Putting the ‘U’ in ‘UGC’ | Aaron Peever – Creative Director, MAVAN

Putting the ‘U’ in ‘UGC’ | Aaron Peever – Creative Director, MAVAN


Aaron Peever is an award-winning copywriter and Creative Director who has worked on national campaigns for brands like Mastercard, Wendy’s, Scotiabank, and Kia. Aaron’s background in comedy writing and performance gives him a unique ability to effectively channel a brand’s voice and personality, blending humor with insightful advertising strategies. 

Growth@Scale Podcast Episode 022 with Aaron Peever graphic

In the latest episode of Growth@Scale, host Matt Widdoes welcomes Aaron Peever, the MAVAN’s resident copywriter and Creative Director. Aaron’s journey from a comedy writer to a renowned ad school graduate and advertising expert provides a unique perspective on crafting brand personalities and ads that resonate with audiences.

This episode offers an in-depth look into Aaron’s role at MAVAN, highlighting the contrasts between big-budget campaigns and focused, ROI-driven projects for growth-oriented clients. His approach to understanding a brand’s essence and maintaining a consistent tone across platforms is not just insightful but also actionable.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding a brand’s character is vital for crafting a genuine brand voice.
  • Messaging should be purpose-driven with clear ROI objectives.
  • The authenticity of user-generated content makes it highly effective.
  • Influencer marketing is evolving to emphasize content format over reach.
  • AI tools aid in ideation but require human insight for impactful copywriting.
  • Dive into the full conversation and uncover valuable strategies for digital-era engagement. Listen to the episode here and don’t forget to subscribe for more insightful discussions on Growth at Scale.

In this episode:

0:00:05 – (Matt Widdoes): Welcome to growth at scale. I’m your host, Matt Widdoes. This is a podcast for leaders who want to bring sustainable, predictable, scalable growth to their businesses. Every episode, I sit down with world class growth experts across product marketing, finance, operations, you name it. The hope is that these conversations will give you real, actionable advice for building and sustaining company growth.

0:00:32 – (Matt Widdoes): Welcome to another episode of growth at Scale. Today I’m joined by award winning copywriter and MAVAN’s personal wordsmith and creative director, Aaron Peever. Welcome to the podcast, Aaron.

0:00:43 – (Aaron Peever): Thanks for having me, Matt.

0:00:44 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, we’re excited to dive in. So for people who don’t know you, tell us, who are you? Where have you been? What do you do?

0:00:50 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, so I’m one of the creative directors here at MAVAN. So I handle all things copy, and then my partner Kyle does all the design and art. Before that, actually, before I got into advertising, kind of took a weird path. I tried to be a comedian and a comedy writer for a number of years. So I was doing sketch comedy and improv and a little bit of standup all around the Toronto area. And then after that kind of hit its limit, I went to ad school and went to Humber to become a.

0:01:19 – (Aaron Peever): Then once I became a copywriter, I started working at Bensimon Byrne, which is one of the biggest independent agency in Canada at the time. And then I went to Innocean from there. And then finally McCann Toronto was there for about three years. And then me and Kyle, we were partners for about five years so far, and we made the jump to come over to MAVAN.

0:01:37 – (Matt Widdoes): That’s great. Well, you downplay your time in comedy a bit. You were at Second City up there, which is a really premier kind of institution on the comedy scene. What was that like? And what learnings, if any, from that time carried over into copywriting for marketing and business.

0:01:56 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I think, you know what? I learned probably everything that I needed to. It was really valuable experience there. So first I did the writing program at Second City. It taught you how to write sketches in the Second City style. And then after that, I did the conservatory program, which is like, they teach you how to write a show through improv. So you do this full length show, and then after that, I was doing shows here and there through them and through the writing program and different kind of casts and things they’re doing.

0:02:23 – (Aaron Peever): And, yeah, it was super valuable because I think you learn a lot from comedy. And so I was doing that for so long, and I had this skill set that writing and presentations and improv and all that’s valuable in advertising and marketing as well. And so I kind of hit a wall with comedy, and I’m like, what am I going to do with my skill set? And that’s how I figured out that probably advertising and marketing is the way to go.

0:02:45 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, I feel too, they always talk about, I’ve never written comedy, but they always talk about, know, no word is, and if you take it, I don’t know, Bill Burr or some famous comedian, every single thing that they do on stage, from the scratching of their cheek to the ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’, like, none of it is not planned and worked out. There was actually this thing recently talking about that in saying, given that that’s the case, why do they still have ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’, and these kind of filler words?

0:03:14 – (Matt Widdoes): And the net was so that it feels more conversational and more natural. And it’s not staccato, but I’m curious when looking at, I think they still call them finishing schools, but these kind of advertising finishing schools where you do your undergrad and then you go there to finish. One of the places that comes to mind is a place called Miami ad school. That was just, I think, pretty, pretty early whenever I was leaving college. But what do they teach you there that’s any different? It sounds know you learned all you needed to know for copywriting from comedy, but what additional things do they kind of work on there?

0:03:49 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I mean, that’s a good point. So I knew how to write comedy, and they did a really good job at teaching you how to be economical with your words. Right. Like you said, you want everything to be as hard as working as possible, but I didn’t know how to write an ad. And so I went to Humber college, and they have a one year advertising copywriting program there, and they really teach you the different ad formats and how to have an idea.

