Episode 6: "The Brandwagon Interviews" Podcast with Brendan Gaul of UM Worldwide
September 19, 2019
From tactics to taglines, Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, chats marketing with the brains behind successful brands on our new video series, Brandwagon. Last week, Chris sat down with Lauren Fleshman, Co-founder and CMO of Picky Bars, to learn why she believes strategic rigor is essential to building an effective brand. Today, we’re excited to share our extended interview with this week’s guest, Brendan Gaul, Global Chief Content Officer and Head of UM Studios at the full-service media agency UM Worldwide.
Check out the episode to hear Brendan talk about the agency’s award-winning documentary film, 5B, and discuss how brands are shifting their strategies to create original content as traditional advertising platforms disappear.
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Watch the actual Brandwagon episode here!
UM Worldwide works with some of the world’s largest business-to-consumer brands like Coca-cola, Spotify, BMW, Sony Pictures, and Johnson & Johnson. When Johnson & Johnson wanted to find a way to elevate the image of nurses around the world from doctor sidekicks to the heroes of healthcare, Brendan pitched the idea for a documentary film called 5B.
Flashing forward — 5B won the Grand Prix for Entertainment at the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity, which was the first time a media agency has ever won the award. For Gaul, this win validated that brand-funded content can be accepted by audiences and industries.
On this episode, we hear more about how other brands are creating content in ways that offer value for their audiences, and Brendan shares exercises smaller companies can do to help define their brands, too.
On this episode of The Brandwagon Interviews, Brendan Gaul explains the decision-making behind UM’s unique piece of branded content and advises how brands, both big and small, can approach creating content humbly.
Here are some of the lessons learned throughout the episode:
- Think of innovative ways to reach customers who’ve moved away from ad-free platforms
- Create content that offers value for your audience
- Don’t try to reach the “average customer”; reach your high-value audience
Short on time? Check out some of our favorite moments during this interview between Chris and Brendan.
2:51 – A non-traditional career path
After chatting about Brendan’s favorite dessert and the current state of New York diners, Savage and Gaul talk about Gaul’s winding career path to working with some of the world’s biggest brands. Brendan talks about getting his start in film school at Pratt in Brooklyn, but quickly found himself immersed in the world of fashion retail when he took a job (to pay for off-campus housing) at the first Armani Exchange in NYC. Brendan learned about brand experiences through his work with luxury brands like LVMH, Sephora, and Donna Karan. With these brands, he saw first-hand how brands created immersive brand experiences that tapped into all five senses. He also got a sense of how different brands relate to one another in commercial environments.
12:21 – Moving into advertising
After the attacks on New York on September 11, Donna Karan underwent a restructuring that left Brendan without a job, giving him time to reflect on what his next steps would be. During this time, he was introduced to the world of advertising. He leveraged his experience from film school and consumer-experience design to art direct several commercials for Lowes. The work got him a job at then McCann Erickson. Brendan shares how his career has advanced from there and what he does today at UM Worldwide.
17:38 – Changing to survive
At UM, Brendan works with some of the biggest B2C brands in the world, including Amex, Coca Cola, Levis, BMW, Johnson &Johnson, and more. He points out how changing media landscapes are forcing these iconic brands to evolve and change the ways they do things. Savage asks if this is the challenge for big brands today. Brendan talks about how consumers are moving to ad-free platforms, so brands need to think of innovative and interesting ways to reach those customers. The two discuss Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp and their declaration that “the future is private” as examples of diminishing advertising space, and Gaul shares the benefits of working with big brands in big media.
22:57 – 5B
UM worked with Johnson & Johnson to create the documentary film 5B, which was shown at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The idea for the documentary came from Johnson & Johnson’s efforts to elevate the image of nurses around the world from doctor sidekicks to the heroes of healthcare that they are. The documentary had an impressive showing at Cannes, winning the Entertainment Grand Prix at the show among other awards. Savage and Gaul talk about how the film came to be, and the decision-making behind this unique piece of branded content.
41:09 – “If you’re putting content out there that’s solely based on trying to sell more stuff, the consumer smells it.”
How do brands know whether they can do something like what Johnson and Johnson did with 5B? Gaul talks about how brands need to know that they have — or need to earn — permission to be a part of cultural conversations. Savage and Gaul discuss how brands can approach content humbly and note examples of brands trying to act in spaces where they aren’t welcome. They go on to discuss other examples of brands who are creating content in ways that offer value for their audiences.
51:06 – The big-brand playbook
While it’s relatively easy for the biggest brands to create powerful content, Savage wants to know what smaller companies can learn from this type of content strategy. Brendan admits that it can be easy for smaller companies to be overwhelmed by the need to create content, but offers some practical advice and exercises smaller companies can do to help define their brands.
55:23 – “You had me until you said ‘average consumer.’”
How can B2B companies reach average consumers like B2C brands do? Brendan points out that the goal isn’t to reach an “average consumer,” but to reach your high-value audience and goes on to describe how smaller, B2B companies and local businesses can think about their products. He offers some ideas on how to position themselves for their best audiences.
We covered a lot in this episode! But, here are some notable mentions throughout the podcast: