'Traditional processes of creating video content do not work anymore'

Written by Anindita Sarkar | Updated: Dec 19 2014, 14:30pm hrs
Mofilm, a UK-headquartered video content creation company, first came into prominence when it ran a make an ad video contest in 2009 which culminated with an awards ceremony at the Cannes Festival of Creativity. Originally built as an artistic collaboration between the GSM Association, the global trade group for the mobile industry, and the Sundance Film Festival to create the worlds largest short film festival, it caught the eye of advertisers who were looking to build engaging communication for their brands on the digital platform. Today it inspires film-makers, photographers and musicians to create videos for big brands and social causes.

With online advertising in India set to touch R10,000 crore in the next five years, Mofilm has roped in Meenakshi (Madhvani) Menon, managing partner, Spatial Access as president of its Asia operations to drive its India plans. As part of her mandate, Menon plans to engage around 20,000 film-makers in India alone in the next one year to create online videos. To begin with, brands like Johnnie Walker, Gillette, Oral B, Coca-Cola, Whisper, Pepsi, Microsoft have already started working with Mofilm in India. In a conversation with FE Brandwagons Anindita Sarkar, Menon, talks about the concept of Mofilm and how it can stimulate the online video industry. Edited excerpts:

How did you come to be associated with Mofilm

In 2010, I introduced Jeffrey Merrihue, the founder of Mofilm, to some Indian brands who in turn used the platform for creating their content. Kotak Bank, Hindustan Times, Nataraj Pencils, Pepsi and Surf were the pioneers who signed on. The platform kept growing and the focus on Europe and America paid off. Brands were looking for content to engage consumers and with ad avoidance increasing, branded content was getting more important and critical for the brands marketing mix.

Simultaneously, we could see the change in Asia too. Indonesia had already outstripped the US as the country with the highest number of Facebook users while India was well on the way to taking third position. Smartphones were redefining online access and usage across Asia and consumers were diving headfirst into the digital deep. It was in that context that Jeffrey and I felt the time was right for an Asian thrust.

What is the business model for Mofilm How is the platform monetised

Brands pay an all inclusive fee to Mofilm to take part in one of our contests. The brand brief is curated by our talent team. This team, headed by our creative head honcho Dave Alberts, then converts the brand brief into a film brief. The brief is then uploaded onto the Mofilm platform and is promoted by us to our creative community (around 60,000 artists) who then come back with ideas for the brief given. Once again the ideas are tweaked and curated and the client gets to choose the ideas he likes. Sometimes we have to intervene and make sure that the client does not dump the concept that is different or an outrageous outlier. Once the films are in, the client chooses the one he likes best and then that filmmaker becomes the winner of the contest.

The fee that brands pay includes all the prizes and grants that are given to filmmakers to help them create their entries, as well as the cost of bringing over the award winning filmmaker to the event. At the end of the contest, Mofilm provides a shortlist of fully finished films and the brand picks their top five, which are already cleared for online and mobile usage in perpetuity. Should a brand want to screen the film on TV or cinema then there is an additional rights fee involved wherein the TV/cinema rights are given only for a fixed period unlike the digital and mobile rights which are in perpetuity. We now run about 16 contests a year wherein each has three to eight briefs coming in from non-competing brands across different geographies.

How do you plan to expand the companys presence in India

We are going to provide a significant business advantage to our clients. Not only will they get great content at a significantly lower cost with all rights in perpetuity but they also get access to a global talent pool at an incredibly reasonable cost. Its a win-win for all. The need for content in the digital space is going to grow exponentially. The traditional model of using your ad films online no longer works. There are over 250 million Indians who are actively seeking content and only brands that have stories to tell will be able to talk to them. We will provide a platform for talent and brands and curate that conversation.

How different is Mofilm when compared to the traditional agencies in India

There is no comparison. The traditional agency plays the role of the conventional partner who covers all aspects of the clients communication needs. Today, however, you need to have access to specialist skills across a wide spectrum of services. Agencies have recognized this and have launched specialty shops to be able to give their clients relevant required services. We have had a number of agencies involved with the whole Mofilm process. Some clients like that. Others want it to be totally independent of their agencies because sometimes both clients and agencies get straight-jacketed in their thinking. Mofilm allows them to break free. The Mofilm model creates content that is fresher, faster and at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

Could this kind of business model eventually replace a traditional agency

We dont envisage our model replacing traditional agencies but it is clear that the traditional processes of creating video content cannot keep up with the demand. So some form of change is inevitable.

There are many clients who are willing to experiment when it comes to a new medium. However, they want to walk the narrow, tried and tested path when it comes to mass media. The Mofilm model allows them to straddle both the tools. Yesterday and tomorrow can both be brought together with no dissonance to the brand.