Recently, ZEFR Insights took a deep dive into the high flying world of YouTube superstar Devin Graham, better known as Devin Supertramp. With so many quality brand deals under his belt, we decided it was necessary to speak to the man himself, to find out exactly how he has managed to maintain authenticity with his fans, while amassing an enviable roster of integrations.
Graham recently sat down with ZEFR to speak about his process, offer advice for both brands and creators, and how he hopes to continually inspire his ever-growing fan base. Pay attention: His answers are practically a manual for how brands should work with creators in the native ad space and an invaluable insight into the mindset of creators on YouTube.
ZEFR Insights: Your ability to capture high energy, cinematic, family-friendly moments on film is a unique combination that has led some to call your work “ready-made for sponsorship.” Was your style and vision always clear to you when you first launched your channel? What kind of audience were you hoping to build from day one?
Devin Graham: The style and vision has grown and evolved as I have grown and evolved as a filmmaker and as our team has grown. Starting off, I just knew that I had a passion for filmmaking and wanted to do what I loved for a career. After stumbling into the YouTube scene and creating a few viral videos, I began to see the power of advertising on YouTube as people began to contact me about promoting their products in my videos. Then, I just continued to build my following and my voice voice all along the way and stayed true to my standards and morals. Now, when brands come to me, I let them know that we are a family-friendly channel and we’ll only promote wholesome, positive products. I have always had a vision for what I’m doing, but it has definitely grown and evolved over time as new opportunities present themselves.
ZEFR: When brands first approached you, what was your reaction? Did you have any concerns or hesitations? And, what led you to say yes to that first brand deal?
DG: The first brand that approached me was for the Flip camera, and I was excited at the prospect of getting paid to live my passion. I worked closely with Vooray, a start-up clothing company owned by friends, early on as well. I helped them get off the ground to run their business and they sponsored my videos to help me get off the ground.
There is always the concern of your audience being upset with product placement, but I realized that if I established early on that I work with brands that it wouldn’t be nearly as big an issue once my audience got bigger. To me, the right move early on was growth and progression, and working with brands helped me do both.
ZEFR: For brands that have never worked with a creator before, what message would you hope to get across to them upfront? What have you learned about managing expectations and establishing trust?
DG: The message we would hope to get across is that working with brands is a win-win for both us as a production company and for them as a sponsor. We get to fund our awesome ideas and continue doing what we love, and they get the amazing worldwide exposure to the right demographic. We have seen tremendous power in viral marketing and have been able to help a lot of businesses get off the ground through our worldwide YouTube audience. We love seeing others succeed and make a career out of doing what they love and through our videos we have been able to promote so many businesses, people, and talents to make that possible.
As for setting expectations, they can vary depending on the projects and brands that we are working with. But, I’ve learned that you need to voice everything up front from both ends so that everyone is on the same page before the deal even begins. Trust is established through execution. If both parties can execute on their expectations, trust will be gained.
ZEFR: While shooting your Assassin’s Creed Unity video for Ubisoft, you sprinted across rain-soaked rooftops in Paris carrying a 25-pound camera. In the behind-the scenes footage you admit that you are afraid of heights. We have to ask: Why build a career filming crazy, high-flying stunts? What is your relationship to fear?
DG: Taking on a career in filmmaking has pushed me to do things I would have never done otherwise in my life. Through our videos, we hope to inspire people to live life to the fullest. And so, how can I inspire people to do that if I’m not doing it myself? How can I tell people to go out and live a life full of faith and love and passion if I’m not willing to do it myself? Facing my fear of heights has pushed me to be involved in so much, such as filming crazy stunts, sometimes doing the stunts, even skydiving! All these things I would have never even considered if it weren’t for me wanting to push myself and live by my own motto of living life to the fullest rather than living by fear. And that concept of overcoming my fear of heights leaks over into every other aspect of my life. If I fear the unknown, I can never grow as a filmmaker and as a human being. It is that principle of living by faith, rather than fear, that helps me reach my highest potential.
ZEFR: What are some red flags that creators should watch out for when entering their first brand deals? Any regrets or things you would have done differently?
DG: Check all the fine print. Make sure everything is out on the table so there are no surprises. When a brand throws in a surprise in the middle of the deal because they pull it up in the fine print of a document, it makes a good shoot go sour real fast and relationships are hurt. Brands: Be honest, be upfront, discuss all expectations, and don’t hide something under-the-table to “trick” a creator into working with you. Creators: Once [the brand has] put everything on the table, live up to your word by coming through on their expectations. By doing those two things, a great relationship will be born.
ZEFR: What connection or impact can you deliver with your branded videos that traditional TV advertising can’t? How has YouTube evolved over the years, and what sort of challenges, as well as potential opportunities, do you see for the space going forward?
DG: The demographics that most advertisers want to hit all live online. They all live in the social media world. TV is not in that realm. Therefore, for the age groups that most brands want, they aren’t going to get them through TV. YouTube is only growing as well. In my opinion, the internet is the future of advertising because that is where everyone in the new generation is spending their time. And no, TV can’t touch that because they are TV. They are not on the internet. YouTube is evolving its way of making it a space for creators to make a living by incentivizing creators to continue releasing regular content. However, the market is becoming saturated and it is harder than ever to enter into the online creator space. I was lucky enough to get in early, so I am well established now, but for many new creators, it is much more difficult to find a niche that hasn’t already been taken and saturated. I see the space continuing to grow and evolve and I am excited for what the future brings.
“The demographics that most advertisers want to hit all live online. They all live in the social media world. TV is not in that realm. Therefore, for the age groups that most brands want, they aren’t going to get them through TV.”
ZEFR: It’s clear that maintaining a close, authentic relationship with your audience is paramount to your success. Across YouTube and other social platforms, how do you bring your audience into your process? What do you hope viewers walk away with after they watch one of your videos?
DG: People connect with people. YouTube is about personalities, so I try hard to share my life with people, let them know who I am, let them feel like a part of my life, bring them into the adventures I’m living, and make them feel like they are a part of the adventures themselves. Everything from the filming to the editing is all with the mindset of making the viewer feel like they are there. The way we film is very different than most as we try to connect with people by working with them like real human beings and capturing their authentic reactions rather than trying to direct them like actors. We hope that each viewer walks away thinking, “Wow!, Life is beautiful. There is so much good in life, in the world. So much to live for. So much to see and do. So many positive happy people in the world. I want to be positive and happy. I’m going to live a fuller life and not only be a part of all the good out there, but create and share the goodness in me with everyone else in the world.” Our goal ultimately is to inspire others to live life to the fullest and to see the good in life. There is enough negativity about how bad the world is. We are doing our little part to help the world focus on the good.
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