The Sell-Side View: Q&A with Jungle Creations’ Nat Poulter

Over the past year, ‘Buy-Side View’ series of interviews have given some fascinating insight into what people working on the buy-side really care about, and what’s at the top of their agendas.

Now we’re doing the same with the ‘Sell-Side View’, where we’ll be interviewing industry leaders from publishers and broadcasters to hear about what’s currently working well for them, and about the biggest challenges they’re currently facing.

For the first edition of this series VAN spoke with Nat Poulter, COO of Jungle Creations. In this interview Poulter discusses why he thinks the buy-side should invest more in integrated partnerships with media businesses, how Jungle Creations is generating revenues outside of advertising and sponsorship, and why publishers need to “wean themselves off their addictions to display ad revenues”.

What is the greatest challenge facing publishers today?

The number one challenge is the same as it has always been: growing and building a loyal audience. In a digital world, competition for audiences is more fierce than ever so you have to ensure you’re constantly adding value to people’s lives through their viewing experiences with you.

On top of this, to remain relevant you need to be present on all platforms and across all formats whether that’s TikTok or Instagram, video or audio, you need a variety of skill sets to deliver content yet remain agile enough to pivot when you need to, which collectively can lead to a sizable cost base.

Beyond this, for publishers, gone are the days when you could very easily sell high yielding print ads and digital takeovers focussed on mass reach. To remain competitive and relevant in today’s digital landscape, the offer has had to become more complex so publishers have had to diversify and adapt to develop a hard-nosed commercial attitude to content creation, which has led the monetisation model to change.

A modern media business is founded on diversification, be it programmatic advertising, branded content, sponsorships, affiliate, DTC commerce, licensing, subscriptions or beyond. However, whilst this feels like a more robust business model, the complexity involved in running a cross platform multi-product company poses its own challenges. You need a broad skill set, to structure the business in a way that makes operational sense and is cost efficient, and to invest in people who really know what they’re doing within each vertical, which as mentioned, comes with a larger cost base.

How important is video revenue to your business?

As a modern media business founded on social media platforms video revenue is our business. Original programming is a huge focus for us and we’re investing heavily in this direction with our most recent hire being a Director Of Programming.

Which ad tech vendors are delivering the most value to your business?

Our content is social first and that being the case we drive the majority of our revenue from these social platforms. In recent times, Snapchat has become a really important partner for us and where we’ve increased our number of shows on its Discover platform by 40 percent since lockdown began and increased our production on two of those shows – Four Nine and Four Nine Voices – by 50 percent. The partnership has enabled us to invest in original content like never before.

Delivering content to audiences at such scale has enabled us to interrogate platform data to identify key content themes to inform even better content creation. With new developments across platforms like Instagram and TikTok creating further revenue opportunities, we’re really excited to see where our content can take us next.

If you could change one thing about the buy-side, what would it be?

As media businesses evolve, there has to be a big focus on building audience loyalty and owning the relationship with the consumer. On this basis, I truly believe that the buy side should move away from seeing media as campaign based activations to drive short term promotional uplifts and towards more integrated partnerships with media businesses that are well positioned to solve so many of the buy sides longer term objectives. This is where a large proportion of our brand partnerships are heading because of the seamless way in which we can integrate brands within our content and beyond.

As an example, our media brand Twisted is in the middle of its third 10-month partnership with Baileys, a campaign that has won numerous awards and generated huge value not just for our client but for Twisted as well given how well the two brands work together and the different ways we’ve been able to activate the partnership via our pop-up bar and delivery only restaurant.

Which content types and video formats are working best for you today?

Original content has been a huge boon for us and is where we see the most success. As an example, during lockdown our media brand Craft Factory partnered with Aquafresh, integrating the product seamlessly into the type of video content Craft Factory’s audience is after, which saw this piece of branded content perform incredibly well with over 5 million views for just one video, returning huge ROI for our client. Since lockdown we know people have begun to seek out new hobbies and ways of staying busy and in direct correlation to that we have seen the media brands we operate in more niche verticals, for example, Twisted, Craft Factory and Level Fitness, explode vs the broader categories like news and entertainment.

Our talent led original series also see plenty of success and luckily we’ve still been able to shoot these in lockdown remotely, including our new show 49 Questions that sees our female first media brand Four Nine ask celebrities 49 quick fire questions.

