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The Digital

Social Contract

Jeremy Katz,
Robert John Davis,
Alta Sparling &
Bing Chen

The Red Papers:
TM

Ogilvy & Mather

The Digital
Social Contract

Jeremy Katz,
Robert John Davis,
Alta Sparling &
Bing Chen

The Red Papers:
TM

Ogilvy & Mather

The Red Papers:

Contents November 2015, No. 9

6 Introduction 84 Conclusion

14 The way we were 88 Key takeaways
20 Growing pains
22 Fracturing culture
92 References

26 The way we are
34 Making friends
96 About the authors

42 Today’s Digital 102 Acknowledgments
Social Contract
48 Pure passion trumps production
52 Community is king
54 Engagement-driven, not hit-driven
56 Think small to be big
59 Make universes, not content
60 Revenue grows when it disappears

62 The way we can be
66 Honor community as king
70 Find pure passion in (niche) creators
73 Increase revenue by letting it fade
76 Foster engagement through
(creator and brand) universes

The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract

“The social order is a sacred right which is
the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless,
this right does not come from nature, and
must therefore be founded on conventions.”
— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

4 5

the bare-bones supers. even if you have little interest in makeup and even less in making yourself look like Lady Gaga. You can tell that her fans know she already is. the talent — burn through the inattentive lighting. You can tell that Michelle Phan is going to be a star. You can tell. 7 . They — the voice. even if you’re not in the target demo. the face. and that’s the share heard ’round the world. BuzzFeed picked up Michelle’s 2009 “Poker Face” makeup tutorial. So are the screen presence and the inborn mastery. and the too-sharp background music. The Digital Social Contract Introduction The voice-over is there from the beginning.

Twelve years later. They are millennials and generation Z (or centennials) — at least most of them are. And they are your customers. And they? Who are they? They are Michelle’s millions of fans (or. They saw someone relatable. we had better listen. social relationships. They (and there were more of them every day) didn’t care about production values. as Michelle calls them. when she launched her first makeup tutorial at age 16. and a philanthropic initiative. The kids in that crowd knew that back in 2003. They traverse information. They are the Mobile Generation. 8 9 . They are also the authors of a new social contract — forged in partnership with the content creators they love — that has more in common with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s original definition and the conventions he laid out in his influential The Social Contract than anything else. Her reach extends beyond her online videos to a Multi-Channel Network. If we want to earn their sustained attention and their commercial affection. someone who could show them things that interested them. and professional occupations faster and more regularly than any generation before them. her “family”) and the millions more who follow the other apex online video creators. Michelle Phan has become one of the most influential women in the world. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Introduction But the world that mattered to Michelle didn’t need BuzzFeed to tell them she was something special. someone who cared about the same things they did. They saw themselves. They have forged new digital pathways that have changed the way individuals interact with each other. two product lines.

they form. Brands. in other words. tragedy. doing disastrously obtuse things. ever-smaller niches means that niche interest is becoming a form of social currency. right now. things that used to be atoms can now be bits. These communities are fluid.S. circumstance. were deluged with teens calling to say. And yet those in the eyeball business continue to act as if the basic social contract governing human interactions remains the same. to paraphrase Nicholas Negroponte in Being Digital. we have raced to catch up with these changes. One is the hastened cycle of digital advancement. That’s happening revoked. As you’ll read. but the ways we go about ascending it have changed dramatically. media. the growing ability to address This is all well known. that just the platforms and speed have changed. Or go back even further. We can’t expect the social actions of people who grew up with desk-bound In moments like these. When we woke up. but the ill-named millennial generation is was sponsoring evening television shows or when cable companies all over even less unified than its earlier counterparts. but the tenor of human interaction changes with each technological moment of the digital age as we were back in the analog era when Geritol advance. the first generation to grow up digital has splintered. taste. We’re standing in the Wittenberg churchyard watching The reasons are many. Like soap bubbles. With every new medium. but the digital natives would rather burn the barn to the ground than let anyone near the pony. and others of us in the mass-reach world (the eyeball business) have raced to stay ahead of these changes. knowledge. We still wonder of the day to achieve global success. Maslow’s hierarchy hasn’t been type of media and audience structure emerges to exploit it. familial. We keep trying to put the pony back into the barn. but the dust is far from settled. not realizing that we no longer make the rules: the community does. We now have communities centered palm of their hand. but less understood. and any other sharable Academics who study this will never be out of work because the behavioral experience. That enables everyone to create and co-create a multiverse of environments as the circumstances permit. 10 11 . We’re in the same Not only that. by and large. particularly with regard to the commercial structures that surround the digital world. But it’s an open question whether we’ll ever really be able to catch up. pop. computers to be the same as those who have always had the Internet in the and social — to operate in a new world. Martin Luther nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the door. The habits and choices of a digital native are as varied as the digital world itself. rather. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Introduction This story has a timeless quality to it. But there are other factors as well. This is a confounding development. the U. Talented star-in-the-making finds a new What is also known. is that this set of phenomena has audience and carefully cultivates a following using the latest communications changed the rules of social behavior in the online and offline worlds. We were caught napping by digital. The fundamental liberating quality of digital is that. a new have the same needs and wants. on desire. Or. we thrashed about. Digital natives speak profoundly different digital dialects. No generation is monolithic. and merge depending on a multitude of factors both visible and invisible. The soap bubbles. society shifts and resets rules — individual. “I want my MTV!” Even as digital communication unifies people around the world without regard to time and space. The real digital natives don’t need the old ways anymore. economy research they do today will be behavioral archaeology tomorrow.

we call that engagement. we call that reach. and we need to follow it. When called superfans. advertisers. No one saved a seat at the table for the eyeball-business folks. Those of us in the eyeball business need to pause and analyze the text of the contract that has been proposed and agreed upon by those who matter. and they’re chatting like mad with each other about what’s uncertainty principle. It’s like a circular lecture hall in which the structures of the superfans without knowing the creator. engagement. This is the new Pareto principle. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Introduction Brands. This is an ecosystem that follows Heisenberg’s their attention. accepted group dynamics and norms are passed on implicitly. When they throw drinks in our faces. They are but a scant 20 percent of the total enthusiasts. We need to find out what it says. and all we end up doing is furnishing their lecture halls — not connecting with their students. there are others seamlessly gliding around the room. conversation — and At the same time. and media — what Washington Post digital reporter To understand this new social contract. They are interdependent. They’re conducting an ongoing conversation with the object of alongside the creators. only modified like this: You can’t know the social taking place in front of them. people glance at the distraction. We advertising and marketing generalists think we can build our own groups based on our commercial desires. a non-hierarchical seminar that runs smoothly because unspoken but generally And you can’t know either unless you know from where they hail. so we try to co-opt the lecturers. but they drive 80 percent of the commerce. Ah. convention than digital creators and their fans — especially a powerful subset It’s as if there is a party going on and we’re in the corner shouting. We also need to acknowledge that we may be too late. We are now left to barge in on a seminar that is already going swimmingly. but they rarely catch on. They are both the keepers and publishers of the social contract. in the center. and we need to articulate groups of people together who are passionate about hearing from the person its codicils. gathering everything else. the superfans. 12 13 . we must look to those who drafted (and digital newsletter writer) Caitlin Dewey calls “the olds” — are so clueless it. nor can you know professor encourages the students to call out and talk among themselves — the creators without understanding the superfans. and no community has been more influential in this digital constitutional about the social rules in this world that we run the risk of being outcasts.

adapted content from a known medium to fill the newer medium. where astonished attendees watched a broadcast of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s opening speech. technological innovation. and transform them back onto a screen. communities. code them onto radio waves. and often incremental. and brands — is profoundly similar to the rise of its predecessor: the television. The electronic television debuted at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. 15 . The Digital Social Contract The way we were Behind every major creative advancement is successive. The rise of digital media — in content. Philo Taylor Farnsworth figured out how to capture moving images. and a milieu — a dedicated human populace with favorable macroeconomic structures — to house it.

which could pack in patrons wanting to watch of “Texaco Star Theater. a baseball game before returning home to listen to the latest presidential brands have been there. That. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Television content began largely as “filmed radio” for one obvious reason: But there was another dynamic at work while television matured: government The major radio networks of the time (RCA and CBS) brought TV into the regulation. so the networks decided to transfer this format to television. blazing a trail wide enough for content and advertising. enabled by a government that relinquished any duty to make TV broadcasting more accessible to the broader community. plus the astronomical cost to simply retrofit their programming for television. to this day battle for eyeballs and advertising dollars. By licensing TV mainstream. it was condemned to history as we were in return for a share of the advertising revenue. Instead. there were naysayers dismissing the new devices and sponsor support. the networks acquired local affiliates to air their content never grow into a tool of the people. Perhaps the first star created by television was Milton Berle. theater-like anthology series. that Texaco. To grow their reach as of equipment and the one-way nature of the medium. “Good” programming was whatever made money while media network. Radio executives told the networks what types of content people were interested in. ensured that TV would The way they had with radio. it looked like television might just be a fad. radio set the creative parameters for television. Thus. TV programmers reallocated resources for the war effort). The broadcasters were also content gatekeepers. while CBS held on to its position as a dominant became gatekeepers. many people got Hope a radio star. It is no coincidence early TV news reports consisted of as a novelty — and early on. a man sitting at a desk reading the latest updates.S. based on ratings As with any disruptive medium. and specifically U. address on the radio and check box scores in the newspaper.” Yes. The best way for those radio conglomerates to build what they airwaves (just as it had done with radio before). government regulation. their fix by leaving home: They could watch a few minutes of a program in bringing stars like Hope over to the new medium and leveraging it to create the display window of a store while walking through town. so early viewership was low. In fact. the early network owners and their advertisers and what later became ABC. Televisions were new ones. Early on. the three major TV networks were born — networks that adhering to license regulations. For as long as television has existed. 16 17 . Thus. Since radio audiences were TVs were expensive and investment was sluggish (partly because RCA listening to Western adventures and dramatic readings. the government restricted hoped would be the next mass medium (and to exert hegemony over it) was access while the industry was still prenatal. host a great investment for taverns. Variety comedy shows made Bob yet to become a staple of daily American home life. TV had debuted live. RCA eventually split into NBC a voice aimed at people.

