Advertising Week Recap: What Influencers Can Teach Marketers About Learning

I recently had the pleasure of moderating my third panel at Advertising Week in New York exploring the next generation of brands and content within the ever evolving entertainment landscape. I was joined by three transformative stars: Hollywood icon Meg Ryan, Hollywood director/Grammy Award winning writer Robert Gordon and social media phenom/budding actor Logan Paul.

Among the three of them they count music critic, director, actor, YouTube/VINE star, producer and writer credits to their names. In other words, they’re part of the amazing phenomenon happening in entertainment known as the multi-hyphenate. They’ve all made, or are in the process of making, transitions to explore different sides of the business of storytelling.

We picked this panel topic because in our world, brands are asking for something truly break through every day – they want real engagement and break through narrative creation. Brands want to be part of the conversation, not just logos and impressions. Our clients are insisting on more innovation that puts them at the center of evolving conversations and we believe tapping into Hollywood is a great solution.

So what, as communicators and brand storytellers, did the audience learn from this accomplished group in 45 minutes of focused discussion on the art of innovating and connecting with an audience… and how can we apply it to our everyday client challenges?

  • How to tell great stories:
    One of the key challenges in storytelling is creating drama when you’re working with facts and rigid elements.  Sound familiar? In our business of creating brand stories, we do that every day. The panelists reminded us that it’s critical to highlight the drama of a nonfiction story in order to draw your audience in. Everyone acknowledged this is far more difficult than if you’re making the story up as you go along. This is why it’s important for communicators to view stories we tell from the consumer perspective… think about what will make an audience care, and of course share.
  • If you want to build a building, start by laying bricks:
    “When I started directing, I was more surprised by what I knew than what I didn’t know,” Meg Ryan said. She noted that because she’d made more than 30 films by the time she directed her first one, she’d actually been doing invaluable learning along the way. This is a great reminder that no matter what you strive to eventually become in your career… you have to take learnings from the process along the way. BE CURIOUS about every step of managing a program, learn from each one. In the end you’ll be a much better architect because you’ve learned to lay each brick in the foundation.
  • Influencers are legitimate creatives and content producers:
    It was pretty fascinating to see how two individuals as accomplished as Robert and Meg reacted to Logan. It’s clear that influencers are now polished professionals at the helm of full-fledged businesses, and they are driving some of the best content being made for brands. Logan, when asked about his experiences as an influencer, rightly pointed out that authenticity is the key. “Brands usually reach out to us – I don’t think we’ve ever reached out to brands ourselves. If we eventually have to turn a brand down, it’s not because we didn’t try. We go back with different creative ideas but at a certain point if it doesn’t work and isn’t organic, you just have to walk away.”
  • Hollywood is still walking, not running:
    As many celebrities as we work with every day, only Logan is working with brands on a steady basis. For Meg, Robert and countless other Hollywood mainstays, the brand world is still new to them, so they see it as a new sandbox to play in, and for us it’s new talent we can tap into. There’s a large pool of fresh ideas and the ability to still be “first” in working with some of these incredible talents.

So how can we continue to tap into this amazing pool of talent as they transform into new mediums and turn their eyes on agencies ready to take the brand plunge? It’s really day to day conversations that unearth these new opportunities. I was at the Gersh Agency on behalf of one of our clients recently and when they heard about the panel they immediately offered up Meg and Robert. Every day we find new talent ready to roll up their sleeves and make some magic, and we need to ensure we are there with great opportunities and the know-how to make it a win-win for talent and the clients.  We’ll keep pushing the creative boundaries…and that’s the fun part…so stay tuned for more.