A Word of Caution for Your In-house Branded Content Studio

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We love branded content. 

In fact, we’ve been creating a lot of it for clients. We have also witnessed more content being created in-house by Branded Content Studios due to the ever-increasing demand to churn out stuff at the speed of social media. Maybe you’re getting ready to build one.

Many content marketing calendars demand two to three posts a week. That’s a ton of work. Especially when the margins are getting thinner and thinner. This is why agencies, brands and publishers typically staff their Branded Content Studios with twentysomethings who know the latest iPhone features and “like, totally get social media.” After all, we’ve convinced ourselves that the majority of branded content should have the authenticity of the stuff our audiences post, “only a little more pro.” 

Here’s the rub: most of it is disposable clutter. And isn’t it breaking through the clutter our prime directive? So, here’s two pieces of advice if you want to create breakthrough branded content. 

First, check your ego and slow down. Believe it or not, no one is anxiously waiting by the phone for your next sponsored Facebook post. Your three-post-a-week schedule is a recipe for disaster. You’ll run out of ideas and burn out your people before Q2. 

Lastly, and perhaps our most important piece of advice: staff your studio with experienced creators and storytellers. Having a killer Instagram account is not a qualification for someone to helm your studio. Great content; the kind that has every CMO asking, “Why can’t we create stuff like that?” takes insight, time and a deep understanding of craftsmanship. That’s what experienced storytellers bring to the table—even if it’s the butcher block table you use for your recipe videos. 

-Your Kestum Bilt Team, www.kestumbilt.com

Winning Strategy for Choosing a Production Company: Choose One That Embraces Strategy

Kestum Bilt Strategy.jpeg

“It’s off strategy.”

There they are. Three of the most cringe-worthy words any agency or brand wishes to never hear. Especially after viewing the first cut of a video.

We’ve all heard them before of course, like during a brainstorming session or a concept pitch. You would easily be given a mulligan for either. No money is at stake—yet. But after producing a video from an on-strategy script? Someone needs to call their headhunter.

Sadly, it happens. A lot.

When it does, you can be sure that fingers will be pointed, mostly in the direction of the production company. But you know what they say about finger pointing: every time you point a finger, there are three pointing right back at you.

So how can we avoid it? The answer—as the headline reveals—is to choose a production partner that embraces strategy.

There’s More to the Story Than the Story

Every production company will bill itself as “a group of talented storytellers.” And it would be smart to do so. But as we all know in the world of the 30-second sell, our stories are told in the service of a sales goal. That requires a strategy. So, when speaking with interested production partners—especially their directors—listen carefully. If they talk about the strategy without you having to mention it first, you’re on the right track. But, if all they seem to care about are things like camera moves and lighting, talk to someone else. A production company should be as invested in the success of the campaign as you are.

That Strategy is a Real Knee Slapper

Comedy is subjective. Strategy—when backed by solid research and analytics—is not. It’s why so many comedy spots fail. Someone focused too much on the jokes and failed to connect the backbone to the funny bone. We managed to avoid that misstep when we recently produced a series of spots with Navy Federal Credit Union. Luckily, we were given a sound strategy and a loose idea for the campaign. So, we and director Kip Hewitt were able to craft scripts that delivered on the strategy and hit the right comedic tone for NFCU. If all we cared about were the yuks, then the spots would have been, well, yuk.

“Get That Data Off My Set!”

Maybe you’ve heard—data dominates. Now, we’re not here to weigh in on the pros or cons of data’s influence on creativity (that’s for another time), but we are going to caution you from hiring a director that regards data points like a swarm of gnats attacking his set. If you and your client are going to invest in and leverage data, then you should find a production partner that understands its role and is open to the possibility that it could actually enhance the effectiveness of the final product.

Lights. Cameras. Assets?


How to protect your commercial shoot from invading content creators.

Here’s a scenario. You’re on set for a thirty-second commercial. Everyone who needs to be there is there. Until…

The agency’s social team shows up to shoot GIFs with the talent for the brand’s social channels. The client’s in-house production team (two interns with an iPhone) arrive to produce a behind-the-scenes video for an upcoming franchisee conference. All last-minute requests. All unplanned. And it’s making your $20k-a-day director lose his mind because he’s losing the precious daylight of his ten-hour day.

