Take it from me, running a digital marketing agency is not easy. Today, we’re going to hear all about what it takes from Tom Cunha, CEO of Brigade Marketing, a super creative and highly energetic firm, which specializes in the entertainment industry.
About Tom Cunha, CEO of Brigade Marketing
Tom Cunha is CEO of Brigade, a digital-first, award-winning marketing, publicity and advertising firm specializing in entertainment industry clientele. Brigade has executed hundreds of successful theatrical, digital, television and festival campaigns over its ten year history with clients that include Amazon, CBS, Focus Features, Hulu, IFC Films, Lionsgate, Netflix, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.
Tom has been working in Film & Television PR and Marketing for nearly two decades and has led his teams on a wide variety of campaigns for films including 1917, BlackKklansman, Call Me By Your Name, Creed, Downton Abbey, Get Out, MA, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, and Soul.
Prior to founding Brigade, Tom had worked in digital marketing capacities on both agency and client sides, including MGM Studios and 20th Century Fox; He also serves on the Board of Directors of Seriesfest, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing artists at the forefront of episodic storytelling.
Your company focuses on the entertainment industry. What led you to launch your own agency?
Tom Cunha: It was a number of things, actually. You know, I’d worked in the entertainment industry for quite some time. I was primarily in the digital marketing and publicity space. And at the time, which was 2010, 10 years ago, I can’t believe it’s been that long, I just felt like there was really an opportunity for an agency that had kind of a forward-thinking approach, that combined the different disciplines of digital marketing, which includes social media, which at the time was very small, and publicity creative advertising.
And then we also do media planning and strategy as well. So I wanted kind of a 360 experience, and a lot of agencies had one or the other, but I wanted to have sort of that holistic approach to it.
Does influencer marketing fall on the PR side or is it on the planning and the media buying side of your agency?
Tom Cunha: Yes. And it is varied in terms of where it falls depending upon the entity, and I think that is the case on both client and agency side. Sometimes it does fall under media.
We primarily have it under publicity. We do it more on a micro level. So it’s dealing more with organic outreach to influencers.
So not paid?
Tom Cunha: Correct. I mean, we have done paid. We have that capability and we certainly do it, but it’s more non-paid than paid.
What advice would you give to a CEO running their own ad agency?
Tom Cunha: I think the most important thing is to pay attention, to look ahead, and to be adaptive. I know that’s multiple things. But in the digital space it is ever evolving. Kind of like what I was telling you, in 2010 it was sort of very young inception of marketing films and TV properties on social media.
Now it is very much a driver. So it’s really kind of paying attention to what’s working in the marketplace, the behaviors of people, how they’re consuming, what they’re doing and sort of paying attention to how it shifts.
Is there anything unique and specific that you’re doing in terms of the services that you offer to the entertainment industry, to your clients?
Tom Cunha: I would say the one thing that I think is pretty unique about us is that we do have sort of a 360 approach. So I have a social media team, I have a PR team, I have a creative services team. So when we approach a campaign, we really do look at 360, even when the client might be coming to us in an a la carte capacity.
So the PR team, for example, has very good insight into what’s happening in the social media space. And that’s important because social media is driving so much of publicity now.
And that really, I would say is one thing that I think distinguishes us. We have a great team, it’s a lot of the same folks that have been with me for years, some even since the beginning, and we’re a, I think, boutique enough company that we have the interactions and the insight of the various teams. It’s not segmented in ways that might happen at say a larger boilerplate agency.
Sherri Langburt: Yeah. I see that a lot. It’s kind of siloed. So someone’s running a campaign and doing the social strategy, but then influencers are doing something completely different.
Tom Cunha: Yeah. And they’re so tied into each other and the ultimate success and awareness of the campaign.
What has been the biggest change in the agency world, and how have you adapted?
Tom Cunha: Gosh, it’s been a lot of things. I think that we are taking into account a lot more. We also have a national PR team, so across the board we’re taking into a lot more what is happening offline, and how our clients are putting together strategies that might be… Well there’s less of this now because of COVID, but saying on the ground activation, or things that might be happening in broadcast.
They can kind of be extensions of, or rooted in some respects, the digital and social media campaigns. So it’s sort of, I would say it’s a broadening of it, and a lot of what happens offline is connected to what’s happening in the digital space now.
Is there any specific example to bring that to?
Tom Cunha: Numerous examples. We’ve done trailer premiers, where it was an actual event on the ground, but it was promoted and live streamed on say the social media channels of the film title.
So it’s really kind of activating press, talent, and everything on the ground, but then it is bringing in communities of users and fans of the film. So they’re actually experiencing it at the same time and discussing it.
Is there anything creative you’ve done to support your clients through 2020?
Tom Cunha: I think that we found a lot of opportunities in the digital space. I think certainly the virtual chat arena has exploded this year because of COVID, and that’s given a lot of opportunities to utilize talent in different ways.
