spring / 2014

The magazine of branded content

Agent Provocateur

Matt Bonin, Ogilvy’s Chief Production Officer, reports from the front line of a shifting agency landscape.
Apr 7, 2014


Matt Bonin talks about the “new nimble.”

As Ogilvy & Mather’s Chief Production Officer, Matt Bonin is less helicopter, more boots on the ground. For all the conceptual speak that provides the currency for conferences and presentation decks, Bonin actually makes the “stuff”—he oversees a creative production team of nearly two hundred, to “pull the right levers” to create content for broadcast, print and digital, from platform builds to Instagram feeds, technology solutions and filmed content of all sorts for clients like American Express, British Airways, IBM and NASCAR.

Matt is quite an integrated person, a valuable asset when the project load can approach six hundred at any one time. We visited Matt at the Ogilvy offices in New York City.

Is content a lead offering from Ogilvy?
Matt Bonin: There are offerings that are branded content through and through. We just worked on a major project on behalf of Philips, a really amazing Dutch company that has their hands in so many different aspects of life, from medical equipment to lighting. To help them launch their brand platform we went around the globe picking up all of these great branded content stories, real people telling the human side of how this company touches their lives.

Who should come to Ogilvy for content and who shouldn’t?
MB: Two years ago, BlackRock Financial Services, the largest financial services company in the world, really wasn’t doing advertising. So how then do we take a business that isn’t on the tip of tongues but should be, and position them from a content perspective? When we talk about content for financial services, it is an industry where people are craving content.

“My team is the rubber meets the road team, the ones that actually work to take that fundamental idea that’s in the ethos—and turning it into something that’s real that we put into the public sphere.”

Is 2014 the year when content becomes the battle cry from brands to agencies?
MB: There’s that line in Fight Club where they say “We didn’t invent this, it was with us all along, we just put a name on it.” I think that’s kind of like what content is right now. It’s not reinvention of something as much as it is the right name for what’s happening. I think that we are shifting—some marketers more so than others, some brands more so than others—from a moment-in-time type of communication to an all-the-time communication. So content—anything from a tweet to an episodic branded content experience that you might spend sixty minutes with over the course of many visits to a destination—has to be pervasive as a result of that.

One of the big shifts is our client IBM. IBM as an organization is shifting into the content world, so they’re looking for more and more of that creative content to provide thought leadership, video creation, and infographics to take complex subjects and break them into bite size, digestible, sharable pieces. It’s really exciting.

You’re on the frontline of creating that wide spectrum of products.
MB: Fundamentally, from my side of things, yes, it comes down to someone has to make that; someone has to create what that video piece is going to be, or has to work with writers as to what’s in that tweet and create an editorial content calendar surrounding how we’re going to communicate, how we’re going to respond, along with governance guidelines as to how we do things in the voice of a particular brand.

What’s the smallest piece of business Ogilvy would get involved with?
MB: We tend to have rather large, Fortune 50, Fortune 100 companies that are our clients. This doesn’t mean we don’t work with smaller challenger brands. We relish that sort of opportunity.

The playing field has opened up for content, so is there more budget-consciousness?
MB: I think there was a time when that [budget conscious] category was viewed…we looked down our nose a little bit at that kind of content creation. But I think it’s a huge creative opportunity; it’s a huge communication opportunity. And quite frankly, I think that it’s a huge need that the clients have and if we are truly the stewards of brands, we should be involved with every aspect of that kind of communication. It shouldn’t be relegated to Joe Blow Corporate Video Services. So, agencies need to own that entire process and I’m happy to say that that’s the approach that we’re taking here. In today’s world, as an agency we have to be equally adept at a $2,000 piece of video content that could very well be made with iPhones and GoPros, that might be fed out socially through one of the client’s owned channels or properties, as we are at making the $3 million Super Bowl commercial.

“When we talk about content for financial services, it is an industry where people are craving it.”

That’s quite a range of video offerings.
MB: A lot of our content needs are filled by a newer offering we’re calling the Agile Video Team. Everyone wears multiple hats—that’s a fundamental component of this, and within an agency structure, this is a fundamental shift. On staff, the writer serves as the creative lead but is partnered extremely closely with the director, who acts like an agency art director and film director. The director is also camera operator, the agency producer is also line producer, we have a single point of client contact, account service, but that person also has a heavy postproduction background so as we’re making content, if I need to be sending the team that’s shooting something into the field, I know that I can still rely on this account person to oversee some of our post production process with the team moving through the editing pipeline and getting things ready to share with clients.

How do you qualify good content?
MB: If I can look at that piece and it provides some sort of moment for me, a discovery moment or some sort of a human moment that I took something away from that was interesting. Also, in that human litmus test, it provides something to me that I might bring up in a cocktail conversation or might offer up when my Dad asks me what’s going on—what are you working on, what are you doing kind of a thing. I work it as a nugget of information into that. You know it when you see it.

Is this growing out of a sort of proprietary methodology?
MB: A little bit. I consider nytimes.com to be a very smart operation and a very smart content generating machine. They’re working a very different set of rules and parameters than we do, but I think my understanding of the organization, how they’ve got things structured, we look at how we can borrow some methodology of how that content is being created and served. For several of our clients, we’ve got what we tentatively call the newsroom, and is able to have real-time listening and things that are taking place across the clients’ different channels and create compelling content to feed back to the public.

There is a big buzz around brand newsrooms.
MB: I’m certain we are going to start seeing a lot more of these newsrooms. I’m sure you’re going to see a rise of that amongst the pure play digital agencies. It’s a smart line of business. Of the large, innovative agencies such as ours, of which there are many, it’s pretty early days and pretty interesting how we’ve got it structured. There’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of between 16 and 20 people that are involved with that newsroom offering. We were in discussions with British Airways about setting up a bespoke team for them to exist in London. So, this is a question that’s not answered yet: Is there something that brands want that lives within agencies or do they ultimately want to build their own organizations?

“As an agency we have to be equally adept at a $2,000 piece of content that might be fed out socially through one of the client’s own channels or properties, as we are at making the $3 million Super Bowl commercial.”

Is a multi-channel campaign now standard?
MB: It becomes a no-brainer to imagine that if you’ve got a TV commercial that’s going to be airing during the Oscars, you better have a Twitter support leading up to, during and after, as well as the listening that goes along with all of that to be able to plan things around that. So American Express [had] a very big presence at the Oscars. There are many conversations in the way we leverage things the smartest way possible across all the different social channels.

How important are metrics to selling content programs?
MB: It is a very important question to ask: what are we being measured against? What is it that the client is looking to achieve with this? So fundamentally one of the first questions about starting a program like that is “What does success look like and how are we going to achieve that?”

Apr 7, 2014


Matt Bonin talks about the “new nimble.”