The best carpe diem ads feel as if they happened by magic. That’s part of their delight. Of course, they never happen by magic. Someone had to see the opportunity. A handful of someones had to have the bravery to give it the go ahead. And a group of someones had to have the enthusiasm to produce the ad at the speed of light.
The carpe diem ad of this year has to be Shutterstock’s Fyre Festival parody, the spearhead of the company’s It’s not stock global campaign. Everything about it is absolutely right. Lou Weiss, chief marketing officer of Shutterstock, managed to get to Sydney this week despite a showy attempt by Hurricane Dorian to disrupt his plans. I had been hoping that he’d be able to tell me the story behind the film. He was.
The Stable: What were the challenges and opportunities that drove the campaign?
Lou Weiss: Our business has been growing healthily for years but there was an opportunity that that hadn’t been capitalised on. People who knew us very well – people who were loyal customers – were quite clear about what made us different, special and unique in the marketplace but we weren’t telling that story fully in an integrated fashion as an organisation in general. We had different messages in different categories. We had different messages in different geographies. And we weren’t clear and consistent about who we are and what our customers love about us. That led us to develop the new platform, It’s not stock, which is authentic to the culture and personality of the company – showing rather than merely telling what people love about us.
TS: How did that come to be expressed as a Fyre Festival parody?
LW: We had set the strategy for what we wanted to accomplish. Whatever we did had to communicate what makes us unique and special, it had to reflect our personality, had to show rather than tell what we’re all about and it had to do it in a way that would be likely to resonate with our target market. We’re not trying to do entertainment, we’re trying to do marketing. So we were pre-aligned. Then this glorious opportunity came along. I feel we must have done something right in a past life.
Note: For the few who don’t know what Weiss is talking about. The Fyre Festival was promised to be an ultra-VIP, no-expense-spared, celebrity-studded festival on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas. 63 paid influencers were recruited for the initial launch, with Kendall Jenner topping the list at US$250K fee and every other influencer paid more than $20,000. There were 400 influencers in all in the campaign, and millions spent on flying the models and influencers to the Bahamas every other weekend. A horde of professional models, a private island and a full camera crew was used to produce the trailer. The trailer positioned the experience on the highest level of – well, indulgence, really – but let’s call it luxury.
As it turned out, the Fyre Festival’s reality was nothing like its promise. Shutterstock realised that the perfect opportunity was within its grasp.
LW: We saw that we had been “gifted” the perfect opportunity to tell our story. Our film took about 2 or 3 days and about $2k. And, like any customer of Shutterstock, we looked for clips, found the clips and spent a little time in the editing bay. Nothing more.
When we put it out the marketing and creative community enjoyed it so much – enjoyed it as much as we did.
It was a really great experience to be part of the conversation around what was going on culturally but in a way that showed rather than told who we are and what makes us unique. The fact that we had the clips ready without knowing that the news was going to be the news shows what you can do with the assets we have. We have 280 million assets. We add a million and a half every week, so whatever is going on in the world we have it covered. And it was the beginning of us having a lot of fun showing who we are.
Shutterstock subsequently produced tactical ads around The Game of Thrones’ finale fervour and Stranger Things’ launch anticipation, turning one carpe diem into a strategic and creatively brilliant year-long campaign.
“We’re having a lot of fun telling what’s going on right now,” Weiss commented, ‘but also showing that it doesn’t matter what the story is – we can tell it. To do that, all we’re being is a customer of Shutterstock so what we’re hoping to communicate is you can tell your story this easily and this inexpensively as well. You just have to think a little, pay attention a little bit and be clear, so that the story you’re telling is valuable to have told.
TS: A vast assortment of people use Shutterstock. Who is the target market for the campaign?
LW: Because of the breadth and depth of our business, we’re really for everyone from the freelancer who’s working on a little project all the way up to all the entertainment, media and brands in the world, and we really do serve everyone in between. I guess I’d say that our target market is the creative, marketing, social and entertainment communities that have this exploding need to produce more content at a higher quality more quickly than they ever have before because of what’s going on with consumption of media and the expectations that customers and consumers have of brands.
TS: What about your contributors?
LW: We have our 900,000 contributors globally. They are the artists who make our business work. We don’t have a business without that contributor network. They make the incredible assets that allow that world’s brands and companies to tell stories. We’re just a little helper in the middle. We listen very robustly to our contributors for everything, including the technology we provide them with to partner with us. Plus when see accelerating demand for a particular genre or kind of asset in a geography, we publish that out to our contributor network to get their feedback.
TS: What brought you to Australia?
LW: We’re experiencing wonderful growth in Australia and we’re investing in this market. That’s why I’m here, why I’m adding to the local team.
I like the sensibilities of Australian brands. I like the cheekiness and the sense of humour and I think we’re a little like kindred spirits. Culturally, that’s who we are too.