William Hereford — Finding Success With Sponsored Videos

- - Video

by Grayson Schaffer

For New York–based William Hereford, 27, the former assistant of Chris Craymer, the breakthrough came two years ago with a short video called “Cooking Dinner”. Hereford calls the three-and-a-half minute clip “a technical test, an attempt to shoot video that acts like a still photograph.” He overlaid typography—the recipe instructions for roasted duck—onto the scenes so that the overall effect is sort of like a moving cookbook. The clip was viewed more than 30,000 times and led Hereford into the fuzzy and exploding world of advertorial—sponsored videos that give the viewer something both beautiful and useful but ultimately exist because they’ve got product to move.

GRAYSON: Explain the evolution of your business.
WILLIAM: After “Cooking Dinner,” the CEO of Meyer Corporation called my cell phone and left a message. That was unique; it was a sign of the developing market for this kind of thing. They said, “We really like this but if we just turn it into a commercial, it’ll never get as much attention as your original piece.” I told them I thought we should create content that looks like it was “sponsored by” and not “created for.” Now I throw those words around all the time when I meet with clients. If you want to succeed on the Web, the content needs to look as though it is sponsored content and not content that you created to advertise your specific product. Soft sell, soft sell, soft sell.

Or else make the hard sell. Everything in between is just crap. Some clients call and say, “We don’t want to push the product too hard, but we want to make sure it’s about the product.” And I always say, No, No, if you want to do this, either don’t be ashamed that you’re selling something (like these Old Spice commercials that are going around) or else produce something that looks editorial. And that’s what Anolon wanted. We shot 18 videos for them. The idea was just to show the product being used and shoot something that’s really beautiful to drive traffic to their site. I thought it would be great if we could let each consumer walk away with a service element—a recipe (See the videos here.).

GRAYSON: So what did Anolon do with videos?
WILLIAM: They used them as sponsored content on Saveur’s website [of which Hereford is also a contributor]. If readers of a magazine’s website like the content I’ve created, they’re also going to like the content I’ve created for Anolon. It makes sense for Anolon to advertise with Saveur; it makes sense for Saveur to pursue Anolon. That coupling allows us to have bigger budgets and create better content. I don’t think this was possible before Web videos.

GRAYSON: Where’s the market for this stuff?
WILLIAM: I recently went to a Women’s Wear Daily conference, and I was the only photographer there. It was all marketing people. There was a price to get in, so it was a big investment for me. I thought it was so perfect. I met someone who asked why I was there. I said, Last year 80 percent of my income came from advertorial.

GRAYSON: How do you price this stuff? Who’s to say what it’s worth?
WILLIAM: It’s still the wild West. The print industry has a pretty good structure, but well-produced video just costs more to make. You can’t shoot it with a still camera wrapped around your shoulder and hope that it looks great. Everyone is scrambling. You’ve got to create these pairings between products and editorial in order to get a budget that allows you to do it right.

There Are 6 Comments On This Article.

  1. THANKS A.P.E. …

    attention to detail: he spelled potatoes incorrectly in his original video title!
    cool that the Anolon folks bought his original design, and the vid looks even better… gives one hope!

  2. I think the original is great and the entire concept is fantastic. I’m also surprised how much of the original concept remained intact which is a hats off to William. I’m even more surprised how, of all changes the creatives/client did make, they took a very nice and organic piece and nearly sucked the life out of it. I’m not talking about the product placement which I think was handled both well and with subtlety, but the saccharine, cliche dinner party of models really crushed it. Maddeningly superfluous taking it nearly to a bad wine commercial.
    The original was great food porn – a simple but elegant dish prepared by a passionate cook with an obvious affection for the tools of his trade. The one for Analon would have achieved that as well if they just cut every crowd shot out, especially that damned toast at the end.
    That said, it’s very well done, William and you deserve kudos for parlaying a passion piece into a commercial one.

  3. Great post. I’ve been shooting video for the last three years in my transition from a lifestyle food and travel photographer and it is encouraging to read that another photographer is making such a success of creating video content.
    Please have a look at my recent food videos http://vimeo.com/28556006 and http://vimeo.com/30086351 and let me know what you think.
    Best wishes,
    Carl

  4. Great questions! I loved that the pricing structure was addressed. It’s SO true that a photographer cannot just start shooting motion and pick up some extra cash. It’s a very specific individual that can move freely between the 2 formats. William has a gift for that. It was great to work on the crew of this shoot because it was so forward thinking ( and looks really beautiful on an ipad). The grace of production was supported by San Francisco Producer, Emily Miller. Because she is fluent in still AND motion, her crew was top notch in both disciplines; she had our backs and William had our hearts. Anolon, they have our respect for producing a gorgeous film. To that, I toast!