Networks needed shows that “worked. and major events. right in their living rooms. That’s seven years after Roosevelt became the first U. Television created a common social language by broadcasting stories of stability and unified culture.” It worked. without leaving the comfort of home. Television — like radio before it and the Internet after it. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract In 1946. jonesing to be filled with content. and America’s heterogeneous communities were being forged into one culture — in part by TV. they realize that the old ways will no longer suffice. to appear on TV and Max Baer lost to Lou Nova at Yankee Stadium in the first The young medium needed to seduce consumers into buying a television set televised boxing match. they still needed to get more United States. completely were 12 million television sets in use. From the we were the TV became its great. The networks required investment to transcend the idea that TV was simply filmed radio or the novelty would wear off. This is something today’s online video creators have experienced as well. changing home life. and the networks hustled to fill their airtime.” and they turned hadn’t yet usurped radio as the medium people turned to for live news. often something national. TV led people to be a part of something. ushering in one of the most homogeneous cultural periods in modern American history. Viewers stayed in the know. there were only about 6. new toy — that era’s iPhone. television caught on as a cultural phenomenon. By 1951. As the nation demobilized from World War II. an enormous growth in a five-year span. Television’s newly extended reach meant that a bigger focus needed to be put on production value. Like radio before. it’s time to move to premium values and increase content frequency. to programming that appealed to many but didn’t turn anyone off — what many The way entertainment.000 television sets in use across the entire While the networks had a great amount of power. there early to mid 1950s. would come to call “least-objectionable programming. 18 19 . president people talking to their friends and colleagues about what they were watching.S. television and joining the party. Once creators reach a large enough audience. and like social media now — was a hungry beast. The great wave of European immigration had ended. shiny. entertained and connected. Despite the availability of programming.

the men who hosted popular variety and game shows were influencers of their day and sponsors leaned on them to pitch their products directly to the audience. But nobody Naturally. providing familiar shows that brands demographics. Intrusive branding was accepted. was mentioned twice: once by the show’s announcer in a “presented by” way. Narz also had a Colgate sign atop his podium and two brand images A classic example was NBC’s “You Bet Your Life.” a game show hosted by Groucho Marx. Jackie Gleason’s character on “The Honeymooners”). between advertisers and television. the show. knew how effective television commercials would be. There was no tried- it meant getting your name in the title. The relationship between brands and networks would be more discreet. but they to them. as it often had in the past. and they would find those cohorts by researching the television and advertisers could latch onto. with the values set forth on a TV program (for instance. And in the early days. but slow. and each episode ended with Marx pitching a DeSoto vehicle — focusing on its features and low price and DeSoto’s place among the competition. which led to the idea of networks selling advertisements in blocks of time. That’s where the consumers were. advertisers wanted to reach specific Radio once again showed the way in. The transition of radio media dollars to TV was inevitable.1 The combination worked as game shows produced with money from primary sponsors soared in popularity throughout the decade. In turn. the mediums to follow. Brands were naive and sometimes confused about what type of advertising would work on TV. The networks needed advertising money to produce shows. The rise of commercials changed the way brands show meant more than just having the opportunity to pitch your product — communicated their message to their target consumers.” and-true method to lean on. If a person didn’t agree found both “The $64. The networks needed to self-regulate. but the idea remained relatively the same. The way what options did she have? we were Networks and advertisers had to figure out how best to repair their reputations Television viewers weren’t completely powerless. or if they’d work at all. after all. brands needed to be there. on the walls behind him. but perhaps not. and they Of course. Chrysler sponsored some of the seasons. advertisers ate that up. but once television became an indelible part of the cultural consciousness. but eventually advertisers and networks settled on today’s analytics system of ratings and reach — the holy grail of TV advertising The medium was an advertiser’s dream. television is largely a one-way exchange. the male dominance going back many years. opt out by and move forward. This presented a crucial moment for the relationship of Ralph Kramden. Colgate. “Dotto” debuted to wild acclaim. the main sponsor. networks felt pressure to prove that television would work as a long-term platform for advertisers. but there were some growing pains. challenging other game shows for top ratings in a short time. In the 1950s. TV viewers were a huge and needed to find a way to get it without making it seem like the brand was running relatively captive audience. à la “   Texaco Star Theater. Within 50 seconds of the show’s open. Absent other similarly magnetic options. attaching yourself to a shows they were watching. In 1958. This revelation caused investigators to scrutinize other game shows.000 Question” and “Twenty-One” to also be fraudulent. 20 21 . The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Growing pains But “Dotto” didn’t last long because authorities discovered the show was rigged. as we will see. Both entities needed each other. But the numbers showed that large swaths of the population more distance from one another — and that separation had to be evident to the settled into the couch content to watch and accept the messages being filtered consumer. they could. and then by host Jack Narz. Brands have always had a presence on television. who welcomed the audience on Colgate’s 1 behalf. but it was clear they needed turning off the set.

What we now call “appointment viewing” was the only option for TV viewers. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Fracturing culture Television — programming and advertising alike — became a cultural force similar to. With no way to The way record or time-shift. of a broadcast communications technology. 22 23 . Americans around the country simultaneously watched we were programs (and breaking news) that would elicit reactions. By the 1950s. This communal viewing. despite the isolation of the American living room. by the late 1960s. far-reaching networks into this new medium. and emotions from a wide spectrum of people at the same time. yet exponentially greater than. The game show hosts who ushered America through the calm of the 1950s were replaced by a new set of influencers sitting at news desks. RCA invested heavily in the television. drove pop culture and the national social discussion on a broad scale. the networks’ depiction of society began to shift and diversify in a way that better reflected (and perhaps led to) an increasingly fractured American society. The first major one was access to content. But access to electronic mass communication — the ability to create the content that influenced America — was still wholly owned by an elite few who wanted nothing to do with letting the proletariat in the door. or mass distribution. feelings. As the turmoil of the 1960s swirled. broadcasting facts and opinions on an increasingly turbulent world. correctly recognizing how much it stood to benefit from the proliferation and success of the new medium. It helped shape the ideal of what American values should be and. TV had followed radio to become the second instance of the democratization. enabled by the technological innovation of radio companies looking to parlay their transformative success with their built-in. Many factors went into this phenomenon. radio before it. when television sets had made their way into more than half of American homes. The continued dominance of the big three networks gave them a powerful social role. what they had become.

Connecticut. attitudes about the war started dedicated to their specialized interests. Boomers wanted more TV programming aimed at their special interests — not just geared to the masses. HBO debuted as a subscription- cable channel on Service Electric systems in Wilkes-Barre. Programmers continued to offer least- There is no better example of this than the Vietnam War. cable TV industry got its first killer app. college soccer. When in-depth reporting brought shocking images from But viewers wanted more. and they didn’t think of the time spent watching TV as time wasted. first airing local sporting events but soon expanding to niche sports like professional wrestling. people wanted more programming we were Southeast Asia into the living rooms of America. 24 25 . Their home lives centered on television. in 1979. And that’s what they helped bring about. education. helped accelerate the fracturing of television communities. Boomers not only adapted their daily lives to communications technology. and at that same moment. they also helped shape the societal norms brought on by the electronic media. technological dab in the middle of the first region to embrace cable TV. 96 percent of American a more personal impact than any radio newscast could by bringing images households had a television. In 1972. smack The majority of Americans were now using this major. The infrastructure advancement in their everyday lives for purposes of information. objectionable content in an effort to please the largest number of people. which The relationship between the community and the content creators — networks could be delivered relatively unencumbered by the government regulation of and producers — remained as one-way as ever. and slow-pitch softball. eventually. the embryonic becoming more diverse. Baby boomers — the TV generation — lived through the explosion of television and the eventual fracturing of viewing communities as cable changed the landscape. The networks found that as a community continues into the home of the average citizen unlike anything they had ever seen before. The television landscape started to fracture. Two years later. especially with the maturation of network news. The visual power of television started to shape public opinion. social cohesion did too. leaning on it far more than their generational predecessors. it becomes more diverse. time thanks to television. Due to the problems traditional escape … mostly escape. pop culture. not by accident. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract The national grief over the assassination of President Kennedy spread in real But then things started to change. When satellite access broadened. broadcast technologies had in reaching homes deep in coal country valleys. By 1970. MTV — a network built on free content created by others — used cable TV to redefine how consumers interact with pop music and. and and installed customer base already existed. the image of a teary-eyed Walter Cronkite made and. deeper root. The way ever televised war. people there were already paying for cable just to get a clear “free TV” signal. so maybe they’d pay more for a lagniappe of premium programming. More specifically. They accepted it as a staple of everyday life. The growth of television continued unabated throughout the 1950s and 1960s. innovative. often called the first. Pennsylvania. along with their increased emphasis on individuality and cultivating a rebellious spirit. This. to grow. Baby boomers valued the new technology. ESPN evolved to appeal to national tastes. but the influence of TV took the public broadcast spectrum. ESPN started in a tiny office building in Bristol.

The tension will not go away. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. The Digital Social Contract The way we are “Information wants to be free. 1987 27 . and recombine — too cheap to meter. The Media Lab. Information also wants to be expensive.” — Stewart Brand. copy. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute.

a burgeoning new technology and medium. digital comprised of meanings that persons attach to the multiple roles they typically and social media. In addition. the engagement between the community and the content creator is no longer one-way. in how they grew up with and embraced changing media technology. But you would be hard-pressed to find a member a symbolic interactionist perspective. and in line with their personal interests.S. they value self-fulfillment. we are consumed by the question. discovery. The Mobile Generation is gravitating toward communities that are smaller. It’s no wonder brands care. but they are very similar expressiveness. U. and and baby boomers are at odds about many things. 28 29 . which treats humans as actors who play of that generation who is not now connected to the digital world. The Internet.” This theory is based on formative and early adult years. “the self is a multifaceted entity while moving and shaping the societal norms around it. with more roles defined by the shared meanings of their interactions with others. well. it is. population. and smartphones did not dominate many older millennials’ play in highly differentiated. today’s digital consumer is leaning forward. The Mobile Generation More than previous generations. Almost everyone aged 12 to 30 in first-world Individual passions and social interactions inform the self. One-to-one connection between individuals within the community isn’t just possible now — it’s sewn into the fabric of our disintermediated culture. contemporary contexts. all Who am I? According to identity theory. more specialized. Said another way: The way countries was born and raised on the Internet. literally participating hands on. We do not derive our identities solely from our social associations and interactions we are connected than any previous generation. with an estimated purchasing power of $150 billion. Gone is the age of the media consumer separated from media voices by carefully constructed business models that boxed the viewer into passive engagement. making them more media. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract If this all sounds similar to another generation and their adaptation to To fully understand the Mobile Generation. In the first 30 years of life. They make up 50 percent of the but also from our own passions. In short: than 92 percent of them online. we must begin with their foundations.

are) 3. news. cultures. Tara continues soul-searching. after all. She discovers Michelle Phan. at least somewhat — projected and satisfied through today’s creators. a fan. mobile. opinions. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Humans interact in two ways: through similar interests and through close The cycle looks something like this: proximities to others. digitally propelled world with unlimited access to personalities. The Mobile Generation is finding its sense of self in a hyper-connected. Sharing content (via Instagram. and thousands of other personalities in the digital content space. or even email) is both a projection of self and communication with others. It’s easier to express oneself through passions or interests rather than finding another human being who is 100 percent identical (none of us. Snapchat. She curates and shares the content that’s most reflective of her persona using the very same physical and digital channels that she originally engaged with (social groups. DeStorm Power. The Young Turks. Tara looks to friends and peers — both physical and digital — who exude similar interests or values to define who she is 4. The way we are 1. and ideas — in other words. communities. A sense of self and belonging can be — and in many cases is. access to Michelle Phan. is undergoing self-discovery 2. She becomes emotionally stimulated by her connection with Michelle and others 6. Tara. and Phan strengthens influence and relevance … (rinse and repeat) 30 31 . social platforms) 5.