0:04:12 – (Aaron Peever): And so I think it’s a whole skill set on its own that the comedy lends itself to. But, yeah, you need to learn the proper format, the proper language, the procedures as well. So those two things working together produce somebody who’s a little bit more well rounded than typical advertiser.

0:04:32 – (Matt Widdoes): I’m curious, too, like, having had that schooling and that experience, and you see ads all the time just like anybody else. Is there anything that you consistently see people getting wrong there, whether it’s a professional ad or whether it’s more casual, is there anything that stands out as, like, big no no’s for people that might be writing their own copy?

0:04:49 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, there’s things that I noticed that I wouldn’t call them no no’s, but there’s things that annoy me that I wouldn’t do or I’m tired of seeing. And so if I’m walking around the street and you see a bus ad and it’s got a certain. And those are my favorite. I love transit shelter ads because they’re longer than a billboard. You have time to read them, and they’re usually pretty fun. They’re the most fun to write, but, yeah. So there’s a whole bunch of stuff that people do.

0:05:15 – (Aaron Peever): Who is it? There’s an insurance company, and they’re still using. They’re called sonnet insurance. I’m not sure if they’re in the states, but they’re up in Canada and they still are doing. This is a brand new campaign talking about adulting, and that’s like eight years old and just so played out. And it’s this guy who forgot that 04:00 was time to pick up his kids at karate. And it’s like, oh, adulting is hard. Do the insurance. And it’s like, we’re done with that.

0:05:39 – (Aaron Peever): It’s lazy. And you can’t really blame the copywriters on those. I mean, for that one, I think you can, but a lot of times when you see a bad ad, it has to go through so many people to get approved. And I remember pitching campaigns, and we’d have this super cool, insightful, kind of edgy, kind of push the envelope idea, and the client loves it, and you present it, and you present the hell out of it. Everyone’s so excited.

0:06:01 – (Aaron Peever): And then two days later, you get the feedback email, and it’s like, hey, we love it. We just want to change everything about it, dilute the hell out of it, and then just put a little hashtag with our product name in there. It’s like, okay, yeah, I mean, you got to take those swings. So you can’t blame anybody for a bad ad, but you can get frustrated when you see one.

0:06:17 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. And I can imagine you probably see some things where you’re like, oh, I see how big that could have been and probably was, and I see what it is now, even though I didn’t work on it. But you can see things that feel watered down.

0:06:30 – (Aaron Peever): It’s fun to. Like, if you see an ad, you see an ad and you see what it was, you’re like, oh, man, I know what the original presentation looked like. You can tell all the cool parts with all the edges and stuff, and you see it get to the final product even just something I wasn’t even working on. You watch that, you’d be like, man, I would love to have seen the original pitch deck for that.

0:06:48 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, well, and so I’m curious. You’ve worked at some massive agencies on really big national campaigns. Maybe talk a little bit about some of those larger campaigns just at a high level to give people a sense for some of the things that you worked on in the traditional. I guess I’ll put that in quotes, but traditional creative agency just to kind of set the bar. And then I want to ask you a follow up question to that.

0:07:11 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, so we’ve worked on Kyle and I, so I’m going to say we a lot. And I’m talking about Kyle Shields, my partner. We’ve been together for five or six years now, so we’ve worked on a ton of huge brands. So Scotia bank was like, is a big bank in Canada. And so when we were at Ben Simon Byrne, we worked on a lot of Scotia campaigns together. So they sponsored the movie theater. The little thing that comes up before the movie starts. You guys have Nicole Kidman. We have these little anthropomorphized popcorns that are late for the movies.

0:07:39 – (Aaron Peever): So we got to do the next round of those ads. And it was cool. It was like big 32nd ads. Worked at this animation studio in Sweden, and that was probably like an ad that most people have ever seen that I’ve made. Because anytime you go to the movies for every movie, yeah, it’s great. And that was super cool. We worked on Kia for a little bit. We helped launch the Kia Seltos in Canada. A little mid sized suv.

0:08:05 – (Aaron Peever): That was cool. That was our first time doing a car launch. Had a nice big budget and spent it on some big flashy ads and super cool to do some automotive advertising. And then we are at McCann. We worked on Petro Canada, which is a huge gas company in Canada, and like a gas station. And so we got to do some really big Olympic sized, like, literally Olympic ads for them for sponsorship, and then they have a charity as well, the Caremakers foundation. That was a really cool, emotional campaign we got to do. We ended up convincing them to let us film a 24 hours long documentary about these caregivers looking after their family members and friends and stuff.

0:08:41 – (Aaron Peever): So, yeah, when you work on big brands, you get to do these big kind of tangential things. I think all of those things I described weren’t actually, like, advertising a product. Brand work is so secondary, where it’s like, okay, yes, we know this brand but we also do this, and here’s our charity, and here’s our Olympics. And so that’s kind of the fun part of working in a traditional agency with big brands, is there’s the day to day. There’s getting the sale, selling the product, and all that. But then there’s the big swings that you get to do as well, because they have the budget, and they got to spend that money.

