Out Of Office - Going Viral
Not everyone gets to be in the forefront of a cultural movement, most of us look on from afar and at one point say to ourselves "I wish I would have thought about doing that!" We've all watched as influencers grow their followings - and their bank accounts. Before we knew it, influencers were featuring brands in their home videos, or being the star of a brand's campaign.
Our CEO Stacy Jones recently sat down with a pioneer in the influencer movement, who has many incredible stories to share about his rise to success in this industry. In this blog, Hollywood Branded examines the career of Justin Purser of Olio Creative, and how he's been making successful brand integrations with music videos and influencers.
A Little More About Justin
Justin's story is one that you love to hear, his open mind approach and genuine curiosity has landed him in so many career defining opportunities. Justin was one of the original creators and directors of Maker Studios that pioneered the multi channel network YouTube-centric companies of today. Where he helped create the model of how brands advertise, utilizing YouTube and influencers.
One of his brand sponsored videos with Cosmopolitan Magazine and Media, took number one on the ad age viral charts, beating out top brands such as Nike, Pepsi and Toyota. Recently he directed the feature documentary, And Two If By Sea, narrated by Daniel Tosh.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: So how did you get involved in production? Was this your passion? I think I read that you were doing a lot of surfing videos when you were growing up.
Answer: Yeah, I grew up in Florida and, I grew up surfing as a kid. Then my friends who I worked with ended up becoming some of the greatest surfers in the world. One of them that was a little bit older than me that I grew up around is pretty much the greatest surfer of all time. My dad went to Japan on a business trip and he bought this Sony Handycam. At the time, nobody had video cameras, so it was this camera wasn't in America or whatever. I thought it was so cool. So I started just filming my friends surfing.
There weren't iPhone cameras or things like that, so the fact that I could record them and we could go watch it blew people's minds. I started filming more and more and more, and then my friends got really good and started becoming these amazing surfers. I loved filming them, and I fell in love with it. I never, obviously, could even reach the level that they were at, so it was like this just makes sense, so I started doing that really young and started making surf movies. Then I started traveling with them, and shooting them all around the world. I went to film school in Orlando, and then graduated and came back right to making more surf movies. I interned on the Stephen Spielberg show and for this MTV show a bit, but I just went back to what I knew, I just had more knowledge I guess.
Anyways, as I got older it just didn't feel that creative anymore and I wanted to do something different. I'll never forget, I was sitting in my living room in Florida. I'd just got back from this surfing magazine trip to Barbados and I hated it, I was so sick of lugging camera gear in and out of foreign countries. If you're the guy filming, you're on the beach where it's really hot - you're not out in the water. It's like, you're sweating, and everyone else is out getting really good waves and you're just standing there filming them. I remember thinking "I've got to do something different, I can't do this anymore, I'm burnt out, I want to try something different".
I'll never forget Brittany Spears, Baby One More Time came on MTV, and I was eating my cereal. I just like stared at it and I was like, I don't know what this is, I don't know how it works, or how you do it, but that's what I want to do. So I just had like an epiphany and then from there just sold my stuff, moved out to California, stayed with people I knew down in Newport Beach. I would come up to L.A. everyday hand my resume to production companies, basically started from the bottom again. I didn't know how to get in this world, or how it worked, but I knew there were companies I researched online that did music videos, so I just went to them.
What ended up happening was there was an organization called the MVPA which was the Music Video Production Association. Sort of like the AICP of music videos. I emailed them and told them what I wanted to do, and one of the ladies there emailed me back and let me come in a meet with her, she was really nice. When we met, she was wearing a Hurley shirt. I asked if she liked Hurley and she said she loved it. So when I left, I went and called Bob Hurley and I was asked if I could get some women's clothes for this lady. I've known Bob since I was a kid, he used to pay me to travel for surf videos. He let me go to his warehouse, I got a box of clothes and brought them to her.
She was so happy. She helped me so much, she introduced me to executive producers and told them to hire me. I started off at the bottom, I PA'd one video and then I became an executive assistant and then I just sort of got to learn what a music video was, how it works, what's the dynamic, like who does what, what does a producer do, what does a director do, what does the DP do, what do all these people do on these music videos? How does it work with a record label? How does it work with an artist? How does this all happen?