Sound familiar?

The demand—and ability—to create brand content for multiple platforms is placing undue stress on commercial productions. Here are three ways to safeguard your shoots from competing agendas and epic hissy fits.

An Opportunity, Not an Imposition

Every production presents a chance to create campaign “bonus features.” Embrace it. That goofy short video you shoot on set could earn even more fan love than the scripted spots you originally plotted to produce. But you need to plan for improvisation ahead of time. At Kestum Bilt, we encourage our agency and client partners to look at our productions as an opportunity to stretch their creativity and optimize their budgets. Get everyone onboard early and you’ll enjoy a smooth production.

First, Second and Third Units

Approach your commercial shoot like a Hollywood film production by assigning multiple units to handle each task. Second units will often film smaller sequences or scenes of a movie while the first unit tackles the big stuff. That’s what we did on a recent shoot in Atlanta. Our director and DP helmed the first unit shoot, while second and third units simultaneously captured stills, social content, and b-roll as part of a well-coordinated plan. Having clearly defined roles and a multi-unit schedule eliminates the threat of confusion and chaos.

Make Room for What Ifs

You never know what can happen on a production. If you’re lucky, all will go as planned. If you’re incredibly lucky, someone will be kissed by the creativity gods and come up with a can’t-miss idea out of the blue. Next thing you know, you’ve pulled your main talent and seven crew members into a bathroom to shoot a video that is destined to go orbital. Stop. Hold it right there. Do you have the extra budget? What’s in your talent’s contract? Are you about to go into golden time? Sure, that video could be killer. But so too is the realization that you didn’t leave enough cushion for the moments of inspiration that are bound to happen when creative people get together on a set. Have a creative contingency plan. You’ll be surprised by what happens when you do.


A Watch Company, Multiple Agencies, a Production Company and a NASCAR Race Car Driver - Decide to Create a Production


Seiko, Multiple Agencies, Kestum Bilt and NASCAR Race Car Driver, Jimmie Johnson

Recently, the Kestum Bilt team had the great pleasure of teaming up with Visionarists, Dentsu and Gravity to shoot and produce with NASCAR race legend, Jimmie Johnson for Seiko watches.  

Director. Manfred Reiff
Kestum Bilt Productions

The amount of moving pieces in a complex video shoot can be daunting and disastrous to the client, product and production. It takes finesse, LASER-beam focus, intense planning, teamwork, collaboration, transparency, creativity, humor and somedays shear grit to make the final magic that gets seen by tens of thousands sometimes millions of people.

Below is a (short) incomplete list of the Kestum Bilt Seiko Shoot by the numbers:

  • 2 Production Companies

  • 3 Full Size Camaros

  • 1 Process Trailer

  • 1 Photo Shoot Team

  • 1 2nd Unit Team Capturing car to car shots, scenic shot and on-set interviews

  • 1 Parking Garage

  • 1 Elementary School

  • 1 Outdoor Product Shot

  • 3 Parking Lots

  • 2 State Roads

  • 5 Permits

  • 4 Motorcycle Cops (rolling barricade)

  • 1 Voiceover Session on set in motorhome

  • 1 (15) Passenger Van

  • 1 Stand-In Model for Jimmie Johnson We needed to match Jimmie’s wedding band

  • 1 Food Truck For breakfast and lunch

  • 5 Children’s Bicycles

  • 1 School Bus

  • 500 AMPs of portable powers

  • 1 Motor Home Complete with 2 levels for office, 2 salons, 2 changing rooms and 2 bathrooms

  • 60 Additional People each with specialized jobs

  • 10 Hours to make the magic happen

  • 6 Hours with Jimmie Johnson

  • 3 Agencies

The above list doesn’t include pre-production, location scouting, post-production and the fact that days before the shoot, Jimmie Johnson crashed at Daytona, fortunately nothing serious. Jimmie went on to race the weekend after our shoot. Jimmie had a small window between wrapping up Daytona and qualifying for Atlanta, in that 6-hour window we shot this commercial, an interview, recorded the voice over, and shot stills for the print/billboard campaign.

