About Lena Katz
Lena Katz began working in creative strategy as a content creator, strategist, and writer. She has 15 years of experience in creative strategy and ten years in influencer marketing, primarily on the brand side of the industry. She has worked with huge brands, including Fiji Water and 1-800-FLOWERS, and worked for four years as a partner at a Fortune 500 company.
Today, she is the Creator Built-in Division Lead at Ampersand, a talent-focused production company combining connection, creativity, collaboration, and execution. She stepped into this role in January 2022 after leaving her job at TikTok in December.
“I love to work with talent who have some sort of really special skill or ability that they can bring to the table. That leads me to work with a lot of STEM creators and a lot of corporate creators… With Ampersand, I get a lot into the filmmaker creators.”
Expanding into the Creator Ecosystem
Lena shares that she is often approached by companies saying they want influencers. However, she explains that there is a difference between creators and influencers. Influencers may focus on unboxing videos and showing products, but creators make content such as music or films.
She adds that having creators involved as early as possible in the marketing process can give companies a significant advantage.
“It makes a lot of sense to have creators in there as early as possible so… it [marketing] can move forward seamlessly. So, that’s what we are aiming to do. Every agency, every project, every brand is different, so we meet them where they are.”
Creator vs. Influencer
Some would argue that creator and influencer are just terms, and they mean the same thing. However, Lena argues that the two terms have a huge and key difference.
“I think that it also signifies a shift in overall thinking, which is if you look at the two words in the dictionary definition. They’re really different. Influencer is all about peer pressure or aspirational [content], or they’re peddling a lifestyle that you wish you had a lot of times, so there’s that unapproachable [element].”
She expands on this by saying that the word creator comes from the root word creative.
“A lot of people that wouldn’t identify with an influencer because all they want to do is make art or be a communicator or tell stories. They want to reach as many people as possible. Sometimes that’s why they get bigger, but sometimes they are just wildly creative and that’s what draws people to them.”
Lena shares that she thinks the term influencer is heavily linked to Instagram, while creators are linked to TikTok.
In short, the primary difference between creators and influencers is how they draw people in and tell a story. Creators rely heavily on creativity, while influencers often rely on showcasing a hugely aspirational lifestyle.
The Future of the Creator Marketplace
Lena shares that thousands of new creators are surfacing from TikTok, hoping to get brand deals.
“I always encourage everybody if they’re in a rut. If they feel like everybody that we like working with is increasing their rates by 300%, or we’re just not quite finding what we like… There’s thousands and thousands of people actively being surfaced every single month. So, take the time, go on a focused search for the most far-out things that you can think of, or if you don’t know how, which a lot of people don’t, that’s what I specialize in. That’s what I’m here for.”
She envisions the future of the creator marketplace as a place where creativity and special skills or knowledge from specific creators will be leveraged and valued above all else.
“I think that agencies and creators, when they connect when they align, they should build a relationship and that it should become something long term and collaborative where at any time we could all jump in a meeting because the creator had an idea that they thought the brand might want to hear.”
Lena believes that fewer brands will be looking to hire creators or influencers to just post a TikTok walking around with a sponsored bag for a large amount of money. Instead, she sees more and more brands wanting truly creative content with more accountability for results and ROI.
“There’s going to be an increasing demand for accountability from agency and brands, like what are you actually delivering in terms of ROI? We’re going to need to answer that question upfront and all the way through. That’s something I always do. I’m very data-driven in how I vet people. That is the future.”
In the future, she believes more and more brands will shift their marketing budgets away from PR and more to performance-based marketing with real, data-proven results.
“We’re [Companies are] going to actually have to up our game in terms of analytics and marketing, like the nuts and bolts of it all.”
Ampersand’s first foray into creator-focused work was via parent company AOI–a global OOH/digital/social campaign for Sony that launched earlier this year.
Two big projects are forthcoming in September: one for a leading consumer finance brand, and the other for a B2B2C campaign featuring LearnTok creators.
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“I’m super excited about both [campaigns]. One of them is actually fully creator integrated. We brought a creator in as an advisor to the director and to act as a gateway to the larger TikTokker/creative community. They also engaged their own creative team members to suggest ways we might approach the project, helping really inject that authenticity to the whole film style.”
The LearnTok campaign is working with STEM and CorpTok creators.
“That [campaign] is really fun for me because they’re all brilliant. I feel like I’m getting an education when we ideate or I review their work.”
Lena shares that every week brings more exciting projects.
“We are getting a lot of interest and out-of-the-box stuff, which is what I want to do… Anytime there’s an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before.”
After the campaign launches in September, Lena adds that she is looking to put together a STEM-focused showcase because of the huge potential she sees in that community.
Ampersand also just publicly announced a new director signing — the Berry Boys out of the UK. They have worked with Red Bull, Disney, Mustang, and a variety of metaverse-meets-real-world content.
“A lot of their past work is more YouTube feeling, but they’re starting to get brand offers to create TikTok-native content. I’m super excited to start teaming creators and brands up with them.“