Atlantic Re:think is a uniquely positioned entity in the branded content space. Made up of journalists, producers, and analysts, Re:think takes its publication pedigree and leans into it, yielding work that is investigative, educational, and story-driven in nature. BrandStorytelling.tv caught up with Jeremy Elias, Creative Director at Atlantic Re:think, to better understand Re:think’s ethos, work, and future in this burgeoning space.
What is Atlantic Re:think?
Atlantic Re:think is the in-house branded content team for The Atlantic. We’re a group of 35+ strategists, reporters, designers, developers, producers and analysts, who apply the editorial sensibilities of The Atlantic to creative work for brands.
How does the unique makeup of your team benefit the work you do?
When you look across the team, you see people with backgrounds in journalism, advertising, academia, etc, all with their own broad range of interests and passions. That’s evident in the day-to-day work at Re:think, as well as in the team’s personal projects outside of work: a recently released book on American sports culture, a documentary on women-led communities, a published interview with Iran’s most iconic entertainer, or a newsletter on the issues faced by women of color.
Whether sitting in a brainstorm, or sitting in a film edit, those passions and experiences almost always benefit the creative process; they yield smart, authentic, novel, informed ideas. Never has that been more important than today, when brands are looking to have more substantial, socially-focused conversations with audiences.
Our success as a content studio will depend on finding more people with a diverse range of passions and experiences. It’s sort of the antidote to what advertising has been guilty of for so long — promoting a certain conformity around creative thought — looking for folks from a handful of the same ad schools, judging their value on a handful of awards.
You seem to have a firm grasp on the notion that the internet audience is a discerning one… how do you access rather than alienate a generation that approaches brands with such scrutiny?
I don’t think this is a particularly novel view, but audiences approach any form of content asking“What’s in it for me?” Today, the answer to that question has to be more compelling than it’s ever been. With branded content, the answer cannot be “You get to learn about our product.” Brands will fail in that world. The answer has to be “We’re going to entertain you.” or “We’re going to teach you something about an important topic.” or “We’re going to give you a tool that can help you do X”. And in getting there, you need to figure out the role of the brand. Maybe the brand is using their proprietary data, providing access to experts, or maybe they’re using their capital to fund this amazingly important story.
What are some of the other challenges you face when working to meet and exceed the high standard set by the longstanding excellence of The Atlantic?
The first challenge is simple math. There’s more creative work being developed today than at any previous time, and that inevitably means it’s harder to find a unique idea. The second challenge is that The Atlantic’s brand of journalism and creativity is about asking, “How do we challenge the typical approach to this topic or brief?” That often means taking risks, being a bit provocative, deviating from what we’ve always done. That can be a scary proposition for some marketers. The third challenge comes with the reality that Branded Content teams within publications, and the type of creative work we’re developing, is still relatively new. Yet the general relationship between Publisher/Agency/Advertiser hasn’t necessarily evolved. In many instances, we’re still working with 24 hour turnaround times on RFPs, or the creative ideas are being evaluated by the same folks being tasked with analyzing a media plan. As a whole, we all need to help reshape the publisher/agency/advertiser relationship.
Work with brands like HBO, Netflix, and Microsoft suggests that there’s a desire to partner with brands who have strong storytelling roots. How does that play in to the work you do with and for them?
Brands like HBO and Netflix have storytelling at the root of the products that they create. That can make the work better because there’s a shared language or sensibility; lead with story versus lead with sales pitch. But today, almost every brand can point to a larger cultural or societal narrative that transcends their product or service, from Burger King to State Street Capital.
What’s on the horizon for Atlantic Re:think?
It’s about developing increasingly ambitious work while retaining the core tenets of great Atlantic journalism. Four years ago, we were developing branded articles. Since then, we’ve developed a whole slate of really strong video programs, branded events, and campaigns that leverage new technologies like Google Tilt Brush and VR. Next, I see us using our expertise and talents to move beyond the typical branded content relationships: everything from helping companies with product development to producing original programming.
Check out some of Atlantic Re:think’s work
HPE - Moral Code: The Ethics of AI At a time when some are recklessly celebrating the promises of A.I., HPE and Re:think addressed the most consequential questions surrounding A.I. in a 8-minute documentary.
Netflix’s Fauda - A Land Divided Coinciding with the launch of Fauda-Season 2, we produced an intensely researched and reported feature that takes readers on a historical journey of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Trivago - Honeymoon Sequel To celebrate the importance of travel in our personal relationships, we brought Hank and Dotty Viola, married over 57-years, back to Miami Beach to recreate their honeymoon.
About Jeremy Elias:
Jeremy Elias is the creative director of The Atlantic's in-house studio, Atlantic Re:think. In that role, Jeremy oversees all ideation and execution for Re:think’s largest content programs. In 2018, he was named Content Marketer of the Year at the Digiday Content Marketing Awards.
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