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Cannes Lions: Brands must take more risks in original video content creation, says Yahoo VP Erin McPherson


By Jessica Davies | News Editor

June 17, 2013 | 3 min read

There is still too much “risk aversion” from brands when it comes to the creation of original video content, according to Yahoo’s VP and head of video Erin McPherson.

Speaking at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes this morning McPherson reiterated Yahoo’s commitment to original content output, which opens up “exciting” new opportunities to work with brands, but that they need to take more risks.

“Brands are playing a major role in this migration of original content online, they are underwriting a lot of the innovation but there is still a lot of risk aversion to it. While we are here celebrating creativity we must think about innovation and taking risks,” she said.

Yahoo, which runs 50 original content shows online, including Jack Black-produced webs series Ghost Girls (pictured above), totaling 400 episodes a month, is using real-time data insight to assess audience reaction and inform future commissions, according to McPherson.

“We can listen to the audience as we go and so can experiment and optimise the experience as we go… through our data insight we can test and assess what people want and then create accordingly.

“What’s exciting about working with brands in this space is there are no rules. That is daunting at times but we can really partner with brands and create these rules together,” she said.

However, she stressed that marketers must remember to put the consumer first when creating original content, rather than putting their brand message first.

“Brands can make a misstep by putting their message first – they must think of the consumer to create an organic piece of content people will love, rather than something forced,” said McPherson.

Fellow speaker Jack Black said comedy is well-suited to the internet, working well in shorter time bursts, which people can watch quickly and while on the move.

However, he warned against repeating previously successful formats because they will never work twice. “Fight that instinct to do something that has already worked well, even if it is still funny, it’s old and it won’t work again,” he added.

Black also revealed that he was working on the launch of an online content festival in Los Angeles as well as a possible animated series for his band Tenacious D, but was tight lipped on revealing any more details.

Meanwhile also speaking at the conference Summly founder Nick D’Aloisio said the future of successful content will centre on two core pillars: personalisation and summarisation.

“A lot of the younger generations are consuming nearly all their content on their mobile phone, so the ability to consume content quickly and immediately is important…time is the new currency”, he said.

D’Aloisio, who sold his news-reading app Summly to Yahoo earlier this year, said he is currently working with the company to “reinvent” content for mobile.

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