Mischievious Studios Parodies Justin Bieber And Puts Play Into Ads To Create Viral Videos
Just because our best ideas often come to us when we step away from work and allow ourselves to become distracted doesn’t mean that there’s time to spare trying to launch a startup. Ask Christiano Covino, President and CEO of Mischievious Studios. A native New Yorker, captain of his independent advertising agency and film studio based in L.A., he know’s how many competitors would happily race ahead if the team eased back on the throttle.
That’s why the studio went to work before cashing a single commission check, putting their belief, talents, and service on the line in order to succeed (and it’s probably best to not sleep on a gracious fiancé’s couch too long). The group’s efforts to disrupt advertising and entertainment have quickly earned them an impressive client base that includes companies such as Allstate, Cliniquehappy, AT&T, the Blue Man Group, and many others. A viral video made for Smule recently has seen 12 million views in just 4 months.
Knowing how to balance fun and work for the sake of effective productivity is a difficult art to master. Covino took KillerStartups behind the scenes at Mischievious Studios for a better glimpse at the team’s winning chemistry and the magic used to create viral videos.
So what does Mischievious Studios do?
We’re an independent studio that works to blur the line between advertising and entertainment and create content that people share.
How did Mischievious Studios get started?
We actually funded the company through creating several commercials on spec (without being commissioned) and selling them to the brands–a move that would be considered risky, had we not had confidence in our ability to create engaging videos. We had a 75% success rate, so for every 4 commercials we made, 3 would get picked up. We used this money to get our offices and build the company, and ended up taking on some of the brands as long term clients.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
We believe that Advertising should be a playdate, not a lecture. Our mission is to take every dollar spent on ineffective, irrelevant, buckshot marketing approaches and replace it with a dollar spent on engaging, fun, entertaining content that carries a brand message.
It goes something like this:
Entertainment and art make people happy.
For entertainment and art to exist, Advertising must exist, which makes people annoyed.
However, if the advertising is entertaining, you go back to making people happy.
What kind of companies do you prefer to work with?
We love working with Tech companies, app and game companies, and startups. We’ve worked with many Fortune 500 companies as well, but we dig our clients from the tech sphere. They possess the forward thinking that makes it easy for us to create engaging content and make their brand really stand out as innovators.
Plus we’re geeks ourselves, so we understand their audience tremendously.
What has been your biggest success to date?
One of our recent major successes was a viral video we produced for music app powerhouse Smule. It was a parody of Justin Bieber’s new single in which he gets kidnapped by a stalker fan and held against his will. It has received over 12 Million views in about 4 months and is watched once every second. The video generated hundreds of thousands of downloads for Smule and continues to be the most successful advertisement in their company’s 4 year history.
How long have you been involved with Advertising?
As children of the 90’s, our generation experienced childhood in one of the most Ad saturated times in history. At the same time, we grew up with some of the best children’s programming in history. The disparity became clear at a young age, why are the shows so wildly entertaining, but the commercials so boring and off-base?
We’ve struggled to skip commercials, flip past ads, stop singing jingles our whole lives, burnt out from the marketing overload. It wasn’t until people like Bob Lachy started doing campaigns like “Louie the Lizard” and “Wassup?” that we began to understand the potential that Advertising had to entertain, and not just inform.
What time do you usually start work each day?
Because I’m a New Yorker, born and raised, and in order to maintain a competitive advantage with Madison Ave, we start our day on New York time. Plus, some of our clients are based on the East Coast, so we need to be available to them bright and early.
Do you have an office or work at home?
We have an amazing office on Melrose Ave in Hollywood. It’s like a creative playground, buzzing with the sounds of videos being watched and edited, great ideas being brainstormed, and a bunch of talented people loving their jobs.
75% of the walls at our office are literally whiteboards, so there’s a lot of drawing and writing down great stuff for later.
When do your best ideas come to you?
When we’re working our hardest on something else! We’re constantly bolting into each other’s offices with the next great idea or an exciting “what if?”. We borrow from Pixar and Apple in that we’re encourage random, distracting conversations throughout the day–98% of the time, that’s where the best ideas come from.
Usually, we will bang our heads against the wall researching, brainstorming, writing, rewriting, and still be stuck on a creative problem. Stepping away from the problem, or being interrupted, gives the idea space to find you instead. To quote Don Draper from Mad Men, “Just think about it deeply, then forget it…then an idea will jump up in your face.”
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
Our desks are white frosted glass, so there’s always a ton of notes and ideas written in dry-erase marker. One of our partners is Canadian, so we all have Tim Horton’s mugs and hockey puck coasters on our desks as well.
What’s the first thing you do when you leave the office at the end of the day?
We live and breathe our work, so it’s very rare for us to leave the office. You can often find us at our desks at 4am finishing up an edit or proposal, or in the writing room, putting the finishing touches on a webseries, commercial, or film.
But when we do leave the office, we find it important to constantly be improving ourselves. Whether it’s watching films, going to industry panels, networking, or just plain hitting the books, we’re perpetually pushing ourselves to be the best we can be.
Favorite book? Author?
“Humankind” by the creative head at Leo Burnett. It’s basically the Bible for anyone who wants to create Advertising that appeals to humanity on a deeper, personal level.
“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. A brilliant insight into why ideas, videos and trends go viral. Helps us tremendously with our YouTube channel, MischiefTube.com.
“Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder. Read this, understand plot structure, and never be able to watch a movie the same way again.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
Every time you have a brilliant idea, there are at least 5 other people on the planet who had that exact idea at the same time. If you really want to pursue this idea, you better get to work and make it a reality as soon as possible. Don’t go talk about your idea to 100 people, and spend 6 months on what your company letterhead will look like. Get some sort of PRODUCT done, so that that idea becomes yours. If you don’t, one of the 5 other guys will beat you to it, and that means you probably weren’t that serious about the idea in the first place.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader throughout this process?
My fiancé is my most ardent supporter. She let me live on her couch when I was first starting this company’s former iteration 3 years ago. She’s the one that reminds me that I’m not crazy for wanting to change the world. My father built his own company from the ground up, and has always bestowed sage advice upon me at every turning point in the journey, his help is incalculable. I’d also have to include all of our moms, they’re constantly calling us and asking how they can help the business. And they birthed us, which totally helped.
3 people you recommend we follow on Twitter, and why?
Well, you can follow us! @theMischiefMen. Also me, because I have such a cool handle – @heyChristiano and my two partners, because they’re amazing human beings – @iNickLane and @TheSmaler.
Any numbers you’d like to share with us?
- In just one year we have created over 100 videos, both commercial and online for Fortune 500 companies, tech companies, and top Ad and PR agencies.
- 75% of our clients return to work with us again.
- We created a futuristic mock trailer for a software company that helped seal the deal during a $1 billion buyout.
- Our YouTube channel, MischiefTube.com is one of the fastest growing channels of its kind, averaging over 3 Million views a month since its launch 4 months ago.
- Every one second, two people watch one of our videos.
Where can our readers get a hold of you?
Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?
We have some amazing shows that air on our YouTube channel, MischiefTube.com that I’m sure would make your day. We’re working on several commercial and viral campaigns for some outstanding companies and organizations. We’re also filming a pilot this month for a new series involving people with superhuman powers, so stay tuned for that. We’re constantly in production on amazing new content, so basically, follow us if you want to entertained for a long time to come.