How To Work At TikTok, Less Traditional Influencers & More On The Carter Agency With Lena Katz Of Ampersand

Today we’re speaking with Lena Katz of Ampersand. Lena leads the Creator-Integrated Content division at Ampersand, Inc, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based commercial production company AOI-Pro. She helps brands such as Wells Fargo and Sony strategize and execute short-form creator-led video campaigns on TikTok, IG Reels, YouTube and OTT. Her previous role was at TikTok in Creator Solutions, engaging creators for brand campaigns including Spotify, Instacart and Pepsi. Prior to that, she owned a boutique content consulting firm that executed national creator-driven campaigns for brands such as Skippy, FIJI Water, Brown-Forman, Hormel Natural Choice, eBay and Jennie-O Turkey. Lena started her career as a lifestyle journalist and copywriter, so she’s lived her entire professional life at the intersection of commercial and creativity.



[00:00:00] Jessy: Hi everyone and welcome to the WIIM Podcast. Women in Influencer Marketing is a first of its kind exclusive networking group made up of inspirational women. This podcast is where we explore influencer marketing and get real about women in business. Find us wherever you download podcasts, and of course, you can always find us at iamwiim.com. That’s iamwiim.com.

Happy holidays everyone. I am so happy to be here with you guys. I’m looking at myself because if you’re tuning in on, YouTube you have the video to this podcast and I literally don’t know, I’m fixing my lipstick as I’m recording this. I don’t know how to do red lip. I just don’t. 

To me like red lipstick screams the holidays. And while I’d love to be festive and get into the holiday season, I’m convinced a that I have lipstick on my teeth right now, I do and also I have no idea how to put on red lipstick. I’m not gonna lie. So I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna look a little crazy, but I’m trying to get into holiday spirit and if anyone can teach me the trick cause I feel like there’s a trick or maybe I just don’t look good in red lipstick. And this will be my last attempt.

But I’m trying to get into the holiday season with you guys. Happy holidays. I hope that you guys are taking off time in the next week or so and just like enjoying, time off and time away and time with family and friends and people that you love.

We just took a little five day quick vacation to Miami, which some of you know is home for me. It was really lovely to just leave 20 degree weather in New York and land an 80 degree weather. And it was just like we really did a lot of nothing. We just like relaxed on the beach and relaxed by the pool and got some really delicious dinners and I gotta be honest, I used to like really shy away from being from Miami and Florida especially, people would ask me where I’m from and I’d be like, oh, don’t judge me, I’m from Miami.

But like, as much as I wanted to run away from it, you’re from where you’re from and I go home to Miami and my family doesn’t even live there anymore but I go to Miami, it feels like home. Whether it’s December and not that hot or the middle of August and all that humidity, like that feels so comforting to me and I was driving around and seeing my middle school and my high school, my elementary school and just like it brought back so many memories. And as much as we wanna run from where we’re from, it’s part of who you are. So going down a journey to embrace this.

I also have a ton of respect for Miami now. It’s really evolved since I lived there almost 20 years ago at this point. Miami, I would say is like really freaking advanced. The culture there is insane. I’ve spoken to so many WIIM members who have moved down to South Florida recently. It’s like more and more people are like, oh yeah, I’m in Florida, I’m in Palm Beach, I’m in, Fort Lauderdale. And I’m like, that is so interesting to hear how many people post pandemic transplanted there, but of course it makes sense and there’s a big tech scene and I don’t know, I just, I feel like a lot of ways Miami’s it’s always been cool, but like it’s cooler now. And maybe it had to catch up.

Anyways, I had a really nice time and I hope that you guys are also taking some time away. I swear, like we scheduled this vacation about a month ago. I’m determined for 2023 to just schedule a few vacations, just put them on the calendar because, it like springs up on you and just like forcing myself to be in a different environment, I feel is very healthy for me personally. So I’m gonna continue to do that.

Oh my God, this lipstick is bothering me. All right, I’m gonna literally do my lipstick, while I’m chatting with you guys, there has to be a trick. You guys have to help me. Please, please help me. 

Anyways, if you are tuning in the day that this podcast airs, you should come to our event tonight. You have, a really cool State of the Union, 2023 State of the Union event, virtual event that’s happening Tuesday, the 20th of December. The day that this goes live, it’s gonna be incredible. We’ve got folks from digital brand architects from TikTok, hunter pr, hair.com by L’Oreal and find your influence and we’re just having a whole panel. looking back on the year being like, girl, you are not alone. I went through this to our experiences as well, and also just sharing opinions, taking into account all of those different, perspectives, very intentionally selected those people and talking about what we expect. And predict for 2023 and just having a really interesting conversation about it.

So I hope that you attend. If you don’t get this message in time, don’t worry because we always record our events. If you’re a member, your ticket is free and your replay is free. And if you are a guest and not a member of the community yet, your ticket’s $10. and the replay will be 1990. so you could always check on our website.

I’ll link everything below in the show notes because also drum roll. We are coming to a city near you and having really fun meetups. We are coming to LA next January 10th. And we’re coming to New York, February 8th. We’ve got more cities that are being planned, including Chicago, possibly Boston, possibly Miami, possibly San Francisco.

We’re coming all over and really excited to meet you guys and have you guys meet each other. So check out our events page for more information on that, because I, oh gosh, like the last one that we had in New York was such a good time. ooh. Today’s conversation was really good.

