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Mindshare’s Content Guru on What It's Like to Be a Creative in a Media Agency

And why he hates the branded content label

Greg Manago says you can reach younger audiences if your content isn’t obviously branded. Laura Barisonzi


Specs
Current gig Co-president, Mindshare Content+ Entertainment N.A.
Age 39
Twitter @gvmanago

Adweek: What was it like to transition from TV to becoming a creative guy in a media agency?
Greg Manago: When I started at Mindshare in the beginning [2005], it was all under this rubric of branded entertainment. [Mindshare's chief content officer and I] always hated that—what is it? What's happened over the past 10 years is as content has become so important in media plans and the marketing mix our group evolved. We always look at ourselves as a content and production group inside a media agency. Having never worked in an ad agency we didn't understand how they traditionally worked—with a copywriter and art director going off and coming back with the idea. In the TV world it's more collaborative. We staffed our group with people who had different backgrounds: technologists, digital natives, strategists, people from social and of course people who are traditional TV producers.

How is content developed at Mindshare?
To an outsider, being a creative who sits inside a media agency might seem like a "what's going on" kind of moment. But for us it all comes down to collaboration, collaborating internally with the stakeholders within Mindshare who do amazing work on a daily basis and externally with different agencies, PR, social, digital, creative and partners like our media partners, content technology partners and production companies. We look at the world through that lens. People say if you're a hammer everything looks like a nail. We try to be a tool box and look at the problem and say, "What is the right way to address that problem?" and come up with some great content. It's really helped us come up with different out-of-the-box content.

How are you scaling Mindshare's content studio to better respond to clients' need for real-time content?
What's evolved is the group does everything from short, flat content to Vine videos, Instagram stuff, TV commercials, long-form content to an off-Broadway play. We did a longer format, an almost two-hour documentary. What we've formed is a content studio now where we can do any or all of that together. The real-time piece is something new where we have the ability to work not only with our own internal capability, but also with partners that make it possible to create content in real time, in a reactive way based on what's going on with culture.

How do you break through to a younger audience with branded content?
You have to make sure it doesn't seem like "branded content." They're very sophisticated about marketing and many are digital natives so they're used to seeing content from brands in channels they like. With TRESemmé we shot native Snapchat videos at Fashion Week to target them. Working with influencers is also important in getting millennials to engage, and we've done that on a couple campaigns recently, including one for Lipton.

What kind of client demand are you seeing?
It used to be we would be approached by a client who wanted to take a risk, had a little extra money and wanted to make some noise. Now most clients have a content strategy, most clients know what they want to do with content whether it's working with partners, coming up with original content or figuring out how content in social is going to break through, or a mix of all three of those. The thing that has changed is how they want to use us. It used to be, "Let's go to these guys because we need some great original content." We still get those calls, but we also get calls now about reactive content, social content, working with influencers. We've had to grow our capabilities and our skill set to deal with that. As our team has grown that's only natural.

This story first appeared in the March 14 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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