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  • Writer's pictureMichael Chen

My First Time - as a Branded Content Producer

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

Another #MyFirstTime story, #Throwback to 2013 when I jumped into my biggest professional working role of my career at the time. Taking on a lead role rather than just a senior exec / project manager.

Between 2006 to 2012, I had done everything from Production, Event Management and Marketing. All this was done while I also continued working on my craft as an actor, signing up for various workshops, doing more theatre with some tv and film roles too.

As per my previous #MyFirstTime post, I found myself getting pulled back into production again after doing my first indie film, 'Cuak' released in 2014. At the same time, I was heavily inspired by web 2.0 and how the digital wave was giving some power to the creators, making a dent to the overwhelming control traditionally held by the gatekeepers. Putting both of these experiences together, I realised that the digital video frontier was where I wanted to be.

How I got into Nuffnang?

I knew the Malaysian Founder of Nuffnang, Timothy Tiah in the passing. My educated guess being that Nuffnang representing the top influencers would be constantly approached by Brands to make videos. And this is where I saw my value. I believed then and still do now, that Brands are missing out on a golden opportunity to develop content in a meaningful way. That was going to change and I wanted to be a catalyst to help Brands get there.

However, I didn't want to give Tim a direct call. We were not close and I felt a cold call would be intrusive. At the time, I noticed that Nuffnang was looking to hire a Talent Executive. I submitted my resume, fingers crossed, hoping that HR would call me in. Shout out to Ser Li, the HR Manager at the time, who was intrigued enough to call me in.

The plan was to go in and reveal that my true intention was to pitch myself to start an internal video production team for Nuffnang. And request for a chance to meet with Tim officially through the proper channels. Lo and behold, the plan worked. I met with Tim, he listened to my story and proposal. I will forever be thankful that he believed in me enough to give me the opportunity to work with him.

The 5 years there (2013 - 2018) are some of my most career-formative years of my life.

I learned to work in a public-listed company with presence in multiple countries. I built and developed and ran a for-profit department, assembling and training up a young team of colleagues, worked closely with HR and Finance to manage my department efficiently to build up to bigger and better things.

I truly dived deep into content in all of its forms, while my focus was in the fast paced digital content space, chasing that virality that all the Brands want. I learnt that inspiration for the really good ideas wasn't confined in that narrow space. Good ideas that become good content came from everywhere! Movies, tv shows, live theatre, music and more.

How I worked with Brands?

My intention with Brands was to convince them to go beyond chasing the one-off viral video and trying in vain to recreate it afterwards. The approach should be to build a following by producing steady & consistent content, at various levels that service the Brand's objectives and builds on the Brand's identity that will eventually build a solid following (till this day, subscriber base on YouTube cannot be bought and can be very powerful). When the focus pivots to building a following, Brands can save on trying to buy views for any content that they produce in the future and develop other mechanisms/tools to complement the content that they produce! On the one hand, most Brands that I worked with always appreciated the effort of my proposals and approach but very rarely did they ever commit. Most choosing to stay in the comfort of producing the one-off in hopes that it goes viral and pumping budgets to boost views.

In many ways, my approach above is still relevant to what I do today.

During my time there, I had opportunities to travel to Singapore and Thailand quite a fair bit to study the market there and work closely with the Country Managers to help build a similar setup to what I had going in Malaysia. There were hard times, God-yes there were hard times. But it was all also very rewarding and I wouldn't trade my time there for anything else. Without a single doubt, if I didn't do #RTVMalaysia, I wouldn't be where I am today, doing what I love at Iron Hill Media.

Here's a link to a compilation of some of the 100's of videos that I produced for various brands in my time there. Spanning Nescafe, Milo, Mah Sing, Mamee, Tiger Beer, OldTown White Coffee, Citibank, Farm Fresh, Ikea, McDonalds and a even a series of Stand-Up Comedy Specials for iflix called 'Oi Jaga Mulut (season 2)'. Come to think of it, that last one, really feels like the universe was telling me that I would be where I am today.

Anyway, that's it. Thank you for reading this one. And again, stay tuned as I lead up to an announcement about #TheIHMIncubator.

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