matters most took place on September 2. We now count the number Interactivity was built into the web from the start. had begun as a series of highly motivated. While Licklider wouldn’t be surprised by the underpinnings of the modern Internet. from the debut of Claude Shannon’s broadcast. Radio. the Internet was just two nodes. the intensity of At the turn of the millennium. Gone were the engineers who maintained expensive. it soon linked up into a network of networks — an internet — else. Licklider had good models to follow in imagining the to pass. Everything that is now made of atoms (physical objects) will soon be Internet. Naturally. There are Gone were the gatekeepers who decided what content was produced. talking via a common language we still use today. and so on — all were moving inexorably toward exclusively digital one another. countless origin stories for the digital revolution — from Babbage’s Analytical Gone were the accountants who demanded revenue in exchange for Engine to the birth of the IBM PC. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract How did this social content system develop? It is hard to say for sure. Licklider of MIT in his Intergalactic Network series of memos from confined only by the limitations of bandwidth. connection. TV — the Internet incarnations. and the volume of video flowing through the net would have with emergent network effects brought Negroponte’s aforementioned vision left him speechless. tomorrow. videos. J. proprietary information theory to the invention of the transistor — but the moment that satellite distribution systems. and publisher fundamentally small differences of yesterday can have suddenly shocking consequences changed the rules of electronic media. but the roots of a new era in human interaction were born. films. made of bits (information). But unlike radio — and its much larger child. “The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable. in a nondescript room at the University of California at Los Angeles when. the early 1960s. At its have access to such a powerful means of communication. 1969. and then to thousands. But more importantly. but in a little more than a year it grew the communications playing field. The ability Negroponte wrote. chances are the breadth of content.” Our definition of information was about to expand dramatically. C. While it began as have enjoyed early success by providing access consumers could get nowhere we are just one network. 32 33 . R. The technology democratized information. for example. people could freely publish and share content — any time. it was doomed. and while we all pay something for our and sending information. but once broadband metastasized around the world.” did not promote centralized programming as it grew and organized. The Internet leveled birth. books. producing exactly the kind of “shocking consequences” Negroponte wrote of — a global renegotiation of our social contract. anywhere. individual nodes reaching out across a gulf of time and space to connect with commerce. The whole point was receiving of Internet nodes in the billions. spreadsheets. Never before in the history of mankind did the public moments. connective density and innovation combined engagement. on that late-summer evening. Walled-garden players such as AOL may The way to 14 sites — and then later to 100. The gates were unlocked and left open for anyone who wanted to become the first Internet connection was switched on. we think it worth the money because of what we get on the other end: an open and unregulated Internet. News. it crashed within a mass communicator. The node-to-node nature The Internet of today is strikingly similar to the vision first laid out for it by of the Internet meant that information could now move to and from any place. documents. creator. “Why now? Because the change is also exponential — of the user — any user — to become a viewer.

the first major social network. The way While predetermined structure defined the social networks. But while Facebook makes it easy to communicate. which was the last thing its youthful audience wanted. It was a public free-for-all. Sure. Friendster never learned to provide for the diversity of users it had . there was a kernel of and limited. The Social Lives of Networked Teens Danah Boyd wrote in a prescient 2006 blog post. Friendster..it wanted them all to be the same. The freedom and preceded social networks. classrooms. even before its culturally suspect acquisition by News Corp. Facebook started exclusive but kept growing to include more brilliance in the idea of a user network.” Friendster digitized the exchange — both synchronous and asynchronous — that defines friendship. and that soon lost its appeal. While anyone could. While Friendster tried to streamline and homogenize the user experience. 34 35 . of the web. more personalization. Myspace offered customization in abundance — and that was part of its undoing. IRC chat rooms and Usenet groups the community dictate the rules of engagement: YouTube. Requiring users to use their “authentic of learning code and understanding web development presented a major barrier. Where Friendster was locked down While the walled-garden model of AOL did not find favor. and while both networks burned bright only usage metrics. with multimedia interaction. build their own web page. When marketers talk about YouTube. “Friendster has itself to blame . devoured to burn out. Myspace represented the opposite extreme to Friendster. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Making friends Facebook put the final nail in the coffin of the first generation of social networks by balancing structure with customization. the hassle it falls short on encouraging creativity. but they lacked the sex appeal of graphical interfaces flexibility of YouTube gave voice to an entirely new kind of Internet participant. allowing users to concentrate on authentic identity. Suffice it to say that more video As Microsoft researcher and author of the influential book It’s Complicated: gets uploaded in a day than is possible for an individual to watch in a lifetime.. the back end. by over one billion viewers across six continents. it never treated them with respect. people.. another start-up we are What had originally been a purely physical activity — human intimacy — network took a different route by providing communications tools but letting was now developing a digital side. The network grew too unwieldy.it never loved its users. or learned to understand why they were there. while the social networks felt like casual hangouts on the quad. it never give them what they needed to make themselves at home. Users were still working out the new rules that governed the transition of friendship from physical exchange to the sharing of information. Chat rooms had all the trappings of seminars in whom we now know as the creator.. they did so for different reasons that remain instructive today. and more functionality while preserving the launched in 2002 and quickly took off in part by unlocking some of the mystery framework of community. but it neglected to do the same for personal identity development. what was most important to them: communication of self-expression. the focus is usually upon the massive Myspace followed Friendster. Four hundred hours of content uploaded every minute. identity” naturally limits full expression — as though anyone has only one Friendster took on the hard part. in theory.

This provided YouTube the backing to grow at the same pace the world’s most magnetic medium — moving pictures. or make any other sort of art. As she puts it. It was instantaneous. point-and-shoot cameras. make a video. YouTube came around at the same time as yet another major development — democratized creation and distribution. distribution was always the rub. the Internet became the bastion of anyone with a message. Now. but video was bandwidth intensive. coinciding as it did with widespread broadband access. YouTube unified all the pieces that made previous social connections — and Google bought it about a year and a half into the video networks attractive and added something new: access to view and publish service’s life. With the tools to create falling into the hands we are same time she heard about YouTube. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract The massiveness of YouTube can blind the marketer to the true innovation YouTube grew fast — in no small part because of the spread of broadband of the platform.” It was just a banner ad she individual with a few hundred dollars’ worth of equipment could do what only stumbled on. snap pictures. one of the first people to fully exploit the power of the platform. She noticed that Xanga was going into decline at just about the to phones that cost only hundreds. The launch of YouTube. but she knew a good thing when she saw it: “YouTube was exactly highly capitalized big businesses had been able to do before: make and share what I was looking for. The gatekeepers were entirely cut out. and determination. Anybody can write a memoir. The web had already disintermediated photo and text sharing.” moving picture stories limited only by her own ideas. skills. I connected with the platform. and before YouTube there was no universal. It was the same for her fans and for uncounted other creator-fan ecosystems.and higher-resolution video at didn’t begin her career on YouTube. and prosumer cameras competed to offer higher. radio because of the moving image. Michelle Phan. She started on a now-moribund network an ever-decreasing cost — from production equipment worth thousands of dollars The way called Xanga. accessible sharing service for video. shared creativity. Television displaced as its audience. Smartphones. YouTube found a niche beyond TV by adding community. unleashed a torrent of creativity. However. she “discovered YouTube of the masses. and an invitation to join the game. an after finishing high school while reading blogs. 36 37 .

Music: Pentatonix. Those creators YouTube. too) wondered why anyone would watch it. The creator The way business model began to solidify. YouTube built a Partner Program. many creators a natural fit: First. Hearst own AwesomenessTV. the open yearned to create and share — in an average week. the YouTube community began to organize. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract As the audiences grew. giving 30. Periscope. Many YouTube-born stars today make more money off of merchandise and appearances than they do from advertising. while more than half uploaded a photo. and the desire for the story trumped any requirement for high production values. Creators were learning the same lesson that TV had learned a generation before: As the audience grows. Second. already accustomed to the move toward narrower interests. early online video looked awful. Snapchat. Much of the creators’ revenue comes from advertising. Despite the power of MCNs. YouTube creators (a. Depending What seemed like an undifferentiated stew to the uninitiated was quickly on the genre. over one-fourth of them nature of the Internet allows content to be created and published without reliance uploaded a video. Vimeo.000 individual creators (in the early days) as well as the MCNs special features that boosted creator revenue. However. Kandee Johnson. Captain Sparklez.” finding their own way or relying on ad hoc alliances. just as it did they were used to searching digitally for what they wanted. 38 39 . Disney owns Maker Studios. Predictably. Savvy brands partnered with creators in we are branded content deals. most are looking to TV for content and business models easily ported over to the Internet. between 20 and 90 percent is derived from non-ad sources. The list goes on. and Rhett and Link. but so far. but also Vevo. OK Go.k. or otherwise attractive video creators. MCNs grew into huge organizations that created even stronger cross-promotional ties across the networks and supplied production and financing support to promising creators. genres. of course. these MCNs completed the transformation to the studio To those used to TV production quality. This makes for an interesting conundrum. however. The Beauty and “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) crowd: Michelle Phan. you need to deliver great content regularly — something few creators can do on their own. DreamWorks and The pros (and the brands. had three qualities that made YouTube Peter Chernin own Fullscreen. and Bethany Mota. Multi- Channel Networks (MCNs) aggregated individual YouTube creators eager to band together in order to accelerate audience growth through cross-promotion while filling certain YouTube platform gaps like monetization and custom- branded thumbnails. Let’s Play (gaming): PewDiePie. and Boyce Avenue. further increasing creator revenue. to make the leap can be best described as tepid. Facebook. and together they pushed the so on — should be candy to advertisers. Comedy: Ryan Higa. digital celebrities) began to emerge within discrete That is an ill-conceived notion. Vine. they had grown up in an atomizing video world. They were still “go it alone.a. system model by being acquired by major media companies. they when radio and then TV coalesced into their mature forms. Online video — no longer just magnetic. Epic Rap Battles of History. By far. and often emerged from fandom themselves. Clusters of fans started forming around the most talented. and AT&T and The Mobile Generation. the willingness of brands platform onward. upon advertising dollars. rendered navigable and intelligible to the Mobile Generation through their sharing ethos. And finally. authentic. and YOGSCAST. Vlogs: Shay Carl and Grace Helbig.

the platforms. and it’s not the audience. about everyone’s head. They’ve just predicts nearly two-thirds of the population will watch digital video this year. Contrast that to network TV. eMarketer but few brands have bothered to ask them how their world works. People ages 18 to 24 are at nearly 96 percent. branded content. and even generation X (now in late middle age) has penetration rates of 88 percent. skippable TrueView ads. online advertising is about to eclipse TV advertising in the United to talent assessment. TV. Advertisers and agencies are the ones out of alignment. By 2019. TV commercials and $7. but video remains a tantalizingly small part. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video is the most widely shared advertisement in history. Fixing the measurement tools and codifying analytics will take time and Only after that do we get to online video. No wonder brands are estimates that online advertising will top $83 billion in the U. from audience preferences to basic digital courtesy. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract In cooperation with YouTube. will hit $81 billion that same year. It’s that last category by 2019. or The Most Shocking Second. primetime viewer will exceed 50 in 2015. the percentages are much higher. Marketers are still grasping to understand digital video on every level. The reallocation of marketing dollars to video seems inevitable. and 39 of those minutes — more than half — will be spent watching on It’s not. The way more familiar tactics viewers like less — pre-rolls and interstitials (that’s digital- we are speak for commercials). or the creators. from platform decisions As a category. in 2015. progressive advertisers have experimented with It all sounds like a rosy picture until you look at the dollar figures themselves. Epic Split. Search is still the largest component of online ad spend. ages 12 to 17. still growing. but advertisers can start understanding the cultural ecosystem right now. But even though we remember Like a Girl. and Dumb Ways to Die is rambling around in just That’s shockingly low. Digital video in general will occupy an average of 76 minutes of each of our days in 2015. digital video penetration is already 93 percent. In the most sought-after demographics. myriad formulas for putting brand messages in front of passionate viewers: Despite this huge audience. of their own. ages 25 to 34 are at 90 percent. it’s only about 17 percent of that’s made the biggest impact on the culture.38 billion branded video content that is by any other name an advert. the impact on culture is the same.S. Great brand videos take on lives the total spent on online advertising. tablets or smartphones. followed by mobile ads. the advertising business gravitated toward the Something is askew here. 67 percent of Americans (and nearly 81 percent of Internet users) will be regular digital video viewers. by 2019 while so tepid about committing.S. PricewaterhouseCoopers intermediate metrics to nonexistent effectiveness data.S. assumed that since it looks like TV. coordination among many parties. While that sounds like a ton of money. eMarketer expects it to rise to $14. It’s all very clear to creators and their fans. and then display. 40 41 . Among kids in the U. where the average age of the U.7 billion in the U. digital video advertising spending will be pre-roll videos.S. too. from States.

