Thinking Outside the Brand Storytelling Box: Q&A with Studio No Problem
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As the brand-funded entertainment category continues to grow, many brands and the creatives they partner with create content in the image of what’s already out there and successful. However, achieving true creativity in the space means approaching a brand and finding ways to create affinity and lift that break from convention, capture attention, and make the brand the hero all at once. LA studio No Problem has found success not by looking at what other brands are doing, but by looking at what’s popular in entertainment culture and finding a fit for their clients within that landscape - like their involvement in the production of ‘Exposure’, an unscripted competition series wherein contestants are challenged to showcase their photo and content creation skills with a Samsung galaxy phone. BrandStorytelling caught up with the No Problem Partners/Co-Founders Dan Gearing and Tom Murphy about the origins of No Problem and their approach to creating creative entertainment solutions for brands:
What inspired you to start No Problem?
Two things really.
Firstly, people. We wanted to work with great people in an ego-free environment that allows ideas to thrive. No jerks, no unnecessary hierarchies, no bullsh*t, no problem!
Secondly, we wanted to prove that brands can be genuinely entertaining, in everything they do. And that they don’t need to add to the ever growing scrapheap of forgettable advertising.
What is it you offer the brands you work with that sets you apart from the competition?
We’re a very fun dinner date. Other than that, our super power is that we are bi-lingual… we speak the language of brands and the language of entertainment. Traditionally, Hollywood has viewed brands as an ATM without thinking about the value exchange. Whilst brands and agencies have experimented with longer form storytelling without involving the experts who know how to do it. We are laser focused on not only creating powerful entertainment for audiences, but also making sure it drives the brand’s business.
What is your vision for brands looking to bridge the gap between ‘branded content’ and ‘television’?
For us it is not just about moving from branded content to television. It is about exploring the various canvases that can be used to entertain an audience. That might be a brand-funded TV show or movie. Or it might be more collaborative like a community driven series on TikTok (ie. Nike’s 1000 Victories). It might be more interactive like a narratively driven video game (ie. The Last of Us), or a choose-your-own adventure narrative in app (ie. Tinder’s Swipe Night). Regardless of the canvas, the vision is the same: tell the most compelling story possible and involve the brand in the most natural way.
You worked on a series with Samsung, Westbrook Studios, and Hulu - what can you share about that?
We were Exec Producers on Season 1 whilst at BBH and Season 2 whilst at No Problem. It’s a great example of something that was hugely entertaining for the audience (premiered as a top ten unscripted title on Hulu) and also effective for the brand (it won a Gold Effie for effectiveness). A true piece of original entertainment, co-funded by the brand and the network, a reality competition format where photographers and creators battle it out over 8 episodes. It was a massive undertaking that saw blood, sweat and tears in front of (and behind!) the camera. Shout out to Janet Chison Lee and Joo-Mee Song for their commitment to innovation and creative excellence.
What importance do you place on emphasizing artistic vision and creativity when it comes to brand work?
Creativity is everything. As long as it is channeled at the strategic task at hand. I love the Disney quote “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained”. It speaks to the challenge the industry is going through and the overreliance on rational messaging. Creativity allows us to entertain. To create emotion. To be memorable. The way they created Sesame Street episodes was to identify the story first, the moment of dramatic tension, the thing that actually made kids feel something emotionally. And then they figured out how to make it a learning moment. This was not only more entertaining, but also more effective in delivering the message.
The same is true for brands. All the marketing science tells us that if you make yourself the most memorable brand in your category, you’re going to win as a business. We believe that entertainment can be an unbelievably powerful tool in connecting with consumers on a deeper level, which is much longer lasting and impactful than most of the paid media formats we see consumers increasingly avoid.
What’s next for No Problem?
Lots of exciting projects in the works with a well-funded music start-up, a kids mental health app, a global tech giant and one of the world’s top whiskies.
About Dan Gearing, Partner
Dan has worked in Europe, Asia and America leading strategic and creative projects for some of the world’s largest brands (Google, YouTube, the BBC, Hulu, Samsung, Netflix etc.).
About Tom Murphy, Partner
Tom has 15 years of experience helping international brands grow through traditional and non-traditional means. He is passionate about making work that people outside of advertising care about.
About No Problem No Problem is a full service creative studio that grows brands by making them more entertaining and more famous.