With multiple locations and a short window to work with our celebrity talent many elements had to come together and be coordinated. For instance, just crossing railroad tracks on a process trailer took more than just driving and hitting the gas. We had to contact the CSX regional manager to alert all trains to “proceed with caution” and slow down for the hours we were shooting.  We also used 3 different color Camaro cars so that the post team could pick the car bodies and change them to match a specific watch.

In the end, did all the moving parts come together.  You bet.

We think this Helen Keller quote embodies what we do:

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Or as Michael Jordan said:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships!”

Give us a call or email. We’d love to team up.



(Or a shameless promotional article written to show off our new sizzle reel.)

(Or you could skip reading the article and watch some of our favorite videos on our updated website, but we fancy ourselves good writers so why not first have a read?)

Video schmideo.

In 2017 we created a whole lot of video content, but that is not the real story for us at

Kestum Bilt.

The creative team that…

But wait, there is so much more.

If Vulcans Can Do It…

We also got to work with some amazing client-partners and agencies from across the country.

And what we are really proud of was mind-melding with our partners on strategy and content and then executing to accomplish more, exceeding expectations and creating content that helps turn our partner’s ROI into a crypto-currency rally.


UF "This Is Florida"


Strategy. Strategy. And Prepro.

We know our clients have better things to do than worry. Our mission has always been and will continue to be lighten our clients’ load. In 2018 we intend to keep doing just that. Client-friends know that they can reach out any time – day or night – to assist with creative brainstorms, fresh no-box ideas and sudden must-haves because “the CMO loves periwinkle”!

For instance, we get regular calls from our client and agency friends assisting them with budgets, creative strategy and pitches BEFORE the concept is green lit.

VR? Damn straight.

Virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 video…we are stoked about all the content we will be co-creating this new year. New partners, new technology and a new friends. Definitely stay tuned.

Got a project? Thinking about a project? Did an idea pop into your head while you were showering? Call us. Email us or stop by if you’re in Tampa, Miami, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

We always have a cold one ready.

Enjoy and lets us know if we can help make your 2018 the best year ever!

Check out our updated Home Page that contains some of our favorite produced content from 2017. 




No. That’s not a picture of two aliens having sex or a mutant parsnip.  

It’s ginseng. Panax ginseng.

We show you ginseng because in many ways ginseng is like a modern creative production collective, aka: Kestum Bilt.  Okay, just stay with us and it will become very clear where we are going.  

So let’s start with ginseng. According to a several sources ginseng is one of a number of ‘adaptogenic herbs’, meaning that they are substances that work with a person’s body to help them adapt. The adaptogens are brilliant allies helping to regulate and support your immune system, manage weight, clarify mental focus, increase physical endurance and more. Basically, ginseng goes wherever and does whatever your body needs. Cool beans.

And that’s exactly what a great production organization needs to be doing.  

We understand that no two products, partners or clients are the same.  You probably wouldn’t send your direct response director to shoot a high-end beauty spot or have a (though well-intentioned) Senior Account person who didn’t speak Spanish working on a product or service targeted to the Hispanic market. Makes sense?

So is your production company adaptogenic?  Do they tailor your production and team to your specific strategy and business goals?

Are they adapting to your:

  • Creative.  Do they offer a variety of creative people from writers, strategists, directors and producers?

  • Positioning.

  • Target audience.

  • Production costs.

  • Media buys and strategy.

  • Media platforms.

  • Production Locations. Can you they produce content anywhere in the Americas?

  • Remote Post Production for efficiency and cost savings

Make sure that the organization you hire can logistically produce content for you in different regions.  Whether you need a specific creative team for the multicultural aspect of your business or because you need a company that can handle a larger scale job.

Jumping from one company to the next is tedious and time consuming. It’s like speed dating with no upside. We don’t recommend it.

You deserve a world-class partner who is an ‘adaptogen’ and who will customize and create a program, shoot and production that supports your specific anatomy. Don’t settle for anemic help.

 Give us a call. Shoot us an email. And let us show you how our creative team can adapt for every project and every client.