From the prospective I was at, I got to see it all, and I thought I wanted to be a director but I wasn't totally sure that I could even do it, I'm like, I don't even know if I can do this, how does this work? Luckily I got to be on set and learn from some of the greatest music video directors ever, and be around them, and the more I got to learn, and the more I got to watch, and the more I got to understand, the more I started to believe I could do it.
My role grew and I started working with directors and writing treatments for a lot of them. Being a part of that process was interesting because you learn how what has to fit into a budget, like what you can do for this amount of money, and also takes artists ideas. I think when I started writing treatments is kind of right when branding in videos started to come into play, like Motorola and P. Diddy's Vodka for example. Brands started putting money up to be in music videos. Then it was like, "Okay, we can do this video, but you have to ride a car into it, because Jeep is offering and extra fifty K towards the budget if there's a Jeep somewhere in it. But if the artist doesn't want to drive the Jeep, so how do we put the Jeep in? So, then it becomes extras. That's how I got started and then from there I went on and became a director myself.
Question: That's great! And you have done some phenomenal music videos including one with Beyonce, that I believe you were instrumental in making happen, right?
Answer: Yeah, but I didn't direct that. That was Jake Nava. That was Single Ladies. That was when I was writing treatments for Jake, with Jake, for a bunch of Beyonce videos. The brief came in that there was two videos, If I Were A Boy, and Single Ladies. And Single Ladies was like the throw in video, they wanted to shoot them back to back, both black and white. and it we decided to knock out both at once, while she was available. Beyonce wanted a simple dance video, that's all she wants to do is dance, but Jake of course, being an artist and a director, he wanted to do something a little different and not just film her on a stage dancing.
He asked me if I had any ideas and I had showed him this video a couple weeks ago, the music was a hip/hop song called Walk It Out. Someone had taken a Bob Fosse dance routine and they had put the Bob Fosse from the sixties dance routine with the girls with the bee hive hair. They put the song Walk It Out against the under the girls dancing, and it worked. It honestly looked like Bob Fosse choreographed these women to the song.
After showing him, he was like "Here, send it to me". So I sent it to him, he sent it to Beyonce. Then it was like - let's do this. The next thing you know she did it, she basically recreated that video, the Bob Fosse, even the little, there was a little ramp on the side and you could see her go up and down it and to the T that was the Bob Fosse routine.
When that video went up, it was probably one of the first viral phenomenon videos that just like took off out of nowhere. We knew it was going to be a great video, but nobody, no one ever thought this things going to be what it became, it just went massive. Its crazy to think that was the thrown in video, and it just became iconic.
That's what kind of led me to be a director, I felt like it was my chance to jump because a lot of the people at the record labels got word that I had found the YouTube routine and recreated it for Single Ladies. It also became kind of like my interest in YouTube because the reason that video took off in the beginning is people recognized that that was the Bob Fosse mash it up video that had been on YouTube. People recognized that.
Long story short, that video started to take off because people were in the comments being like "Oh, this is the Walk It Out video that she remade". So that kind of gave it its first initial push, and then once it got that push then it just took off.
Question: Are there certain brands that you think lend themselves better to music videos than other types of brands?
Answer: I think now a days it could almost be any brand. But, depending on the artist and what the artist is willing to do. There's all kinds of things you could do. I think it just depends on how creative you are, how creative you can get, and how willing the artist is to be open to it.
Obviously, there's been some organic brands, of course, like in hip / hop if there's some sort of vodka, not vodka, but alcohol brand, it can work, if that's what they want, they want a club scene which is pretty standard. Like obviously high end cars do well in videos, but then again, now a days with indie artists and stuff, I don't know, it's like everything's become so real. Artists will say that they don't care if it's a Toyota Prius, because they want to be like everybody else, they don't want to look rich and famous.
We've learned it's more appealing in a way. The people watching will be like "Oh, wait, the person in this video is driving a Toyota Prius, that's what I drive, I like them".
