Breaking through the clutter of foodie videos is a daunting task even for a massive content network like Time Inc. One answer is to throw a hot dog smoothie (see below for a good laugh) at the problem and lean back to see over 36-million video views pour in. While the digital native brand Well Done is much more than tongue in cheek, this viral April Fool’s Day hit is indicative of the witty touch its team brought to the genre since its launch earlier this year. Because the new brand was distributing content primarily through its broad range of company titles, including Time and SI, “we really needed a diversity of content—not just hands and pans,” says Stacey Rivera, digital content director for food at Time Inc.
Well Done needed more than recipes, like explainer and fun clips that would appeal to a range of social media editors as they made their decisions to redistribute from the pool of 60-100 pieces the team was producing each month.
The content and distribution model appears to have worked. Time Inc. tells Folio: that less than a year into the project, Well Done recently surpassed 500-million video views. The content categories have now expanded beyond recipe/explainer/humor to include some hosted food tips as well as long-form programming. Indeed, Well Done has an inaugural spot on Facebook Watch’s experiment in TV-like programming with its “Homemade Vs. the Internet” series.
But as the “pivot to video” cliché quickly becomes a sardonic joke among digital insiders, any video-first, distributed content project raises natural questions. Foremost, is a socially distrib- uted project like Well Done just opportunistically harvesting eye- balls in feeds or actually building a sustainable brand?
“We are 100% meant to build a brand,” says Rivera. “From start, the project aimed for a consistent voice, content and look and feel that not only stood out but aimed at what Rivera considers a “white space” in the market—“people who are interested in food but not food obsessed.” It’s unsurprising then that executing Internet recipes is one of the subjects of the brand’s videos itself. The Facebook Watch series is a duel between a cooking pro and amateur to replicate an online recipe they only see fleetingly. The “Mom Vs.” series pits a mom against a current foodie meme. Yes, this is all kind of meta. But it is designed to cultivate a relationship with the food-curious and make these videos immediately recognizable.
One of the strongest signs that Well Done is getting some branding traction in a socially capricious ecosystem is the old-fashioned success of its daily newsletter. In September, the email list exceeded 1.5 million with an enviable open rate of over 36% and 33% clicks on opens. “It has far exceeded what anyone thought it would do,” Rivera says.
Well Done is a content and distribution model that Time Inc. is also executing with the more recently launched The Pretty. It is designed to leverage the overall footprint of the company’s diverse brands, especially across social. Rivera credits the quick growth and success to a highly collaborative team of social editors that work across the brands to assess the available Well Done assets most relevant to audiences, even in the news and sports verticals, and take back suggestions to produce more diverse content.
Well Done has been aiming its content mainly at Facebook and Instagram, with increasing forays into Pinterest as that platform ramps up its video model. Facebook Watch, however, may be the biggest “learning experience” for the emerging brand. In the long-form video experience, one of the chief challenges has been figuring out “what it takes to get people to stay with you.”
In part, Facebook Watch has been liberating for the team because it is such uncharted territory. “We are learning about how to break some of our own rules that were so data-driven,” Rivera says. But in this new realm somewhere between lean-in and lean- back, there is not a lot of data yet. In breaking free from its own shooting style and formats, “we have learned a lot about our space and our own talent. We have a tremendous pool of talent that is really equipped for this sort of mobile social video.”
Interestingly, given the Millennial skew, Rivera notes that there is no Snapchat strategy. “We don’t feel we can give a good experience, and if you aren’t on Discover I am not sure the upside is clear.”
The upside on the ad side for Well Done comes almost exclusively from branded videos, including early support from Kraft, ACH Foods and LouAna. And these early-in supporters appear to be buying into Well Done as a brand. “Clients are typically evaluating and buying Well Done as a standalone opportunity, but it can certainly be packaged into a larger media buy,” says Karen Kovacs, Group President, Time Inc.
The brand is exploring new spaces for 2018, including le- veraging in licensing, perhaps podcasting, e-commerce and certainly new forms of longer video.
As for the viability of the model, all Rivera can say is that eight months in, “We made back our investment.”