By Sahil Patel
If you’re drafting a team of “sales superstars” in online video, it would be pretty difficult to not select Collective Digital Studio’s chief revenue officer, Alex Angeledes. Joining CDS in the spring of 2012, Angeledes immediately got to work, inking what could end up being a landmark branded-integration deal with Dodge for the second season of FreddieW and Matt Arnold’s “Video Game High School,” which he considers to be one of his proudest achievements to date.
The other? The sales organization and structure at CDS, naturally.
A Tight Crew
Ask Alex Angeledes what sets his company apart from other MCNs and producers of online video content, and he will undoubtedly refer you to the way the sales organization is woven into CDS’ organizational structure.
Angeledes maintains daily contact with the entire Collective executive team, including CEO Reza Izad, chairman Michael Green, president/talent head Dan Weinstein, and COO Mark Heyert. In fact, a typical day begins with an early morning phone call (“usually on the way to the office”) with Izad to discuss “strategy and developments for the day ahead,” says Angeledes.
CDS’ sales team meets on a weekly basis, but in between, Angeledes says he prefers to keep a hands-on, “open door” policy, which means spending “quite a bit of time” with each salesperson throughout the day, “whether it be joining on sales calls or strategizing on business.”
Angeledes and the sales team have a close working relationship with the sales development department, including director of marketing solutions Dana Shayegan and sales development director Jake Smith. “I like to interact personally with Dana and Jake so it’s not unusual for me to pop in and out of their offices several times a day to check in on our progress around RFPs and to ideate around specific creative briefs.”
This structure is a great benefit to brands, says Angeledes. “Each salesperson directly liaises with the sales development department, which in turn directly liaises with the content creators,” he explains. It opens up the opportunity for brands to get very close to the talent and create great content together.
But lest you be concerned, it’s not all work either: Angeledes is known to try out his Shayegan impersonation around the office. “I’ve been able to develop a pretty good one of Dana’s big personality,” he jokes.
“Video High Game High School”
Angeledes joined Collective Digital Studio in April 2012, right around the launch of the first season of “Video Game High School,” which, as you are well aware by now, went on to become a hit for the company (40 million views and counting across nine episodes, not to mention a distribution deal with Netflix).
When it came time to develop ideas for the second season of the live-action series, Angeledes says he began thinking of brands that would want to reach FreddieW’s M18–34 audience. “At the time Dodge was announcing plans to launch the Dodge Dart and was looking to create affinity for the car among a young male audience,” he says. It seemed like a perfect fit.
Angeledes reached out to Dodge and its agency of record, Universal McCann Detroit, and began conversations with them in Summer 2012. The pitch was to integrate the Dodge Dart into the storyline as an actual “character.” One of the major storylines of the second season involves “drift-racing,” with a lead character striving to become the “Drift King,” says Angeledes. “I brought this to Freddie and lead writer Matt Arnold and they developed this storyline with the Dart at the center of it and with the payoff of the Dart as the ‘hero’ car.”
Conversations with UM and Dodge ran through December 2012, and Angeledes was able to finalize the partnership by the end of the year, with Dodge agreeing to come on board as title sponsor for the entire second season.
Are Angeledes and CDS proud of the partnership? “It will be a model for years to come” in terms of seamlessly integrating a brand into digital content, he says. So yes, you can say they are happy with it.
Navigating the Creator/Advertiser Divide
Sitting in the middle, between content creators and advertisers, can be difficult, with each side having certain expectations and demands that sometimes can be at odds with each other.
“There are a lot of stakeholders on the brand side who are making sure their message is translated in the proper way,” says Angeledes. On a similar front, content creators are very protective of their audience, especially online, where that relationship is often tighter than what you see on TV. With “Video Game High School,” Freddie Wong “would not integrate [brands] in an overt way. He knows his audience very well — he knows what will resonate.” So the Dodge Dart integration had to be done in a seamless way. And to Dodge and UM’s credit, Angeledes says they were “tremendous partners” in giving Wong creative control.
“There is a lot of massaging and education when it comes to telling brands to give creators the freedom to integrate the brand in a way that makes sense for the programming environment and the audience,” says Angeledes. “When you have the opportunity to leverage their creativity, there has to be a certain amount of respect for that process — that relationship with the audience.”
What makes CDS unique, according to Angeledes, is that brands are not several steps removed from the creators. “Because we are a young business, brands have the opportunity to connect with content creators to make sure the content leverages the right messages in the right way,” he says. “And I think brands are beginning to understand and embrace the fact that there is a unique way to reach Millennials, and content creators like FreddieW are doing it successfully.”
“Ultimately, it’s always a conversation,” he says, “but at the end of the day, when they see the results in terms of views and social engagement, everybody goes home happy.”