Most media outlets are doing interviews via virtual mediums now. We haven’t done this yet, but I think some have even actually done premieres. So it’s easier in a lot of ways because this is happening now without having to travel and without having to deal with difficult, or complicated, or busy schedules.
So the availability has been good. You know, in terms of just the market itself, the challenges have been more just that there is, to your point, there is less films and shows going into production. And I think, I mean, pending how long this goes on, that we might be feeling that well into 2021.
But the upside of it is there’s been a lot more that have turned to streaming and in home releases in some way, shape or form. So, it is a really interesting time.
Have you leveraged or utilized any streaming platforms or digital technologies?
Tom Cunha: It’s primarily been Zoom and Google, but I do think to your point, I think that there’s going to be more. And I think we are all sort of adjusting to certain things that we have had to do and experience over the last eight months.
So I think some things are just going to stick post-COVID.
Tom Cunha: I do think people are going to rely a lot more on virtual hangouts than they ever did before. I think there’s a comfort and an ease to it. And I think that the behavior will change a little bit. So it kind of remains to be seen, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity.
Sherri Langburt: Yeah. I mean, if you think about back in the day going to a red carpet event, and there’s press, and there’s influencers, that red carpet event can now be virtual. So some people could go and people who can’t get there could do it virtually.
Tom Cunha: Exactly.
Sherri Langburt: Which it was probably never opened up. I mean, maybe on a one-off basis, but now anyone could do that.
Are you allowed to leverage any of the influencer content that you’d have generated for other marketing channels?
Tom Cunha: Not as much, we haven’t. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. I mean, our extent with influencers is typically inviting them somewhere or giving them access to something to actually promote the show, or the property, or the film.
And that is done through, I mean, it can be done through virtual channels, it could be sending them promotional packs, those sorts of things. So we just really look for them to promote it on their channels.
We haven’t gone and actually utilized that content to weave into the campaign. Other than we do take, with permission, obviously, user quotes and responses to screenings that fans may have gone to for a particular movie. And that has been certainly used in social content.
How do you measure the success of an organic influencer marketing campaign?
Tom Cunha: You know, you really just have to look at their reach, and it’s very hard to kind of connect the dots to when someone is exposed to the content or the promotion, and how it travels from there to actually making a purchase decision, to stream the movie, or to watch the show, or to buy a movie ticket.
So really we look at the reach, and that’s, I think, most important. And we also look at what their area of interest is and who their followers are. I mean, is it gaming influencers? Is it a home decor influencer? Things like that are obviously very important. And how does that tie into the property?
What type of film would you need a home decor influencer for? Just curious.
Tom Cunha: Oh gosh. I mean, I was just kind of doing that off the top of my head.
Sherri Langburt: You don’t have to answer, but I’d love to hear… You’re obviously working in this exciting, amazing space, tell us about some of the activations and the creativity that you leverage the influencers for.
Tom Cunha: Well, I think something like that would be maybe a movie that had more of an aspirational feel to it, like an aspirational lifestyle feel to it. And there are movies that are like that.
Tom Cunha: I know that example specifically is very targeted, the other example that I used before, gaming, that was specific to a campaign that we did for 1917.
Sherri Langburt: Wow.
So you know, it’s those types of things. We look for those types of fits.
So the last question I always ask to everyone is: Name an influencer you love to follow, but hate to admit that you do?
Tom Cunha: Oh, gosh. I don’t know if there’s an influencer that I’d hate to admit. I follow a lot. On Instagram I follow a lot of those like National Geographic type photographers, all those huge ariel- shots of icebergs, and mountains, and all that stuff. I do really like, I don’t know if this falls under influencer per se, but that Josh Gad Reunited Apart on YouTube, where he brings the casts of old movies together.
I’ve never seen that. I should look at that.
Tom Cunha: Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller and stuff. Yeah. It’s really fun. I like those.
Sherri Langburt: Oh, that’s awesome.
Tom Cunha: Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty varied. I follow a lot on social media.
What do you think some of the trends are going to be for next year, 2021?
Tom Cunha: That’s a good question, and it’s very hard to tell, just given the year that we’ve had.
There’s so many considerations too. I mean there’s lifestyle, there’s the pandemic, there’s economic. It’s a very hard thing to say. I do think that, as I mentioned before, I do think the virtual chat area is certainly an avenue that I think can be explored a lot more, and probably will be.
Sherri Langburt: Meaning like private Zooms and stuff like that?
Tom Cunha: Yeah. And I mean, how can properties be marketed within that space beyond utilizing them as a tool, as a functionality for interviews and stuff like that.
Sherri Langburt: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us. Is there anything else you want to share in terms of Brigade Marketing with our listeners?
Tom Cunha: No, I think you covered it. We love what we do and it’s a great team, and I really appreciate you having me on.
Sherri Langburt: Yes, your team is great. And it’s so nice to connect with everyone. So please stay in touch and hopefully brighter days to come in 2021, Tom.