you need to understand the DNA of creator and community engagement. 43 . at a time when digital fandom sounds. It’s imperative. and sustainability. smells. don’t brands seem to fully grasp how it’s done? Brands. The Digital Social Contract Today’s Digital Social Contract How did creators build this influence and community engagement? Why. … If you want to develop successful digital content strategies. and acts as frenzied as Beatlemania. please. campaigns.

management. These days. But just because they welcome the right kind of advertising. To understand the Digital Social Contract in depth. between creator and fan. monetization. a fact that may be hard for some advertisers to understand. Vine. one built around the idea of a supreme. streaming services. As an industry. in music and other industries. The gatekeepers are no longer required. Advertising is no longer required by the creator or the distribution. Creators and communities don’t think that way. moved society along a path largely created brands’ organically integrated messages. now. The creator revolution relies on a kind of cottage industry. and Michelle Phan. To paraphrase The Buggles. Pentatonix. and others. and music download and of video entertainment. government regulators. we relied on multiple sources. Content created for the platform. artist discovery. traditional activities than they do from advertising. The music industry’s struggles with file sharing and online distribution were once seen as It’s a crucial distinction — and yet another power-shift in the direction of the a paradigm of how the Internet challenges ingrained power structures. Like Rousseau’s social contract of 1762. distributors — who tightly controlled content development and access. creative development. we still have a bias toward thinking about a distinction between content and the commercial In the first half of this paper. online video killed the TV star. by gatekeepers — media companies. creator and fan. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Successful online content creators and their communities follow an unspoken In this new world. on the other hand. we also consulted the pioneers of some of the largest platforms — YouTube. in other words. then to cable TV. DeStorm Power. makes the rules. 44 45 . Social Contract When the Internet came along. But they’re not code of conduct — the Digital Social Contract — that defines the relationship necessary. that doesn’t mean Today’s Digital they need it. Control is now in the hands of community. Every 30-second TV spot “repurposed” for YouTube runs afoul the creators and their audience. each one a leader of a category or platform: Blogilates. we discussed how the progression from radio to message. artists derive less than 5 percent of their total revenue from advertising — That celebrity and the community he or she represents controls every aspect and instead it comes from tours. of the contract (while also requiring paid media for almost all of its reach). merchandise. excels in organic and shared views. and ownership. brands may still be welcome participants. Not the elite. online independent there’s an even greater change agent on the horizon: the online video star. Many creators — sovereign people. and they welcome broadcast TV. We conducted longitudinal and industry-wide studies of creators and their communities. as highlighted by pioneering vlogger John Green during his VidCon 2015 Keynote speech — now derive more revenue from merchandise and non- The community. Twitch. The Young Turks. We also interviewed five particularly significant creators. it’s a statement of our perception of natural law. it short-circuited the whole thing.

Clearly.The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract When seen in this context. Think small to be big. and commerce. Authentic passion is critical — even more important than production — to generating a meaningful creative career and business. Navigating and programming for all social technology platforms is cost. Fan communities can’t just be addressed — they need to be collaborated with. 6. This level of engagement empowers creators. and labor intensive. not hit-driven. Understanding this new generation of fandom is a requirement. not content. unwritten rules of the community. As a result. streamlining production and easing platform navigation. at least in an obvious way. creativity. the latter can financially sustain more niche businesses than ever before. the new. they’re going to need to understand. 2. brands resemble awkward intruders at someone else’s party. 5. Thanks to community diversity and the ongoing engagement between fans and creators. Revenue grows when it disappears. has the opposite effect. Engagement-driven. Community is king. 4. as a unified brand. The six laws of the contract are: 1. Make universes. time. The Mobile Generation hates being sold to. 3. and abide by. giving them a higher level of influence than that found in traditional media. platforms and businesses need to engineer revenue streams that amplify — rather than interrupt — the creative experience. Approaching disparate platforms holistically. if they want to be welcome guests. since this group dictates the ascendance — and demise — of new social platforms. Pure passion trumps production. 46 47 .

which translates into more time and dollars spent. Today’s Digital The Young Turks (TYT) is a new-age political and social Internet commentary Social Contract program that garners more than 40 million views on YouTube each month. Other people are scared. Authenticity trumps all. she invites them to join her on her journey of change and maturation. “Perhaps we overshare at times. The fact that these vloggers and YouTube personalities are self-created counts for “I know my content is good because I’m real. and it makes the connection that much deeper. The success of Marbles. I’m not afraid to take chances. its host and co-founder. “I give 110 percent of myself. raking in millions in revenue each year.” Michelle Phan draws in her fan base with openness about her own personal evolution. passion for their craft. her content these days covers everything from career to budgeting to spiritual advice. but the purity behind it. Some of Phan’s followers have even started addressing her as “Mom. brands scoffed at the low-resolution vlogs of Jenna Marbles — that is. PURE PASSION TRUMPS PRODUCTION In YouTube’s early days. crowd mentality. not plastic. up in person. The Mobile and others is in part due to the fact that they are well-defined creators with Generation. one of a lot with this generation. attributes the passion that TYT inspires to the fact that they share “quite a bit about our personal lives. Shay Carl. They’re vulnerable. This human quality translates to deeper connections with fans.” 48 49 . Our fans feel that they really know us.” says DeStorm Power. which is endemically skeptical. they say they’re sorry. whatever it may be. but that’s OK.” and move on. These creators show almost six million fans). When they screw up. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 1. Cenk Uygur. until she achieved a billion views and hers became the most Creators cite pure passion as the principal driver of their success — not just the subscribed female-run channel on YouTube. is hypersensitive to bullshit.” he says. They are personal. While she launched her career via beauty tutorials. with its unfettered access to information and its sometimes ruthless personalities that are accessible to a critical mass. Their audience believes today’s most prolific and best-decorated Viners (with over two billion loops and in them.

relatable human being on the receiving particular about keeping everything fresh and different. When they communicate. with so many choices and options for consumers.” pick up comedy along the way. they want to turn ephemeral feedback a lot of people.” says Uygur. but we are totally nonpartisan. too: Your audience needs to connect Not at all. “We’re very they keep in mind that there’s a tangible.” This acceptance doesn’t mean that good production quality can be left behind. relationships matter just as much. We speak our mind without fear or favor of any power structure. It’s however Social Contract them in the slightest way. Premium content has to be relevant. by providing premium content. Listen to the community. you have to have something to say that people with its message. high-quality about it as they are about posting on social media. [song] cover. Pentatonix isn’t just your everyday a capella group.” says Scott Hoying. so they understand a fan’s need to connect. There’s a into positive reinforcement.” It’s the passion that matters. and production follow. the audience will stay away. 50 51 . Evidence suggests that the Mobile Generation believes Internet-based time on something that’s not good? It’s the definition of “good” that’s changed. crave dollar enterprises that last. even when they disagree with our position. accessibility to their fans is paramount: It’s where digital friendship In today’s world. it hardly counts.” long it needs to be. Telling it in a way that’s understandable and relatable. talented. After all. but if the content is aimless. It’s about telling a story effectively. if not more. one of the founders of Pentatonix. Which is why passion must lead. But. You see what makes sense for your audience and go from there. however. yet always staying a end. they’re fans. Creators that last are brilliant. Accessibility gives them a kind of recognition. DeStorm didn’t what doesn’t. And passion that is strangled by creative oversight can’t survive. and creative. premium is content that moves you. You can produce the most awesomely packaged video in the world. Passion and disciplined messaging are inimical. but if it can’t sustain those numbers. well-thought-out. We’re not trying to be something we’re not. Cenk Uygur says pretty much the same thing: “We are unapologetic about our progressive perspective. the audience can tell the difference. We welcome their feedback. raised on positive reinforcement. cappella. create multi-million- Members of the Mobile Generation. too. gold stars and gratitude. and your passion will evolve. why waste gets real. control how and when they’re accessible. Creators. Our audience loves that. and they’re as straightforward “Premium content to us is posting a creative. “They let us know whenever we fail has nothing to do with technology.” For Michelle Phan. Creators and A video that earns several million organic views obviously may seem good to audiences want to make the digital real. than in-person ones. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract For creators. difference between popcorn variety creators — flavors of the month — and ones like Michelle Phan who. DeStorm claims to have “a sixth sense for what works and want to hear. first and foremost. “Premium Today’s Digital “Our fans are very engaged.

age groups. “Fan” while also connecting fans with fellow fans. They’re first in line on the Thursday night premiere. They help YouTube videos reach their first one thousand Today’s Digital views. In other words. They are tastemakers in creators use feedback from comments and meet-ups to understand the their own right — beauty gurus. For college-age millennials. They drive the most engagement — and revenue — and marketers do. Passion and a message are nothing without it. platform adoption. fans and creators create community — the highest form of fandom. from whatever source. to create new content formats that fit a smaller. on their smartphones — the most accessible device thus far. Quick. these new platforms can explode. Identifying passion is key to expanding a community. Once taken up by communities. Eased creation has inspired creators. all these platforms can be a challenge: How to prioritize publishing and community engagement? Contrary to what many in traditional media believe. on social platforms. COMMUNITY IS KING Communities also influence each other. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 2. They fuel creator Social Contract Indiegogo goals. each of which has hundreds of millions of unique monthly visitors. It’s community that counts. For creators. In other words. or just about. They force creators and brands to adjust access points. content in digital media is not king. Seventy-nine percent of millennial digital video watchers watch daily. peer-to-peer social proof ranks above all else. Creators now need superfans — allies who are active Reddit have grown exponentially because of such networks. the latter kind often flits away. 52 53 . The most successful at Comic-Con cosplaying. are another paradigmatic result. They also rely on quantitative profiles — and they want something personal and intense from creators they admire. beginning with Viners. Instagram and Snapchat. Superfan communities push in three directions. gender. aspiring musicians. faster screen environment. such as Snapchat Stories. participants in building a creator’s career. The Mobile Generation craves content whenever they want it. budding filmmakers — qualitative needs of their communities. creators follow their fans. You see them at VidCon screaming. A creator with one hundred thousand fans who each pay the creator ten dollars is better off than one with one million fans who each pay one dollar. ones that predict the most engaged regions. at Burning Man burning. are prime examples. and more. In this way. casual takes. successful creators monitor engagement just as avidly as brands Superfans are good business. and each other. Platforms such as YouTube and is no longer good enough. The first kind of fan displays a sense of loyalty that endures. It builds communities of fans and creators And community is kind.

