2020 saw the travel industry hit hard. But it also saw many involved in the space pivot into new and exciting areas. Here, Influencer chief executive officer Ben Jeffries sits down with creator Alex Stead to discuss his move from travel creator to automotive creator, why his experience in travel meant he was well placed to make this change, and the amazing response he’s seen from brands.
You began your career as a creator in travel but have now moved to focus on automotive. Why did you choose automotive, over any other type of vertical?
Automotive has always been an interest of mine. When starting out doing photography at school, I used to go into London and capture the incredible cars that people owned. Later down the line my travel work was really getting picked up by brands and my automotive passion was moved to one side. When the pandemic stopped travel I knew it was going to be a long time before that type of work picked up again. I chose automotive as it gave me the opportunity to still travel around the UK and see new places, but also presented me with a new challenge. Every car is different and needs to be captured to engage an audience; I love the opportunity and challenge of that.
What challenges have you faced in this new vertical?
The biggest challenge was building a strong enough portfolio to approach automotive brands. I had done a couple of small automotive shoots over the years through my travel career, but needed a greater portfolio to approach larger companies. I did this by photographing smaller brands first and people who I knew had interesting cars. It’s also a competitive space to be in, as there are some fantastic creators already in this vertical, so finding new and interesting locations in which to capture a car was key.
How did your audience react to the change in your content?
The reaction from my audience was fantastic. I didn’t realise I had an audience with such an interest in cars! A series I did with Lamborghini in the New Forest did extremely well and saw more engagement than some of my travel work previously had. The launch of Instagram Reels has been an amazing way to create short clips of the trips I do with brands; an Aston Martin Reel I did recently got over a million views!
What have you learnt from working with automotive brands?
I have learned a lot more about the automotive world through working with car brands. Each brand has its different challenges and requirements, which I’ve loved as it makes my job more interesting. From learning how to light the car with flash and external lighting to researching the locations that suit each car's persona best.
How has your travel background enhanced your offering to automotive brands?
I think my long history in the travel industry, photographing for destinations and tourism boards, has given me a great way of capturing cars a little differently to other photographers whose backgrounds are more heavily focused on automotive. My background in travel means I have a special focus on the destination, journey and nature lightning, as well as the car. Bringing the two together - cars and travel - has seen me creating an incredibly dynamic series for automotive clients.
What do automotive brands typically look for in creators?
The things each automotive brand looks for in the creators they work with can change from one brand to the next. Some brands, which are the harder ones to gain projects with, have a very set style that needs to be maintained throughout the projects they do. I think car brands look for creativity, but also creators who clearly focus on the details; cars are all about the small details so those creators who really nail them are the ones brands will look to work with.
Do you expect to go back to your ‘content roots’, when travel resumes?
I’m definitely very keen to begin travelling again and to work on projects similar to the ones I did before. That being said, one of the reasons I’m very keen for travel to start again is so I can pitch larger automotive projects abroad in different countries. It’s been amazing capturing all the cars in the UK, but there are so many amazing locations that I’d like to work with manufacturers in.
Consumer buying habits have changed - have you noticed automotive brands catering to that shift?
The main shift I have noticed in the automotive world is more and more electric cars, and it’s really exciting to see traditional manufacturers, rather than just brands like Tesla, take on the challenge. The next 10 years is really going to change the space with new models launching all the time. While I’m excited to see what brands put together, I’ll also be sad to see these beautiful petrol engined cars become the past. Either way, I look forward to capturing what the brands produce!
Is automotive content popular?
When it’s done well, automotive content can be extremely popular. Not all cars may seem as exciting as a Lamborghini, but it’s my job to create a situation or story that shows the beauty of a car and develops a viewer's interest more. I think short videos are the way forward; images are fantastic but with a video it’s much more engaging and allows you to tell a story that relates to an audience and keeps them interested.