Question: Moving away from music videos. You ended up playing a massive role and really had a lot of influencers, especially with YouTube, to brand deals. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? And how you got involved in that whole world that is now everyone looks at and is like you're an influencer, this is a crazy business model.
Answer: Yeah. That was pretty crazy because that was, that was right when music videos, the budgets really went down. That's almost right when I got into it as a director. They started really tanking, and I'd spent eight years trying to get into this party, and I finally made it in the party, and I always tell people this, I'm like I've made it in the party, it's been eight years outside looking at it, seeing inside, I knew everybody inside, they're all having a good time, and I'm like, I want to be in that party, I want in that party. And I feel like I made the leap, I became a director, and as soon as I did it, they were like "Party's over, everybody out".
The budgets, went down ninety percent, like the average budget, and it became something, it wasn't what I'd signed up for, and it was sort of very difficult to wrap your head around, especially having written treatments for these directors for these five hundred thousand dollar videos, million dollar videos, and then trying to wrap your head around, how do I write for a twenty thousand dollar video? How do you do that? And you can do it a few times, I did it, because I had a lot of favors I could call in. But you can only call in favors for so long and then people won't do the favors anymore.
I was trying to think what else was out there, I didn't really know what I would do, this is what I moved out here for, this is what I want to do, I'm just going to keep doing it. It was such a crazy time. Anyways, I just kind of stumbled upon it was actually a receptionist that, the last company I worked on staff was Anonymous Content, and the receptionist there, Denise Cass, she had started uploading videos of herself talking to YouTube. We were Facebook friends and I'm obviously friends with her from Anonymous and I would see her post them and I really just didn't understand what she was doing or why, but she was doing it.
One day she reached out to me and she was like "Hey, I'm going to write this spoof video with this Akon and David Goetta, it was called Sexy Bitch, and she's like "I'm going to call it Bearded Bitch", or "Bearded Guy", or something like that, I can't remember now, it was a while ago. But she's like, "Yeah, and I have this friend he does a lot of stuff on YouTube and he's got a big beard so he's going to play the girl, he's going to play the sexy, it's going to be funny", so she's like "Would you want to direct it?", and I said yes. I mean, I wasn't doing anything, I was at home writing treatments and trying to book music videos and living off unemployment.
She gave me the address and I just had to show up. She said there would be a guy with a camera and then I would direct it. I show up and it's this kid's house, and he's like maybe eighteen, and he owns the house, and his name is Shane Dawson and she's like "Yeah, his name's Shane, he does YouTube stuff, and this is Justine, her name's iJustine on YouTube, she does video stuff, and this is Shay Carl". And then I recognized the one, the guy who'd done the Obama video, he'd played Obama, he was there, and I was like "Oh, I know who that guy is, why's he here?". These are all big YouTube people. I have no idea what that means, but awesome, let's do this.
So, we did it and it was funny and they were like very socially awkward but it was really fun, they were really cool, and they were fun and they were so like normal people. We did it and then a couple weeks later she invited me to come by and see the edit. I came by and thought it was pretty funny. It was obviously low five, I wasn't going to put it on my highlight reel. But she asked if I wanted my name on it and I said sure. So a few days later I check on YouTube to see after they've uploaded it and I think at the time it had almost a million views when this was like 2011 when videos didn't get that kind of view. There wasn't that many people using YouTube.
I called her up to ask what was going on, I didn't understand how it got so many views, how was this working? She said that everyone in that video was a huge YouTube star and they pushed from their channels to the video. I found out that some of them were making several hundred thousand a year off of YouTube. I thought, well if you can't beat them, join them.
Check Out The Podcast!
Justin has so many fascinating stories to share about how he reached where he is at in his career! It's inspiring to hear how being open to new learning opportunities is always a good idea - even if you don't know how its all going to work out. Check out the full episode below!
Influencers are part of our bread and butter here at Hollywood Branded. Check out some more of our content about the fascinating world of influencers:
- 6 Of The Highest Earning Social Media Influencers
- 3 Qualities To Look For In A Social Media Influencer
- An Insider's Guide To Social Media Influencers
- Brand Partnerships With Travel Influencers