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Motion Sickness' Sam Stuchbury on diversifying investments and the future of content

In this edition, Idealog digital editor Ben Mack chats with Motion Sickness' Sam Stuchbury, who talks about the story of his company and what changing trends in content mean for businesses and advertising agencies.

Ben Mack: One of the big moves that you've made is you owning a 20 percent holding in The Social Club.

Sam Stuchbury: Yes.

Which seems a bit different then what an agency would typically do, especially within the advertising space. Could you tell us a little bit about the reasoning?

As a part of our business strategy at Motion Sickness we get quite a lot of start-ups and new businesses approaching us. We've had that happening over the last couple of years, so we made the decision that we see it as a good opportunity. We'd like to see if we can work on an equity basis with some of those companies. With The Social Club, we're actually one of the founders of that company with three other people, and it was just a really great opportunity. We saw in our own clients a lot of people are moving into the influencer space and it's becoming more and more prolific and it's actually becoming really successful for clients. We're already doing a lot of influencer marketing for our clients and we just have a more solid presence in that space. So I think having a part of The Social Club and being a part of that journey is really cool to be in a different area of the industry and having our finger in that pie, so to speak. But it's been really interesting and it's fascinating to see how that part of the industry is developing.

Well you certainly seem to have your fingers in a lot of different pies. Looking at the business model side of things for that, do you see that as a sustainable business model going forward in the next few years?

I think so. I think the main thing for us is, in terms of being involved in other businesses with equity in them, we just can't do too many to detract away our main focus which is the agency. We only have two other businesses that we're involved in, so it's definitely sustainable if we find the right opportunity. Sometimes there's opportunities when smaller businesses might not be able to afford our fees, but they might be willing to work on an equity basis. But the main thing for us is being involved in businesses we believe in. I think it's a great business and it's really been enjoyable, but not losing attention away from our core business with is Motion Sickness as an agency.

A bit on that finding opportunities and on the agency side of things as well, in 2017 what do we see as some of the big trends in advertising within the industry?

From my perspective, the best thing I can talk about is really the social and content space. There's quite lot of different things, but from our perspective of seeing our clients looking to do some different things on social, so what comes to my mind would be long form content on social. You hear a lot of people talking about, "Oh we need a 20 second video." The really short videos, which is true, but I still think there is space for long form content. There is a lot of people that will binge watch Netflix or The Crown on Netflix, the whole series, so there's definitely a space for people to watch long form content and people want to do it. So we've been talking to a lot of clients about how we can utilise YouTube and build a YouTube following and do really informative, interesting, long form content. Ten minutes-plus for each piece and how that can work into your brand. So that's definitely something that we're excited to play with in the coming year and I think it will be a bit of a trend.

The other aspect would definitely be video, of course. It's taking over social. Facebook has a huge movement toward video at the moment but there's a few things you need to watch out for. For example, a lot of people watch video without the sound, because they'll be watching it on the bus or in public spaces, so thinking about subtitles and how you can do that. Then just having a really strong hook. If you don't have a really strong hook then people will stop watching after the first five or 10 seconds. In terms of some content trends that would definitely be where we're looking this year.

I'm especially intrigued by what you mentioned about some of that long form content, 10 minutes-plus of video content for clients, because when you're producing a video that long it sort of sounds like you're blurring the lines between being an advertising agency and a production company for film.

Yes. For sure. Our original background was content production. All of our video production and photography and all the content is done in house. So I guess that puts in a position where we can do that stuff. But it's quite interesting how the industry is moving. For a lot of our clients we're not only becoming their social agency, but almost like their media house. You know? Like, there's clients that want editorial content for you, for example, to write them a blog post or to produce for them a short doco or whatever. It's kind of weird how it's blurring the lines between an advertising agency and a media house. It's really enjoyable and we're excited to be involved in it, but yeah it is definitely a change for some clients but it's a lot of fun.

Especially what comes across as different about that as well is the risk factor in producing such a large piece of content. If you're making a video that can be more than 10 minutes in length, I imagine the production costs of that are quite high, so the risks must be very, very high for clients.

Yeah. There are ways to keep the production costs down, especially if you're doing a whole series you can make it reasonably efficient with shooting, but it all depends on the concept. I think there's always going to be a risk experimenting with new content, but I think if you've got a strong strategy and often with a lot of clients it might be a case of experimenting with content. Dipping your toes in the water first and experimenting before you committing with a whole big series.

We're excited to test long form video content but that's not to say that there's not a space for short form video, we do a lot of it. I think it shouldn't be discounted completely.

In looking at the Motion Sickness story, a big theme that echoes throughout is the element of an underdog succeeding. People love reading and hearing about that kind of story. Especially any kind of story where it's people getting together in a flat in Dunedin and making things, having a go at it. I mean, we all know the Six60 story for example quite well within the music industry. What are some lessons that you think other entrepreneurs or businesses could learn from the Motion Sickness story?

We definitely learned a lot. It's been a huge learning curve for us over the few years that we've built the business, but I think one of the main things is just doing something you enjoy. You see a lot of entrepreneurs coming up with the newest app or coming up with some new business. Which when you look at their business they're doing it simply to make money. They’re not passionate about creating this app they just want to make money. I think the main thing is creating a business around a subject that you actually enjoy. If I've learned anything in Motion Sickness is that it will take over your life, especially initially, so you've got to make sure it's something you enjoy. I think if you're passionate about what you do then it makes your work a lot better as well.

I think the other thing, especially for young entrepreneurs, is that ... quite a mindset change for me initially was, we were quite young when we started the business obviously, so I used to think, "Oh we've gone to these meetings." And you subconsciously be thinking, "We're young guys, he's got plenty against us, they want someone a little older and more experienced." But that's actually not true. Being young is definitely an advantage not a disadvantage. People really appreciate having a young perspective. You shouldn't be mentally restricted by your age I don't think.

Is there anything else you want to talk about?

I think one thing to touch on is that a lot of people ... I just like to say to people is that generally the support that we've had for Motion Sickness has been amazing. A lot of people follow us as a business and as a brand because there's behind the scenes stuff that we put out and blog content we put out as well, but I think the main thing from our perspective is that we've just been blown away how supportive people have been to Motion Sickness as a business and as a brand. We've met a lot of people and the majority of people, like 95 percent, have been supper supportive and really nice which was, to be honest, a little bit unexpected when we came into the advertising industry because a lot of people have said. We're just stoked to be a part of the industry in Auckland and making a name for ourselves and just chipping away at doing something we enjoy.

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