As the NewFronts approach there’s no questioning the rise of original, premium online video content. Major Hollywood and Silicon Valley players like Time Warner, Google, Yahoo! and Sony have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to lure TV advertisers online. That’s a lot of original online programming. But who’s producing it?
Turns out a bunch of “kids” in Hollywood who’ve matured into online video masters.
I recently had a chance to speak about online video with Jason Berger, the founder and executive producer of Kids At Play. Beyond television, their credits include several web series for Yahoo!, YouTube Premium Channels LOUD and IGN Start. They’ve also worked with several top brands on social video campaigns.
ReelSEO Interview with Kids At Play
ReelSEO: Kids At Play has found a niche blending the influences of television, advertising and web series. What is the experience like transitioning TV people to web (Coogan’s Auto), brands to entertainment (Purina) and web series to television quality (Game Shop, Yahoo!)?
Jason Berger: It’s kind of a difficult one, to be honest. People have a level of expectation with television production, and I think what has made Kids At Play successful is we’ve been able to bridge that gap by creating TV-quality content for the web. We shoot a lot in one day and have tight budgets—everyone involved commits to these constraints. The audience for the web is critical, and we’re very conscious of that: They have the ability to destroy our content with their comments. On the positive side, we have a lot more freedom with the content we create in terms of time formats, artistic license, etc.
Here’s the first episode of “Coogan’s Auto,” directed by and starring Rob Riggle, written by Riggle and Andrew Secunda, made in association with Kids At Play, which can be seen on LOUD (it does have pervasive bad language):
RSEO: Does your approach to producing for web differ from television?
JB: Not really. While each media may have slightly different specifications, I always try to produce the best quality content for our client. That’s what our brand represents, and it’s really important to me.
RSEO: When producing a scripted web series, what ingredients or formula do you think make a perfect episode? Any writing or editing tips?
JB: Scripted web series are growing in popularity as audiences becoming more used to watching longer scripted content on laptops and other electronic devices. We try to make these shows as exciting or as funny as soon as possible because we have such a short amount of time to lock viewers in to the story. The way people take in content online—and switch to something else if they get bored—you’ve got to capture them right now, at the top of the episode! Everything starts with the content: It’s got to come out firing. Editing should be fast and the transitioning needs to be fun.
RSEO: In regard to video advertising, you’ve been producing more branded entertainment than traditional 30-second ad spots. Why do you think brand marketers are trending toward this format online?
JB: Not every brand has $4 million for a splashy Super Bowl ad buy. However, DIY digital tools and distribution on content channels, such as YouTube, make it possible for smart, creative marketers to promote their brands—often cheaply, socially and quite successfully—while tracking the effectiveness of their campaigns immediately. What’s not to love?
RSEO: What recent branded video campaigns and web series have you admired and why?
JB: I love anything that comes out of Old Spice. P&G has done a great job of exploiting that in a really fun way: Here’s a brand that is willing to poke fun at itself, have a good time and be risky. When you buy deodorant, you think of Old Spice because you think of that content and remember you were entertained. The tone of the campaign has influenced so many other ads, and its social media success has proven to marketers that the strategy works.
Another one of my favorites is this music mockumentary we did for Purina: Rather than just integrate packages of kitty litter into content, we lent the product name, “Cedar, Pine and Corn,” to a country music trio. We hired improve actors and filmed the group as they toured the U.S. in a tricked-out trailer crawling with cats. The brand was willing to stretch: have fun and really entertain the audience in the series of short films.
RSEO: Geeky tech question for our readers: What camera packages do Kids At Play shoot with? What editing system do you use?
JB: We shoot with everything, including the Alexa, Phantom, every RED and every Canon. We edit on Final Cut (Pro).
RSEO: What trends do you see for online video in the future (i.e., longer formats, interactivity, TV integration, brands)?
JB: I think we’ll see content increasing online, and the older networks—the AOLs, the Yahoos—will start producing more TV content and change the online landscape. Hopefully brands will sponsor more shows.
Brand marketers will continue to use the medium to build awareness and entertain audiences without being intrusive. I think brands such as Intel and Coke and Qualcomm and Jay-Z are getting creative in how they relate to web audiences—they realize that they don’t need to ram a product message down people’s throats. Eight million people watched the Red Bull Stratos Skydive, a live YouTube video of daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s 128,100-foot, record-breaking supersonic freefall, AKA the “World’s Biggest Jump.” This kind of branded content isn’t an ad to get kids hopped up on pop—it’s a more-sophisticated metaphor for the energy drink’s aspirational spirit—and the point is to share that with viewers.
We’d like to thank Jason Berger for his time!