Inside MailChimp’s Plans to Produce Ad-Free Entertainment Videos

“Watching video wasn’t why people would visit Amazon, but it was a really nice value add…MailChimp Presents serves a similar purpose,” Sarita Alami, production lead of MailChimp Presents, says

MailChimp, the marketing platform best known for its newsletters, sees the entertainment space largely as a vehicle to extend its brand.

As the company launches a new content studio, with projects ranging from short films to podcasts, executives say the company plans to provide an experience free of ads and instead treats the new venture as a marketing spend to attract more users and increase time spent on the platform. 

Sarita Alami, production lead of Mailchimp Presents, breaks down the strategy in an interview with TheWrap. She also pulls back the curtain on the company’s decision to partner with Vice Media on a docuseries that follows six entrepreneurs who quit their day jobs to start their own businesses.

Why launch Mailchimp Presents, and how does the company plan to monetize the venture? 

So MailChimp Presents is an entertainment platform for entrepreneurs that houses short-form series, films and podcasts. The platform lives on the web within our MailChimp ecosystem and is available for free without a login, and we don’t intend to paywall it. We’re not trying to monetize the content in and of itself, so we’re not selling ads against it. This is primarily a marketing spend for us. 

We know that entrepreneurs and small business owners are busy people and they need a little bit of a break. So creating a home for entertainment content allows us to speak to them in new ways and add value to them rather than interrupting them with an ad. So while this isn’t an ad and it’s not branded content, it’s a way to reach people and bring them into the Mailchimp ecosystem, whether that’s doing content on our platform or seeing us in an end-card in a series that will hopefully have a positive effect on our brand.

How is Mailchimp leveraging its 11 million customers to drive traffic awareness to the new MailChimp Presents, or is the venture strictly focused on attracting new consumers?

We are both targeting current customers and prospects. We feel like this is a great way to add value for them. One of the metaphors that we’ve been using as we think about building this platform is at the beginning for Amazon Prime Video, watching video wasn’t why people would visit Amazon, but it was a really nice value add that people could enjoy. We hope that Mailchimp Presents serves a similar purpose by adding value and enriching the experiences of our customers. And so we are promoting everything to them on our own channels and via email. 

Because we have millions of people who we know well and have small business centers visiting MailChimp all the time, we can speak to them in ways that really resonate.  Beyond that, we’re also promoting the content on all the regular ways that you would promote entertainment media.

We’re working with a media agency and have had different plans for each of our series to reach people who we think they’ll resonate with most. You’ll find us on things like digital ads and IMDB takeovers. That’s one of the ways that we’re reaching prospective customers and new viewers. And one of the great things about this content is, beyond existing customers, this is a great way to be relevant to people who may haven’t heard about MailChimp.

Are there any plans to expand past entertainment programming and into a more technical “how-to” videos similar to LinkedIn Premium?

Right now, we have a wide range of content everything from standalone short films, to docuseries, to scripted series and podcasts. Our lens with this is from an entertainment industry lens and so our primary goal is to entertain entrepreneurs, who are our primary demographic, in a way that allows them to take a break or a kickback for a little bit. We do create lots of other content as a company that’s a bit more tactical, whether that’s about building your brand or becoming a better marketer or using our product. And because we are investing in that work in other ways throughout our website, this allows us to liberate Mailchimp Presents and really make it purely about entertainment.

We definitely hope that there will be takeaways for viewers in terms of either emotional resonance or learning about new industries, subcultures or people. “Unlikely Business Lessons” is a good example of a show that is built of a little tongue-in-cheek lessons to help you run your business from unlikely places, like a what former cult disciple can teach you about building a loyal audience.

MailChimp recently partnered with Vice Media on a six-part docuseries that followed the lives of six entrepreneurs. How did this partnership come about?

Working with Vice felt like a natural partnership for us. Across all of Vice’s shows, they have a great track record of finding people in interesting corners of the world and spotlighting their stories in a way that feels genuine, nuanced and cinematic. For “Second Act” to work, we needed to absolutely nail our choice of subjects and Vice really delivered there. We’re featuring people in places like the Midwest and corners of Maine. And with the series, it was really important for us to highlight that being an entrepreneur can look a lot of different ways.

We often read stories about startups who have millions in revenue and young people who started companies in their apartments. The stories are great, but they leave out this huge chunk of older people in rural areas who often take on even more risks to become entrepreneurs. So we worked in lockstep with Vice on the whole series from ideation through production and both of our teams are incredibly proud of the results.

Will “Second Act” be distributed anywhere else aside from Mailchimp Presents? 

We’ll be promoting the content across all of our own channels, including our social channels, but that will be with trailers and previews. But the whole series will also be living, for a time, on [Vice Media’s] cable channel Viceland. So it’ll be available both on linear and on-demand on Vice channels for a little while.


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