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August 19, 2014

Kevin Aratari of mOcean on Branded Content and Big Ideas [POV]

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Kevin Aratari is the CMO of mOcean, a creative agency located in Los Angeles.

Tell us a little about yourself. Describe your job, how long you’ve been doing it, and how you got into it.

I’m going on 20 (cough, cough) years in the business. My first major gig was at the largest entertainment branding firm in the world, where I was on lengthy assignments either re-positioning or launching television network brands from scratch. About half of my clients were outside of the U.S. and learning how to market in different cultures was by far the most interesting part of the job. Over time, I grew from being a producer to an executive producer, and I started to get into the account side of the business as well. I went from working at a very large firm to managing a smaller one, and then to launching the broadcast division at mOcean 13 years ago.

What differentiates mOcean from other firms?

The way our creative directors work together, as well as the creative depth and scope of work we have produced over the years. We’re not a trailer house that does some TV work or a primarily editorial or design shop that calls itself a creative agency. We have produced a volume of integrated campaigns across many platforms for every major entertainment brand in the U.S. during the past 25 years. Our CDs come from many different disciplines, but they all work together as “big idea” people first and foremost, then execute in their area of expertise.

In recent years, brands and agencies have started to increase their investment in branded and long-form content. With mOcean’s background in creating this type of content, what tips can you provide those wanted to succeed with this type of format?

Just like movies and TV shows, it has to be entertaining, engaging, interesting content that dives into plot and character. A lot of the traditional “bonus material” from previous years has been seen a million times and doesn’t cut it anymore. It shouldn’t be a thinly veiled commercial either. There’s a lot of good stuff out there now, and viewers are exponentially more savvy than they were just a few years ago. You can’t successfully get into this line of business by doing the same old thing.

Many brands are still stuck in the campaign cycle, therefore looking for a completely new idea and new message every 6 months. Why should they consider extending these campaigns to build more of a story?

It really depends on what you’re marketing. A lot of the properties we deal with have a very short shelf life compared to many consumer brands, and in those cases we’re really starting from scratch every time. Consumer brands, however, have to find a way to be consistent and stay continually engaged with the consumer — and that’s where a “continuing story” approach to marketing can work really well.


What do you look for in a relationship with a client or brand?

Our ideal clients, and the ones we have had the most success with, are willing to completely engage with us as a partner. They know it takes more than emailing a brief and waiting two weeks for us to come back with a pitch — we collaborate, ask questions, poke holes, and discuss the work together all the way through the process, from the first phone call until the work goes out. It’s a serious commitment of time and effort, but it more than pays off in the end.


How do you market mOcean?

We’re actually in the midst of changing the way we market the company. Without giving too much away too soon, I will say that there are a lot of people out there who are doing great work and because of that, I feel that talking about the latest spot or key art per se isn’t enough of a differentiator anymore. So we’re going to start changing the conversation.

What is one of your favorite campaigns your agency has worked on?

All three of the “American Horror Story” campaigns for FX. The creative and the whole approach to the campaign with the “WTF” teases and cast spots have been completely new and disruptive. Plus, [FX Network EVP of Marketing & On-Air] Stephanie Gibbons is among the best in the business to work with. She’s the driving force behind all of that great creative. I can’t tell you how many clients seek “their version” of an AHS campaign.


What trend in advertising are you most interested in?

The merging of advertising and entertainment — though I don’t think it’s a trend, but a turning point in the industry. I’m not referring to just branded entertainment-type of work, but rather an overall approach and attitude about advertising where the marketer throws away traditional rules and seeks to make advertising as entertaining and engaging as other forms of content.


Must-Read Book:

“Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull – a must-read for anyone in the creative industry.

Favorite Ad:

The Chipotle “Scarecrow” campaign. What a great example of the brand transcending the product.

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn or follow mOcean on Twitter.


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