Can a creative agency be a media owner?
A view from Jamie Williams

Can a creative agency be a media owner?

Isobel's partner explains why the agency has created its own unbranded content platform on Facebook - The Serious Bacon Club - and how being a media publisher has created new possibilities.

I didn’t enter the industry that long ago (promise), but even so, when I did, things seemed quite linear. Clients, creative agencies, media agencies, production companies – the roles were clear. \

For someone starting off today, I imagine things can seem a little more complex, with a lot more overlapping. And hopefully, this all makes it way more exciting.

I’d say it’s creative agencies that have evolved the most, and are still evolving the quickest. Forward-thinking dynamic agencies create, produce and distribute all sorts of content in-house; shoot films; build websites; plan and buy media; stage events; implement influencer activities – the list is endless.

So what about being a media publisher, and calling the shots?  

Walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

With the growth of influencer-led marketing and content co-creation, social media publishers and platforms like UniLad or LadBible have enormous reach, and I healthy profits. UniLad has a Facebook following of 15 million fans, 30 million monthly unique visitors to its website and 1.7 billion video views per month. LadBible reported a three-year sales growth up 200% and has appeared in The Sunday Times's Top Ten fastest growing companies in the UK. Both are clearly doing something right.

If creative agencies are experts in consumer trends, social media developments, building communities and using the latest technologies, why can’t they create and run their own platforms, publish their own content, and reap the rewards?

Well, that’s exactly what we’ve done.

When we first created the Serious Bacon Club, I admit, we perhaps didn’t realise its full potential. But it’s now the world’s biggest online platform for bacon lovers, celebrating people’s unadulterated passion for all things bacon. In a 12-month period, our bacony content reached 30 million Facebook newsfeeds, with over 14 million video views and 6 million engagements. People seem to like it.

It’s also a fulcrum of creative activity within Isobel, an open brief for everyone to contribute to, and a constant source of learning and testing across different and rapidly evolving social arenas. We produce everything in house, so it’s also a lot of fun. Our new line of bacon merchandise (coming soon) will be testament to this.

But we’re now getting even more serious.

The Serious Bacon Club was created as an independent un-branded platform and we then created a lot of content for our first major brand partner, Danepak. From brownies to jam, we’ve also partnered with smaller food producers who wanted to get involved in the bacon action.

But the growth of the club hasn’t just captured the interests of bacon lovers. We’ve recently been meeting with a lot of bigger brands, outside of the bacon category, eager to engage with the Bacon Club’s passionate followers and reach them through the brand’s tone of voice.  

The possibilities that this brings are fantastic for an independent agency like isobel. And we’ve had to learn quickly about what being a media publisher and owner really means, and how we need to go about our business.

Hovis is the first of these new brand partnerships, and it’s fair to say we’re rather excited about it.  It’s a brilliant brand to partner with, and to help engage with the younger audience that we possess. Looking beyond the bacon category is also important, and we can now take the Club in a number of different directions.

Agencies (especially independent ones) are all looking to innovate, expand and create new revenue streams. Relying on traditional client relationships alone is risky business. And growth can come in many forms. As we continue to diversify and innovate as an industry, I’m sure more agencies will look to turn their cultural and non-client activities into revenue generating ones.  

There are different ways to create great work.  And owning and running a social media platform, enabling you to partner with a new range of brands, is a pretty good one, we think.

So bon appétit. Streaky or Back? Red sauce or brown?     

Jamie Williams is a partner at Isobel