“A Company’s Production Meeting”

Setting: A conference room.

A CMO, marketing director and marketing specialist discuss a proposed budget from a production company.  

Marketing Director: Where did they get those production numbers? They want WHAT for animation?! And a “cat wrangler”?!

Marketing Specialist: Uh… I think it has to do with the concept…and…

Marketing Director: Concept?! They don’t even understand our vision for the content campaign.

CMO: I thought my vision was clear.

Marketing Director: Tell them to come back with better numbers.  We’re not hiring friggin’ Spielberg.


Sound familiar?

Companies and Video Production Creatives LOVE to talk about new concepts and marketing content first and wait until the very end to have the [CUE the horror film music]:

DREADED budget conversation.

Marketing Departments and creatives from the video content production company may talk shop for hours over a course of several meetings, walk out of a brainstorm session feeling like they are now of one mind and clients will whisper to each other “They really get it. They really do get our company’s vision for our new video marketing content.”

Suddenly numerical reality kicks in, the production company turns in the estimate to it’s (hopefully) new client.

So what is the solution?

At Kestum Bilt we believe in truth in advertising – and production costs.

Here are three ways Production Companies can mitigate this above conversation:

  1. First, it’s important for agencies and organizations to understand how budgets are created for video production content prior to starting a conversation around content development.

  2. Second, video production companies need to be transparent and explain the estimated budget instead of just sending a number.

  3. And third, offer budget options instead of one definitive number. This helps in breaking down line items and costs. It also puts the client in the financial driver’s seat.

Below is our Kestum Bilt “Good. Fast. Low-Cost” chart.*  Where are you on the chart?



*[Please NOTE these are general guidelines and Kestum Bilt always recommends hiring a professional video production company with a solid reputation for creating video content.] 

For more down-to-earth information on production costs and information about content creation and distribution, please contact Pete Guzzo at Kestum Bilt.

We look forward to hearing from you and happy producing!

Stay Tuned: Future articles will dive deep into the video production budget conversation, this was a Video Content Production Budget – Lesson 101.













Can you hear it? The sound of silence.

It’s advertisers serving up their videos on mute. Users can easily un-mute the video and watch in full screen view. Case in point: Internet radio platform, Pandora now allows users control over their ad experience.

We agree with this approach. But first a little context…

When Mary Talks…

Mary Meeker, former Wall Street securities analyst and current venture partner with Silicon Valley firm, Kleiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers says, “…that 419 million people worldwide now block mobile ads, an even more substantial number when you consider that there are 1.9 billion smartphone users.” That’s a lot of blocked ads.

At Kestum Bilt we believe in dialogue. We also believe that your audience, aka your customer is driving the conversation. So it’s imperative to listen, understand and make adjustments to your content accordingly.

Silence Is Golden

Numbers don’t lie. 80 percent of Facebook users dislike loud ads playing in their newsfeed. Also, in a recent survey, over one third of those same folks preferred muted ads. Facebook has set ads to play automatically but without sound.  Facebook is listening to their audience.

So here’s the question: If you can’t use sound (at least up front) to grab audience attention, what do you do?

Keep Making Great Content – With Some Tweaks

Here are some quick guidelines to follow:

  1. The NEW Two Second Rule – What used to be 5-7 seconds to grab your audience, now is only two seconds. Make those first two seconds count like a mofo.

  2. Embrace the Silence – Instead of struggling trying to figure out what to do with sound, use compelling visuals or even a countdown.

  3. 10 Second CTA – Put your CTA in the first 10 seconds. We know, this breaks normal direct response best practices. Don’t worry. These days, you need to cut to the chase: get a chyron/title card in that’s super easy to read with your offer.

  4. Subtitles – Just like silent movies of yore, add subtitles. Research shows that by adding subtitles view times goes up.

  5. Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings – It’s emotion, baby. And story. Tell a story visually. Find what moves you emotionally, what gets your juices flowing. If you’re affected then your audience will be too.

And of course, if you’re looking for kick-@$$ content muted and un-muted, give us a quick call or email.

Your best (silent) friends at Kestum Bilt.