I had Lena Katz on the show, so she leads the Creator integrated content division at Ampersand, and she helps brands such as Wells Fargo and Sony strategize and execute short form creator led video campaigns on TikTok Instagram reels.

YouTube and O t t. her previous role was at TikTok in creator solutions, engaging creators for brand campaigns, including with brands like Spotify, Instacart, I literally just ordered Instacart like 20 minutes ago, and Pepsi. prior to that, she owned a boutique content consulting firm that executed national creator-driven campaigns for tons of brands that you know and love.

She started her career as a lifestyle journal. And copywriter. So she’s lived her entire professional life at the intersection of commercial and creativity. Such a cool perspective that she has. She’s really worked all over the map and, I’m just like a little obsessed that she worked at TikTok. I think that’s the coolest thing.

We talk a little bit about that, about like how to work on a platform like TikTok if you so choose what it’s like. And also what it’s like working at the intersection of commercial and creativity.

So she is a really great person to know and I look forward to hearing from her, all the links to how to get in touch with her, how to register for all those awesome events and just how to generally, get more involved in whim or below if you haven’t. Our episode yet on YouTube, I highly encourage you to subscribe cuz it’s a little bit more fun of an experience to watch our guests and put a face to a voice.

so we’re putting all of our episodes on YouTube and that of course will be linked below as well. All right guys, have a wonderful rest of your week. Happy, happiest holidays and, enjoy Lena. 

So I am pretty excited to chat with you today both to get to know you more, learn more about you, and like the awesome work that you’ve been doing. But before we jump into things, first and foremost, welcome and how are you?

[00:08:34] Lena: Thank you. I’m doing great. I’ve got a forewarn everybody, it’s quarter finals of the World Cup, Brazil’s playing, and we’ve got a little bit of a viewing party going on downstairs. So you’re gonna hear my toddler learning how to cheer on his team. Just be prepared.

[00:08:50] Jessy: It’s all good. No, I’m just happy to be chatting with you and so I’ve got a few questions that I’ve got queued up, but I’d also love to just keep this conversational and I think the best place to begin is just to level set.

I shared a little bit about you in the intros of this podcast, but I also think it’s helpful to hear from your own words, like a little bit about your professional journey and how you even made it into influencer marketing. So can we hear a little bit about your story?

[00:09:18] Lena: Sure. Well , I actually started off a long time ago as, a writer. So I started off in editorial. I started off in content, for companies like Sony and AOL back in the day. And then, I spent about 10 years doing that. Got burned out on. Just hearing my own perspective and adding my own perspective all the time.

I thought, you know what, it would be more interesting to bring in some other perspectives. So from that, I got really into casting and, at the time reality or, real person casting, the money was dwindling, the budgets were dwindling and influencer marketing was coming up. It was like an offshoot of blogging, so I was very familiar with blogging cuz everyone in the writing community does it.

So I started, getting opportunities to do events where they would say we want some, people that are quote unquote influencers. This is really early. So they were, people were still trying to figure out what that means. There was a lot of crossover from people that had been photographers or writers or anything else in the creative arts and then they were trying to figure out how to continue monetizing, so they were setting up their own independent channels.

So I was super familiar with that. Not so familiar with the whole, fashion influencer boom that happened pretty quickly. So I’ve stayed away from that. I know you think of that now as traditional. I suppose in a sense fashion and beauty have always been the early adopters and it’s certainly like one of the busiest parts of the industry, but I’ve always stayed out of it. 

To me it seems a lot closer to modeling, which I just really never wanted to work from modeling agency. So I went from doing projects on an independent basis for brands like Fiji Water and 1-800-FLOWERS.

I had a contract with WE tv where I was working with a lot of their shows actually, just doing digital and ancillary content around some of the more colorful characters on shows. And then, influencer marketing just started to take up more time. But again, like I’d be working with Nat Geo photographers, or world mountain climbers and they were influencers in that space, but not influencers as you might think of them. National Geographic was doing their part to make sure these photographers had a million followers, to monetize. 

So those were the type of influencers that I was working on. It turned into, unusual niches, and I got this reputation that if you needed something really, unusual, hard to find, that nobody else really wanted to deal with, whether it was like a metal worker or or rodeo, cowboy, whatever, give it to me and I really like that. So ,I’ve stuck in that. 

And so up till today, I work a lot with Food brands and CPG and a lot of that stuff and I will hire like a lot of chefs or, food stylists, whatever. But also I continually go outside of the mainstream and I’m looking for people that do something a bit unusual that could bring a different perspective, especially when you’re working for the same brands year in and year out, which turned into what I was doing, you can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again.

So you start looking at, what are we gonna do differently this season? So I was consulting brand direct for a lot of pretty big, C B G companies, from 2017 through 2021. Then I just did a pandemic pivot. There was a lot of noise about TikTok. Lot of curiosity around it. I got to feeling like this is probably where a lot of the evolution is happening in terms of creators and not just the trends, but like their skill levels, what they’re doing. It’s shifting a lot more over toward filmmaking as opposed to product modeling, which is what it is on Instagram. 

