5 Questions with Mick Purzycki, CEO of Jerry Media
The team behind some of the most viral content on the web shares their secrets to helping brands more effectively relate to their customers.
If you’re a person of a certain age who participates in this thing we call “the Internet,” chances are you’ve seen content from and/or follow the comedy account @FuckJerry. We sat down with the creative minds behind the viral hit to hear about how they parlayed the popular social media presence into a fast-growing creative shop that is partnering with brands like Burger King, Warby Parker, and more in the “post-advertising world.”
SMW: When did you first realize that a viral Instagram account (@FuckJerry) could spawn a new kind of creative agency?
Mick Purzycki: 2012. We realized early that the social media revolution was drastically changing the way humans understand and think about media. These fundamental changes in the media landscape were clear to us as our network of followers continued to grow in size and influence. We often discussed far more nuanced implications for the rise of social media, and we knew it was only a matter of time before brands and advertisers would embrace the new medium as a viable advertising channel. It took them about three years.
In the years following, we learned how to use our tools (i.e. Instagram accounts) to implement marketing strategies that extended beyond the capabilities and impact of traditional agencies. In these partnerships, we began to sew the seeds of a new agency relationship, which was based on our ability to navigate the complexities of social and to connect brands with large audiences in relevant and compelling ways.
SMW: What are some of the attributes of a successful creator-brand relationship?
MP: The most important thing is neither party compromise on two core principles: first, that the content posted to our followers is of high quality (i.e. it’s something our followers will enjoy), and second, that the content posted adequately addresses the client’s core marketing objective (i.e. to increase brand awareness, drive downloads, web traffic, etc.) This often requires the brand to grant creative freedom to the content creators and be willing to take reasonable risks when it comes to the output.
Marketers should keep in mind that the battle for consumer attention has never been more fierce and that you’re competing against more content than ever before. As a brand, the goal is to get a reaction, and more importantly, to be memorable. Play it too safe and you risk getting lost in the noise. Of course, it’s important to be able to decipher good risk from bad risk. Bud Light’s quirky “Dilly Dilly” Super Bowl spot is a great example of good risk. The brand and its agency, Wieden + Kennedy, rolled the dice on the approach despite focus group pushback & in just a few months “Dilly Dilly” has become a staple of the millennial lexicon. On the flipside, Pepsi’s ill-fated Kendall Jenner spot is an example of what happens when you make a poor calculation & try to hastily insert a brand into a sensitive socio-political movement.
One of our clients at Jerry Media, Burger King’s Fernando Machado put it best when he said in Fast Company that his team is “afraid all the time.” In his mind, “if you’re not afraid it means that the work probably doesn’t have enough voltage.”
SMW: How are brands partnering with Jerry Media?
MP: More and more brands are beginning to see content creation and influencer marketing as an “always-on” strategy, versus a one-off “stunt” tactic. This obviously plays directly into our strength, which is why we’ve seen an uptick in long-term brand partners spanning from Fortune 500s to high-growth challenger brands who are innately digital and wired for innovation.
In terms of how we structure these relationships, most partners are on retainers and we have a set amount of impressions we have to serve each month across a list of well-curated accounts. Jerry Media is a full-service agency in that we can provide integrated, end-to-end campaign support, including creative ideation, media buying and traditional influencer marketing. Some of our more recent projects include campaigns executed on behalf of Fruit by the Foot (#FruitByTheFootChallenge) as well as Totino’s Pizza Rolls #CouchHard pre-Super Bowl campaign. We’ve also got something fun in the works with Warby Parker that we will be able to talk about soon.
Beyond these efforts, we’re also in the final stages of wrapping our first long-form documentary, which we will be launching on one of the major streaming networks. Once completed, we’ll be implementing one of our biggest marketing campaigns yet. Stay tuned.
SMW: How do you all adapt to the ever-changing nature of the social media platforms?
MP: While social media seems ever-changing, we believe the medium as a whole has become firmly established in the media landscape (on par with television and websites, for example). We very much believe in the advent of new approaches to social content, like the rise of HQ Trivia and live-streaming, but we think it requires major product differentiation to have an impact.
That said, we will ALWAYS be looking for the next best thing and we are constantly innovating the way we approach creative challenges to not only keep up with industry, but to lead it. For example, we’ve expanded beyond the digital world and created physical games that we believe one day can go toe-to-toe with leading toy and game manufacturers. We’ve also produced long-form content that we’re shopping to streaming services, proving our creative chops beyond the short-form format. We’re also ideating new projects in live content and messaging.
SMW: What’s one up-and-coming influencer or creator that marketers should be watching?
MP: Influencers come in all shapes and sizes. We were excited to see the leaders of Generation Z stand up against gun violence and make their voices heard on the public stage. From that activism, we saw some great influencers emerge like Emma Gonzalez, who now has 1.2 million Twitter followers, and Delaney Tarr, who has about 100,000 of her own. These influencers have risen to the top of a very important cultural moment, and we look forward to seeing what they do with their platforms moving forward.
Then there are examples such as @LilMiquela, who isn’t even a real person (she is the invention of a group of 3D graphic artists), and yet she has amassed 800,000 followers on Instagram.
We believe no matter the type of influencer, the internet has a unique way of discovering the notable talents or personalities of our time. For all we know, the next No. 1 album might come from a person posting directly on YouTube. This is a function of the sheer democratization of media. Anyone with a smartphone and a creative talent, like subway performer Mike Yung, can rise to the top of culture.
Our POV: Instead of doubting the next generation of creators and influencers for being young (e.g. the Parkland high school students) or inexperienced (Mike Yung), we as an industry need to nurture them and help guide them when it comes to brand-creator partnerships.
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