meal ideas. Committed audiences are created through sustained engagement. however — they must be responsive.” Fitness trainer Blogilates. and interactivity.” she says. and the years. you’ve posted a new YouTube video. shared experience. ENGAGEMENT-DRIVEN. Pentatonix. “My community is all about friendships and relationships between people audience gives us the benefit of the doubt that it was a bona fide mistake rather with a common goal and vision. according to Variety. Trust means that we can make a mistake. RFPs. imagery. “It’s impossible to buy trust with a ton of marketing dollars. on average. a. produces 10 times more songs and Successful Internet creators don’t invest in single hits the way traditional media covers than any other traditional music artist. and messaging to convince their Creators must be more than just present. at the same time. Creators use the medium of their talents and passions to build friendships. Digital engagement begins with trust and commitment. for instance. Cassey Ho. loyal customers to take action. posts a new video every week — and has been doing so for seven years. quarterly earnings. 54 55 . It’s no different for creators and their fans. and relatability. They schedule The Internet overflows with new content. never stops communicating with Today’s Digital says Cenk Uygur. Digital media is engagement-driven.a. It’s canonical best practice to reply to the first 100 commenters after sales targets. “They are extensions of [me] and than an intent to deceive.” Brands need creative promotions. her fan base — developing workout calendars for them.” [I’m] an extension of them. the next. They show up on YouTube. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 3. They go for an ongoing slate of programming instead. commanded more influence in 2014 and 2015 than traditional media. the process is simpler. It means budgets. Everyone needs a support group. NOT HIT-DRIVEN For creators. They follow through relentlessly. one that’s driven by personality and engages viewers. This heightened degree of engagement is why digital creators. does. for example. Vine — or whatever their primary platform may be — every Friday. Michelle Phan. like summer singles on the car radio. And she’s kept this up for more than eight authentic in our storytelling. the Texan a cappella group. say. and more. talking about body Social Contract We have to show the audience day after day after day that we are honest and breakthroughs.k. “We believe trust is earned over a long period of time through the aggregation of all our actions. Commitment is usually measured by the size The Mobile Generation craves lean-forward experiences — they demand of a marketing campaign. what’s hot one second is forgotten Twitch streams. Friendship arises from proximity.

for the past three years. they’ll end up sounding discordant and 5 percent. She is. Somewhere. and the temptation to digress with them must musician with one million. programming for a so-called minority is good business. That’s it. and Facebook. Suddenly. CEO of Ogilvy channels on YouTube. “I have to remember not community. YouTube regularly — trumping every other ethnicity’s consumption by at least If they try to take on too much.” while these latter shares have decreased. Cassey Ho has Given the power of this collective industry. Those that succeed. confused. which include hundred thousand loyal fans can sustain a career as well as a major label Today’s Digital Instagram.” she says. very focused.” says Abey Mokgwatsane.” Creators usually begin as one-man bands. there is an audience to do things that aren’t really me or the community.” Cenk Uygur explains. they notice!” The “thinking small” ethos impacts what content creators produce. context and perspective on trending topics. while Asians represent only 3 percent of faces on TV in the United States. THINK SMALL TO BE BIG For instance. Twitter. With a well-defined passion and committed Social Contract be intense. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 4. disciplined and consistent. “My fans expect for just about anything. however. to see me working out in my living room. stay very. Successful creators also don’t try to be something they’re not. Over 70 percent of the Asian population watches SA. so it’s less about breaking coverage than it is about adding labels’ aggregate market share has exceeded that of the largest major labels. they headline more than 10 percent of the top 50 creator-led “Strategy is not about what you do. “We do not do We see a similar trend in music where. The rise and obsession of micro-communities — from EDM fans on Dancing Astronaut to anime enthusiasts on Crunchyroll to eGamers on billion-dollar platforms like Twitch — mean that almost any creator can find a niche. 56 57 . creators should feel liberated. such as The Young Turks. “It’s about what you don’t do. and when I’m not. Micro-genres and postage-stamp-sized interest groups flourish in proportion to the fan communities that crave them. independent primary reporting. an indie musician with only one a fan base of 10 million across her primary social networks. “We cover news and current events.

and the “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” holds a crowdfunding world record. known as Nerdfighteria. Take Star Wars. Harry Potter — the list goes on and on. Not surprisingly. of course. while trying to build an audience for all. has proven this multiple times with “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and “Emma Approved” — modern-day vlog-format adaptations of Jane Austen’s timeless novels. a holistic approach that proved both successful — each won a Creative Emmy — and lucrative. The most lucrative film franchises in history are more than just movies — they’re ongoing multimedia macrocosms. MAKE UNIVERSES.The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 5. Bernie Su. leveraged this strategy to achieve similar results. to create Instagram posts and tweets. Comic-Con Hall H announcements become films that become Netflix Originals that become chart-topping soundtracks that spawn consumer products and beyond. James Bond. these universes are unified by the indelible personalities of their creators — a vlogger’s nuanced perceptions of life may launch a linear TV series and innovative merchandising lines. a two-time Emmy-winning storyteller. Both are engineered transmedia experiences anchored in YouTube. they’re taking an increasingly holistic approach. using YouTube channels. characters and plot twists are unveiled and housed on multiple social networks. from Tumblr to Instagram to Twitter. Michelle Phan embodies yet another paradigm. RocketJump and the Vlogbrothers’ community. movie studios and TV networks are investing in franchise universes. This approach predates the Internet. rather than programming each one separately. 58 59 . for example. a musician’s quirky take on pop may spin off a new media record label and sold-out world tours. This overabundance can be a challenge: Creators need to program for each. Her utility-based makeup tutorials evolved into consumer products — Ipsy and em Cosmetics — which she marketed in a way that drew in her community while helping build communities online and through live events. In new media. More than ever. NOT CONTENT Lately. Programming across platforms with brand stewardship in mind is critical for building a consistent audience. social platforms seem to be popping up like mushrooms after a rain. Both projects shattered their original revenue projections.

rather than interrupt. brands and creators have to adapt their business models to amplify. Social messaging apps and games that sell virtual goods can express emotion. irrelevant to the medium where they’re watching. brand-consistent. the Mobile Generation is “much less tolerant of video advertising that [is] poorly targeted. REVENUE GROWS WHEN IT DISAPPEARS It’s a truism: The Mobile Generation hates to be sold to — even through so-called innovative formats. Just as the advent of television ushered in new native ad formats in the 1950s and 1960s. Let’s face it: Pre-roll ads are a hangover of traditional media. too. Today’s Digital Creators turn down most inbound brand deals: No sum could compensate Social Contract for compromising brand equity with their community. Making a tearjerking video ad is no longer enough. And their time has gone. must appropriate revenue generators be aligned with this flightier. and more interactive Mobile Generation. it’s got to reinforce the digital narrative. as such. less patient. If there’s merchandise to sell. so. tend to be tightly woven. According to eMarketer.” The brand integrations that are most lucrative and have the greatest impact. they can be wonderfully effective revenue generators in an invisible — but effective — way. or lacking authenticity. This is beautifully articulated through artists like Kurt Hugo Schneider. who not only transforms brands like Coca-Cola into works of musical art but also does so while reinforcing his own inventiveness. At the same time. and true to the creator. and/or advance to new levels. personalize the messaging experience. content experiences. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 6. such as Wong Fu Productions’ AT&T Away We Happened web series and Schneider’s partnership with Coca-Cola. In keeping with this community-minded ethos. the object of any deal has to be the mutual elevation of both the creator’s and sponsor’s brands. video must be used with some caution. 60 61 .

brands are still very much present and active in the digital content world. The support of Anheuser-Busch and Getty Oil was crucial to transforming ESPN into the sports titan it is today. The next step for brands is less so. Though ad dollars make up a small piece of the revenue pie for creators. Like the rest of us. they often depend on lucrative brand partnerships and campaigns to maintain and grow their communities. creators need to earn a living. The Digital Social Contract The way we can be The contract and rules are clear. too. 63 . Even though advertising spends are out of sync with the power of online creators right now.

but they are in the minority. Honor community as king customers. brands must let go of the past and quit the habits of traditional print may (and usually does) reject them. methods for attracting audiences. The rest will find success in the more modest. When it doesn’t work. and after all. Find pure passion in (niche) creators The creator is seeking to entertain or educate. we can be One could be excused for thinking that achieving success should be no big deal. it creates and television advertising. Some brands. realm of mastering The way advertising that meets the community’s needs and standards of acceptance. and the brand — but it’s usually the brand that takes the hardest hit. The advertising industry has over half a century of television experience. even if they are providing the capital for the arrangement. most notably GoPro and Red Bull. In order to thrive in the online-content space dominated by the Digital Social If brands cannot find a pathway based upon honesty and purpose. what we are really talking about in this new world is merely reinvigorating the old art of running ads — only this time alongside video content. The community is looking to 3. have taken different paths to become both creators and sellers. but no less important. Brands need to begin with these four actions: everybody loses — the creator. They need to develop new ways of thinking and new a symbiotic relationship benefiting all stakeholders. the person who exists 4. Why? Despite the desire to connect with 1. and that can be troublesome. The brand is trying to sell. the community. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Brands want access to well-defined audiences. There are only a handful of global brands with the potential to reap rewards from becoming full-fledged media companies. In the digital world. brands are often the least authentic voice in this common equation. 2. right? Not really. the community Contract. When the system works well. 64 65 . Foster engagement through (creator and brand) universes only to sell is always going to be the first to be sacrificed. Increase revenue by letting it fade engage.

There’s nothing wrong or subsets. we can look at the users themselves. These are the people whose impact we need to measure. The Mobile Generation’s identity is far more fluid Ryan Higa — you know him as NigaHiga — just because “there’s nothing else than that of previous generations. and how subsets of viewers receive advertising What content categories do they gravitate toward? (in some cases down to subsets of one — meaning true personalization). Brands • Demographic: What is their likely gender and age? that make smart use of data don’t just become better at targeting ads. where. they 500-channel cable TV days. if we were to evaluate someone The way on.” There is always something else on. So how does one segment these community members — and measure success? There’s no shortage of opinion on that. and with the right content. and quite a bit of it. Taken as a profile of the user. and it all begins with respecting the unique individuals demographics of Higa’s audience and their interests. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 1. a 16-year-old female might we can be in fact be a 25-year-old male. the online world is rich in data that can be • Interest: What have they watched recently? used to finely tune when. and the answers range from mimicking the GRP of TV to focusing on digital-centric metrics like completion rate. there are a few ways to segment digital communities: Before we do anything else. No one watches are invaluable — and critical. they are What details do they share in the social graph? also more likely to deliver messaging that respects the viewers’ interests. That’s data point number one — choice. we are not talking about the three-network broadcast days or even the Individually. • Platform behavior: Are they a first-time or regular visitor? where advertisers have to make generalized decisions based upon the likely age. these data points are interesting.” • C ulture: What geographic region are they in? which imply some subservient transaction and instead honor these people for What is the local time — and when do they consume the most? who they are — active participants and community members. what may appear to be. Each method has proponents who are happy to discuss the validity of their favorite metric. we can directly target specific people and with that. Because unlike TV. we need to retire words like “consumer” or “user. bringing a fine point of accuracy to the task of segmentation. but there is a bigger argument to make regarding the superfan — the 20 percent of the audience that drives 80 percent of the engagement. What are their generation’s endemic habits? Remember. but the digital space offers so much more. 66 67 . generalized information on demographics and interests via Higa. HONOR COMMUNITY AS KING Usually. Today’s viewing is driven by choice. in choose a piece of content. Instead of seeking their look-alikes. A traditional the right setting. For example. and interests of the viewer. with the right mindset. Are they being retargeted for certain types of ads? gender. And on certain platforms. A brand can deliver an advertisement that respects A “viewer” stems from the community member making a conscious decision to everything it knows about the viewer and engages them at the right time. That is line of questioning to reveal additional data might lead one to ask about the a powerful difference. based on interests alone. say.

