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Portal A Strategy Chief Aditi Rajvanshi Reveals the Middle Ground Between Ads and Brand Love

Aditi Rajvanshi is Head of Strategy at Portal A, a creative agency making waves in the creator economy. She brings a wealth of experience from her tenure at Google and YouTube. Her insights shed light on the space in which brands and creators increasingly forge partnerships rather than traditional client-influencer relationships. Aditi’s perspective offers valuable guidance for tackling these challenges as the industry grapples with demonstrating ROI and avoiding content homogenization. With VidCon 2024 on the horizon, her advice to brands and creators alike underscores the ongoing potential for innovation in this maturing yet young sector. Aditi has revealed details about her journey, Portal A’s unique approach, and her vision for the future of the creator economy.

Her journey began at Google in 2009, where she witnessed the early days of YouTube. “[Those were] the Wild West days of YouTube where no one knew what we were doing,” she recalls. “The idea that this could be a full-time career, that this could be [how] some of the largest creator businesses would begin, was nonexistent.”

After eight years at Google, Aditi launched her own consulting practice, Brewing Awesome. The name, inspired by her love for coffee, became the banner under which she worked with clients like Sesame Street and DotDash Meredith.

Her path led to Portal A, an award-winning creative agency, where she now heads the strategy department. “We don’t make ads. We make content,” Aditi explains, describing Portal A’s approach. “We sit at the nexus of brands and creators, which means we’re often people who understand both languages and can translate it for them.”

At the company, she focuses on building a top-tier strategy practice. The agency’s recent work includes a campaign for Target called “Teammates of Target,” which she describes as “a comedic take on what happens when [people] go into a Target store and you are outside… waiting.”

Portal A: Innovators in the Creator Economy

Under a strong Leadership suite, Portal A positions itself as a unique player in the creator economy. The agency’s approach goes beyond traditional advertising, creating innovative content that resonates with audiences.

“We do not think of ourselves as mediators in the creator economy. We see ourselves as innovators and experimenters and makers in the creator economy,” Aditi explains. This philosophy is evident in their work, which aims to produce “breakthrough content” that stands out in a crowded space.

The agency’s collaborative culture sets it apart. Aditi notes, “I have never, ever worked with a team that is as passionate and proud of the work that they make, that cares as deeply about the work they do.”

Portal A’s approach is exemplified in its recent campaign – “Teammates of Target,” a series that humorously portrays people waiting in parking lots during shopping trips. This project showcases its ability to develop existing creative concepts into brand-owned, repeatable formats.

Another significant project involved a collaboration between Google Play, Samsung, and Supercell. “We ended up working with almost 40 creators, making 200 plus videos with them released across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, you name it,” Aditi says. “It became one of the most successful campaigns we’ve ever worked on.”

Aditi on Following Creator Economy Trends

Aditi notes that Portal A is constantly adapting its strategies to shifts in the creator economy. One key trend is the relationship between brands and creators. “It is no longer an ecosystem where brands sort of could hold the cards,” she explains. “It is now way more of a partnership than ever before.” Creators increasingly demand a seat at the creative table, seeking to be active collaborators rather than mere platforms for brand messages.

Portal A embraces this shift, recognizing the value of creator insights. “We think it makes so much sense for people who know their audiences to have a real stake in the creative they’re making,” Aditi notes.

Another trend the industry veteran identifies is what she terms the “Mr. Beast-ification” of content. While acknowledging Mr. Beast’s success, she expresses concern about its impact on content diversity. “Instead of finding their own path… tons of creators are finding themselves pigeonholed within this sort of challenge, over-the-top, really dramatic format that has worked for MrBeast but may not reap the same results for all other creators,” she observes.

As a way to continue to foster innovation, Portal A launched “Moonshots,” an original programming initiative. Aditi describes it as “taking purely back into our roots, which was to make funny, innovative, sometimes weird stuff.” This project allows Portal A to experiment with new formats and work with emerging creators.

One example is a series featuring Olympic swimmer Bella Sims, showcasing her experiences of typical teenage activities she missed due to training. Aditi sees this as an opportunity to “step away from the mold and make stuff we’re proud of.” 

