Charlie Todd: ‘We Look to Partner with Brands That Want to Create a Relationship’

Creativity is one of the most underrated and taken for granted components of advertising. This is where influence marketing can provide the most value when done right. Its use of talent-driven creative means that the content has the highest potential to be useful, funny, inspiring, relatable, emotional and—most importantly—engaging.

WHOSAY CEO Steve Ellis will be addressing the subject during a Social Media Week New York (SMWNYC) panel titled “Creativity Meets Brand Outcomes: There is Where the Magic Happens” on Wednesday, April 25 at 10:20 AM ET. The venue is the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel.

Ellis will be joined by Charlie Todd from Improv Everywhere, the New York City-based comedy collective that stages unexpected performances in public places. Created in August of 2001, Improv Everywhere aims to surprise and delight random strangers through positive pranks. They have staged over 150 projects involving tens of thousands of undercover performers in places like New York’s Grand Central Terminal and the subway.

We sat with Charlie in the lead up to SMWNY 2018 to get this bonafide influencer’s insights on engaging followers, brand safety and what he looks for when partnering with brands.  

WHOSAY: What's your favorite way to engage your followers?
Charlie Todd: Improv Everywhere isn't super chatty on social media. We let the projects speak for themselves. So our primary method of engagement is releasing new videos and using social media to get the word out. I would say our favorite way to engage our audience is through our email newsletter. It's the most direct line of communication we have as it's not controlled by an algorithm.

WS: What metrics/analytics do you usually look at?
CT: I keep an eye on our YouTube analytics, looking at things like retention. Views are obviously the easiest metric to go by, but in today's fragmented environment dominated by algorithms, it's harder to measure success by views alone. Comments and shares are a better way to judge our audience's response.

WS: What gets more engagement on your channels?
CT: People really respond to our positive surprises. The payoff in our videos is the reactions from unsuspecting people. We're always trying to develop new ways to craft big surprise moments that result in real, emotional reactions.

WS: Are there topics you stay away from?

CT: We've tended to keep things PG-rated. Our brand has always been family friendly. Our focus is on creating positive, funny moments of surprise and delight.

WS: What do you look for when partnering with brands?
CT: We look to partner with brands that want to create a relationship with us beyond one-off projects. The "Here's an RFP we're sending to everyone, send us your bid" game gets old. Our biggest successes happen with brands who are specifically reaching out to us because they like what we do, and they want our take on how we could create something great together. We worked with Target on their holiday campaign two years in a row, and both times the conversation started with, "What do you guys want to do?" We had a similar experience with Hallmark this past December, and we're already making our second project with them.

Charlie is the founder of Improv Everywhere, producing and directing the group’s work for over fifteen years. The projects he’s directed for Improv Everywhere have received over 400 million lifetime views on YouTube. More than 100 individual videos have view counts over a million, having been shared around the world and featured in mainstream media outlets like the Today show, Good Morning America, and The New York Times.

Charlie also works as a television producer, serving as creator and executive producer for Improv Everywhere’s television pilot for NBC, and more recently as
executive producer for MTV’s late night comedy, The Middle of the Night Show. Charlie is a long-time performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. He is the author of Causing a Scene, a book about Improv Everywhere published by HarperCollins. He is also the subject of the documentary We Cause Scenes. Charlie lives in Manhattan with his wife Cody Lindquist and their son.