Snapchat. and reciprocate with the whole community. and they are experts at maximizing its potential. see you? A superfan metric has to take into account every interaction with the because they are the ones most likely to take an action. share. vlogs. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract What does a superfan metric look like? The ultimate superfan metric has yet to be developed — although. not passive viewing. branded content do not apply. In many ways. they fulfill The way the promise of true earned media by evangelizing the content that matters we can be to them. They are also part of a larger fan ecosystem — the community — which brands must honor and invest in just as assiduously as the central creator. Yesterday’s social-influence measures are giving way means the rules of television advertising that limited how viewers engage with to tomorrow’s superfan metric. They are the people upvoting content linked on Reddit or spreading videos across blogs. we are getting the ball rolling. The absence of a comforting superfan It begins with reach. The YouTube platform — like Vine. Those are the people brands need to reach. They know how the Internet of Influence works. content beyond the digital creator’s initial post. and the communities of countless social networks. and ad hoc niches. but not impossible. for the last seven years. It’s our friend Tara (remember her from page 30?) tuning into Michelle each Friday. forums. 68 69 . brands must listen. share. That’s where the added value lies. or Instagram — is built for engagement. which messy. they are simultaneously part of the creator’s community. and forums. just like creators do. Don’t be seduced. It’s not just how many are watching you. the YouTube community. tune in. tweet. Superfans do not exist in a vacuum. It’s how creator are doing more than reaching a specific audience — they are engaging many are crazy about you. as you’ll see shortly. but goes beyond the traditional concerns of “how many number to look at may drive brands into the arms of poor intermediate people saw my ad?” Brands that match their message with the right digital measures. The superfans are the people most likely to comment. Measuring the impact of interactions across the Internet is confusing and And isn’t that what it’s all about? The Internet is a two-way channel. and even redistribute content that they find appealing. Brands must build meaningful connections with all. Who is tweeting about you? Who is first in line to the creator’s superfan community. To reach the beating heart of superfans at the core. parody.

and marketers can’t lie to people like they used to. That doesn’t mean all creators want to perform tend to hide the mistakes and present unattainable perfection. Perfection is the enemy of authenticity. creators are just entrepreneurs caring for their most precious asset: themselves. however. business. but it’s a hollow victory — and a likely sign that the creator’s influence is waning. the creator has built the bonds. the audience is concerned. the creator — not the brand — is the arbiter of authenticity. and is essential. “Realism is needed because the information is In this creator-driven world. pressed “record” on the camera. As far as to still be relevant and transparent enough to be seen as honest.” Brands metadata. edited the video. and legal approvals to flow actors and entertainers work decades to build. FIND PURE PASSION IN (NICHE) CREATORS Creators are a vital source of pure passion and inspiration. Dove’s Evolution — a massive hit in the early YouTube their Net Promoter Score as a KPI? Are increased sales the endgame? If so. Working with creators (whether from YouTube or Vine). The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 2. the brand may consider that a win. Some have surmounted these investment. “  That forces wrote the content. most successful creators are also collaborators. In most cases. and most brands are terrible at it. outcome will be more successful in finding the right creator to partner with. Trusting the instincts of the creators and the guidance of their audience will lead the brand to the most authentic and engaging advertising possible. and grown his personal influence. 70 71 . earned. If the creator is willing to alienate its audience. engaged the out there. but it does reflect the passion and sense of responsibility that define the we can be Being authentic requires a willingness to be transparent and to employ that most successful ones. Brands unwilling to trust the creator’s instincts will likely find themselves out of sync with the audience. days widely recognized as the world’s first viral branded video — and Real how will sales be driven (e-commerce or brick-and-mortar store)? How will the Beauty Sketches reached hundreds of millions of people because they advertising convert video viewers into customers? A brand that knows its desired projected purpose and answered a pressing social need. Evidence of that may be lost in the DIY nature of what they do. So should brands write a check and let the creators do whatever they want? No. understanding what the brand seeks to achieve realizing one’s own passion. tone consistently (often in real time) across the platforms while balancing owned. reconciling it with a desired audience. Brandon Rhoten. but in the long run. Perfection alienates people. This can pose a challenge with sufficient speed and efficiency so the resulting message is timely enough for brands used to having the final say on every detail of an ad. the creator also President of Advertising Media and Digital. The value advertisers can extract from relationships with creators is rooted in the creators’ ability to connect with their audience. The brand must have a clear vision of the expected return on pervading it across campaigns and media.” says Wendy’s Vice audience. The smartest. and the advertiser will be wise to take that to heart. is not a “one-size-fits- For brands. and paid media. and posted the work. Is awareness the goal? Is the brand looking at positive change in challenges. therefore. The creator will resist doing anything she believes will alienate the viewership she has cultivated. The way a turn-off. Accessibility is also a challenge. finding new models for creative. Perfection is a dozen different roles just to get their content developed and published. as well. Accessible brands restructure their entire content The fruit of this DIY labor is clout — the kind of clout that many traditional operation. however. the concept of pure passion can be challenging to pinpoint: all” proposition. wrote the brands to be real and be genuine.

Disruption is fans they entertain daily. but they may never have had an advertising deal before. Despite this. When hockey fans in any NHL arena see the red light the consistent reach they achieve over the long haul. The way Conversely. that creators are entrepreneurs. the hallmark of TV ad measurement. a historically one-way medium. part of the experience.” 72 73 . the deal changes from “we will interrupt your programming periodically” to “you can’t view what you want until you see an ad. a successful relationship. they are building based on this concept. has its own contract of sorts with the their audience and the regular engagement that comes from that relationship. as a rule. The game actually reach. It is common to hear about brands that buy pre-rolls asking for GRP-like metrics. Everyone watching on TV knows that advertisers will always try to put forth Now comes the task of making a deal. is conceived upon the idea of truly on-demand content — I click. Even live sports events are crafted to accommodate brand is not rooted in the volume of reach from a specific video. and therefore the most similar to the old way of doing things. too. I get — anything that gets in the way of instantly rewarding the click is going to be seen as unwelcome interference. It is just another because the Internet grew up independent of advertising. Instead. it should come as no surprise that the fallback online-video advertising for most brands is the pre-roll unit. A frequent stumbling block 3. such disruption is not codified with the viewers. When a medium area where the people who own the audience are rewriting the rules. viewer: the commercial break. The creator’s community — illuminate behind the scorekeeper. The key is to remember In the world of online video. INCREASE REVENUE BY LETTING IT FADE for successful creator-community-brand partnerships is achieving a mutually acceptable definition of success. it is as close to a TVC as one can get online. many experienced creators have agents and managers but may seek we can be deals that don’t conform to traditional media practices. they know play is on hold to allow for the fans and superfans who engage regularly — are the folks the brand wants to commercials to be shown to the audience viewing from home. The value to the available in a given segment. and partially negotiation with a tech partner than an established celebrity. but rather in the commercial break. Striking the right deal might feel more like a partially because it doesn’t mesh well with interactive experiences. must have a strong sense of self. New homegrown stars may have one million the viewer is watching the programming time-shifted on a DVR. The value of digital creators is based upon Television. perhaps for no greater reason than the fact that the very nature of pre-roll ups the ante on disruption. “viral video” makers. When both parties know who they are and what they want. The creator community is made up of artists creative and entertaining commercials to keep the viewer’s attention … even if at every conceivable career stage. Yet advertising has been shunned by digital users. they can forge stops for TV advertising. Scripted TV shows are structured around a clock Creators are not. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract A brand. with commercial breaks dictating how much time is long-term businesses with a consistently engaged audience.

Where a brand would once force a 15. Brands need to take a deep breath and let go of some treasured habits and perspectives. while those who engage are making an active choice to pay closer attention. Brands need to settle down and look for the right relationships. A perhaps unintended consequence of the TrueView unit is the ability to engage viewers in long-form pre-roll. The people who aren’t interested will skip.or 30-second pre-roll ad.The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Forcing pre-roll advertising upon audiences of online-content creators breaks the continuity of thought on the user’s part by dissolving a core tenet of Internet engagement: the connective tissue of immediate gratification between the click and response. YouTube understood this breach and developed the skippable TrueView pre-roll unit. but the viewer regains an element of control. It’s time to stop playing the field. Yes. they can now place long-form skippable video content that provides even deeper engagement. Stop measuring eyeballs — that’s like judging a night out on the town by how many times somebody undressed you with his eyes. Measure your brand’s worth in video in the same way you judge your own in life: through connections with the individuals and communities you cherish — those who share your values and goals. If you try to grow the quality of your community instead of the size of your bottom line. 74 75 . both will increase. there is still a disconnect between action (click) and reward (view).

You’ve gotten that message by now. as the user bestowing we can be network. in turn. The user’s time is limited. relevant passion shines through. Generally. there are still only 24 hours in a day. and that’s what builds communities.” Even though our industry tends to honor content that earns The way three times more likely to visit the brand’s site than engage with it on a social a large volume of each. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract 4. and evangelize your brand’s cause and content. their age. If a user spends an hour a day on YouTube. • consistently involved and loyal. Spiraling costs. wield. and when they themselves act in creator-like ways. also heard before: Generate a direct. that would immediately raise their value. (CREATOR AND BRAND) UNIVERSES The desired community is linked to the brand message. the Mobile Generation values products to people. deliver the kind of engagement brands want. The other avenue is something you’ve To assess value. Forging bidirectional relationships is challenging enough — sustaining them has an infinite supply to hand out. 76 77 . their value is minimal. Despite the great advances of the digital When brands do that. and imperfect targeting are combining to produce crappy results. Some brands have what it takes to drive superfan engagement independent of creators. we have to look deeper to find a measure that is finite. deafening social an abundance of creators and communities to collaborate with — many who cross-talk. There are two ways to do this. have developed a methodology that assesses if a potential creator partner can platform experiences that mutually enforce the brand’s ethos and promise. This is the great change of in for the brand when it isn’t present and feed into the Mobile Generation’s the digital age: the ability for brands to connect with different communities preference for active brand experiences. Existing efforts — specifically spending on many well-known social networks — yield neither the Branded communities might not be right for every brand. advertisers gravitate toward “larger” creators while failing to identify A middleman may no longer be required. not cultivating them into an audience of friends. FOSTER ENGAGEMENT THROUGH Branded communities are incredibly powerful when nurtured appropriately. many-to-one. Build productive collaborations with creators. and sussing out if they are • actively engaged. one-on-one relationship with consumers. This disconnect is fostered by the false currency of “likes” People crave direct contact: U. As long as the supply of likes and subscribes is infinite. to. these actions hold little value. and members one-to-many. As we know. and they can be entire universes — multi. will be your promoters in physical and digital life. colleagues at Ogilvy & Mather We call these branded communities. How a person chooses to use that time authentic. Branded communities also enable brands to control Brands struggle to build true friendships with fans. Fortunately there is reach nor engagement level that brands expect.S. five YouTube them over time is even more challenging. Fortunately. and those brands should invest in their own (and owned) communities. eliminating that scourge — spray and pray social tactics. If a user were limited to. It is called engagement. defines their individual engagement. Whom they give viewing time to is a much more personal and meaningful action than who gets a “subscribe” click. and one-to-one. Represent a purpose beyond profit and you’ll find your people — a community what is watched is more important to advertisers than whom they subscribe eager to harness. and • growing faster than their peers within a defined demographic or affinity group. yet the authenticity — information straight from the source has real currency. revenue successful. adults who want to engage with a brand are and “subscribes. there is one. this list dives deep. which is a boon for brands with creators with true audience engagement — a vital component to making invisible a solid notion of self and a minefield for those that lack inner perspective. Brands are used to selling the facts and brand narrative. identifying the most superfans. subscribes per year. engaged creator communities. They stand digital world requires advertisers to do just that. To help identify the most valuable communities. Instead of focusing on reach They supply the one-on-one customer relationships that anchor the brand’s metrics such as views or subscribers. personalize. say. have built their own creative universes and achieve incredible engagement. And they.

