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How a New Branded Content Shop Plans to Break Out of the Agency Model

The Pub pitches its multichannel expertise

The Pub will work with YouTube stars like Rosanna Pansino, Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota. Photo: Kevin Scanlon

Here comes yet another player in the realm of branded content, this one with a focus on publishing. The Pub, a new venture from strategic consultancy Co:Collective, opens with clients such as YouTube, New York's Museum of Modern Art and the non-profit organization Dress for Success.

The shop's mission is to help brands connect with YouTube stars and others to create content that supports the brands' larger strategic purpose, according to Conrad Lisco, a Co:Collective partner who, along with Tiffany Rolfe, is managing the launch. That content will take the form of anything from a video or Web site to postings on Pinterest or Instagram.

To lead The Pub, Lisco and Rolfe have hired an executive creative director (Dave Clark, formerly of 72andSunny), relationship director (Eric Wilson, from CAA Marketing) and strategy director (Shawn Shahani, from Havas Worldwide). Adweek reached Lisco at the Cannes Lions festival this week, and he talked about The Pub's business model and what he hopes to accomplish in year one.

What forms will the content you create for clients take?
For starters, our belief is we want to help brands tell stories over time and across channels. So, serial storylines is a big part of what we talk about, the idea that things unfold. And when you think about where the storylines live, it's syndication not distribution. It's thinking much more about how to program different channels with content, rather than a very advertising-led approach, which is sort of copy-paste creative.

Video is a big part of this, right?
Video of all kinds is going to be really, really important. And even one of the things we're thinking about here is there are serial storylines that can be told just through mobile video. So, we definitely want to find ways to be innovative with storytelling in formats that are super progressive. But there's no reason that we couldn't be doing things in Pinterest or thinking about how Instagram becomes a really interesting platform.

Why go the separate, specialist route?
Because our model is different than an agency model. And because we don't own the channels, we don't have to solve the problem [with] editorial that lives in a particular kind of feed or a particular kind of video format. If you go to Buzzfeed, you're going to get something amazing from them. But it's going to be what they think you need from Buzzfeed, not what they think you need from content.

So how is The Pub different?
We are agnostic of platform and format in a way that I think allows us to be dispassionate about the right solution. And we would hope to partner with people like Buzzfeed. That's the thing. We come in peace. We're not trying to move everybody's cheese at [multi-channel networks] or Buzzfeed. We would still like to partner with them and pass money through them.

Will The Pub operate like Co: does, devising strategies and then bringing in outside talent to execute?
Sort of. Our view is right now we have a core team at The Pub. What we want to do is to bring creators into the process sooner. Not too soon, but just soon enough. We're working with creators on YouTube and we're starting to get into some other work. We kind of know the sweet spot for when to bring them in. And we think that will lead to more genuine collaboration, which will lead to more authentic content that's good for the brand, that's good for the creator.

Do brands pay The Pub, and then The Pub the content creators?
What we do is we set aside a chunk of our fee that we would collect from a client to pay creators to make things with us. And over time, especially depending on the size of the project, that fee would vary.

What's YouTube's role in all this?
Well, they are a client, a very large client. Outside of that, I think we benefit from having great relationships with them, but they are not playing an active role in helping us do things for other brands.

A year from now where do you see The Pub? What's your vision of success?
I would love to be able to point to a host of examples when someone says, 'What do you mean by iconic content or serial storylines?' We are in the throes of making some things for YouTube and for MOMA that I believe are those things. So, this time next year I want to have made some stuff that inspires other brands to think more like publishers and less like advertisers. 

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