Paul Cackett is the founder and CEO of Plaything, a group of creatives, developers, social media experts and planners who are focused on building game-changing platforms. Along with developing Clear.as, a new intelligent platform for content owners and brands, he is creative director of th1ng, a leading commercial and film production company with offices in London, New York, Dubai and Stockholm. Cackett has been working with all things digital, video and design for the past 20 years. In 2012, he co-founded social video platform Rockpack. Earlier in his career, Cackett helped found incubator and tech investor Brainspark, managed a children’s TV network for Turner Broadcasting, managed new channels for BSkyB’s Sky Ventures and worked as executive creative director at Addiction Worldwide on well-known campaigns for Nike, Coca-Cola, BBC and Disney.
Anywhere and everywhere
What excites you about digital content production right now?
That people no longer think about differentiating media when creating content. I rarely hear about a stand-alone print, TV or online campaign. Due to the rise of mobile, content creation is (or should be) completely focused on where the consumer is—and that is anywhere and everywhere. The content we create has to translate across different devices that are used in different time zones, environments and settings. It’s a massive ask, but content creators have to adapt, as consumers expect their content to be beautifully digestible both on the go and at home.
What emerging technologies and innovations will have the biggest impact on how you work in the next few years?
People will have the biggest impact on how I work in the next few years. They always have and always will. Viewers, audiences, users... whatever you call them (lets call them people) are forcing us to make better work. The gentrified web is coming, which means the Internet is increasingly becoming a high-quality but competitive environment where the best content wins. Journalists, photographers, writers and directors are making incredible things online because the audience demands quality. The web was previously a crappier version of TV, but that has completely switched and it’s really invigorating to be a part of it.
How will the creative industry need to adapt to the shift toward online content that is primarily visual?
The industry doesn’t necessarily need to adapt, but we all need to think differently about the end product and the environment in which our audience digests it. Throwing stuff on sites like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram and waiting for some data on success isn’t the best way forward. We are putting our content at the mercy of platforms that have a track record of continuously changing the ways they allow us to communicate with our audience. Facebook is the best example of this—for years, brands have paid to attract new fans (“likes”), only for Facebook to decide that only 2 to 6 percent of those fans will ever organically see the content posted by the brand.
Is your own platform, Clear.as, a response to this?
Clear.as is a white-label platform that allows brands to overlap e-commerce with social media content, run hashtag campaigns across multiple social channels and track audience reactions in real time. The idea for Clear.as came from a lot of conversations with people who run brands and create content. I kept hearing that discoverability on platforms like YouTube and Facebook was impossible, and that it was equally impossible for brands to commercialize their own content on these platforms. I wanted to make a product that gives brands full control of the experiences they create online.
What tools do you find indispensable for your work?
I save and read a lot of online articles using Pocket and Evernote. I use Telegram for most of my communication with the team and Dropbox to share stuff. These four things are pretty much my pillars—along with whiskey.
You’ve been a mentor for many years at the School for Creative Startups. What is one key thing you advise people to do in order to build a successful start-up?
Use data to your advantage and don’t be too influenced by blog posts that tell you how to fail or how the successful entrepreneur should be up at 5am. Every great product is an evolution, not a revolution. Be nice, be helpful, take notes and listen.
What are some of the new opportunities available for young creatives who are just starting out?
The ever-evolving technology industry constantly opens up new opportunities for young creatives. Jobs that exist today were unheard of even five years ago. It’s crucial for young up-and-comers to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry and to seek out any new opportunities that become available.