Instagram. we’ve assembled a list of the most engaged creator communities by category. hosted by Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers.” in addition to being Brodie Smith a commercial and theatrical actress. skits. merchandising lines. and growth rates of digital creators on YouTube. founders of Cassey Ho is a powerhouse Dude Perfect Vanoss Gaming VidCon. Twitter. FitnessBlender FitnessBlender is the husband-wife duo of Daniel and Kelli. “Yoga with philanthropist. creator of AsapSCIENCE. for sharing skateboarding. Adriene. We call it The Ogilvy Creator Community 30. focused on workouts. engagement. produced by Yogis Community prankster enthusiast. Brodie Smith is a champion American Sam Gladiator Crash Course Ultimate Disc League player and trick An inventive Minecraft gamer. artist. comedian. video game commentator. and concepts. creator of Vanoss Gaming. and healthy living. and the Project for Awesome. Nerdfighteria (#DFTBA). actor. history. vegetarian. and and voice-over narration to enumerate YouTube channel. is a Hawaiian actor. the official entertainment group best known is a prolific video game commentator pilates class of 24 Hour Fitness gyms for their trick shots. the wonders of science. and the most popular certain games like Call of Duty. and it’s built from Ogilvy’s analysis of the reach. Vine. Internet personality. fitness entrepreneur with multiple Dude Perfect is a sports and comedy Evan Fong. nutrition. education channel started by brothers POPsters Community Hank and John Green. in addition to guidance from top digital media and brand experts. 78 79 . SciShow discusses science news. best known Markiplier. The Ogilvy Creator Community 30 Sports Gaming Education Health & Fitness Andrew Schrock Markiplier AsapSCIENCE Adriene Mishler Andrew Schrock is a sports and Mark Edward Fischbach. voice Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown. Adriene Mishler is a Texan. and storyteller who's rising rapidly. Crash Course is a liberal arts-focused Blogilates shot performer. female-led YouTube fitness channel. and Facebook. uses colored whiteboard drawings and yoga instructor with a popular and pranks. and global “let’s play” leader for SciShow nationwide.The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Based on those criteria and Ogilvy’s proprietary methodology.

over 2. created by Joe Jo. is a Streamy-winning King Bach is an actor. creators of Boyce Avenue is the most popular Just Kidding News. digital personality who began his an “internetainer” and advertising extensive original songs and albums. general vlogger. Yousef Saleh Erakat. actor. and the King of Vine through his group. famous for their pop-style news. covers and original songs. are band on YouTube. economics. actress. comedian. and motivational speaker popular comedic sketches. vlogger. Bruh Bruhs Community King Bach Pentaholics Community created by Philip DeFranco. comedian. music videos. multiple charting singles. winning actor and multi-platform Good Mythical Morning. and pranks.3 billion times. duo known for their online viral stunning world tours. news show in the world. and lifestyle through a Streamy-winning Internet personality. and motivational speaker. interactive shows. and technology.k. creator of Team Bach Community Pentatonix is a Grammy Award– which includes numerous shows FouseyTube.” career on Instagram and Twitter. covering Unicorns Community comedian on YouTube. and Geovanna Antoinette. winning. which have been viewed a major label and has released their original programming and live. rapper. Superwoman. pop culture. Ryan Higa Shawn Mendes Turks Community Lamps Community Shawn Mendes is a Teen Choice The Young Turks is the largest online Lilly Singh Ryan Higa is the most popular male Award and Shorty-winning singer. Lilly Singh. rapper. is his comedy videos. politics. a. famous for songwriter who debuted on Vine. and Mendes has since signed with social trends. platinum-selling a cappella focused on pop culture. videos and comedic songs. who produces parodies. skits. SourceFed FouseyTube Pentatonix SourceFed is a digital news empire.a. teaches “good things in a bad way.The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Comedy Music News Personality Good Mythical Morning Boyce Avenue Just Kidding News Cameron Dallas Kommunity Boycers Community JK Fam Cameron Dallas is a multi-award- Rhett and Link. 80 81 . prankster. comedy The Young Turks sketches. and classic covers. vlogs. comedian. films. famous for their Bart Kwan.

actress. Nummies Community and digital storytelling initiatives. fashion. Numbers are what will allow online video to compete with other digital media for brand dollars and. most famous for her YouTube Rosanna Pansino channel. inspired Michelle Phan is a beauty. and style-centric skits. Rosanna Pansino is a baker. and Internet personality best known Rachel Levin for her nerd-themed cooking show. and lifestyle pioneer.The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract As brands begin to realize the potential of digital media. Laura Vitale “Laura in the Kitchen” is an Michelle Phan interactive cooking show focused Dreamers Community on rich and simple cooking. respect. tips. room decor. DIY projects. Cooking & DIY Style & Fashion Alisha Marie Eva Gutowski Mac Babies Community Evanator Squad Alisha Marie is an Internet personality Eva Gutowski (MyLifeAsEva) best known for sharing her morning is a fashion. and day-in-the-life videos. and beauty vlogs. the need for better measurement tools like The Ogilvy Creator Community 30 becomes more urgent. Tumblr-inspired outfits.” the most popular Rachel Levin. more importantly. Beauty101. 82 83 . fashion. by Vitale’s Italian heritage. Without the right kinds of metrics. and comedy routines. lifestyle. live events. product lines. fashion. has become one of the fastest-growing Internet personalities through her beauty. Levinators Community “Nerdy Nummies. brands will be too tempted to ignore the lessons creators have learned. vlogger who shares room-decorating lifestyle. creator of RCL baking show on YouTube.

culture. It broke the Catholic monopoly and brought individuals in direct contact with God — religious superfandom in action. The Digital Social Contract Conclusion Every generation of young people seems fundamentally alien to its predecessors. too. 85 . Its impact played out over centuries. It made American democracy possible — and European democracy. consumption. and commerce. not decades. That historical moment ushered in individualism. It’s that they came of age during the birth of the most significant shift in the democratization of information — its creation. the Enlightenment. distribution. family. and engagement — since the printing press. But today’s young people — The Mobile Generation of millennials and generation Z — really are from a different world. and the impact on brands hasn’t yet been fully realized. reaching from base culture to elite society. societal changes are inherently uneven. and the ideal of civic sovereignty that Rousseau lauded. Digital culture will have — is having — the same sort of impact. It changed government. For now. It’s not just that they willingly walk around wearing the hip new headphones that look like the headsets gen Xers remember from middle school language labs.

The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Things are changing. Online video is sui generis. perhaps. she does not spend her time cultivating and partnerships slotted into the creator’s own stream transparently and authentically. In order to be accepted. The video was then shot an ersatz TVC rather than treating them as the lords of an entirely new medium. Digital. was born free. You must live up to the expectations set for you and act as an extension in favor of a new path forward. Nicki Minaj has influence. you’re on the other end of it now. It’s likely listened to. Too often. Lumia teamed up with Clean Bandit — one of many music acts that Clueless brands undermine creator credibility with economic might. Michelle For the most part. that we’ll have TV commercials ported over to online video for some time to come. and we will only be able to define and contextualize it once the next disruptive platform emerges. more a part of the lives of young people than they have Conclusion a relationship with a cared-for community effected by the creator. This is not been for any previous generation. 86 87 . You know that morals clause in your celebrity endorsement job to make sure it stays that way. deals? Yeah. As anyone who has ever been lucky enough to Eventually. were here before you. shares. nurturing a community through an active and equal two-way relationship. PewDiePie sponsors products simply by using instead of focusing on long-term connection with a passionate community. embraced. and brands will learn to work together. killing have emerged on radio and online video simultaneously — to involve fans in the the very thing they paid dearly for. but These first steps presage a newly respectful form of advertising with brand despite her savvy use of Twitter. brands today are routinely ignoring the terms of the Digital Phan. Creators are not influencers even though they are influential. the brand must be introduced by a trusted figure. Your brand must be vouched for. Brands are. This new form of advertising understands that online video programming is NOT made possible by your brands. Brands themselves are starting to act like creators. and some will be great pieces that are solid viewing in their own right. be vouched for knows. old habits of disruption and disrespect will fade away vouch. The audience isn’t Online video is not the minor leagues for TV any more than TV is (or ever was) opposed to brand involvement — so long as it is respectful and contextual. brands use creators as talent in conceptualization and making of a new music video. and ultimately viewers must have been of clunky early sponsored television shows. Bethany Mota. you take on a measure of responsibility by accepting the When that happens. These creators and engaged communities Incredible opportunity waits for those brands that figure all of this out. communities. in fact. using Lumia phones. The brand is used as a brand is used in real life — as part of the fabric of existence rather than through scripted and controlled messaging. and many others have their own product lines with brands Social Contract. They obsess over views. like humankind. creators. Nor are they celebrities even though they have celebrity. It’s our of your endorser. the grapefruit league for radio. thus making a knockout statement about the product without ever mentioning it. those younger generations are a relationship that a brand can enter into on its own — unless the brand chooses to as tired of brand messages that seem irrelevant to the medium they love as TV emulate Red Bull or GoPro. Right now. them. and proximate engagement like L’Oreal and Aeropostale. Remember that a relationship with the creator is.

The Digital Social Contract Key takeaways Millennials and generation Z — the Mobile Generation — traverse information. Digital pathways have changed the way individuals interact with each other and with brands. YouTube became the ultimate social network because it unified all the pieces that made previous social networks attractive and added something new: access to view and publish the world’s most magnetic medium — moving pictures. There is a totally new social contract being written. taste. Brands and advertisers also struggled to adapt to the last great media upheaval: television. social relationships. and the Mobile Generation — specifically those who create and consume online video — is writing it. Almost everyone ages 12 to 30 in first-world countries was born and raised on the Internet. Brands. circumstance. making them more media-connected than any previous generation. engagement. and expressiveness. and any other sharable experience. with an estimated purchasing power of $150 billion. population. tragedy.S. In order to understand the world the Mobile Generation inhabits. 89 . discovery. and conversation. the Mobile Generation values self-fulfillment. They have developed a sharing ecosystem that is both a projection of self and a communication with others. it created a new social order and forged the identity of the baby boomers — the TV generation. we need to understand the superfans — the 20 percent of total digital enthusiasts who drive 80 percent of the commerce. They make up 50 percent of the U. We now have communities centered on desire. When it took off. and professional occupations faster and more regularly than any generation before them. and media do not yet understand how it works and have displayed a poor grasp of how to participate in the world it describes. The eventual fracturing of culture reflected in niche TV set the stage for today’s reality. These communities are fluid. And they are your customers. TV was wildly underestimated in the beginning. knowledge. More than previous generations. advertisers.