So I couldn’t figure out TikTok like many people. I just couldn’t get to the big deep pool of people that I knew were was there. So I got an opportunity to go in-house at TikTok and create our strategies, just as a contract, short contract, and I grabbed it because it’s the best way to learn the platform and I stayed there probably three times longer than I was originally expecting.

And then I left cuz I’ve always remotely, worked for myself, et cetera. So I got an offer to work, for the LA office of an international production company called Owie. That’s based in Tokyo and has 13 offices in Asia.

So they had just opened the US office. I connected with the managing director at the right time. He’s willing to let me work remotely, have quite a bit of autonomy, but with the support of a big company. So the dream situation. So I took it, I’ve been with Owie and the US production company, Ampersand now for a year.

[00:14:17] Jessy: That’s so cool. It’s so interesting. Like your professional story is really fascinating to me. And, I love the fact that, you work with more unique influencers. Like for me, I do think of traditional influencers as your Croce limbs of the world and your Ariel Tarnu, who’s been in the news a lot lately. Those like fashionista, like beauty influencers, everyone has different tastes and influencers and. It’s also of course, like the taste of level of the brand, of course, if you’re doing your job. 

Personally, my taste is following people who aren’t those traditional influencers. So I think it’s really interesting that, you’re working in like more unique like niche areas and like food certainly and isn’t niche, but, it is from the grand scheme of things.

And also, you worked at TikTok. I think that’s really cool and you worked at it like in a really interesting time, where, they’re booming and I’ve had huge respect for, that social platform as being the one responsible for pushing all of the other platforms out of their comfort zones and from these places where they were completely resting on their laurels to now, ooh, like we’re a little uncomfortable, we might have to innovate a little bit more. And thank goodness that was the case.

There are probably people listening to this podcast that was like, oh, I would dream to work at TikTok. Is there any advice that you would give those folks in terms of, I don’t know, like what’s the interview process like, or what’s it like working there or, you know anything that they should keep in mind if like that is a dream of theirs?

[00:15:59] Lena: Sure. 


From what I hear the interview process to go full-time is like any other big tech company. It’s, you know several interviews, maybe five. You talk with people that are outside of your immediate team. It takes a while. This is what I’ve heard. I like many people, interviewed to be a contractor.

Which is how they hire a lot of people. And for me it was perfect cause I wasn’t looking for anything full-time anyway. I was looking for something fast and I really wanna know more about this company. Oh, here’s an opportunity to go in-house at this company.

It happened in one interview and it was about 15 minutes long. The main question they asked me was just, can you execute campaigns like quickly and at scale and do many of them at the same time and do it over and over again. That was what they wanted to know in this team, which was creator, strategies, creator solutions. We were doing managed service for the top advertisers.

In this industry, to be honest, there’s not a lot of execution specialists. It’s kind of a detail-oriented, tedious, high pressure. You can’t take your eyes away for a second type thing. 

A lot of people don’t wanna do it. That’s why you hear so many people saying, I’m a strategist, I’m a creative. I come up with the ideas. Everybody’s a creative, everybody comes up with ideas. But the actual execution, just like TV production. It’s very tedious and it’s hard. And it’s not glamorous. You end up just cleaning up a lot of messes. 

I would say, if you wanted to get in quickly, just contractor. And there’s a lot of contract to permanent that happens. You know I was offered that, it wasn’t part of my journey, but a lot of people do.

that It’s a fast moving company. It’s the fastest pace I’ve ever seen. I thought I was fast at casting and my third day at TikTok, I was just jaw dropped. I cannot believe how fast this is brushing past me . But you learn to catch up. It is growing really quickly. You have to be able to pivot, really fast.

I used to keep my project list and update it daily, and if I had like half a day block free, like without, you know the maximum level of projects I would flag like, hey, I can take this half day to help some other project. That’s how fast things move there.

If you’re a person, who doesn’t wanna operate under that level of stress, I would say maybe think twice about trying to end up there. But if you find that exciting, that is very much a trait I think that they look for and that it’ll serve you well if you like to be busier and more stimulated than you’ve ever been by a workplace. 

[00:18:35] Jessy: So your process was pretty quick. One interview of 15 minutes, the job is yours. That’s quick. Were you starstruck at all or excited about it or it was so quick that you didn’t even have a moment to be, and you’re like, it’s just a job and here we go.

[00:18:54] Lena: I am almost always excited and starstruck by new client, whatever they might be. If I’m not that there’s a problem. If I’m like, I don’t really like this and I find this kind of boring. Probably, it’s a signal that I am probably not gonna fight that hard for it, maybe not take it.

So was I excited? Definitely. Was I excited by what came after? Absolutely. And, I’m excited about the first client that I, had at TikTok and then after I left. So when I got there, the first clients I was working on were American Eagle and Mountain Dew. So huge. I was like, this is exactly what I wanna be doing.

When I left, the first project I was working on was a global, all media, including out of home and stadium campaign for Sony. So it was much bigger than TikTok. The main parts of it were not even on social media. It was for commercial. And I did end up casting a couple people that were big on TikTok, but it was for all sorts of usage. But it was much higher. The usage and exposure were much broader. And it was more exciting. And that is, really what I wanna do.

Like I think the talent on TikTok is the best in the creator space. Not all of them, obviously, cuz there’s millions of them, there are amazingly talented creators.

