What’s the Key to Keeping it Real? Treat Your Customers Relationships like Friendships, says ELA Advertising



“Alignment is so critical when it comes to messaging on social media.” — Andre Filip, CEO & Founder, ELA Advertising


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It’s no secret that in today’s digital landscape social media carries tremendous storytelling power. What this means for brands and agencies is wielding a critical responsibility to influence how people think and act in an environment inundated with noise. It’s no small feat, but it’s now more important than ever to identify opportunities to develop truly authentic and meaningful content worthy of our time and attention.

During #SMWLA, Andre Filip, CEO & Founder, ELA Advertising, Max Brabant, Agent, Digital Talent and Packaging, CAA and Jesse Margolis, Founder, Overheard came together to offer their unique perspectives on this topic.

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Keeping it real & ensuring strategic alignment

“Alignment is so critical when it comes to messaging on social media,” said Filip when discussing the creation of authentic content.

Originally, the old model, for agencies in particular, was to view the consumer and their life in a straight path, and to sell directly to them based on their ethos or way of living. This approach, however, has become antiquated and no longer relevant.

“Our new model, on the brand side, is to start understanding and speaking their stories and find similarities and that parallel gap is where social falls in and we have this rhythmic balance of messaging,” he added. “It’s like starting a friendship.”

Weighing on how authenticity between a brand and a celebrity or influencer can do a better job of keeping it real, Brabant explained, that a more holistic approach and identifying overlaps with core values is important. “More often brands approach us for one-off social posts and it isn’t appealing to us as reps. It does very little for our clients. We look to long-term organic partnerships that are more authentic to them and to their audience.”

For OverheardLA, staying true to the idea that you can’t fake being real is an integral part of who they are. To achieve this, posts are purposely unpolished so that they feel raw and more relatable. “We figure out how to monetize without destroying the thing,” Margolis said.

Ultimately, there is a fundamental responsibility on both sides. On the one hand, a brand has to ask itself, does this person truly match us. On the other hand, influencers must also ask themselves, does this brand map to the kind of person I am and my personality?

Choose influencers for their talent, not their followers

On the topic of discerning how to determine what brands to partner with based on your personal brand and why, Andre turned to a recent April Fools campaign ELA completed in partnership with Tik Tok and DJ Khaled. Not only was it critical to understand Tik Tok’s brand values and what they stood for, but selecting the one person that would exemplify this overall spirit.

“It was important that we let Khaled be Khaled. If we would’ve given him a script, he would’ve felt very closed off,” Filip added, underscoring the relationship worked because he was provided loose direction and allowed to express himself how he wished as opposed to feeling as though he had to fit into a certain box.

Leveraging her own experiences, Brabant reiterated the idea that micromanaging is typically not favored by clients and in most cases, results in CAA offering an ultimatum. “There have been cases where we’ve closed a deal and whoever is on the other side has come to us and said, ‘we need it to look exactly like this,’ and I’ve had to go back and tell them that they can either deal with it or if it’s a deal breaker then let’s just not do this partnership.”

Awareness will lead to acquisition, but it’s the long-game that paves the way to a more meaningful, sustainable story to share with your audience. It boils down to patience and long-term commitment to assess each and every part of the communication funnel to identify moments of relevance where you can say, “We are like you and we live like you and think like you.”

Using tone of voice as a filter

Tone of voice is hyper-critical to the success of a brand not getting ‘heckled’ and ensuring the alignment sought after between brands and audiences yet this often gets convoluted when a brand and influencer have two different ways of communicating.

“How you combine this is art and we need to make sure we do that,” stressed Filip.

When discussing OverheardLA’s tone of voice, Margolis used the phrase “elevated curation.” 80 to 90 percent of their social posts are real overheard quotes that are submitted, with very few being written by the team.

“We are a brand of words and nothing we do should not be expressed with the written word,” he added. However, there are guardrails in place that determine which content is allowed or not. No religion, no politics, and no gossip for example.

It’s easy to decide there are no rules or there are rules but once you make these decisions you should stick with them, Margolis emphasized. The same applies to brands — those who have the most success know what they want and have certain red lines they’d prefer not to be crossed but then give the agency freedom to do the translating.

The alternative? Your audience will likely pick up that the message has been heavily filtered. “As much as people are okay with you monetizing, they aren’t ok with scrolling to something that has been sold out or taken over.”

Going beyond social

Born social-first, recently Overheard has stepped outside of the confines of Instagram to build its recognition through the launch of a free print newspaper called the Overheard Post. The paper includes horoscopes, comics, vegan food reviews, and is currently available at roughly 30 cafes and coffee shops throughout Los Angeles.

Serving as a physical manifestation of the social culture Overheard has built, Jesse described the paper as a business card that depicts “who we are and what we can do beyond posts and Stories…The fact that we have social allows us to play in new spaces with our content,” said  Margolis. He then rallied off examples spanning ad campaigns, billboards, merch, and coffee sleeves.

The key takeaway – by being disruptive outside of the platform, you can identify more opportunities to translate into other areas that ironically will feed back into your platform’s growth.

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