0:09:14 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Well, and also, I remember, if I’m not mistaken, also Mastercard and Wendy’s were two past. Yeah, go ahead.

0:09:23 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah. Wendy’s and mastercard, both really fun. Especially Wendy’s was cool because you know how Wendy’s is. Know that brand personality. So doing cheeky ads about. They have a Dave’s singles, what they call one of their sandwiches. And so it was free. So we did this. Hot singles in your area. We made a bunch of ads that looked like those other ads, and those were a hit.

0:09:46 – (Matt Widdoes): That’s great. And when you’re working on a client like Wendy’s, is the office filled with Wendy’s all the time and the copywriters room starting to smell up with nuggets and burgers? Or is it not all.

0:09:59 – (Aaron Peever): No, I think, you know what, actually, when I were working on Wendy’s, I was all remote because it was, like, right at the beginning of COVID But we would order in Wendy’s while inspiration. Skip the dishes or uber eats.

0:10:12 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah.

0:10:12 – (Aaron Peever): So we try a new product or just to kind of get in the right mindset. But, yeah, we had our fair share of Wendy’s.

0:10:19 – (Matt Widdoes): There was my advertising teacher in college, guy named Jim Avery, who literally wrote the book on advertising campaigns and campaign planning, essentially. So, yeah, if you google campaign planning be, it’ll be Jim Avery’s at the top. But he was telling us a story about. And he’s kind of an old admin style, you know, nonsense, east coast kind of guy. But he was telling us about this pitch that they had done.

0:10:45 – (Matt Widdoes): I can’t remember for who it was. Philip Morris or somebody like that or camel or whatever, one of these major tobacco companies. And everybody was smoking back then. Doctors were smoking during surgery back then. But he said that one of the executives came outside for some smoke break, and a lot of the ad guys were out there. And he starts rummaging through the recently put out cigarettes to see what they were smoking, and none of them were camel or none of them were their cigarette, and they were fired on the spot because he’s like, how can you advertise our.

0:11:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, where’s the integrity in cigarette advertising. But anyways. But I don’t know if you’ve ever had come across clients like that where that’s a pretty extreme version, but do you find that’s kind of why I was asking if the halls were filled with Wendy’s and the fact that you guys were remote makes a lot of sense, but did you ever see how much of that kind of. Not weird, I guess, but those political games with clients, we see it a lot with.

0:11:49 – (Matt Widdoes): I joke that you can tell how bad you’re getting screwed by your agency by how long and pretty the deck is, particularly if it’s like a weekly update deck. But so much goes into that relationship building and you can have very sensitive clients or they’re really big. Hey, we’re Wendy’s. We’re paying you a ton of know. The least you could do is eat Wendy’s every. But like, anything that you’ve seen like that.

0:12:13 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, we had a few things like that when I was at Ben Simon Byrne, we were working on this and it was like a government agency. It was the Green Ontario fund. So it was this short lived initiative, know, get people rebates for environmental things in their home. And so whenever they were coming into the office, there was an all staff email that would go out to know, put away all your single use water bottles, hide all your nestle water bottles and all that, so that we’d have this appearance of. And I probably shouldn’t have dropped so many names as I just did, but yeah, there’s the appearance of everyone here is super environmentally friendly, but we’re all just hiding our water bottles while they’re here.

0:12:48 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Put out all the coal fires and other things going on in the office. So having come from that large advertising world, working on these massive national scale campaigns, what are some of the differences between that world and working at a broader growth agency like MAVAN, where your talents are going towards really everything across the funnel versus just maybe a gigantic billboard or some kind of unique digital campaign.

0:13:14 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah. One of the main things that I’ve noticed so far is everything has to have a purpose when you’re working on these startups and growing companies, because every dollar is valuable, it’s limited, and you need to make sure that you’re getting the most for it. And so there’s ROI built into everything that you do. And I think that’s a great way to focus because when I was at these big agencies, we were spending millions of dollars on production and stuff like that, and those companies just had to spend that money because that was a line item on their marketing budget for the year. You have to spend $2 million on the Olympics. You have to spend a million dollars on this burger. And the sales were kind of secondary. And here it’s like, no, we’re making this change to this landing page because it’s going to drive x amount of growth, and if it doesn’t, we’re going to change it and try to find a way to do that, I think. So everything’s very purposeful that we do here, and I think that’s a good way to taking care of your clients money in a very specific, thick and worthwhile way.

0:14:12 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, well, and I guess for companies like Mastercard, et cetera, you can get so far removed from what they’re actually trying to accomplish versus being much more kind of arm in arm with the client at the senior level. Totally. And so I think a lot of people don’t truly know what goes on behind the scenes for copywriting and honing in on messaging. Can you talk us through your process when you start with a new brand?

0:14:35 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah. So starting with a new brand, I like to think of it. So brands are like brands. They’re not people, but they’re characters. And so to kind of go back to the acting and comedy, every brand has a personality. They have an identity. They have this way that they answer, a way that they talk to their customers, a way that they present themselves. And so I think the first thing you have to do as a copywriter is understand that brand as much as you can. What words do they say? What words do they not say?