So really what I wanna do and what a lot of people are looking to do is expand outside of TikTok and get them seen on broader scale. That’s what most big brands are looking to do. Their hope is that the quality of creative that results is so good that it, goes beyond, just one social media channel or two.

[00:20:35] Jessy: That’s so interesting of a perspective, I think, because for any influencers that are watching this, they’re like, I would love that, and not necessarily even knowing that A, that’s even an opportunity, an option for them, but B, like that’s something that a brand would strive for.

So I’d love to maybe dig into that a little bit more. What are some additional opportunities that you’ve seen brands and influencers do that maybe started, from a brand deal on social media, but sort of expanded and had legs of its own? What did those look like and feel?

[00:21:14] Lena: So first of all, these opportunities tend to come more from long-term relationships with brands, although if you’re big enough on social media, you you can have a, first time engagement with a brand that is, for a global commercial, like Nathan Davis Jr. 

He rose to fame, on TikTok, as a singer, but, also doing cute family skits. But he wants to be an artist, a writer, a songwriter, a producer. And he’s getting there. So this was an opportunity for him to actually get in studio for a couple days, record a track, and then be on stage at a concert that they produced.

It was small, but if you look at the footage, it looks like he is on stage headlining a concert. And it’s great. It was hard work for him. It was definitely more days, than he was used to. He had to memorize choreography like the whole nine. But it was absolutely a step forward in his career for what he wants to do, which is be a music artist.

But for creators that I’ve seen have opportunities outside of just social media posting, usually it comes after you’ve had a first engagement with the brand and they’re like, okay, we like this person, we trust them, to put in the very best that they can, if we’re gonna be putting more money into them.

the opportunities might be, like a year long contract where you become spokesperson. You go around to live events. Maybe, if you’re a chef, you do a cooking demo or you host a dinner. And if you have a product line, maybe you have the opportunity to put out a couple of products for people to try to promote your own, whatever it might be, whether it’s a line, some sort of product line or whether it’s a cookbook or whatever. 

Then, there’s definitely opportunities to collaborate sort of on the development side. Product development. We’ve seen that a lot with larger influencers, whether they’re doing like capsule collections, the girls or beauty. You see a ton of it.

And food as well. It used to kinda be the domain of like the emeralds of the world. They were the ones that were getting these crazy six figure seven figure deals to, put their name on a piece of kitchenware. 

So I think that, it’s exciting and good and, You know it’s definitely like steps forward for the industry when now some of these, younger creators who were discovered on social media instead of, by a food network show, are getting these opportunities. 

So I think that we’re gonna see more and more of them. There’s companies now that are just springing up specifically to set these kind of deals up in whatever vertical.

So that’s another opportunity. And then, there are more and more opportunities to be in front of the camera, whether it’s on a show that’s less common. Scripted TV is like the least common, but unscripted, obviously there’s a ton of crossover. And, commercial like what I was working on, you’re seeing that happen a lot more.

And, I think that the next step hopefully is that creators will be able to work their way into these above the line key positions where they’re actually directing something or they’re the director of photography.

There’s a lot of pressure that comes doing those jobs, and I think a lot of creators, they think they’re ready. But when you actually get on set and there’s 30 people you know that you have to be the boss of, and then there’s the client and the agency over in a little video village scrutinizing everything you do. That’s a whole different vibe. So it takes some time to work up to that, but I strongly encourage anybody , that’s your dream to put in the hours, get the time on a big set and really start pursuing it because that is the way that the ad industry is going.

The other opportunities are out that are out there I You know I think that you’re seeing influencers and creators being pulled in to facilitate consumer research, because the ones that actually have like strong lines of communication with their communities, can bring back really candid, real world insights in a way that a traditional closed room, focus group can’t.

So that’s something that I think that there should be more of. It’s very hard sometimes to convince old school agencies or brands to do that. But I have done that. I did a whole initiative, with the R&D department, at Genio, they did that a couple years ago.

We assembled, I guess it was eight influencers who they had worked with before that came from all different facets of the industry. One is a chef, she works a lot with Jose Andres Global Kitchen. She’s South American.

We had Jamie, she played, she was in the Sopranos. So she was actually pulling in these, Italian moms getting feedback, from the mom contingent out there. 

Then we had Richard Ingram, who is the personal chef to duane Wade and Gabrielle Union. His cuisine is like upscale, sort of southern comfort.

So that was the community feedback that he was pulling in. And then we had someone who was more of a stylist, someone who was more of an entertainer. We had, Mackenzie from Grilled Cheese Social, who’s just prototypical, food blogger who’s made it, but she also runs a small family kitchen, up in Florida like a family inn. So she’s a working chef. 

Anyway, It was an exciting project. We had to get buy-in, an enthusiastic buy-in from R&D , so the innovation team and then, all the people at corporate and the VP of marketing. So it took a while, But we did it and, it was an extremely succesful, in terms of, they got the insights from the various audiences they collated them and sliced and diced them like R&D teams do, which was at a level of detail that I don’t understand.

It took ’em a couple months and then they, got reactions from the influencers on the packaging and the positioning, the language that was on several innovation items that they were thinking of putting out there on the market. And then they incorporated all of the feedback that they found useful and valuable from the influencers and from those audiences. I think this is fascinating.

