The Hershey Co. is finding cheaper and easier ways to produce content by bringing a team in-house and forging direct relationships with vendors.
The iconic brand, which has worked with big creative agencies for years, has built a content team to produce quicker and less expensive videos for social, said Hershey CMO Jill Baskin.
“I really value some of the videos our agencies make,” she said. “They’re much better produced and they tend to have better storylines. But for quick-turn work, the content beast is so voracious, it just made sense to bring it in-house.”
In the past six months, Hershey has hired five content experts with diverse backgrounds across strategy, design, illustration, production and editing, while starting to contract directly with platforms and production companies.
Influencer marketing platform Whalar, for example, helps connect the chocolate brand with influencers that resonate with Hershey. And production company Vimbo films bite-size content for smaller, social pushes.
That strategy works well for creative that will run for a day or two and be viewed for an average of just over second, Baskin said.
“I don’t know that I need my high-priced creative talent working on that anymore, when I can get what I consider to be good quality work [from vendors],” she said.
Hershey’s new content strategy is already starting to play out. On Saturday, it launched a Hershey bar with Reese’s Pieces in it at TwitchCon with gaming influencers Ninja and DrLupo. The players ate the new chocolate bars as they challenged each other on a video game in a stream that has already garnered 2 million impressions.
To tease the bar’s launch in stores in December, Hershey worked with an independent photographer to shoot engagement photos for a couple it identified on social media by the names of Reese and Hershey. Hershey flew the couple to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania to pose with its brand mascots. It will run the shoot on social media before the in-store launch.
“Normally, we might have done a TV launch or whatever,” Baskin said. “But being in our consumers’ world in relevant ways is important and much more interesting to me.”
For its most recent campaign for the Hershey chocolate brand, Hershey worked with creative agencies to make a polished commercial but augmented that by contracting directly with production company VIMBY and viral video publisher Upworthy. Videos produced by those partners have raked in almost a billion impressions online, Baskin said.
The brand also partners directly with GIF-maker Tenor as a creative agency of record to build low-cost ads that resonate well with its audience on social.
“When you send a GIF that says ‘I’m hungry’ with someone throwing Reese’s Pieces on their face, that’s a better ad than what I’m running for Reese’s Pieces,” Baskin said. “That would interrupt me in my feed more than what I’m currently running.”
As Hershey wades deeper into creating its own content, it will run tests on smaller brands that don’t get as much love, such as Almond Joy, Mounds and Whoppers. Once it learns best practices over time, Hershey will start doing more things that agencies are “slow and expensive at,” Baskin said, such as developing creative for social and responding to social posts.
“Any social work is pretty easy for us to do, and we’re making it at about one-fifth of the cost of an agency and at much quicker turn,” she said. “We can respond so much quicker if there isn’t this lag time of someone surfacing a comment, we discuss it, it goes to the lawyers, it gets three rounds, then it comes back. By then, the whole story is gone.”
Despite doing more work in-house, Hershey won’t cut ties with its creative agencies or its media agencies, UM and Accordant, Baskin said. The value media agencies in particular provide in introducing the brand to new tech platforms and understanding how to approach customer data is crucial.
“They sift through a lot of that for me,” she said. “They help us negotiate.”
And as for creative agencies, their ability to come up with original ways to reach consumers is unparalleled.
“Agencies know and uncover a way to talk to the consumer that I will never think of,” she said. “Those ideas, that’s what I need from agencies that will never be replaced.”