Influencers, key opnion leaders (KOLs) or content creators? Either way, these talents are highly sought after by brands in content creation or brand ambassadorship for the reach and engagement with their target audiences. Jin Lim (pictured right), better known as Jinnyboy, is one such Malaysian content creator with over one million subscribers on his YouTube channel.
Unlike a majority of the new age young influencers, who either have their made their claim to fame on Instagram or YouTube, Lim started his career in the traditional world of radio. Previously a full time radio DJ on Astro's Hitz.FM radio station, Lim officially launched the JinnyboyTV channel on YouTube in 2012, banking on humour, with content such as Ah Wing - Malaysia's Number 1 Salesman and ABUDEN?! These videos centred around Malaysian individuals' daily lifestyle and aimed to resonate with locals.
And while his early videos, much like his current videos, definitely grabbed the attention of viewers, for Lim, views were really never as big a priority as quality. "I don't care about views, but I care about the quality of content. These days, if the video didn’t do well in terms of views, then I would have to work harder to make sure that the next video is better in terms of content and hopefully will be more share-worthy. If your content is good, I believe the views will come," he said during a fireside chat at A+M's Digital Marketing Asia Malaysia conference. He added that at the end of the day,
If you don't get the views, don't simply question the platform. Question your quality of content.
While content creation on JinnyboyTV is a big revenue generator for Lim's business, the Malaysian entrepreneur also runs his own talent agency that signs individuals featured in his videos. Under Lim's team, these talents are trained to host and act, and also going beyond video production to be a brand ambassador.
"We ensure these talents are not just for picture-worthy posts, but attain skills too," Lim said. While the JinnyboyTV channel has gained traction for seven years, Lim also has another lifestyle channel which features food shows and podcast clips. According to Lim, this channel is an option for brands with limited budget and are not able to afford a full-length film. This way, he added, brands have various opportunities in marketing products and services to groups of audiences.
The role technology has played in morphing content
For someone with over 15 years of experience in the media and entertainment industry, Lim noted that in the modern era, there is too much content out there and brands and content creators are sometimes competing for the same eyeballs.
"Technology has made content so accessible to everyone and even in the rural areas. I can see that this is not going to change anytime soon and the impact of technology will just get bigger. Everyone will start fighting to try and get people's attention," he said.
"It has become a very competitive space, both for content creators and brands as well. At the end of the day, brands want to get their content out there for as many people as possible to gain awareness. And content creators also want the same thing as they too are marketing themselves and trying to get their names out there to as many people as possible because they want to work with brands," he added.
A+M: What is your way of retaining the Jinnyboy brand identity while collaborating with clients?
Lim: I am not going to hide behind a sponsored tag. Let's say you watch the Avengers film and you notice an Audi car, you will obviously know it is paid for to be placed in the movie. Another example is a parked Mercedes Benz in a Jurassic Park film. You know it's a product placement, so what's the difference? They don't tell you it's a product placement. But we do, and we want you to know that with this collaboration, we are able to give you something even better. Obviously with a brand collaborations, there is more money right? And when you have more money, you are able to invest in better production quality or actors.
We work with a lot of brands, and I think it is well known that we work with over 50 brands - be it local or international. In the beginning when I started making content, I had brands coming up to me and asking me to upload that particular's brand's commercial on my channel. I said no, and they threw me money - similar to how brands used to splurge on TV ads - to upload a 30-second commercial.
My response to the brands that did that was,"No one is going to watch your commercial. When I watch TV, I switch off when a commercial is played". I try to pitch different ways and approaches to clients on how the products can be marketed.
For the first two years, nobody believed me and they thought I was stupid.
But the first brand that worked with us was INTI International University and Colleges. So, INTI wanted to pay tribute to all teachers because teachers are the biggest inspirations in life. The university gave me a budget and asked me to make something for Teacher's Day and I did. That one video hit a million views with INTI's logo in front and the university came back to me and said that it was one of the best videos done for the institution.
INTI gave us full creative control. But, audiences thought it was an INTI video and that it was the institution's recruitment drive. Actually, it was just a video paying tribute to teachers and talking about teachers from all walks of life, whether it is high school or university and others.
Another brand that we worked with was Ford, which was the first automotive brand back in the day to have a car that could park itself. The brief was basically "I don't want to tell you what to do, but Ford's car can park itself. Do what you want." The marketer in-charge was open to having other cars in the video, as long as Ford was hero.
Soon after, we had Citibank come onboard to work with us. The bank was introducing a points system and so we made a film called "How Malaysians pay bills" and it won us an award and gained recognition. My point here is, brands are a lot more susceptible in promoting stuff with us and were not shy.
A+M: How do you suggest for brands to work with you on sponsored content?