They had given them 10 lowest performing items, because they were like, okay, obviously we need to tweak this, or not put them out at all. So they did this whole cycle. They incorporated all this feedback, repackaged everything, redid some of the language, and it was really to appeal to different tastes based on the information that they got from the audiences. When the audiences didn’t feel that they were under a spotlight or anything, so they had to be super polite. So they were being honest. 

And the brand, they took the advice and all 10 of those items went up to the top for purchase intent in the next focus groups or the next, test groups.

So it was a great case study for how, utilizing influencers who legitimately have strong, trust within their follower community and can genuinely, light up conversation, like utilizing that and then really taking notice of it is very powerful.

[00:28:25] Jessy: That’s fascinating. I love that. I love that you’re part of that and got to see that like from the ground. That’s cool. I’d love to speak more, to your point about also converting, right? I think that, there is a lot of debate about, what to expect in terms of conversions and I think probably the core of where things go awry.

Expectations aren’t maybe communicated sometimes or maybe expectations aren’t necessarily realistic. What is realistic to expect in terms of conversions, in terms of working with influencers? That’s a huge question, of course, because there’s so many different ways, different types of partnerships, but I’m curious. what platforms are you seeing conversion really taking place, and are there any particular strategies that you happen to observe that you’re like, oh, this was good.

[00:29:26] Lena: Okay. I am in the camp that I think it’s reasonable, and sensible for brands to expect some type of performance KPIs. Not necessarily sales, but some type, to be going more toward performance KPIs than, rather than just brand awareness. 

Brand awareness is, also in the domain of PR agencies and those big billboards on the side of the freeway where you’re like we know that eyes are seeing it, but how many are paying attention? We can’t really gauge it. So it makes sense that after a couple years of, having so-called good results with brand awareness that a brand would be moving toward these more performance oriented goals.

You are right that it can be difficult to get aligned on expectation, because even within brands, one key, like stakeholder might have certain ideas of what they want in a KPI.

And then like the brand manager might want one thing. The person in marketing or social media might want something else. So the temptation is to just go with easiest thing, right? Cause you want the Best, results at the end of the day. And usually, if it’s just brand awareness engagements, those are the easy ones, right?

But, if there’s like you know chatter and whatnot and people voicing, we would really like to see some conversion, we’d like to see some click through. We at least wanna see people visiting our website and, you know clicking around. I think you need to hear that and talk to them.

Okay, what are you gonna consider a conversion? Is it that people need to actually register? Is that they need to actually buy something? Or is it simply that they’re gonna click through to a certain page and not bounce right away?

So you need to have those conversations. And even if they are not like, okay, this isn’t in our top three KPIs, I think that it’s smart to be proactive and keep an eye on everything. Just because later in the campaign, usually people are gonna start asking, right? 

Well okay, we see that, you know the engagement rate was very high. But now all of a sudden our brand managers sitting in this meeting wants to know CTR, cause it was a paid media campaign. So you can say, oh, that was not a KPI at the beginning. But that is not the answer they’re going to be best pleased. 

with So if you can turn around and say, okay, this is this the CTR. This is a person that had the highest, this is the second highest and this is how many click throughs to the website resulted that kind of answer is what they want. 

They don’t wanna hear, hey, it wasn’t our responsibility. And what they really don’t wanna hear is, sorry, we can’t promise anything. We can’t track that. I don’t know what you mean. I’ve heard some of that coming through, in the industry groups. So there’s more and more of an expectation that you do know what they mean and that you can answer those questions.

We had at the very tail end of a campaign, a client talking about registrations, and we’re like we don’t know how many registrations there were cuz we did not have visibility into that.

So we would love to know, but we don’t know. And then our performance marketing specialists said, let’s optimize for that next campaign. If registrations are something that you’re counting, then let’s make sure that we are optimizing everything for the campaign, including the creators for that, cuz they didn’t know that.

So that’s what I would say. I would say we can need to shift to a frame of mind where this is going to be expected. And even if it’s not down in our vendor agreement, people are gonna be asking these questions and we do need to take responsibility if if the money’s coming from the marketing department.

[00:32:56] Jessy: Thousand percent. I couldn’t agree with you more about expecting some sort of KPI. I would hope that as an industry we’re beyond, skating that. I just happen to agree with you and there was one time memorable in our Facebook group about it, and actually had a little bit of pushback. What I put out there is of course we’re expecting, KPI and conversion, et cetera, et cetera.

We’re beyond that, not expecting it. And some people are like there’s very much a time and a place where just brand awareness is completely legit. 

I guess fine. That’s fine. So I’m not like, talking down about that if that’s your choice. The way that I see it, at least Lena, is there’s so much more opportunity to take advantage of if you do expect some KPIs. If you do set goals and expectations and really treat this as, the billion dollar business that it is, there’s so much more that is possible if we, push ourselves a little bit. So I happen to agree with you completely. 

[00:34:00] Lena: Off the back of that, what I will say is If it’s a CPG, brand that is primarily selling in grocery stores whatever kind of store, then yes, brand awareness is about, I’m not gonna say it’s the most that you can hope for, cuz it’s not, you want positive conversation around the brand.

You can be tracking shares and saves and, things like that. But for those brands, it makes sense to, track, reach and brand awareness because, there isn’t a directly visible path, to purchase from people go, you can’t track how many people are going in stores and buying something because they’ve seen it, on social media.

