The Working With Brands panel at Summer in the City 2014 took place on Creator Day and featured Tyler Oakley, PJ Liguori, Jamie Spafford from SORTED Food, Wot Fanar from NerdCubed, and Matt Hogan from Wheezy Soup, as well as representatives from networks and brands.
Opening up the panel Tyler Oakley discusses how he incorporates brands into his videos. He believes it’s better to mention them alongside the content you usually deliver. For him this is often done through Q&A videos, where a particular question may be sponsored or provided by the brand. This ensures the majority of the video isn’t dominated by the brand and his audience is still getting the usual level of content he puts out.
Tyler is happy to be given talking points to choose from but never a script. He reveals how he once had to renegotiate a deal after a video had already been filmed because the brand had only provided vague notes, and weren’t pleased with how it had turned out. Ultimately he believes working with brands can be rewarding, but you should never compromise the quality of your own videos by doing so.
Picking up where Tyler left off PJ Liguori shares a story about a particular project that was difficult, where he also received hazy direction. “Most of the time I work with brands it’s genuinely a really good experience,” he says.
“It was just this one that was ruined by their lack of organisation.” PJ discusses how long filmmaking often takes, the process of storyboarding, sorting shoot locations and the added dimension of trying to ensure the client is happy. He also stresses strongly the importance of sticking to schedules.
PJ reveals that on the day of the shoot of this project he received a phone-call from the client asking when they were shooting. When he replied it was happening that very day and that they’d known this for a while, they said “can you not?” to which he responded, “can you not do this to me right now?”
“It was all about the lack of communication, we were saying stuff and it was getting filtered through two other people before it got to the top person,” he says. “We’re all adults and so why can’t we handle it professionally?”
PJ’s top tip for both clients and creators is to communicate properly, and hopefully scenarios like the aforementioned can be avoided. “To be able to fund something bigger and better and really push yourself to create something awesome for yourself, your audience and whoever’s paying for it is great,” he says.
Jamie Spafford from SORTED Food believes it’s not necessarily the brands themselves that can be problematic but the agencies that sit between them. He says more often than not SORTED Food end up explaining how YouTube works, how to title, tag and thumbnail videos and much more.
While he understands that this is mainly because YouTube is a new industry, it’s frustrating because “they’re not paying us to consult them as well”. Because of this Jamie and SORTED Food have cut-out the middleman and will only work directly with the brand.
He also discusses how brands working with YouTubers has changed over the years. “It’s kind of evolved in terms of the way in which brands work with influences from us,” he says.
“The early days of a PR company sending a beauty blogger a lipstick through to where we are now, which is full on branded entertainment projects, and everything else that exists in-between.
“We’re in the middle of this process: lots and lots of creativity going into how brands work with influences, lots of products, agents, MCM’s and influences” he continues. “I think it’s just about finding the right people and figuring out the right mix.”
According to Wot Fanar, the relationship between gaming YouTubers and brands can be a lot more complicated. Most gamers view themselves as entertainment channels, however the nature of their videos does involve review as well. “When you’ve got someone saying ‘here’s some money, and all you have to do is play this game and be positive about it’ you end up wondering if that’s corrupting your own reviewing system or is that just someone doing something,” he says.
When you consider the extent to which prominent gamers can influence the gaming market, this issue becomes even foggier. In some cases YouTubers are even rewarded a percentage of game sales in the weeks following an upload.
This is why Wot believes YouTubers should always be honest with their audience about deals they have taken. “We are really getting to the point where we have serious power and I’m not sure if it’s going in the right direction,” he says. “So you’ve got to be upfront.”
The panellists agree that YouTubers should never compromise their own artistic direction for the sake of a deal. YouTubers should remember that the brand is coming to them to make something on their platform, so it should be more about merging their identities and not the brand taking over the channel.
Closing off the panel, Tyler believes that working with brands is a good thing because it provides YouTubers with support they wouldn’t otherwise have. “To be a YouTuber is, in a sense, to be able to experience life and put it on YouTube,” he says. “So to have brands support me and give me the income that is going to be the substitute for a nine to five job, allows me to live a life worth coming back into my living room and talking about on camera.
“Most YouTubers will probably need somebody supporting that vision, supporting that lifestyle,” he continues, “and believing in them enough to encourage them to go out and do whatever they need to, so that they make great content.”
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