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What is it about Vine that initially hooked you? Working with limited resources really does force you to get creative. When I began working to produce videos for Vine that are only six seconds long—with no editing and without the ability to see the video until it is finished—it almost became like a game of creativity and patience. It was also the first time I had tried stop motion, and this animation technique became very addictive for me because it was the first time my pictures came to life.

How did you develop your unique visual style? My style is clean, graphic and colorful, and it can be feminine. It has evolved over time. I was a photographer for ten years before I started stop motion, so it took a long time to really find myself. As a photographer, I didn’t feel like my style was as obviously “Meagan Cignoli” as my videos are. Video really helped me find my voice.

My team and I get to write the content we’re going to shoot, so it’s easy to be passionate about it because every project becomes very personal. You write something that excites you, so you are invested in how it turns out.

How do you research to gain an understanding of the well-established brands you have worked with, such as Lowe’s, Apple and Dolce & Gabbana? For Lowe’s, I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching “how to” home improvement videos. I had to write concepts like, “how to tile a floor,” and then get all of those steps into a six-second video. That was definitely a challenge because there can be a lot of steps!

Brands we work with want a little bit of themselves and a little bit of me, all mixed in with a cool factor for their audience. So, I look at their products and take a general glance at their company as a whole, and I ask myself, “OK, what would be cool?” I try to not look at their social channels before doing this because the answer is not in their previous social content. Once I have a lot of foundational ideas, I can go deeper to figure out what is totally off-brand for them, but the brands I work with are also good at guiding us away from anything that doesn’t feel right.

Social media is not about selling or creating ads in the traditional sense—it’s about creating fun, engaging content within the brand’s voice.

With such a tight time restraint, what is your process for deciding which content is essential? I rarely think about cutting something. The way we write is just geared towards six to fifteen seconds, so if we we’re ever off with timing, we would actually probably be under and not over the time limit. If we do need to cut something, it is usually at the end or the beginning. When I write what I want to shoot, I try to keep it simple and think about what will catch the eye, what is clever and beautiful, and what has good movement. It’s a bit less about a story sometimes and more about a moving photograph.

What kinds of opportunities do Vine and Instagram present to brands? Social media is not about selling or creating ads in the traditional sense—it’s about creating fun, engaging content with the brand’s voice. Short video, particularly on social, gives brands the opportunity to get in the hands of consumers and become a part of their community. Mobile is continuing to grow, and social provides one of the most native and engaging ways to reach your audience on their phones. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also allow you to heavily target your specific audience. Since the costs are less than creating TV ads, brands can also experiment with different ideas, create content regularly, and publish the content across other social platforms as well.

General Electric (GE) is a great example of a company that really gets social media. It is not a particularly sexy business, but GE understands how to appeal to an audience on social, with fun, interesting and community-driven content and campaigns. Coca-Cola is also great at embracing influencers and social content to connect with users through social, as are Nest, Nine West, IKEA and Las Vegas.

What is most exciting to me is that social media is changing so quickly, and there is no rule book. We are writing the rules as we go and creating the opportunities for ourselves along the way. There is no right or wrong way, which is a very liberating thing. We are uniquely positioned to lead the way.

Can you speak more about your Influencer Network, a nexus of top notch talent on social media? Why did you start this and what is the ultimate goal? We started this network out of necessity. Brands would come to us asking us to create and share a bunch of videos. Instead of saying no, because we would never want to share that many videos for just one brand on each of our personal channels, we offered to share brand stories with other people we admire. We also hire so many actors, models, dancers, stylists and makeup artists—we needed a better place to keep them all together in order to more easily reference them for each of our projects. The goal for us is to continue to lead the charge on cool and intersting videos on social and TV. That not only means making the best content, but also working with the best talent in the industry.
 
Meagan Cignoli is a Cannes Lion Award–winning director. In 2013, she, along with eBay alumni Amber Lee, founded Visual Country, a New York City–based digital agency specializing in short-form video for social, TV and digital media. Visual Country has won more than 22 major advertising awards, including ADC and D&AD awards, and its work been covered by numerous publications such as Time, WIRED and Forbes. Over the last three years, the agency has worked with more than 175 major brands on more than 250 campaigns, including Cheerios, Clinique and Google. It has grown into a seventeen-person team and continues to expand.
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