Amazon Prime Video Head Of Social And Editorial: Everyone Is Now A Storyteller
13 May, 2022
Amazon Prime Video's Head of Social Media and Editorial, Carlo Frem, discusses why it's great that media creation has been democratised, why Virgil Abloh is his hero, and what he's speaking about at MAD//Fest in July.
1. 2022 is the year of?
Vulnerability – we’re finally moving away from glorifying performative perfectionism, and I’m here for it. The topic of vulnerability in mainstream culture is sparking healthy conversations, largely driven by the collective pandemic-induced anguish that we’ve all experienced. I’m enjoying seeing leaders talk more openly about how to foster a culture of vulnerability, normalizing it as a fundamental pre-requisite to courage, risk-taking and innovation across all fields, from the Military to Tech (thank you, Brené Brown, for all your fascinating research in this space).
2. Who is your hero from the marketing and advertising world? Why?
Virgil Abloh. Some might argue he’s not a Marketeer, but in response to that I would question such a narrow definition of Marketing. To me, great Marketeers leave a peculiar mark on pop culture by connecting dots that most wouldn’t connect. Their work leaves a lasting impression, a point-of-view, that can be interrogated extensively. And that’s exactly what Virgil did. The NYTimes said it best: “Mr. Abloh transformed not just what consumers wanted to wear, bridging hypebeast culture and the luxury world, but what brands wanted in a designer — and the meaning of ‘fashion’ itself.” Somehow all at once, he collided, manipulated, and intertwined compelling narratives across Media, Fashion & Art to construct his own alternative definition of luxury.
3. What was the last ad your saw that made you buy something?
This isn’t an ad, but it works: House of Gucci. That movie made me go on a proper Gucci binge; my wallet has never fully recovered. Being immersed in Gucci’s intriguing dark history was mesmerizing. The experience reinvigorated the brand’s aesthetic for me (sure, Gaga’s haunting performance and Alessandro Michele’s quirky re-invention of the brand helped too). Unsurprisingly, the data shows I’m not the only one who felt this way (here you go). It’s just one of many examples illustrating how great storytelling drives irrational emotional connections with a brand. Author and mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik reminds us that “(w)e are not rational creatures who feel; we are emotional creatures who rationalize.”
4. What’s your all time favourite advert/campaign and why?
This Apple Perspective ad: 1) It’s a work of art: the craft, pacing, musicality, and obsessive attention to detail mirror the finesse of their products, 2) It’s wonderfully cohesive: the execution serves the message and the message serves the execution, from beginning to end – I see a lot of gimmicky ads that wow the senses but lack intentionality, 3) It’s daringly consistent: it’s the same stubborn (but brilliant) idea that Apple has committed to and delivered since “Think Different”, with a fresh spin.
5. If you had to choose which one would it be - day WFH or day in the office?
Day WFH – I like having my dog around and I’m an introvert at heart, so busy environments sometimes drain me.
6. What keeps you awake at night?
My dog, Gustav, who can never quite decide if he prefers sleeping in our bed or in his own.
7. 2022 is the year of the Metaverse, (apparently) - will you be an early adopter or a cynical onlooker?
Ah, the M word. I’ll say this: I’ll be both an optimistic early adopter and a cynical onlooker. The best experiences in the Metaverse will require tension on both sides to create something truly additive. I have yet to see this done well for customers at scale. So far, I’ve mostly seen brands flexing amongst ourselves through press releases, though I’m happy to be proven wrong (if you find a compelling case study that resonated with customers and not just the industry, send it my way!). In the end, remember that customers will decide if and when it’s time to care meaningfully about the Metaverse – not us. Until then, let’s keep observing, testing, and learning.
8. Which brand, apart from your own, inspires you?
9. What’s the biggest opportunity in marketing and advertising right now?
Building and nurturing long-term, meaningful relationships with Creators who genuinely understand your customers and what makes them tick. The best Creators today will produce more engaging content than any in-house or agency team (often at a fraction of the cost). The challenge is fueling genuine Creator advocacy for your brand, at scale. If the Creators you’re working with don’t genuinely believe in your brand, the output suffers tremendously. Offering Creators a big paycheck simply isn’t enough anymore; what money-can’t-buy experiences and social currency can you offer them?
10. Which (emerging) trend or innovation of 2021 will have the greatest impact on the industry in 2022?
If I knew the answer to that, I’d quit today and build a start-up in that space ;) It’s hard to pick one, but two that I spend a lot of time thinking about:
1) The accelerated democratization of media creation, through a combination of better tech (i.e. stellar iPhone cameras in pockets) and apps (TikTok/Snap) – everyone is now a storyteller and it’s fantastic to see! In about 10 years, teens will have the creative tools to produce blockbuster-quality movies all on their own.
2) The desire for more “human” interactivity on digital platforms. If you think about the recent emergence of live & interactive experiences (e.g. Twitch) and older mediums continuing to re-surface (e.g. Audio), there’s almost a desire to go back to “old school” human behaviors. We’re sick of time-delayed posts that algorithms meticulously curate; we want to consume it live as it’s happening, like we’re there in-person, flaws & all. We’re sick of staring at screens all day; we want to listen to meaningful unfiltered conversations as we’re walking outdoors.
11. What would you most like to change about the ad industry?
I shared my admiration for Virgil Abloh already, so I’ll keep this snappy. Despite Virgil’s landmark accomplishments, he was as humble as they get. Even at the top of his game, Virgil claimed he hadn’t accomplished much and still felt like an intern. I wish more Marketeers could embody this attitude: more humility, fewer jazz hands. At Amazon, we value getting it right (the outcome) vs. being right (your ego). How do you get it right? Adopt a curious mindset. What does this look like in practice? You try new things, even when you’re skeptical. You learn new skills, even when it’s daunting. You continuously iterate, even when it already seems excellent. You change your mind when you know better, even when it makes you look wrong.
12. What are you speaking about at MAD//Fest in July?
How Prime Video is leaning in, operationalising, and actioning uncomfortable feedback & insights from Gen Z to create content that better speaks to them.
Carlo will be speaking at MAD//Fest with Jay Richards, Imagen Insights.
Over 7,000 brands and agencies are expected to attend MAD//Fest London 2022, 3,000 more than 2021 when MAD//Fest was the only UK industry festival to take place in physical form. Other speakers for the 2022 edition include Rachel Waller, Global VP Innovation, Burberry; Cristina Diezhandino, Global CMO, Diageo; Tina Koehler, Global VP Marketing, Deliveroo; James Brown, MD, BrewDog; and Sir Martin Sorrell, Founder & CEO, S4 Capital.
Earlybird tickets are available here.