Don’t obsess with data and give us creative control, Singapore YouTube stars Night Owl Cinematics advise brands

Neal Moore (left) interviews Sylvia and Ryan Chan

Neal Moore (left) interviews Sylvia and Ryan Chan

One of Singapore’s most successful YouTube acts, Ryan Tan and Sylvia Chan of Night Owl Cinematics, have cautioned brands against relying too heavily on data to create a video that takes off on the internet.

In a session at Ad:Tech Asean titled ‘Getting brand recognition in video’, Tan said that the internet is a “volatile” environment and analysing too much data could be time misspent.

Night Owl Cinematics“The internet very erratic. It’s such a volatile environment. If you go too slow digging up facts, they might be out of trend already [by the time you get to making the video],” he said in conversation with Neal Moore, co-founder of content agency Click2View, who was moderating the session.

However, some research is involved in the creative process, Chan conceded. The husband and wife duo, which has amassed 57 million views and has 363,000 YouTube subscribers on their channel, refer to news and entertainment sites to keep up with the latest trends.

“We know our analytics very well. We understand before we put up a video the views we are likely get, because we know our audience so well. But ultimately we work really hard to produce content that is different,” he said.

Sylvia Chan told her audience that “sexy women in bikinis” is what is working for Night Owl Cinematics right now.

“We do speak vulgarities, but not so much – just how your neighbours would talk,” she said, talking about the duo’s style, which she described as relatable, local and raw on a local blogging scene that suffers from self censorship.

“We speak a lot of Hokkien. Sometimes we tell crude jokes, sometimes we go a bit nostalgic. We used to do more controversial stuff – nowadays we do a bit less.”

On working with clients, Chan said that brands do “hinder” the creative process as they bring extra elements into play.

“It [working with brands] does hinder the creative process in the sense that there are more things to weave in,” she said, adding that there are two different sorts of clients in Singapore.

“There are those that embrace what we do as a breath of fresh air. And there are those who don’t dare to take what we suggest on board.”

“Sometimes we don’t accept the brief,” she said.

During the making of a video for the Singapore Police Force, Chan admitted that a disagreement between her husband and the client meant that he was not involved after the briefing stage.

“Ryan was banned from the first meeting,” Chan said. “He just couldn’t take what they were telling him. They got into argument and that was it – he was banned.”

The work Night Owl Cinematics has produced for SPF is among their most viewed productions. A comical post highlighting the top crimes committed in Singapore has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Some clients, Ryan Tan suggested, do not want content that contains Singlish, colloquial Singaporean English.

Asked why, he responded: “It’s an image thing, foreigners might not understand it or people will think it’s low class.”

“We get crazy briefs where the client asks us not to speak Singlish, even though they’re targeting a Singaporean audience,” he said.

The twenty-something creators do not offer guarantees of audience size to clients.

“We have reach of about 300,000 people. Usually we hit that, but we don’t promise anything overboard,” Tan said.

“People who give us creative control are our best clients,” his partner said. “They know about our quirks, that we’re sexy and we speak Singlish. They ask us to put that into the video for them. And that’s why their videos went viral.”

“It’s a lack of creative restrictions that gave them the high views,” she said.

Night Owl Cinematics publish a new video every week. “Every Sunday our audience expects a new video,” Chan said. “It’s like tuning into your favourite TV channel. That helps with video views. That’s why the numbers are so consistent.”


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