip clients have content marketing at the center of their marketing strategy. Here in New Zealand it’s around four percent. Without a doubt, there’s a big education role to play here and when it comes to content marketing we want to be seen as leaders in that field for sure.

Going back to CreateMe, has the formation of it attracted creative talent to NZME?

Definitely. I’m very happy to say that it has. We’ve attracted an extremely high caliber of applicants for recent available positions with continued interest in working not just for CreateMe but NZME as a whole. Very pleased about that.

Do you see NZME becoming a hub for creative talent wanting to work at CreateMe?

We’re absolutely a creative hub and already have great talent in the business which we know will continue to grow in the future. Very excited about that.

How has the existed NZME talent contributed to the formation of CreateMe?

The majority of the CreateMe team come from existing roles within NZME. Some people took on new roles and responsibilities and some people’s roles have been absorbed into the new framework. Any gaps we filled by bringing in fantastic, talented new people. Either way I’m extremely excited and thankful for the group of talented individuals that I work with on a day by day basis.

It is such an exciting time for you guys, so where to next for CreateMe?

I believe, and I say this to everyone, we’re only just scratching the surface in terms of our potential. CreateMe isn’t a year old yet, we’re only a few months in and already producing some great quality work so you’ll see lots more from us over the coming months and years.

We certainly look forward to seeing that. Thank you so much for your time.

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