Sid Lee head of content Cary Smith on how a BMX project at Red Bull Media House has shaped his approach to his work
The first is perseverance.
Without question, the most significant learning I’ve had in my career came when I was at Red Bull Media House on a project called ‘Uncontainable’. The big idea started from a core insight from our BMX athlete Drew Bezanson that he didn’t feel fear anymore when it came to the competitions. The courses for BMX were typically limited by space which meant the sport wasn’t being pushed to its limits. We worked with Drew to build a giant ramp in his hometown of Truro Nova Scotia to help him test the limits of his fears.
The production approach itself was meant to be simple and focus on the human condition. However, literally everything that could go wrong, did, during filming. We showed up to film and the ramp wasn’t finished. For the first three days, the entire crew helped paint and finish it. Then it started raining. It rained off and on for two weeks and when it wasn’t raining, the wind took over.
The second was to route creative in a human truth.
What we knew was that if we persisted, we were on to something relatable. The human truth of fear was the strength of the creative. Drew was the best in the game, so we knew the riding was going to be insane, but if we kept it rooted in emotion, the feeling would be relatable and therefore very shareable.
The third is to focus on earned media and consider who you want to talk about your creative before you make it.
Thanks to this approach, and without a focus on paid media, we garnered mass interest from earned media (ESPN, HypeBeast, The Sun (UK) were just a few of the outlets to cover) and translated to people not interested in BMX to share the story on their social channels.
The last and most important thing I learned was from Drew and his key insight that sparked the whole project. If it doesn’t scare you, you’re not trying hard enough.
There were definitely aspects of these learnings that I’ve picked up throughout my career, but this project really solidified them for me, and I’ve been able to operationalise the approach at Sid Lee so we bring it to the table with our clients. I’ve been working on a project to support the for Tomorrow platform we’ve built with Hyundai and the UNDP, an ecosystem that allows users to access and share community-based innovations that address the world’s escalating environmental and social crises. The spirit of the project lies in casting a light on people who normally are not visible to the world. The grassroots innovators, who have independently succeeded in making a sustainable impact on their communities. It’s been in pre-production now for over a year because of the impact of Covid (perseverance) but we finally go into production this summer. We’re using all local crews which reflects this same spirit of respect for local ideas and local talent showcased on the platform. (human truths) We’ve built the story from the ground up with a focus on earned media and our distribution strategy will also support this. (earned)
Cary is the head of content at Sid Lee where he creates disruptive content that provides value to the community.
Before making the move into the agency world, Cary was the executive producer of moving images at Red Bull Media House, the drink brand’s in-house media and content creation division. In that role he created and commissioned short and long form series for their OTT platform Red Bull TV and executed distribution and production partnerships with the NFB, OVO, Telus, and the CBC. Prior to that, Cary held the role of executive producer / head of development at Bell Media, overseeing content production for Bell Media specialty channels.