Do you produce video in-house? How do you go about it?

We produce almost 100 percent of our video output in-house, usually in our studios based at our offices and at Market Hall West End where Twisted has its own consumer facing studio. However, since lockdown our production teams have had to set up studios in their own homes, which initially was a daunting prospect but has in fact led to an increase in output and productivity. The high level of production isn’t always possible within this set up but the development of our formats, which has seen an increase in personality led content and a more relatable, personal feel where audiences are getting a look into our creator’s homes, has actually been a huge plus.

What do you think is your publication’s strongest USP in the eyes of your audience?

Our strongest USP is our relevant, relatable content. Each of our media brands is unique and focused in its approach, offering each audience snackable content that’s tailored to their interests.

Do you think the demise of the cookie and privacy will help or hinder publishers? How do you think the industry will adapt?

On the one hand, the demise of the third party cookie could put publishers in the driving seat. In many cases, publishers own information on their audiences on their owned channels. The demise of the third party cookie will see advertisers ceding some level of control and visibility. This could see publishers in a better position to build stronger relationships with the buy side.

That said, on the publisher side it requires a level of investment and expertise to capture, structure and target these first party audiences in a way that brings additional value to their clients to a point that they are willing to pay more for these audiences. All this is underpinned by the fact that the real winners are the walled garden platforms, the Facebooks and Googles of the world.

In a world where advertising efficiency is king and there is a keen focus on targeting niche audiences it’s these platforms that are one of the few means by which advertisers can do this at scale. The demise of the third party cookie will see the strength of these platforms grow further.

Are you exploring ways of monetising your content outside of advertising? Are they succeeding?

Our number one focus as a business is how we strengthen the relationship between our audience and our media brands. Our media brands are ultimately the flywheel that drive forward advertising and branded content but beyond this the stronger the brand the more successful one can be in the world of licensing and DTC commerce.

Next month we’ll launch Twisted: A Cookbook, and of course we have our delivery only restaurant business, Twisted London and our Twisted studio at Market Hall West End, which has allowed us to grow our content and commercial product offering. Other means of monetising our content outside of advertising is DTC Commerce via our media brands Lovimals and Blue Crate, the former making headlines a year ago for the $1M in sales it made in its first month of operation.

Which social platforms are working best for you in terms of distribution, engagement and revenue generation?

It’s critical for us to be present on all relevant platforms and for us they are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok. Each exists for different reasons and we adapt our content strategy as a result to cater to the differing viewing habits of the audiences on each platform. It then follows that no one platform is the same as the next in terms of engagement, revenue, user numbers and so on.

It’s also important to note that they are all at different stages in their growth, for example, revenue opportunities may be fewer on TikTok at the moment, however, it has a huge number of users and is going through astronomical growth, offering numerous opportunities for the future.

What person in the industry inspires you the most today?

At Jungle Creations we define ourselves as a modern media business and for this reason the turnaround that has happened at Future under CEO Zillah Byng-Thorne is really inspiring.

They’ve dug themselves out of the hole that so many publishing businesses have ended up in off the back of the decline in the print market. They’ve pulled their specialised magazine brands into the digital age. It feels by operating in different verticals that sit in very defined interest categories they can garner unparalleled audience loyalty. From here, they have scaled a multitude of revenue streams that run horizontally through each of their brands, be it the more legacy ad revenues across display, sponsorships and branded editorial through to consumer revenues across affiliates, events, subscriptions and even DTC commerce.

They seem to have broken down the traditional barriers between sales and editorial and built a commercial mindset into the editorial and content teams. To my mind, they’ve defined the model for a modern media business.

What does the future hold for publishers?

Publishers must stick to a philosophy of innovate or die if they want to exist in the future. The way people discover, consume, engage with and share content is constantly evolving and so the way consumers attribute value changes and what they are willing to devote time to or even pay for changes with this.

To remain relevant media companies need to be bold, innovate and be willing to experiment. Publishers need to be ready to wean themselves off their addiction to display ad revenues. Often growth metrics associated with ad revenue (i.e going after scale at any cost) can have a negative impact on user experience and limit the growth potential of other exciting opportunities including consumer revenues. In a publishing age that is increasingly geared towards user experience and brand engagement, and heavily focused on new content platforms, only the truly agile will survive.

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