You just can’t track that. Brand awareness is always a KPI for those types of brands and rightfully so. And so there is some legitimacy and when people are saying that, if they’ve worked with those type brands before, which I definitely have.

That being said, if a brand or company is saying to you now, hey, we have other KPIs, we have other goals, it’s not on you to tell them, oh no,no,no. We can’t, that is not possible. . that’s not the right answer. If they’re telling you like they wanna figure out how it can be done. 

[00:35:11] Jessy: Exactly. It’s not the right answer. That’s not the reply that they wanna hear. For sure. Look, I think that a lot of the problems in our industry. I don’t know why I’m using quotes cuz they’re legitimate problems. A lot of our, the problems that exist in our industry and many others too, it’s like managing expectations.

It’s something that we talk about often on this show and communication, simple things but when things aren’t working, it can be a very simple, principle that is not working. We’ve been covering a lot on both this podcast, but also as a community a lot about, the Carter Agency, which, is riddled with problems.

It’s incredibly problematic, but one of the first people that I spoke with about, the story, and if anyone’s unfamiliar, you can look back a few episodes and see an entire podcast that we did on it, said to me, and it really stood out, they’re like, as crazy as the story is, you and I both know, it’s not special.

[00:36:15] Lena: It’s an extreme. 

[00:36:17] Jessy: But it is extreme. Absolutely. 

[00:36:19] Lena: That’s why it’s getting attention. So I’ll say this, there is murkiness, in this industry about how money is spent and what the results of that are, and how much of it influencers are seeing. So that exists, but that exists everywhere in advertising and, it’s existed certainly in digital, like media buying, there’s been many stories of companies that manufacture clicks or, junk clicks or whatever it might be, right?

It’s always been a part advertising in print, billboard, whatever. So it’s not new, this sort of murkiness around results. I was just saying this yesterday, murkiness around how much money the talent is actually getting has also existed for like hundreds of years. I was saying Elvis and then I was it was like but before that, Mozart, like artists had been getting exploited for a very long time.

So think that if there’s a lesson, that the Carter Agency has taught us, it’s that as a creator, you should never let another entity control 100% of your business paperwork and not demand visibility into it.

I don’t care how bad you are at business, I am bad at math. Like I look at my contracts, I peruse them. Regardless of whether I have a lawyer or a BA department or a manager, whatever. Because it’s my life, right? 

So creators need to do that. And if a company’s being really aggressive and saying, oh no,no we’re gonna, the more aggressive a company is about, we are going to handle this and you’re not gonna see it, more of a red flag that is. 

So I think that’s a huge lesson and I’m on the camp that I think it’s a shame that it’s not regulated, what fees, a manager can take. I know there’s a lot of people that say, no, it’s a free market and people should be able to come to their own terms for good or bad.

I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think it should be like a flat, 15% whatever, but right now it’s not. So people just need to be smart and careful about how they’re protecting themselves. 

And the other thing, I would just say Carter Agency is, there’s an unwillingness sometimes in this industry to be, a bit of a hard ass and just say, sorry, I don’t like the way you’re talking to me and we’re done. 

[00:38:33] Jessy: Do you think that’s this industry? Do you think that is a gender thing, an age thing? What do you think?

[00:38:41] Lena: I think it has a lot to do with all of that. Yes. This industry has in it a lot of young women. It has a lot of, obviously, young women of color and women of color a lot of L G B T Q, people that are trying to get a foothold.

They’re more vulnerable, definitely, especially when they’re younger. And I also think, creative, the creative mentality is not necessarily the in your face. I’m gonna take a strong position and be the bad guy in the room, and I don’t care what you think of me. 

That’s not the, mentality of any of these groups of people that I’ve been describing. And in fact, we’ve seen a lot of media that Black women or Latina women or whatever, they’re punished when they try to stand up for themselves. They’re punished by just the corporate world, so it’s even harder for them.

So predators like, the Carter Agency, see that they can use that to their advantage cuz they’re not afraid to be that person and they’re not afraid to, land on a very extreme, part of the place in the ethical spectrum, which is just, it’s all about me,me,me,me and I’m not gonna worry about what’s right or wrong or, any of that. 

So I think that this industry allowed something like this to happen, but it also happens in music and, in the acting world, or in Hollywood, it happens all over the place. It happens in tech. 

[00:39:59] Jessy: Which doesn’t make it better. It makes it worse, right,right. 

[00:40:03] Lena: It’s maddening. It happens in publishing and, I was, I had a job in for magazine when I was like 20, 21 and it, things like that were happening there too. So that’s my take on it. And I do not by any means think, you’ve talked about people being unwilling to go on the record or talk about it or whatever well, it’s scary, like it’s for them because at that age 25, you don’t know what consequences they’re gonna be, how it’s gonna shake out, what, position your boss’s boss’s boss is gonna take.

So if they don’t feel supported or confident, or like this is definitely gonna be the right move for my career, like they’re probably not gonna say anything. So I think that, that does leave a lot of room for predatorial people to do whatever they want. 

[00:40:45] Jessy: Are you willing to share a little bit about your firsthand experience?

[00:40:50] Lena: It’s in the Fast Company article. It was short. It very brief. Like many people got a name of a creator at the top of a pick list, the creative director really wanted this person. We had an alt right underneath it, but, the first choice, I went right out there.

