Agency Feature: What Works

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What Works

How do we define What Works?

What Works is a content agency based out of Mumbai. We create unique, conversation-starting content for brands – especially startups, studios, and OTTs. We’re seduced by stories, stimulated by visuals, and serenaded by sounds that are authentic, disruptive, and young.

Before taking the entrepreneurial leap with What Works, Imran Shamsi was heading Digital Content at Disney India. He brings with him more than 16 years of experience, having donned multiple hats as a writer, director, producer, and editor across MTV, UTV, and several other media houses.

What triggered the foundation of What Works was the hunger to create diverse content for multiple clients and to breed a culture of freedom, learning, creativity, and collaboration. As a result, over the last seven years, some of the brightest, young, and creative people have joined the What Works team of all-in-ones, who think, write, plan, produce, direct, design, and deliver videos. This helps them understand the content creation process and gives them perspective in their roles.

The culture promotes experimentation, and failure is celebrated as it’s just another step towards finding what works. Whether it’s free lunches, flexible working hours, or the lack of hierarchy – It’s all in sync with Imran’s vision for making ‘What Works’ the most fun place to work.

What Works has consistently created clutter-breaking content for clients like Ogilvy, KFC, Raw Pressery, The Man Company, Flipkart, Samsung, Jack & Jones, ONLY, Vero Moda, upGrad, NUSH, Uber, Marico, Cadbury’s, Yashraj Films, Fox Star Studios, Sony Pictures, Red Chillies Entertainment, Disney India, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Sony Liv, MTV and History Channel, Facebook, Spotify and more.

What's in the name?

We wanted a name that was simple to understand, commonly used, but not clichéd. We didn’t want a vague, pretentious name that doesn’t communicate much. The name had to articulate our intent and our focus. We thought of over 200 options, and a lot of them were horrible, before finally coming up with What Works.

Having What Works as a name works in two ways. One it makes us result-oriented as we have to make content for clients that works. On the other hand, it also reinforces something that is at the core of what we do, which is understanding the audiences deeply to know what works for them. Internally, it also motivates the team to focus on finding what works for the client and their consumers and not to fulfil our personal film-making goals.

What we do?

We create content under two verticals.

  • Content for Content – Promotional content for Films and Web Series. Over the years, we have created some of the most impactful, efficient, and attention-grabbing films to promote films and are driven to take it to the next level. We enjoy being in this space as it allows us to unleash our creativity for promoting things we love. What Works did a project for Yashraj Films for their movie Sui Dhaaga where we got the film’s logo designed by 15 artists and craftsmen from the length and breadth of the country? It took six months to plan, research and execute the campaign that celebrates our country’s artisans and diversity. The campaign was a huge success, it trended at No. 1 on YouTube, got over 10 million organic views (across social), generated a huge amount of buzz for the film, and won us a Gold award at the Jagran Film Festival. But the most gratifying thing was to see all the attention and love that poured in for these extremely talented and skilled artisans of India.
  • Content for Brands – TV Commercials, Digital Brand Films, and Micro Content for some of the most exciting brands. In this new age of advertising, there is immense potential for telling powerful stories that break barriers, change perception, and deliver the brand message intimately and effectively. Some of our most exciting work has been for brands, and we need to take this a notch higher. We also did a campaign for men’s grooming brand ‘The Man Company’ titled - ‘Gentleman Kisse Kehte Hain’ – A powerful narrative where Ayushmann Khurana redefines what it takes to be a ‘gentleman’. The video dealt with some hard-hitting gender stereotypes and went viral within hours of its release clocking more than 15 million views across social media. Post that we became regulars for The Man Company and made two more TVCs featuring Ayushmann Khurana.

Why we do it?

What Works exists to solve the problem of unimaginative writing, lousy visuals, and ineffective creatives faced by clients. Creativity is subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else. We’re constantly aware of this fact. Therefore, we obsessively research the client, the product, and the target audience to find ‘what works’ for them.

This is why start-ups excite us. We love how so many young entrepreneurs are building such cool brands in India. Their passion is contagious, the energy is addictive, and they want something that stands out. Being a startup ourselves, we understand the struggles, limitations, and realities of having limitless aspirations.

We hustle, innovate, and haggle over small details while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Working with startups makes us feel the same rush and excitement that we felt when What Works began.

How we evolve?

Feedback helps us evolve. It can be feedback from a client, audience, or peers. Whenever a campaign is out, we start tracking its reception and that’s where the real learnings lie. Earlier in the times of television, instant feedback was almost impossible to get. But in the digital age, you’ll get feedback even if you don’t want it. So, it helps to read the comments, track audience retention, analyze likes and shares to figure what people feel about the content to gauge what has worked and what hasn’t.

We keep a check on the latest trends to keep up with the times. Bite-sized content like thumb stoppers is gaining more and more popularity, other micro-content pieces like cinemagraphs and boomerangs are helping tell brand stories quickly and effectively. Interactive content pieces will also play a very important role in the future. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are not only increasing the engagement in storytelling but also making consumers' experiences unique and immersive.       

 Social responsibility in social media

Brands and content creators have the responsibility to be authentic and credible. If you’re making a statement or presenting facts, ensure that your research is solid. Even if you make a mistake online, it is essential to acknowledge and rectify it immediately. Inclusivity, empathy, and cultural awareness go a long way in ensuring that the communication is not insensitive or tone-deaf.

Need of the hour

Fake news and misinformation are the greatest evils of the digital age. Unfortunately, posting such content on social media can have an immediate and long-term impact on society. Therefore, there need to be stricter laws against those spreading rumours and a more robust infrastructure to identify and block harmful content. Content creators and brands also face a lot of pressure in creating content due to sensitivity issues in our society. We need to stand up for creators and not let them get bullied by radical groups and organisations.

We learned the hard way

Given our focus to find what works, one of the things we constantly have an eye on is to find a balance between the story of the brand and its relevance to the audiences that we are speaking to. Sometimes brands get carried away in telling their own story forgetting if it will actually appeal to their consumers. Being a content agency it is upon us to strike that balance.

Did we just share that?

Once we asked a client what format do they want the final output in. Most clients have their own specifications and they tell us whether they want a MOV file or an MP4 file. This client apparently didn’t have any, so their representative got nervous and said “What formats you got? Give us 1 of each!” after having a small laugh about it amongst us, we actually exported the video in 7-8 different formats and handed it over to the client who uploaded the MP4 file on YouTube.

They work with us

Studios, Networks and Platforms: Yashraj Films, Fox Star Studios, Sony Pictures, Zee Studios, Red Chillies Entertainment, Disney India, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Sony Liv, MTV, History Channel, Facebook and Spotify.

Brands and startups: KFC, Raw Pressery, The Man Company, Flipkart, Samsung, Jack & Jones, ONLY, Vero Moda, upGrad, NUSH, Uber, Marico, Cadbury’s and Total Oil.

Industry as we foresee

They say a picture says a thousand words, well a video tells the whole story. Video is already the most effective tool for marketers, and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger. As a result, brands will need to have a constant flow of video content to grab eyeballs and stand out in a saturated market. So, having a video strategy will become crucial as brands will need to connect with consumers daily.

A day without Internet

It would be a day well spent. Without the distractions of the internet, there will be time to introspect and appreciate the small joys of life. Time-off is required to gain perspective and focus on what matters. So it will be cool to go offline for a bit and then come back to the hustle-bustle of the online world.

Lastly, are you hiring?


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