0:15:02 – (Aaron Peever): And a lot of that is put into the brand books, which are these great guides that I love collecting and seeing how every brand is different. But, yeah, so you have to dive into the character. You have to see what get a sense of their personality. And I like to read their Instagram posts and all that, what it’s like in the real world. And then when you’re trying to write for that brand, you have to kind of slip into that character. So it’s like an actor preparing for a role.

0:15:28 – (Aaron Peever): If I’m writing for this bank, I have to sit up straight and I’m kind of a little bit proper and I’m using full punctuation. But if I’m writing for this sassy vodka brand, it’s a little bit of a different personality, it’s a little bit different vibe, and you have to just be able to switch back and forth. So I think to be able to do that easily throughout the whole course of a workday, you need to understand every brand as best you can and understand their personalities and what makes them tick so that you can jump back and forth and authentically communicate as the brand.

0:15:57 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I think that tone of voice is so important and trying to nail that consistency. I mean, I’ve seen this a lot where you have a brand on social that’s really fun and let’s say sassy and kind of out there, and then on all of their national media or their website or whatever, it’s all super safe. So it’s like, how do you get those ultimately really should be connected because you would never see that from a major brand. But I think a good example of this working well, funny enough, is like Taco Bell, right?

0:16:31 – (Matt Widdoes): They’re kind of play with things. They’re not super serious. They have, I can’t remember what they call their late night munchy stuff, but Jack in the box is similar to this. And maybe I’m blending those two, but I think Taco Bell invented the fourth meal or fifth meal or whatever they call it. And then in all of their. Another good example of this, I think, is old spice, believe it or not. But they kind of reinvented themselves. And they have crazy, like the most outlandish tv commercials that are like, really?

0:17:01 – (Matt Widdoes): I think they do it all with practical effects, which is even crazier because I’ve seen some of the behind the scenes stuff there. But their socials are also off in a good way. Like they’re kind of off the beaten path a bit. And I guess that that’s another big piece where brand ultimately can help companies kind of pull that in so that they have that similarly looking vibe. Not everybody gives the attention to it, that it probably deserves it.

0:17:22 – (Aaron Peever): And it’s funny you mentioned Old Spice because they’re very consistent through and through. I’ve even looked at their brand book and their personality is written into their vision statement and their mission. So right from the core, they are consistent from the very nugget of their being to a throwaway social post or to an email or to a Super bowl ad. They know how to. And even in their packaging. Right.

0:17:47 – (Aaron Peever): What they call their scents and stuff, it all feels like it’s coming from the same person, from the same brand. And so they’re really successful at being consistent and interesting at the same time.

0:17:57 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, that surprises me to hear that it goes all the way down to their mission. I mean, it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But it does make sense on how serious they’ve taken it and it makes it easier as you grow, for sure. And as people are making decisions by having a brand book or guidelines to make a call on what is or isn’t right for the brand because you have so many differing opinions, if you don’t have that written down in commandments, then loudest voice wins, the most senior person wins. And people need, everybody needs a way to point back to kind of what we said we were going to do in the beginning as things start reaching the edges, especially with the throwaway social post as an example.

0:18:34 – (Aaron Peever): Totally.

0:18:34 – (Matt Widdoes): What’s kind of the best way for non creatives like myself to engage with you and the broader creative team? So creative sits kind of at the center of so many things from conversion rate optimization, App Store optimization, paid media, the website itself, email design. Really, it’s part and parcel with kind of everything that’s going to be client facing sales decks. Like there’s kind of anything and everything in there.

0:18:59 – (Matt Widdoes): And from either editing a website or the logo itself or something bigger. Oftentimes I find myself lacking the words or the ability to describe what it is I’m feeling. And so there’s this great Portlandia episode. There’s like two different skits I’m blending here, but one is like, put a bird on it. But the other thing is this whole thing about giving feedback to a designer where they’re like, make the logo bigger, which is kind of like a classic thing that clients ask for, but they’re like, make it bigger, make it smaller. Put a champagne bottle on it, remove the champagne bottle, and they just are like over the shoulder of this creative and driving them to an early death.

0:19:40 – (Matt Widdoes): But I’m curious, how do you kind of rein in non creatives and discern what it is they’re trying to communicate but don’t have the language to do so. And any advice for non creatives communicating with you guys to try to speed that up or help you more easily discern what it is that they do or don’t like?

0:19:57 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I think a hard and fast rule is creatives don’t like being told what to do. I mean, I don’t think anybody does. But specifically in a subjective field, I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like to being told, change that. Make this bigger. Don’t tell me what to do. Tell me what’s wrong. Tell me what’s not working about it for you. So if you want me to change the font size. Well, why, does it feel too crowded?

0:20:23 – (Aaron Peever): Is it missing something? And so let me find the solution. Let me and the creative team find the solution. You tell me what the problem is, and then we’ll find you a way better solution than you just saying, make the logo bigger. Or you being like, oh, put that picture over there, or add an offer thing. Tell us what the outcome that you want, and don’t tell me about the. You want soup? Let me make the soup.

0:20:45 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. And I see that, too, where somebody might be saying, make this bigger, smaller. You mentioned crowding, but it’s like, maybe their problem is that there’s too much white space, and they don’t know how to communicate that because they don’t know that that’s a thing. Like, what’s white space? Or it feels empty. Okay. Too much white space, maybe. Okay. But how do you deal with.

