'People who will change the world': why Vice Media is investing in the future of influencers

The summit began on August 29 at Vice’s office in downtown Singapore.

While Singapore is a global hub for businesses and one of the safest in the world, there is a common misconception about the city: It is boring and devoid of culture.

Vice Media wants to change that with the creation of the Young Creators Summit, driven by the hope that using influencers to explore Singapore will be a good way for them to put their learnings from the summit to the test.

In addition, Vice is keen for influencers visiting from eight other countries to see Singapore beyond the usual sites, while it hoped for the Singaporeans, it was a challenge for them to see their country from new lenses.

Ultimately, Vice wanted to invest in these influencers as there is currently a debate on the value of influencers in an industry dogged by headlines about fake followers, opacity and, more recently, accusations of “staged” motorcycle accidents featuring branded promotions.

“We wanted to arm young, creative, and influential individuals with content creation skills that would allow them to produce and share authentic and compelling stories – which would show our commitment to telling and amplifying theirs,” Natashya Gutierrez, editor-in-chief for Asia at Vice tells The Drum.

“In order to train and best interact with the creators, we had the idea of bringing them to our office here in Singapore. Here at Vice, we are all about amplifying tales from the fringes to change the misconception of Singapore.

The Canadian digital media company pitched the idea of the summit to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) as part of the statutory board’s Marketing Innovation Program grant, which awards up to SG$300,000 to Singapore-based businesses to cover their campaigns costs like creative production of assets and collaterals, marketing-related costs for publicity events and activation, talent engagement and media buys.

Vice’s Young Creators Summit was one of the seven proposals, which came from tourism and non-tourism businesses, chosen by STB for its ideas as well as for introducing a new dimension to storytelling about Singapore because it is in line with STB’s marketing strategy around stories, fans and channels.

Guiterrez is grateful for the grant, as it gives Vice a test bed to see if it can bring the summit globally. “The grant allowed us to stage the summit, to bring young people from across APAC to Singapore, and to have them create organic content that would encourage their peers to see Singapore in a new light,” she says.

The summit began on August 29 at Vice’s office in downtown Singapore, where a host of influencers from around Asia Pacific like Filipino host and personality LA Aguinaldo, photographer Nkchu from China and illustrator Priyanka Paul from India gathered to learn from Vice’s executives over three days.

There were various sessions for the creators including a crash course on video production, interviewing skills, and finding good stories.

“One of the creators told me, "We love the group Vice brought together so much. Back home, we don't quite feel like we belong. But in this group, we feel like we found a community, brought together as misfits." For the participants I think that was an important lesson for them to learn, that despite coming from various places and having different interests or mediums, they had more in common than they thought,” explains Guiterrez.

“This is the exact community we want to build at Vice - a community of young, talented people who will change the world.”

For Aguinaldo, who has over 184,000 followers on Instagram, he tells The Drum a key takeaway from the summit was being able to identify what makes a story compelling and be able to extract a form of it’s truest essence.

“The greatest highlight for me was spending my days with 29 other insanely creative individuals from all over Asia who may seem so different from who I was, but at the end, all seemed more similar than we thought; we found unity within our contrasts,” he says.

The Filipino adds that the experience also gave him a boost in creative thinking and ideation, which will put him in good stead when working with brands in the future, as the summit taught him how to approach and execute a project.

Fellow influencer Paul is currently working with Vice India when it comes to gauging public/political opinions. She has written a few pieces for them on mental health and queer identity, as well as freelance with them as an illustrator.

She says the summit helped her with understanding how her work and her content can always be made to be better with the smallest of things. It also helped her by emphasising how unique what she bring to the table is.

“I learned how my content should fiercely be my content and how it’s something no one else is making and I should own it, that authenticity is dire in a world of the Internet where attention spans last for 2 seconds and trends move as quickly as they do,” she explains.

“I think some of my key learning lessons is that there’s no linear route or clear recipe to creativity. I got to meet some really really talented and interesting people and none of us were alike in what we do and how we do it apart from our ability to being open to new things and I think learning and understanding this diversity is the key to brilliance.”

The summit is one way for Vice to prove to advertisers that its platform can help them engage with the increasingly difficult to reach “Gen Z” demographic and more brands will follow.

Dominque Delport, Vice Media’s president of international and chief revenue officer, previously spoke to The Drum about he is reviving Vice after a tough year.

In APAC, Gutierrez says the region continues to be important for Vice. It is complementing the global climate strikes with APAC-specific environmental stories and reportage.

"We're also launching the Vice Korea website in coming weeks. As for next year, expect the return of the Young Creators Summit," she adds.

The Drum will look at various topics like publisher collaboration and innovation at the upcoming Programmatic Punch APAC.

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