Barbarian's Approach to Digital Content: A New Standalone Production Shop

Seeking Clients Barbarian Might Not Typically Work With

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Barbarian CEO Sophie Kelly
Barbarian CEO Sophie Kelly

Cheil-backed digital shop Barbarian is putting its own spin on the agency newsroom with the launch of a standalone production house called Lot112.

The group will produce long and short form video, stop motion animation, still photography, infographics and more, according to the agency. Running Lot112 will be a new set of senior hires, including filmmaker Craig Teper, agency vet Heather Brown and media producer Eric Camins, as well as seven additional dedicated staffers.

"Clients are going to media partners to create all sorts of different pieces of content; they're going to indie production companies; and they're also going to agencies," said Barbarian CEO Sophie Kelly. "The content is not good. It's commodity content. I really want to hold the bar high on the quality of creative output."

Ms. Kelly wants the new group to operate like a production company, while incorporating learnings from running newsrooms and real-time content labs at Barbarian, she said. One of those learnings was cutting down on production time, and therefore cost, by using more automated software that tracks and reports how content is spreading and consumers' emotional reactions to content based on first- and third-party data.

It's also a new revenue stream for the shop, as it attracts client department teams Barbarian might not typically work with, she explained. "There are existing clients with different divisions that we're talking to that the agency wasn't talking to before."

Barbarian client Samsung is among the clients that plan on expanding its remit with the shop by tapping Lot112 to work on a retainer basis, said Melissa Bannon, who oversees in the U.S. Barbarian currently supports and maintains Samsung's digital infrastructure, as well as front-end web development.

"Over the past year our content needs have grown as we've moved into more of a world of personalization," said Ms. Bannon. "We understand that that building great content to scale in a personalized real-world environment can be challenging for a company the size of Samsung. It made sense to work with them."

Ms. Bannon is looking for a director of content development to help expand Samsung's digital content efforts as well as oversee the Lot112 relationship.

While her team tests content internally and through the existing account team at Barbarian, the separate team at Lot112 will be focused on testing data around content effectiveness and "helping us in real-time figure out which content goes where," she said. "We're into testing and learning and seeing what the user is really attracted to. Lot112 is about strategic insight and it's not just about being a production house."

The move comes as nearly every type of marketing services firm -- be it digital, media, production or PR -- pushes some variation of a newsroom in an attempt to produce and distribute digital content affordably, at scale and in real-time. WPP media agency Mindshare recently teamed up with WPP digital agency Possible to form a newsroom combining content creation and distribution. Engine Group's Deep Focus for the past few years has touted a lucrative subscription-like model for producing real-time digital content. Interpublic PR giant Weber Shandwick offers a news publishing service called MediaCo, and more recently launched creative spinoff Sawmill. PR independent Edelman and Publicis digital giant Digitas are also among the agencies that offer multi-city newsrooms.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Melissa Bannon oversees globally. Her role is focused on in the U.S.

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