0:21:03 – (Matt Widdoes): Because there’s also probably some educational component where somebody says, hey, that feels way too empty. Think of, like, a Volkswagen ad from the early 2000s. It’s, like, all white, just the car. Maybe a tagline, Volkswagen. And you’re like, yeah, that’s the point. We’re trying to put the focus on the vehicle, or we’re trying to do this. This is intentional. And somebody’s like, I don’t like that.

0:21:26 – (Matt Widdoes): Is there a remedy for that? Or how do you work through that?

0:21:29 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I think it’s about getting alignment on what you want the goal to be. So a good ad says one thing in an interesting way, and that’s it. Right. And it’s very tempting to want to add more stuff. Ads are expensive. Clients want to get as much value out of their things as possible. So, hey, put this in here. Don’t forget to call this out. They want to leave no room for error. And so it’s easy to become.

0:21:50 – (Aaron Peever): To let an ad get kind of noisy and crowded, you have to guide them on your vision. Right. You have this vision for what this ad. And this is true in performance as it is in brand. But I think you want to make sure that the one message, the one most important thing sticks out. And so I think to do that, you need to stick to your guns a little bit and say, hey, we want to make sure that you just remind them every time. Like, the outcome of this ad is for them to think this.

0:22:18 – (Aaron Peever): If it doesn’t make them think this, then we’re doing it wrong, and you don’t need it. You can cut it out.

0:22:22 – (Matt Widdoes): Right.

0:22:22 – (Aaron Peever): And so I think it’s just, like, communicating and reminding both sides of what the objective of the ad is. And if you do that you get alignment on that, then it’s easier to make some creative changes and even some creative concessions like, hey, is adding this extra call out going to make them understand this ad less? No. Is it going to make it look less good? Yeah, but it’s not about making art. We’re here to get clicks and get sales. So maybe we put that in. So I think communication is a big part and just aligning and making sure everyone’s aligned on what the outcome should be.

0:22:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, I think that’s a great place to start is I think also people oftentimes are building, let’s take an ad as an example. Let’s take a digital ad, Facebook ad or meta ad, where they’re not starting with the, what is the solution? What am I trying to achieve with this? They’re just like, I want to sell more widgets, right? And it’s like, okay, but there’s something else between that, right? Whether this is the fastest, the most efficient, the most whatever desired, any number of things that somebody might value, and then if you don’t have that, then there’s no basis to defend or critique any piece of creative. Because what’s the aim? It’s like, well, it doesn’t matter what you do then, because nobody knows what the purpose of this ad is. And so I think that’s a great starting point when you look at things, when we zoom in on social media and UGC and particularly having ads that play well to the, you know, having YouTube shorts or TikTok shorts or having Instagram posts that are really know, they feel native to the platform as somebody’s scrolling through and they kind of blend in and are kind of, I guess, today’s version of advertorial. But when thinking about kind of UGC and how big that’s become for brands, any thoughts on what brands should look to leverage in that space?

0:24:13 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I mean, UGC is kind of having its day right now. And I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. First of all, it’s cheap, right? You’re offloading your production costs to your customers, to your biggest fans, which is tremendous savings for the company. And I think that’s important. And I think it’s working right now because people have gotten good media literacy overall has kind of taken a dip. But people know when they’re being advertised to, they know when they’re being sold to and they don’t like it. Especially when you’re on social, right. You’re scrolling, you’re trying to check out. You don’t want Mastercard or Chevy in your face, right?

0:24:51 – (Matt Widdoes): The all new Chevy Silverado.

0:24:53 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I’m not here for that. I’m here for, I don’t know, a dog falling into a puddle or whatever. Right. So when you’re invading people’s time, so when you’re invading people’s time, you want to make it worth their while. And so I think that’s why the UGC model is effective, because, first of all, it doesn’t look like an ad right at the gate. It feels like it’s low production quality. It’s in that same kind of grainy video that we’re looking at already.

0:25:20 – (Aaron Peever): So it feels native to what I’m already looking at. And there’s something that captivates your attention or at least doesn’t shut off your attention. That way, you’re invested, and so there’s value in making ads that don’t look like ads. It’s hard to do authentically and organically. But even if you just hook them for the first few seconds with the UGC ad of, I don’t know, somebody cooking noodles, it looks like a normal ad, and it’s where I was going with that.

0:25:46 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, yeah, I mean, it feels native to the platform. People feel like they’re watching something else. Like, if somebody’s in there cooking, they’re like, let me show you the best way to make craft easy. Mac cheese or Mac and cheese. And they’re like, throw this packet out or whatever. Or we use a little bit of that packet at the end. I’m making up a story here. But, yeah, somebody’s like, yeah, it’s more like product placement.

0:26:08 – (Matt Widdoes): It sits in this other category that’s not so in your face. It’s low production value. It feels authentic. And I think people are able to sniff that out more and more. But I’ve had times where I’m like, are they getting paid for this? I don’t know for sure. Technically, you’re supposed to say. You’re supposed to hashtag advertising, but they don’t always do that. And I think an interesting thing I’ve seen over the last, I don’t know, five, seven years in the UGC space or the influencer space.