Value Proposition in Creator Marketing

Aditi identifies a key challenge in the creator economy: demonstrating the value of content-driven marketing that falls between traditional performance marketing and large-scale brand campaigns. Portal A operates in this middle ground, aiming to build long-term brand affinity while meeting their short-term goals.

“Our effectiveness lies in the fact that we can build long-term brand love while meeting short- to medium-term, immediate advertising goals of creating awareness and consideration,” Aditi explains. However, convincing brands of this value proposition remains difficult, especially in a tight economic climate.

She notes the industry’s cyclical nature: “Every brand goes through sort of all the motions through the course of the year where they go from ‘we’re feeling all the love for content right now’ to ‘we only need to worry about sales at this moment.'”

The challenge lies in defining and demonstrating the ROI of content-led, long-term creative relationships in this middle space. Aditi emphasizes the need to help brands recognize the value of consistent, entertaining content that engages viewers over time and adds to their brand experience.

When asked what she would change in the industry, the seasoned entrepreneur wants to eliminate the need to explain a creator’s value to brands. “I think there is enough proof in the pudding,” she states, suggesting that the effectiveness of creator collaborations should be well-established.

VidCon 2024: Insights from Aditi 

VidCon—what began as a hub for YouTube enthusiasts and content creators on various online video platforms has turned into an annual convention for digital creators and influencers. Over the years, it has evolved to welcome various creators from social media titans like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch. The event features Creator tracks, live performances, interactive meet-ups, and more. VidCon 2024 will take place in Anaheim from June 26 to 29.

Aditi is a VidCon veteran with over 10 years of attendance. This year, she’ll share her expertise at the panel discussion “CREATOR VS CORPORATE CREATIVE: AUTHENTIC INFLUENCE IN ADVERTISING” (Friday, June 28, 10:45 AM—11:30 AM Pacific Time, 304ABC). Other panel participants include Austin Null, Hector Benavides, Thomas Ma, and Kai Watson.

Her excitement for the event is palpable as she notes its growth from a 200-person gathering to a massive industry conference with tens of thousands of attendees.

The panel will focus on brand authenticity in the creator economy. “We’re talking about whether brands can be authentic in a world where brands are sort of trying to find how they occupy the spaces they operate in,” she explains. The discussion will explore how brands can develop authentic voices on social platforms and leverage user-generated content (UGC) effectively.

Her key message to brands is to adopt a creator’s mindset. “Try to put on that creator hat. Try to be in those creative shoes for a minute and see how you would operate as a creator,” Aditi advises. She believes this approach can help brands find authentic ways to engage with audiences beyond simply sponsored shoutouts.

The industry expert highlights a panel on diversifying audience-building strategies, a discussion on sustainability in the creator economy, and a session featuring industry veterans reflecting on the maturing creator ecosystem. She also expresses enthusiasm for Hank Green’s return to VidCon after his cancer recovery.

For first-time VidCon attendees, Aditi recommends thorough preparation. “Don’t try to wing it,” she advises, suggesting that attendees create a list of panels, sessions, brands, and people they want to engage with. However, she also emphasizes the importance of remaining open to the event’s inspirational atmosphere. “Don’t forget the magic of VidCon. Don’t let that part fall by the wayside because you’re so intent on making the most productive use of your time,” she cautions.

Aditi concludes with an encouraging message about the creator economy. “There is still so much room for innovation for us to figure out our own path,” she states, emphasizing that the industry continues to face new challenges requiring fresh solutions. Her final advice to those entering the space is to “Come in with that intention and know that there is still so much to learn and discover and figure out here that’s yet to be done.”

Cecilia Carloni, Interview Manager at Influence Weekly and writer for NetInfluencer. Coming from beautiful Argentina, Ceci has spent years chatting with big names in the influencer world, making friends and learning insider info along the way. When she’s not deep in interviews or writing, she's enjoying life with her two daughters. Ceci’s stories give a peek behind the curtain of influencer life, sharing the real and interesting tales from her many conversations with movers and shakers in the space.

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