Making Branded Content Pop: Q&A with Portal A Co-Founder Zach Blume

Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv

Portal A is an award-winning content company that partners with brands, platforms, and talent to create best-in-class online video that not only entertains, but taps into the cultural zeitgeist and connects with Millennial and Gen Z audiences by working with top entertainers and creators on the most popular social media platforms. Recent work includes Let's Target, a flagship branded series from Target featuring a range of influential creators and celebrities coming together to unbox a variety of products, open up with one another, and pursue new activities – from cooking, to styling to gaming and more.


Brand Storytelling caught up with Zach Blume, Co-Founder and President of Portal A, to learn more about the Portal A ethos as well as the ideation, execution, and success of Let's Target:


Before we dive into Let’s Target, tell us more about Portal A - what does it mean to be a ‘one stop-shop for social video’?


Portal A is a full-service branded and original content company. We partner with brands, platforms, and talent to create social video entertainment that breaks through the noise online. With our brand partners, we help navigate the world of social video by providing end-to-end services across creative development and direction, full-service production, post-production, and design, social and digital strategy, and talent partnerships.


We've been creating content for the internet for over a decade – starting with YouTube, and now across TikTok, Twitch, Instagram, Snapchat, and more – and we've reached over 2 billion views on our work. My two founders and I, who grew up together in the Bay Area, got our start in online video as creators ourselves, producing our first web series in 2006 at the dawn of YouTube.

When did Portal A initiate its relationship with Target? What did target express as their goal when taking your first steps toward what would become the Let’s Target series?


We began working with Target on the series Let's Target, with the goal of creating a best-in-class original series from a brand. The goal has always been to collaborate with a range of influential talent partners that represent an array of interests and cultural backgrounds, and to build a beloved and immediately recognizable entertainment property that is something that audiences actually want to watch.

What does the process look like within Portal A when it comes to ideation and pre-production of branded content?


We bring a diversity of voices and perspectives into our creative development process. With our in-house team of writers, directors, and strategists, and also with our network of external creative partners, we are constantly seeking to answer the "why" for every piece of content we create. Why should anyone stop scrolling and watch this piece of content? Why does this deserve our audience's attention? Why will this break through all the noise? Our creative process is driven by these questions.

What was it like to produce a whole season of Let’s Target during quarantine?


The pandemic has created a variety of challenges in the creative world, especially as it relates to production. Early on, our Head of Production Elyse Preiss led the charge to develop our own system for producing work remotely, with an eye toward creative quality and production value – from the type of equipment we use, to seamless remote video villages for our brand partners, to how to integrate our directors into the set to provide creative direction to talent. While it was a difficult transition at first, at this point it has become second nature to produce work remotely. That said, we were able to get back on set in earnest a couple of times this summer, and nothing beats the energy of a production set. We can't wait for it to become the norm again.


What sets season 3 apart from its previous iterations?


For season 3, we focused on casting talent from a variety of different backgrounds, with a specific focus on creators popular on TikTok, as well as creating custom content for the platform to support all the episodic content we were releasing on YouTube. We also emphasized and prioritized shopability, with custom landing pages featuring the talent from each episode where viewers could directly purchase their favorite items from the show.

How have audiences responded to the series?