0:26:37 – (Matt Widdoes): I put that in air quotes. Is that early days, everybody was just kind of going to people that had followings. They were kind of trying to leverage their clout to just say, hey, come play this game or come buy this thing or eat at this restaurant. And everybody was kind of unsatisfied with the outcomes. And I think the influencers were, because if you track any of it, a friend of mine ran a large gaming company that sold a couple of years ago, and they had a super famous, I think I’ve used the example of, like, christina Aguilera level famous international person, though.

0:27:15 – (Matt Widdoes): But you would be like, yes, that person is on or above Christina Aguilera’s level. And they ran a promo where this artist was driving people to a new game, having them download, use this code. And I can’t remember how much it cost him. It was something like a quarter million dollars or something like that. And when it was all said and done, I think it drove three installs, like three attributed installs. And it’s like, what are we doing? And so I think that’s super indicative of what that world used to look like. Another quick example is at a company I was at, maybe we were reached out to by somebody representing PewDiePie, who’s, like, a famous gamer.

0:27:57 – (Matt Widdoes): He had some pretty major mistakes in his life that had taken him out of favor and some other things. But I remember his price at the time was $85,000 for a five minute kind of ad, right, where he’d just kind of open it up and be like, all right, we’re playing this thing, and, oh, look at this. This is cool, and whatever. And it’s like, that’s so impossible to back out price wise. And that’s not even including. That’s, like, additional retweets and all that other stuff that’s, like, separate. Right.

0:28:26 – (Matt Widdoes): And so I think people didn’t know how to value it on both sides. And so they’re just kind of using reach and, I don’t know, clout. And the challenge is people can have tons of followers, but if you tweet something and say, hey, retweet this to, I’d really like everyone to retweet. This is a really important message to me. However many people retweet that, that’s your following, right? Because if you’re active people who are.

0:28:48 – (Aaron Peever): Listening to you and doing what, you’re.

0:28:52 – (Matt Widdoes): A. I can’t remember. I think it was this woman I used to work with at Red Bull, but she was, if nobody’s following you, you’re not a leader. You’re just walking alone in the woods. A leader is somebody who’s got people following them, right? Somebody who has followers, has people walking behind them. And so it’s not some number on a website that says, look how many followers they have. 35,000 followers. They have 35 million followers. It’s like, yeah, what actually happens, though, when they ask people to act?

0:29:20 – (Matt Widdoes): And you have people like Markiplier who have 32, 35 million followers, and when he launches a video, it gets a million views. Within 24 hours, go look at Markiplier’s YouTube page and within two days go sort by most recent and anything that he’s posted in the last 24 hours, 48 hours, whenever you hear this, probably has one to 2 million views.

0:29:42 – (Aaron Peever): That’s an active engagement.

0:29:44 – (Matt Widdoes): That’s a real engaged audience, right? Versus, I don’t know, insert some. Maybe I shouldn’t throw names in, but insert somebody who’s like, famous, has a bunch of followers, but nobody’s actually there. Anyways, long story short, I think one interesting evolution of this that’s been interesting to me is seeing that the success that companies are having and have had for some time. So this isn’t exactly new anymore, but by taking you or I, putting a camera in our phone, having us talk about just random dudes off the street with zero followers, but present as if we do of like, hey, guys, it’s Matt again. I’m here at the park, and today we’re going to be talking about this thing in that kind of cheesy influencer tone and the high energy fast cut like this and this and this. And this is why I love Kraft Mac and cheese singles or whatever.

0:30:38 – (Matt Widdoes): And then someone’s like, oh. And they just assume that that person’s an influencer. Because if you’ve ever been on, I use TikTok and YouTube shorts, kind of, I guess Instagram shorts interchangeably is that you don’t know, you see somebody and they’ve got like, a good set up and they’re talking in that like, hey, guys, one more thing. You’re just like, oh, I just assume that person has, like 50 million followers because that’s how the world, that’s the world we live in.

0:31:04 – (Matt Widdoes): And so people found this kind of ability to say, hey, look, I don’t need to pay PewDiepie 85k for a five minute video. I’ll pay some actor in Los Angeles who’s willing to do it for $100. They’ll present it. The consumer will consume it the same because they’re kind of indifferent and they’re just like, oh, this must be important because this person presents really important. So anyways, it is just really interesting.

0:31:25 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I think we found it’s not the format or it’s not the influencer. That’s the valuable part. It’s the format, right. We’re used to seeing that format. You could put anybody in front of a camera, on a phone and say, hey, guys, what’s up? Here’s my thing. And that’s what we’re conditioned to be like, okay, well, this is organic enough for now. People are responding to that and ride that wave as long as you can.

0:31:46 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and it’s like, yeah, who am I to say that’s not a valid mommy blogger, right? It looks like it. And so, yeah, it is kind of like in some form a testament or a statement to how we consume. I mean, it is very funny to me if you just zoom all the way back out, that we’re all influenced by stuff like that. Or just like, generally, if you just on average, people are like, yes, that sounds good. I saw an Instagram ad by somebody who has zero followers but presented like they had a million because they’re an actor in LA. And I bought that thing late night on Instagram for $40, and it came and it was broken and it didn’t work.