Lim: Brands now do not want to "hard sell". You see influencers on social media post a beautiful picture and share their thoughts in a super long post, and then place the brand's name right at the bottom without really featuring it. For us, we collaborate with brands and we are very straightforward in admitting that it is a collaboration. We are very upfront with who we work with, and we make sure we do a good job at the same time.
Initially when we first started, brands wanted their brand to be right at the front because they paid for it so they want people to know. And then it went to "I don't want my brand in front, because I don't want to be a hard sell". But when you move the logo to the back, some brands aren't sure if their brand investment was worth it. Others are concerned that if the logo is at the end, and the video is not fully watched, the brand will not be known.
So you see, it is ever changing and I can understand that because everyone is unique and everybody thinks differently. But when I tell my clients that I will put their brand logo in front, the is generally a reason as to why I'm doing that - I am guaranteeing you a 100% eyeball chance on your logo and tagline. Brands want retention and if you made a video with a content creator, you want retention.
When a brand comes to us, they will always either have launched a campaign headed by their agency, and we will be the “amplifier” to their campaign, or they would come to us and brief us about their product and we will try our best to integrate the USPs or brand into the film. For example, we worked with Nestle on a campaign for Koko Krunch and they came to us and wanted us to make a video about close friends.
Another example was when we worked with Good Kredit on a film, talking about the hardship of a particular group of individuals, and how Good Kredit was able to offer micro loans to anyone who needed it. The client didn’t want any brand placements at all, but instead wanted to use a metaphor to represent the “micro loan” and in this film, the man in the recycling centre was the the one giving out the micro loan.
A+M: We know that many social stars and content creators don't want to be labelled as an "influencer" but marketers sometimes have a sweeping generalisation, where all content creators online are referred to as influencers. What do you make of this?
Lim: I have been doing this for 15 years and I have been called so many things. I have been called an ambassador, KOL, influencer, top line influencer, top line leader to influence people, everything. My label changes every now and then, and who knows, in the next five years, I'll be called a social media-rer?
I think it all started with blogs, with bloggers emerging in the space. It was a whole "blogger-spree" back then and suddenly everyone wanted to be a blogger. And it is the same thing with influencers. But you have good influencers and bad ones. The thing is, everyone seems to be riding on the bad ones, and labelling everyone as bad. I literally made a video making fun of influencers and I can't stop it, and everyone is going to label me.
For me, you can call me anything you want but at the end of the day, I create content that basically speaks to people. I am not just about posing for pictures and gaining likes. For us, we mainly concentrate on creating content for the brands that we work with, using our pool of talent.
But then again, what is the difference between me and let's say another person that appears on TV? Or what is the difference between my podcasts and a radio host's? Yes, the difference is in the platforms, but we are eventually doing the same thing. These days you go to the radio station and ask the DJ to plug an ad for the brand. It is the same objective because brands are going there to reach out to potential customers.
A+M: A question from the audience is on why some influencers put minimal effort into the content creation for paid posts, and if there's a lack of professionalism in the Malaysia influencer scene. What are your thoughts on this?
Lim: I'm not pointing any fingers but to be honest, sometimes the talent agency has to play a role in managing talents. As a talent agency, you need to be responsible in creating top line content for your brands and a talent agency has to be able to manage its talent. For us whatever we do, we make sure that we are the barrier between the client and the talent, and I am hard on my talent as well.
It’s tough because social media is so accessible. The thing is not everyone has gone through a background of education on how to work with clients. A lot of social media stars don't understand what it is to service clients. Anyone can be a social media influencer these days, it's easier than starting a blog back then.
You cannot assume that all of them know how to service clients and that is the biggest issue.
Do your background checks before working with an influencer and look at the content they make. Look at the pictures and go through their feed, and look at their past collaborations. If the brand is going to rely on the agency then agency needs to do due diligence on every single person they work with.
A+M: Where do you find white spaces to create new content?
Lim: When I was working in the radio, I wasn't exactly the most popular RJ or overly promoted. The morning crew was the most heavily promoted talents on the show at the time. Although I was still a nobody, my night show was still the most listened to in the country because I incorporated YouTube stars or content into it. The rest of the RJs were bringing onboard international artists such as Kelly Clarkson, while I featured YouTubers such as sibling duo Jayesslee among others.
Fast forward from that, when I started doing my own videos, my friends shared the videos on Facebook, commenting how much they can relate to it. [...] The moment Facebook introduced "boost" function, it was a field day for marketers, parking hundreds and thousands of dollars in return for hundreds and thousands of views. But for me, the constant struggle is that, brands are always chasing numbers and that is what it has come to.
However, content creators are now getting more and more prepared to stand out. And there are so many for clients to choose from these days, from fashion creators, film creators, cooking creators to gaming creators, and the list goes on.