The pandemic forced adjustments to all aspects of life, from home to the office. Everyone pivoted, but innovations at Warner Music Group's content studio earned it the 2021 ThinkLA IDEA Award for Best Pivot.
The company's success in creating custom content opportunities with brands became more difficult "when we couldn't create them in person," said Kurt Campbell-Anderson, Head of Studio at WMX, Warner Music Group's services division that connects artists with fans and amplifies brands. "We pivoted the way that we looked at our approaches."
The changes were made in response to a key question: "How do we still make compelling content and opportunities that reach our audience?" The answer came in part by retooling the WMG studio operations in ways that were often speedier than adjustments by movie and television studios.
"We started creating turnkey content opportunities and then taking them to brands with thematic alignment options," Campbell-Anderson said. "If their passion point was mental health awareness, [WMX would find] talent that could specifically speak to it in such a way that the brand said, 'Cool, that's us.'"
That approach differs from a more traditional model, "trying to build a bespoke opportunity from the ground up with every client. So, it was a bit of reverse engineering," he explained.
Coupling speed and safety were top priorities. "We, like anyone else, used a ton of remote filming capabilities, and we built some of those from the ground up," Campbell-Anderson said. "The nice thing that's evolved in the way we work even now, is we're still using a lot of those techniques to keep costs in check, timelines in check and to do things for brands in better and faster ways.
"[This evolution] gives you a bigger playground to work within," he continued. "We now get to talk to new people that we weren't previously able to get in the studio with us and it also opens up untapped international opportunities."
Citing the successes of African-based Warner artists, from Omah Lay to CKay, Campbell-Anderson said, "because we're a little bit nimbler and we're approaching quickly, we're now able to get on the ground with [the artists] immediately, do things that help them in their marketing and get them in front of a wider global audience, which is something our brands want."
Before the pandemic, WMG was successful in creating a number of intimate performances before small groups of superfans that were live-streamed. The studio is building on that concept by partnering with a new platform named Reach.methat will allow such streamed performances to play out simultaneously to the social media sites of all involved.
"Label socials, brand socials, publisher socials, artists' socials, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and Twitch, all at one time," Campbell-Anderson noted. Real-time fan feeds will also be integrated, "so there can be one connective tissue where everyone's getting to comment at the same time and same place. I think it's going to be groundbreaking and awesome."
By reaching fans on their own favorite social media sites, artists can also respond to their comments. "It will give more opportunities for fans to connect with artists but also, from an artist perspective, it will hopefully help them grow their fan base," he said.
One such impending campaign, that will benefit both artist and audience, is with T-Mobile and Live from Nowheresville. "We're creating scenic, live performances with on-the-rise WMG artists in entirely remote locations in partnership with the brand," he explained.
Innovative ways to align with brands have allowed WMX to step up at a time when a lot of companies' marketing staffs have had to downsize. And that, in turn, led to the Pivot Award. "We kept a huge number of our pre-existing clients, but also gained a bunch of new ones, from Bose and American Eagle to Guitar Center, Microsoft, Modelo," Campbell-Anderson said. "So, there was a silver lining to what had been, for many, a dark two years."
While there's been an openness to try innovative things at Warner Music Group, the core mission hasn't changed. "It's still content via great storytelling," he concluded.
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