So often, native ads and sponsored content are discussed from the brand viewpoint, but we decided to take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum—those actually creating the content.
We sat down with prolific photojournalist Rebecca Smeyne to discuss her take on branded content from a creator's perspective. Rebecca is based in New York and often shoots colorful portrayals of the culture and art scene.
Why are you working with Tidal? What do you feel you can do here that you’re not / couldn’t do anywhere else?
Rebecca: For me it’s good because the kind of ideas your looking for are the kinds of things I do editorially already. It's the kind of work I want to do and already do, but a space for that work to be done. It's about editorial-type content in a way that's branded. It comes down to money — doing the same thing I've spent my career doing but being paid exponentially more for it. Career wise, it's good space to be in when it works out.
Working with my own ideas and making money in a brand space is ideal.
Are project opportunities for writers / photographers / videographers hard to arrange?
Rebecca: They are and they aren't. I do get this kind of work, but it's a little hard for me to proactively get this kind of work. I usually communicate through connections and referrals. It's great when it happens, but hard to find those opportunities, and that said, sometimes other people who are more successful at it than I am work with other agencies. I usually just randomly get hooked into things.
It is hard in this business, and there's not one way to find work, nor one kind of work—we all kind of make a living and cobble it together in many different ways. It may not seem that way from outside, but it's actually pretty chaotic.
Let's look at your current Tidal project idea, which is interesting. Is the idea to a take photo essay of people camped at a music festival and bring that to a brand? Where would the project appear—on website for a Red Bull or whoever?
Rebecca: A lot of brands have things — microblogs, for example — where content lives on their internal site or maybe a client's app. It’s not like a normal editorial space, something where the whole thing is branded or sponsored. Brands need content that is more than just a normal service provider, sometimes especially around big events.
A lot of media coverage / brand attention is dedicated to events like SXSW and Coachella. So specifically for that, we can use brands' social media, their Tumblr, and create some ideas that are more long-form editorial and live more on a blog. And there's also photo content, which they can put on Instagram. It's not even just one single thing.
But it would include some kind of brand logo from whoever to associate it with sponsor?
Rebecca: Yes. Like usually the space for the content lives would be their space in some way. Whatever that is — their channel on social media, etc.
Let's assume you get sponsored. How do you see this affecting what you do? Would it just be one more thing to do? Could you really grow this aspect of your business?
Rebecca: In a way it’s not that different from what I do. I pitch so much of what I do, so it's the same thing really. Tidal is looking for a little more elaborate proposals, but then again, more clients are doing the same thing already. In this case, the client is a brand instead of a magazine, but say if this starts to get a lot of pickup, it changes things a bit.
The bottom line financially is what would change — that’s the nice part about it — the ideas and content of what I'm doing remain consistent. The reason people do editorial work is because it's fun and interesting and you have a lot of freedom. But it does not pay well. When you bring those two things together, it's good for everyone.