0:32:26 – (Matt Widdoes): Or it was from wish. No offense to wish, but it’s just like, yeah, that’s what I deserve. I just mashing buttons on the Internet. But I think it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out. And I think that kind of media literacy, at least I hope. I mean, it’s not something we teach in schools, I think we should, but that people are getting more and more will, are, and will continue to get more and more savvy to that and that we’ll continue to see the world of advertising evolve, for sure. But it’s just in what form?

0:32:57 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s anybody’s guess.

0:32:58 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, I think people, everything’s in a response to what came before it. So as we get used to this influencer style of performance, advertising on social, eventually that’s going to stop working and what’s going to replace it? Is it going to be super polished? We’re going to go back to high production. I don’t want a guy to sell me something. I need a whole full studio experience. Again, that’d be nice because those are fun to make, but we’ll see.

0:33:21 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, and speaking of that, on some level, and we probably could do a whole episode on this, and I think maybe we should do one with the broader group on AI and generative AI stuff. But let’s talk about that briefly because I think that’s also going to change. There will be changes that come from that. And so we’ve heard everything from, I think it was like 60 minutes or something that was like, this entire segment was not produced with any AI. And it was like, this is going to be some new tag. Not tag, but disclaimer that people have to give or like, hey, this music or this video content was created 100% by humans.

0:33:56 – (Matt Widdoes): I mean, again, you’re going to have people that are just like, yeah, they said that, but they lied about it. But how do you anticipate? I think a lot of people is on everyone’s mind, and we’re seeing a lot of the generative stuff come for copy first and for creative. And I think it’s such a great tool for copywriters, for ideation and just iteration and really unblocking writer’s block and just allowing people to kind of COVID more areas at once. But what are your thoughts on some of the latest and any tools that you’ve seen that you really like in the generative or AI space more generally.

0:34:32 – (Aaron Peever): Of an interesting opinion on it? As you know, in our chats through work, I’m a skeptic about a lot of it, about how the generative stuff works, but I use it and I like it for some things, and so it’s valuable. I think people too early are putting too much kind of faith in, like, I don’t need a copywriter anymore. I can just spit this out and chat GBT is good for the outlining and for giving some kind of base level arguments and stuff like that, but you still need the human touch for a lot of it. And if you spend enough time on chat GBT as I do, you can tell when something is written by AI.

0:35:09 – (Aaron Peever): So there’s certain key phrases that pop up that if I’m reading a LinkedIn article and I see this phrase, I’m like, oh, next. Because this guy didn’t actually write it, I’ll give it one away for free.

0:35:22 – (Matt Widdoes): People are going to start taking these out?

0:35:24 – (Aaron Peever): Well, yeah, and that’s what I do when I’m generating. I start taking that out. Yeah. So it’s like whenever you, hey, give me an article about strategies in growth marketing, the first sentence will almost always be in the fast paced world of growth marketing, blah, blah, blah. And it’s so lazy.

0:35:42 – (Matt Widdoes): Fast paced bit.

0:35:43 – (Aaron Peever): The fast paced. Or it’ll be like the energetic. Exactly. It’s always that. And it’s been using that nugget intro since the summer, probably even longer. So whenever I see something structured like that, you got to take it out or else people are going to notice that it’s AI. But yeah, so there’s some good stuff. There are some good tools that I’ve been enjoying decipher. We just started using actually for this podcast, and that’s great at giving a good transcript and giving a quick summary of the episode, and it spits out a summary in a very human way. I think it still uses Chat GPT. I’m not sure.

0:36:25 – (Aaron Peever): I’ve been messing around with Taplio for LinkedIn and just kind of finding trending articles and then, hey, how do you rewrite this? Whatever. So there’s some AI stuff there. I’m having some fun with that. I think it’s kind of limited by how good Chat GPT is that day. But those are the two anytime you can find something that’s a tool and it’s just using Chat GPT, you can probably save yourself the $50 a month and just figure out how to prompt it yourself on Chat GPT.

0:36:52 – (Matt Widdoes): Right?

0:36:53 – (Aaron Peever): But that takes time, and maybe the $50 is worth it. So yeah, there’s some good stuff, and I think knowing how to prompt and knowing what to use the Chat GPT for, it’s not going to write you a good article, but it might write you a good outline, or it might show you some interesting arguments that you want to make, or it might show you some easy stuff. What I like to do is it shows like the baseline stuff, the stuff that anybody can think of. So it’s like, hey, give me the top ten arguments in favor of a b testing or whatever.

0:37:24 – (Aaron Peever): Great. All those are very baseline. That’s table stakes. Now I know what not to write about. Now we can figure out what else there is to say. And so I use it for a lot of elimination of stuff. Because if Chat GPT can spit it out like that, then everyone’s already writing about it.

0:37:38 – (Matt Widdoes): No, it’s a great point. And I think, again, I haven’t tried, give me the top hundred in order, like ranked, right? Because then it’s just like, okay, this is fairly comprehensive. In less than a minute, I can have a comprehensive list of 100 things. I can zoom in on the first 20, eliminate those, or really kind of look and see what take is it giving, and then say, okay, that’s really baseline take. So let’s talk about it in more depth or in a different way.