5. Only 17 percent of online In order to thrive in the online-content space dominated by the Digital Social advertising spend is dedicated to digital video advertising. As a result. is a requirement. Navigating and programming for all social technology platforms is cost. there are four distinct actions brands must take. Find pure passion in (niche) creators 3. The community makes the rules here. and labor intensive. Engagement-driven. Online video is sui generis. 6. The Mobile Generation hates being sold to. Foster engagement through (creator and brand) universes even more important than production — to generating a meaningful creative career and business. Brands that 2. Think small to be big. creativity. Understanding this new generation of fandom understand this will enjoy tremendous rewards. streamlining production and easing platform navigation. platforms and businesses need to engineer revenue streams that amplify — rather than interrupt — the creative experience. and each involves letting go of habits from television advertising: The solution is to be found in understanding the new Digital Social Contract. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Brands have approached it tepidly and ineptly. The six laws of the Digital Social 1. Fan communities can’t just be addressed — they need to be collaborated with. giving them a higher level of influence than that found in traditional media. Pure passion trumps production. time. 90 91 . and commerce. Revenue grows when it disappears. since this group dictates the ascendance — and demise — of new social platforms. 4. Authentic passion is critical — 4. Contract. Thanks to community diversity and the Key takeaways ongoing engagement between fans and creators. Make universes. Community is king. This level of engagement empowers creators. Honor community as king Contract are: 2. has the opposite effect. Online video is not the minor leagues for TV any more than TV is (or ever was) the grapefruit league for radio. as a unified brand. 3. not content. Approaching disparate platforms holistically. Increase revenue by letting it fade 1. at least in an obvious way. not hit-driven. the latter can financially sustain more niche businesses than ever before.

Cerf. 2014.” Yannig Roth. McKinley. “Why Youth (Heart) Mind. “Online Content Internet Society. Felix Felette. 2007. “Spinning Viral Reincarnation! — of the Beloved Stars into One-Man Empires. Manhattan. and Television Networks. It Isn’t Just a Game. History.” MacArthur Foundation Series on Horst Stipp.” October 12. 2014. Clues to Avid Rooting. Creators Are Not All Created Equal. Journal on Media Management. “Chasing Their Star.” “Public displays of connection. 2012. “Hollywood’s Big. James C. Leslie Kaufman. “Social Network Sites: J. 2000. Donath and D. Vinton G. Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. University Social Network Sites: The Role of of Chicago Press. The New York Times. George Mead. et Francois Pétavy. Self. January 22. and Scholarship. and al. The Digital Social Contract References Articles and Books Barry M. Definition. “A Brief History of the Internet. Danah Boyd. Boyd. August 28. Q4 2014. October 2004. “Sports David Carr. “Self and Society. Bloomberg Businessweek.” Washington Post.” The New York Times. 93 . “A Complete History of the Rise and Fall — and Geoff Weiss. 2014. Leiner.” Washington Post.” Journal of Computer-Mediated BT Technology Journal.” eYeka. 1934. February 1. 2014. 2012. “What comes after YouTube stardom? Grace Helbig is figuring it out. Joel Cere.” ’90s Chatroom. Caitlin Dewey. Jr. Lucas Kavner. 2014. October 30.” The New York Times. Communication. “The Branding of Digital Learning — Youth. “YouTube Takes Psychology.” International Digital Media Volume. and Society. August 11.” Danah Boyd. 2013.” on YouTube. Money YouTube Hit Factory. MIT Press. Identity. 2008. Entrepreneur.

2014. “New Breed of Online Scientific American. 2014. Teens. 2014. Ning Nan and Yong Lu. “How Red Bull the Age of Online Social Networks. “Millennials and Sarah Kessler.” Content Marketing Social Justice. Monica Bala. December 15. December November 10. Present. No. 1980. “Harnessing Suzanne Ault.” Variety. Biases in Sports: The Irrationality of Coaches.” Uses Events and Content to Create Contemporary Readings in Law and Brand Lovers. “Survey: YouTube the Power of Self-Organization Stars More Than Mainstream Celebs in an Online Community During Among U. Quarterly. 63. Stars Rewrite the Rules of Fame.” Todd Spangler. “How to Advertise Sheldon Stryker. February 9. “Cognitive The New Yorker. 2014. 2014. January 19.” MIS Quarterly. Organizational Crisis. “Inside YouTube’s Data sources Baby Boomers: At Odds or Peas in Fame Factory. August 5.” Fast Company. 2014. August 5. Cummings.” Samuel McNerney. Tad Friend. Vol.” Adweek.S. 2000. 94 95 .” Adweek. Sheldon Stryker and Peter J. January 1. Commentators and Fans. “Hollywood and Vine.” Social Psychology Offline Superstars. Benjamin World Bank Advertising. 2015. Symbolic Interactionism: Pew Research to the Millennial Who Hates A Social Structural Version. 2014. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Meghan Casserly. and Future of Hottest Personalities Are Becoming an Identity Theory. Summit. “How YouTube’s “The Past. September 22. August 4. Burke. eMarketer Euromonitor Michelle Castillo.” Variety. 2012. References December 2014. “Civic Engagement in Stephen Whiteside. Michelle Castillo. 4. 2011. a Pod?” Forbes.

engages in original research and writing with external partners. works on special assignment with global clients. a new book on the social and marketing implications of America’s shifting demographics. He also directs and edits the agency’s marquee white paper series. The Red Papers:™. and consultant. in which capacity he shapes and directs the network’s global internal and external publishing program. He writes for national magazines. 97 .com. Jeremy collaborates with the network’s senior leadership on editorial projects. In addition. Jeremy graduated from Yale University with a BA in English and is still mildly surprised that he has put such an impractical degree to work. Jeremy serves as editor-in-chief of ogilvydo. the network’s global. Jeremy worked in the publishing industry for two decades as an editor. and Rodale. Martin’s Press. Jeremy’s specialty has always been prescriptive. The Digital Social Contract About the authors Jeremy Katz Worldwide Editorial Director. service-based nonfiction and the development of complex projects from idea to publication. Putnam. literary agent. Prior to joining O&M. writer. He held senior editorial roles at several major book publishing companies including St. Ogilvy & Mather Jeremy Katz is the worldwide editorial director for Ogilvy & Mather. and leads O&M’s highly lauded coverage of major events. albeit less frequently now that he is at Ogilvy & Mather. public thought leadership portal. Jeremy is the co-author of Reframe the Marketplace: The Total Market Approach to Reaching the New Majority. and has been either editor or agent for four New York Times best sellers.

98 99 . she built and led the global campaign Content Marketing and Advanced Video Practices. teams of pioneering online news start-up IN Jersey (later sold to Gannett). In this function. and most notably committee of Unleashed. with a dual degree Rob joined MTV Networks as executive producer of convergence. He later debuted interactive shows on NBC. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. exciting start-ups such as Lola. brand relationship management. and WE television networks. one of the world’s more than eight years at the legendary agency. ” the world’s first interactive. More recently as vice president of digital at Rainbow Media. home game show. strategy department. History Channel. TBS. and GSN with start-up Spiderdance. Her Birchbox career began both as employee number five and as the traditional media. a feminine care products company. Effies. Alta graduated from the University of California. a female leadership children’s charity. and other strategic interactive content and marketing industry. she heads the social VH1 at Work online radio. operations including the evolution of Birchbox’s core customized box product. and several of Birchbox’s product introductions Prior to joining the agency world.robertjohndavis. In her spare time. Berkeley. Rob earned his BA from the University of Scranton and his MS from the S. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Robert John Davis Alta Sparling Executive Director of Strategy for Content & Social. commerce. she led or co-led several core A Boy and His Atom. beginning in the early 1990s running the content and creative right hand to Chief Executive Officer Katia Beauchamp. a mobile platform that powers the next generation of superfan communities. and advertising experiences. Balancing the heart of a raconteur projects that engage several of the world’s leading lifestyle icons — from Michelle with an ever-curious mind. He is the global digital lead for the DuPont account and also leads account teams for PAREXEL and Patheon.I. During his Previously. Alta was director of campaign strategy at Birchbox. Rob revitalized About the interactive businesses of the AMC. Rob founded the OgilvyOne leading lifestyle subscription services. Robert John Davis is a veteran digital executive with 22 years’ experience in the she oversaw Lifestyle creator strategy. driving extensive brand marketing campaigns for hundreds and Echos of various metallic shades for work including IBM’s landmark film of brands across all major categories. Rob spent 14 years on the digital side of and tests. Nickelodeon experimental pilots.com. There. creator development. play-at. launching in Communications and Economics. He has earned Lions. Rob currently serves as executive director of strategy Phan to eleventhgorgeous to Eva Chen. for content & social at Ogilvy. IFC. Additionally. Ogilvy & Mather Alta Sparling was recently head of Lifestyle at Victorious. Rob is online at www. and invests in the 1999 MTV game show hit “webRIOT. the authors transitioning from static sites to dynamic content.

the A3 Foundation. is a One Young World Ambassador. and is a member of the Streamy Awards Blue Ribbon Panel. Bing was recognized as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 rising leaders. Victorious Bing Chen is co-founder and chief creative officer of Victorious. the YouTube Creator Institute. a mobile platform that powers the world’s biggest superfan communities. Bing co-founded and co-led initiatives such as the global expansion and evolution of the YouTube Partner Program. The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Bing Chen Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer. the Buffer Film Festival. In 2014. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. and the STREAM TV Conference. He was also the company’s first creator marketing manager and remains a trusted confidant of hundreds of creative artists. About the authors 100 101 . where he was responsible for generating and aligning the global creator program strategy that engaged more than 250 million content creators worldwide. and YouTube’s presence at major industry and talent engagements such as VidCon. Bing was the YouTube global head of creator development & management at Google. and Marketing. Bing graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in English. Psychology. Social Media Week. the company’s talent incubation program. Previously.

103 . expertise. Pentatonix. The Young Turks. and Michelle Phan for giving freely of their time. Thanks as well to Christopher Celletti for his significant contribution to this paper. DeStorm Power. The Digital Social Contract Acknowledgments Thanks to Tubular Labs for their prompt and invaluable assistance. Grateful acknowledgment to Horst Stipp. and insight. Blogilates.

The Red Papers: The Digital Social Contract Colophon Authors November 2015 Jeremy Katz. Branding & Graphic Design 104 105 . Alta Sparling & The Red Papers are published by Bing Chen Ogilvy & Mather Editor No article may be reproduced or Jeremy Katz transmitted in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Copy editor Gail Patejunas Copyright © 2015 Ogilvy & Mather Creative director and Victorious Gabe Usadel Edition 1: Art director 2.500 Steve Hahn Illustration Stephanie Kim & Michael Zhang Typeface Ogilvy J Baskerville Design Ogilvy 485. Issue 9 Robert John Davis.

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& Alta Sparling The Red Papers: TM Ogilvy & Mather Victorious .The Digital Social Contract Jeremy Katz. Robert John Davis. Bing Chen.