Spark’s Branded Content Guru Eric Levin on True Creative Success

And how modern capabilities at media agencies pave the way


Specs
Who Eric Levin
Current gig svp, brand content group director, Spark/LiquidThread
Previous gig vp, brand content director, LiquidThread
Twitter @ericlevin11
Age 39

What is your mission at Spark?
To make content the center of everything we do. The reason that I moved over to this space to begin with was the amazing things happening within media, and especially at Spark, with the integration of data and research, along with investment and strategy, which allow us to mine for tremendous opportunities in the creative content space.

Is big content really a thing?
Yes, I believe that's exactly where we're headed. I think everything will converge, and a big part of what we're doing here as an agency is future-proofing ourselves for when technology becomes invisible and content is the driving differentiator. The global deal we did with Oreo and Transformers last summer in over 45 countries—the first-ever global deal for Mondelez and one of the largest for SMG—touched on everything we're trying to do, from the data piece to the content piece, mobile, social, in-store—driving from a big idea to bring something to life in big way.

How do you define success?
The question is, "How do we tie content to relevant results?" Does that mean sales? How do we tie more closely to retail? We want to be building those results against what we're saying will work and prove they actually do work in this new model.

What are brands struggling to grasp about branded content?
It's hard to get clients new to the space to fully understand what they can unlock through media; to use all the tools at the agency to delve into creative. And while they might be more used to working with partners from a reach perspective, we're able to use our capabilities to leverage their dollars, be more efficient and ultimately more creative. We spend a lot of our time demonstrating from start to finish the integration of our teams and showing them the benefits our production and content can deliver.

Industry buzzword you are totally sick of?
I hate all of these: never been done, low-hanging fruit, net-net, think outside the box, action items or takeaways.

If you could pick one brand story to tell?
I do love me some gummy bears, so Haribo.

With marketing increasingly driven by data and insight, do brands still need creative agencies?
The answer is yes—with a but. There is tremendous creativity flowing out of those agencies and they build a lot of the strategy foundations for the work that we do. However, in this new world, we are afforded opportunities unlike any other agencies have access to and because of that we can bring things to life that others can't through media.

What's the most important hire for 2015?
As we look to diversify our talent base, it's going to be someone who comes from an unexpected background. I think brand content has and will benefit from finding people with an entirely new perspective on storytelling.