0:38:07 – (Matt Widdoes): And I do think that we’re still super early days, and some of the stuff that you mentioned on prompts, et cetera, is like, it’s all about learning. It’s almost like a new instrument. So you have to learn how to play that instrument and nobody knows, right? It’s brand new. It just came off the shelf, essentially. And everybody’s kind of writing those rules as they go. And companies like OpenAI are also, it’s not exactly cat and mouse, but they’re tweaking things on their end and trying to make it better or adapt to some of these prompts that maybe are trying to break it. Right. I think people are using interesting math logic and stuff to have it collapse on.

0:38:42 – (Aaron Peever): But did you see people are using chat assistance? Like, with Chevy? I think somebody was chatting with Chevrolet.

0:38:49 – (Matt Widdoes): They got a car for a dollar.

0:38:51 – (Aaron Peever): And then, yeah, I got a car for a dollar.

0:38:52 – (Matt Widdoes): I wonder what ended up happening at, because it was like, this is legally binding. I’m sure they’re just like, yeah, good luck.

0:38:57 – (Aaron Peever): And they said, yeah, he got the Aisa. No, takes his backseat. So, I mean, that seems pretty open and shut.

0:39:03 – (Matt Widdoes): It’s pretty much, yeah, it’s pretty much close. Um, but, yeah, I think it’ll be for me, I think on both the copy side, but really for me on the art side, being able to just see to, like, when I think about coming to Kyle with an idea or something, visually, being able to go and say, I kind of want this, and then realize, okay, actually, now that I see it, I don’t want that. So let me do this. And I haven’t even talked to a creative yet, and then like, ooh, okay, yeah, I like that style.

0:39:31 – (Matt Widdoes): Or show it to me like this. And I can come with a more formulated idea that says, hey, I’d like to see something kind of like these. This is not the end all, be all, but this is what I use for inspiration. And this is kind of how this has this certain feel. Like, here’s what I like about it. Here’s what I don’t like about this one. But having something tangible, and I think so much, given that, that tell us what you don’t like, especially in branding, generally logos, stuff like that.

0:39:54 – (Matt Widdoes): Any sort of graphic, an ad, anything like that. Something has to be created for the other side to react to before anything happens. And that’s usually not being created by the non creative. And so, yeah, maybe they come with, like, a sketch on paper, and it’s like, okay, it’s really rough. Fine. That gives you kind of, like, not exactly a format, but it gives you kind of the shape or the layout. Okay. And then we’ll fill it in. You said you wanted a person. Well, not that person. Or I want it more like cartoonish or scanner darkly comic book style or graphic novel or something. It’s like, what is that anyways?

0:40:32 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, it’s kind of cool that it gives even client side or anybody outside the creative side an opportunity to kind of figure out what they want or what they don’t want. I think more than anything, which would save as a client, will save you time and hours paying your designer because I already know you don’t have to go through the exploration. I want something like this. Now go. Give it to me.

0:40:55 – (Matt Widdoes): Well, it saves the. From my perspective, too. Saves the creative, the emotional. Not emotional toll is probably not the right word, but it saves that kind of. Okay, I just spent like 20 hours building these eight things, and you hate all of them versus, like, okay, in 20 minutes instead of hours. Something that I had nothing to do with. I kind of picked and pulled out of 100 iterations. I flagged eight. You don’t like any of them? Okay, you said you liked what. Okay, let me go back. Take this one. This one, this one. Do you like them more like this? Okay, now we have some idea. Let me put something together by hand that we already know, both sides already know is going to be way closer. So I think that kind of iterative and concepting stuff, it’s super important for, and we’ll see it grow. I think it’ll continue.

0:41:35 – (Matt Widdoes): For sure. It’ll continue getting better. I think the recommendation I’ve made, and I would make this to anybody, not just internally here, is that find the things that AI can do, even if it’s not really good at it, because one day it will be. And if you’ve optimized your entire day around the stuff that only you can do, like, okay, we’re not going to just copy paste articles from chat TBT. We’re going to find out what it’s doing so we know what not to do. That’s a huge value is from that kind of like, defensive intelligence stuff on top of what.

0:42:06 – (Matt Widdoes): So either when it finally does become good, we’re like, okay, cool, we can use this stuff off the shelf now where we used to have to crazy edit it. Now what can we do that it can’t do still? And that list never ends, really. It’s just a matter of shifting your focus on stuff that humans are better at.

0:42:23 – (Aaron Peever): Yeah, just staying ahead of it. So, yeah, getting. Identifying what it can’t do and know once it can. Okay, what’s next?

0:42:29 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah. Cool. Well, Aaron, thanks for the time. Anything you want to plug or promote?

0:42:33 – (Aaron Peever): Just this really dope growth agency I’ve been working for called MAVAN. But other than that, no. A lot of great people, great stuff coming from MAVAN. 2024.

0:42:43 – (Matt Widdoes): Yeah, cool. We appreciate you listening to this episode of growth at scale. We hope you gained valuable insights about messaging for brands. And if you liked this episode, make sure you subscribe to never miss an episode. See you next time.

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