I knew that Carter was the rep and I just sent an email and said, hello, I have this opportunity for x creator, and this is the budget we have, this is the date that it needs to, go live. If we can agree in this ballpark, I can send you a firm offer by the end of day today. That was my email. 

The rate that I think that I was offering, I think was about $8,000. I had a cap of 10. 

[00:41:35] Jessy: And could you think and just to level set? Did you think that rate was fair? Was it in the ballpark of what you think is fair?

[00:41:42] Lena: It was at the high end of the ballpark of what I thought was fair.

[00:41:45] Jessy: Got it. Okay. 

[00:41:46] Lena: Yeah, it was one video. It wasn’t gonna be posted. It was just for use in this event. No special filmmaking required, like just, 30 seconds do a skit, in the character that person was known for.

And the ballpark that people were taking was, five to $8,000. There were a whole bunch of other creators that were, on this list for these different roles. So someone, it was either Josh or Ben, I don’t remember, said we would like to get $25,000 for this.

And I was like. Oh, that is not possible. So what we are taught as a best practice is if you can’t even come near, what they’re asking as a counter, it’s insulting and it’s low balling them to keep trying to get them down to what you can afford. That’s the common, opinion. 

So I wrote back and I said, I am so sorry. We cannot come near that. My cap is actually 10 and I can’t, I cannot, and I would have to get permission do that. So I’m sorry it’s not gonna work out. And I’m on a super quick turnaround, so I’m just gonna go the alt and that is what I did.

And because I was like, I don’t have time for this really painful, back and forth and, that’s triple what we were thinking we could do. That was it. Sent the email, got in touch with the alt wrote back right away, took it.

So I was like, moving on with my day and I get a call and it’s Josh Popkins and he is like in really engaged in this very loud, long-winded, bargaining session with himself I was like, hey, I am really sorry that it worked out this way, but I gave this to the alt. We couldn’t come near your price. Your counter. We could not do it. And he, okay will you take 18,000? Can you give this to my creator for 18,000? What about 19,000? What about 17,000? 

I was like, I can’t. I already offered it to someone else. This is done. At one point, I was trying to be helpful and I probably shouldn’t have, but I said, listen, take this as a learning experience. Next time somebody comes back to you with a number, just know that if you counter something so much higher, you might right then and there, shut your creator out of the running and the person might just go to the next creator on their list. It’s a risk you take. So just be aware of that and bite the bullet, go back to your creator, explain what happened, hopefully do better next time.

Oh my God, he did not like that. And then I realized like this is landing on deaf ears. The conversation was going around and around in circles.

[00:44:07] Jessy: And this was mostly over the phone?

[00:44:09] Lena: Yeah all over. phone. 

[00:44:10] Jessy: Got it. 

[00:44:11] Lena: There was like one or two texts. There were a few emails, but mostly what Josh does is get people on the phone and just shout at them. And I finally, I was like after I’ve heard the same, this is bad business. You made me a firm offer da,da,da,da.

I’m like, I did none of these things. Like I did none of this. So I was like, this conversation’s over. The opportunity has been given to someone else. He wouldn’t end it.

And he started going, I’m gonna make sure your boss know you did this. Everyone at TikTok, da,da,da,da. Okay, fine. So, the email trail is on my side, so I was like, all right, if you wanna take it there.

So I just, started saying the conversation’s over and I’m gonna hang up, And then I did.. And that was it. 

[00:44:47] Jessy: And under normal circumstances with somebody who was thinking rationally. First of all, I probably wouldn’t have gotten there in the first place, but that would’ve just been the end of the conversation, but it wasn’t?

[00:45:00] Lena: It wasn’t, no, because he did actually complain to everyone that he can think of, which is what exactly what he does, every time. And, then he continued to send me emails and texts and call me like absolutely nothing had happened. That was the slightest bit off. 

And like we were friends and colleagues, that he could call me every couple days. Hey, what about this, what about that ? Like many people do, I blocked it. I just was like, I’m not gonna engage in this. I’m not, because I can see that, it’s never gonna get anywhere.

So it ended up that a couple weeks later for a different client, different project, another Carter Agency person came through and I said, listen, I’m only communicating with this guy in email.

I’m not gonna get on a phone with him, not a Zoom with him. And I suggest that you, don’t allow the client to be in a Zoom with him. Handle all of your business with him as you want to. But let the creator have her time with the client. 

[00:45:48] Jessy: And before we move forward, for you to like in your professional estimation, make that recommendation. I can only imagine what you were feeling being on the other side of those texts and those phone calls. Can you speak to that a little bit about what you were feeling when you’re having all of this come at you?

[00:46:11] Lena: What I was feeling was just, I didn’t think it was funny. I was not like, scared for myself either. I just was like, I am done talking to this person, and that’s all, and if we have to move forward, then so be it. We’re going to do it. There’s an like an email trail, an evidence trail, and everyone’s gonna be on it because I’ve already had him, complain and make up stuff and had to defend myself and I’m just not gonna do it again.

So I will do what the client’s asking me to do, but with people in that can see, the whole thing through. That’s what I was feeling. And I think someone else stepped up and, okay, I’m gonna negotiate with whatever.

