MoFilm CEO: 'crowdsourced models could ‘cannibalise’ agency business'

Anna Watkins, chief executive of MoFilm

MoFilm, a ‘hybrid’ between a creative agency and a crowd-sourced production company, is disrupting the traditional agency model by promising brands high quality films faster and cheaper than any one agency can promise.

Creative agencies have been under pressure to reinvent legacy models in recent years as technological advances have meant brands require much more content tailored for different channels, for less money, at speed.

Crowdsourcing work from a bank of filmmakers could be seen as a way to increase efficiency, but risks “the potential cannibalisation of their [agencies] existing business”, suggested MoFilm’s recently appointed chief executive Anna Watkins, since they are able to charge clients premium rates by producing work from their in-house studios.

“It will be interesting to see whether or not more agencies look at integrating crowd-sourced models,” said Watkins, who is also at judge at The Drum Online Media Awards 2017. She added that she hopes MoFilm can “work alongside them [agencies] as a complement to their in-house resources”.

MoFilm, which describes itself as a “beautiful hybrid” between a creative agency and a crowd sourced production company, has a bank of 10,000 filmmakers and influencers in its “virtual studio” ready to work on projects at short notice around the world.

The brief is crafted by its team of creative directors and strategists, and opened up for filmmakers to bid for. The filmmakers chosen for the brief are paid upfront. Clients are charged on an individual level depending on the level of curation required. It tracks, optimises and evaluates the effectiveness of content in the same way an agency does, based on the objectives of the client.

“We describe our approach as 'people powered marketing' - harnessing the power of the crowd to produce high quality films better, faster and cheaper than traditional models. As marketeers have increasingly squeezed budgets and are turning around higher volumes of content, creative democracies such as MoFilm, provide a compelling alternative model,” Watkins said.

MoFilm’s ability to crowd-source talented filmmakers to turn around briefs quickly and creatively has seen it work for a number of high-profile clients. Past work includes a content series for Airbnb with filmmaker Kylie Flavell, a trailer for PlayStation game Until Dawn by Lloyd Choi, an ad for Bose starring YouTube star Taylor Hatala, and a number of ads for Coca-Cola.

This year MoFilm will bring on board a new slate of influencers who not only pitch but produce, direct and edit content. And as technology evolves and changes the filmmaking landscape, MoFilm is also building a community of drone operators, AR and VR specialists. For example, it’s ad for Emirates, View From Above, was shot in 17 locations by 17 drone operators around the world.

But while MoFilm’s model hinges on efficiency, one trend sweeping the industry could undermine its model; AI-produced work. Brands and agencies alike have been ditching humans in favour of software algorithms in an experiment to see whether machines can create work good enough to go to market. Coca-Cola has been experimenting with automated narratives, IBM has started using AI to plan and buy media in the UK and US, while Mondelez last year unveiled the first campaign using an artificially intelligent creative director.

Watkins said MoFilm is “exploring the potential benefits of AI” to bolster its content experience and identify talent, but said the human element - MoFilm acting as the curator - is “critical” in terms of developing the narrative, casting the characters and ensuring the overall caliber of the work.

If you'd still like to enter The Drum Online Media Awards, you can arrange a deadline extension by contacting Emma Mercer on 020 3002 5839 or on email at emma.mercer@thedrum.com.

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