And everyone will have the same experience. So from the time I blocked him, I was like, that is it. And even now, like I think we’ve spent enough time discussing it. Like he has a pattern. It’s the same thing over and over again. And I think It’s really hard when somebody’s sitting there and shouting at you and accusing you of things that are really bad, to not feel like oh gosh, can I make this better? Can I smooth this over? I’m not these things, but like it’s not worth it. Just cut it off. Go on about your life. 

[00:47:18] Jessy: Have you ever experienced any other situation professionally dealing with a manager, that was anything similar to this before.

[00:47:30] Lena: I’ve definitely dealt with some abrasive managers. I think in hindsight what makes it unusual is usually like, the very abrasive managers out there. But you know that they’re doing it to get top dollar for their and that talent is gonna see the bulk of that money.

When I found out, based on what Niké said, the creators were seeing just a small fraction of that money, that’s what took it to that next level of un unbearable. For me, it’s why I decided to talk to you.

Because yeah, we all deal with un unpleasant managers. We all, at least I have been that unpleasant negotiator as well. I don’t think there’s that much shouting usually, but I know that there’s men in Hollywood that shout like that. So the thing that really makes it unusual is that he was driving that hard of a bargain and then they were getting nothing.

[00:48:12] Jessy: I’m saddened to hear that this isn’t the only time that you’ve, experienced something like this. Thank goodness it was the only time, it sounds like it was something this extreme, but I’m hopeful that these types of conversations will A, inspire people to set boundaries to stand up for themselves, to have a paper trail and cover themselves when people come at them who are inappropriate.

And I think that it’s eye-opening from your perspective, and I’m sure people listening might agree that while this is, an extreme version of this story, the smallest bit of this pieces of this story have existed for decades in our industry and certainly in others. 

So I’m just very appreciative that you could tell your side of the story and also just that we could, get to know your whole story more, which has been really fascinating and really fun to learn about.

So for anyone who has really enjoyed learning from you and might wanna just connect with you further to network, which is, what Wiim is at its core, what’s the best way for them to reach out and get in such.

[00:49:23] Lena: I suppose email. I have a couple different email addresses. I have my Ampersand one. I have, Lena Variable content. You can always connect with me on LinkedIn. It’s becoming one of my favorite social media platforms or if we’re in a group together, just Slack me, or I’m not gonna give on my number.

[00:49:41] Jessy: Don’t get out your number. Let them message you on LinkedIn first, hit it off, get a rapport, and then maybe you wanna hand out your number at that point.

[00:49:49] Lena: Yeah but let’s talk about something positive. I think predatorial managers or whatever it’s unfortunate. It’s really unfortunate that anyone has to deal with them ever. But I think, we should definitely focus on the positive, and the evolution of this next step creatives, which most creators are creative I think, things are heading in a positive direction, believe it or not.

And we are actually, growing up maturing, whatever, and also there’s crossover now from so many other parts of the marketing industry and of the entertainment industry. And I think that’s gonna be good in the long run, and, there’s gonna be more opportunities. There’s also gonna be more of an eye on things, which is what we’re seeing now.

But I think good and I’m excited by it. I’m excited that, smart STEM creators that work for big Tech are getting their day and, filmmakers are rising on these platforms and getting these huge opportunities. We’re gonna see a lot more of that. And that’s what I wanna focus on.

[00:50:45] Jessy: Final thought. Any predictions for 2023?

[00:50:48] Lena: Performance marketing. I think there’s a lot of conversation about livestream shopping. Don’t know that’s gonna go anywhere in this country, but, definitely shopping is the key. B2B2C I think is an up and coming, sector.

And I think if you can learn to work in that, that’s great. And, hone your creative skills as a creator because, there’s gonna be more and more opportunities for people that have a craft, beyond just, knowing how to put on makeup, which also is a craft. But, knowing how whatever it is your craft might be, having it, honing it, owning it, coming into your own. That’s gonna be increasingly more important. That’s what’s really exciting, I think.

[00:51:25] Jessy: I love that so much. Lena it’s been really great having you on the show today. For those of you guys listening, thank you so much for tuning in and we will see you next week guys. 

[00:51:34] Lena: Thanks so much you, Jessy.

[00:51:36] Jessy: If you enjoyed this episode, we gotta have you back. Check out our website for more ways to get involved, including all the information you need about joining our collective. You can check out all the information at iamwiim.com. Leave us a review, a rating, but the most important thing that we can ask you to do is to share this podcast. 


Thanks for listening. Tune in next week.

Lena Katz

Lead, Creator-Integrated Services, AMPERSAND (AOI-PRO).

Lena leads the Creator-Integrated Content division at Ampersand, Inc, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based commercial production company AOI-Pro. She helps brands such as Wells Fargo and Sony strategize and execute short-form creator-led video campaigns on TikTok, IG Reels, YouTube and OTT. Her previous role was at TikTok in Creator Solutions, engaging creators for brand campaigns including Spotify, Instacart and Pepsi. Prior to that, she owned a boutique content consulting firm that executed national creator-driven campaigns for brands such as Skippy, FIJI Water, Brown-Forman, Hormel Natural Choice, eBay and Jennie-O Turkey. Lena started her career as a lifestyle journalist and copywriter, so she’s lived her entire professional life at the intersection of commercial and creativity.

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