Ryan Pritt, President and Co-Founder of Pritt Entertainment Group (PEG), took a youngster’s avid interest in sports and an adult’s realistic assessment of his own athletic prowess to chart his sports-related career. For the past 11 years, he has run his sports creative agency, which specializes in video production, animation, graphic design, and live events.
Today, PEG serves a roughly 50-50 mix of corporate and sports clients, and prides itself on constantly evolving to meet client needs, generating fresh inspirations, and utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. The mix of sports and corporate client is challenging. Sports, in particular, results in long hours and crazy timelines, particularly during the playoffs.
Video technology changes rapidly. Ryan notes video’s increasing use of drones and the evolution of virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) – things that were not available when he started. He finds VR and AR interesting, but adds the caveat that people should not use those technologies just for the novelty of using them . . . that there needs to be a purpose behind their use.
Ryan warns that a company working in video has to be “nimble,” to be dedicated to staying up-to-date with the newest equipment and technologies, to be willing to choose which services it will provide and which services it will not . . . and to decide where it is willing to partner.
Key to solving a client’s problem is asking questions . . . the right questions. “What do you want? When is it due? And What is your budget” are not enough. Ryan believes that it is important to discover more about the business – the client’s motivations, usage plans, and social channel resources – so his agency can recommend ways to expand the use of the marketing piece and optimize value for the client. His agency focuses on the Big Four socials platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
A tool Ryan has found particularly helpful, Frame.io, is a program/website where PEG uploads videos for client review and on-screen feedback. Frame.io integrates with Slack, which notifies PEG of any client activity in the channel.
Ryan observes that some very advanced capabilities have been rapidly moving down market. Today, clients may be able to produce smartphone-videos to meet some of their more day-to-day video production needs . . . such as a warehouse walkthrough . . . and save the agency for higher-end promotional/ showcase pieces that need the higher quality equipment, professional lighting, and precise editing PEG offers. Part of developing a company or organization’s strategy is when the agency should step in.
ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I’m excited to be joined today by Ryan Pritt, President and Co-Founder at Pritt Entertainment Group based in Akron, Ohio. Welcome, Ryan.
RYAN: Hey, how’s it going?
ROB: Doing great. How about you?
RYAN: Very good.
ROB: Fantastic. Why don’t you kick it off right away by telling us about Pritt Entertainment Group and what makes Pritt great?
RYAN: We’re a creative agency based, like you said, in Akron, Ohio, and we specialize in video production, animation, graphic design, and also live events. Most of our work comes in the video and animation side of things. We have an interesting mix of both sports and corporate clients, so we get to work on a wide variety of projects for a lot of different types of clients all over the country. Every day is new, fun, and interesting, that’s for sure.
ROB: Have you always had an interest in the creative, the video/animation side of the world? Or did you come to that along the way?
RYAN: I would say that my primary interest in terms of if you wanted to go way back when, into when we got into this, I always loved sports growing up. While I love playing sports and played almost all of them that you could, I knew from a young age that I was definitely not good enough to play any of them long-term. So, for me, I always tried to keep an eye on what other ways I can stay involved in the world of sports.
One of the things I identified probably in middle school and high school was game entertainment and the game operation side of things. paid a lot of attention and became really fascinated in the video boards, the music, all that kind of stuff, and what goes in to making a really immersive event experience, particularly from the video side.
From there, my interest took me down that road. I’ve worked for multiple major league and minor league teams. Then we ended up starting our own company 11 years ago. When we started it the focus was sports, and now we’re almost 50/50 corporate and sports clients. It’s a really fun mix.
ROB: For people who don’t know about that game operations side of the sports industry – and really anybody in the sports industry works pretty hard, but for people who don’t know, tell us realistically, day to day, what that job looks like.
RYAN: Especially during this season, it’s a lot. You think about the fact that, obviously, most people that go to games are doing it outside of work hours – you’re working during the day doing all that stuff, and then putting the event on after what traditional work hours are to make sure that the people that are in attendance have a good time that are there.
There’s a lot of long days, a lot of days that start at 9 a.m. but then go until 11:00 or midnight, once everybody is well out of the arena or the stadium at that point. So, that was something that, from the time I was about 16 years old, I got really accustomed to with putting those on.
ROB: For sure. We have some friends at different NBA teams, and goodness gracious, do they spend a lot of time down there. You could meet them for lunch if you can meet them early – one team in particular, they were down at the arena by 2:00 for an 8:00 game, and they’re on until the end of the night. So, it can be quite a bit of work.
Now that you’ve got an agency and a business that is serving some of those teams, is there something about that process that allows you to keep a little bit more balance? Or do they expect you to be working when they’re working?
RYAN: Sports always has its unique challenges. Corporate does too, as you and a lot of people listening, I’m sure, know. The biggest thing with sports, I think, that you run into when you talk about crazy deadlines is playoffs. Ultimately you don’t know when the next game is going to be, sometimes until the game that night ends. You don’t know who you’re playing until a day or two before.
Myself, personally, even after I’ve gotten out of working directly for the teams and now obviously have our company here, PEG, we are doing work for teams in the playoffs all the time.
I could think of multiple stories where we’ve had animators sitting at the office, doing stuff during the NBA playoffs for instance, and you’re watching a Golden State/San Antonio game and you’re like, “All right, guys, if they get this lead to 8, I think we start making the animations with Golden State logos.” Then they get up to 10, you start working, and then all of a sudden it’s a quick 6-0 run and you’re like, “Hang on, hang on, take those ones back. Let’s put a pause on this for a minute.” [laughs]
That’s the stuff where I think even in the agency world, if you’re going to work in sports, for those clients you have to maintain that level of flexibility and acknowledging that even though the timelines are going to be crazy and sometimes the hours to get stuff done during playoffs are going to be crazy, you know that going in. It’s not because the team, who is your client, obviously, is doing that on purpose to spite you or anything. It’s just that’s the way the nature of the business is.
It’s a lot easier to relate in that sense, because you know that not only are you putting in those long hours and you don’t know what to make when, but also the people you’re working with that are working at those teams are going through the exact same things.
ROB: Very interesting. It’s really a pretty neat journey, because a lot of people certainly aspire for a career in sports, and a reasonable number of people chase the jobs with the teams, which are still very, very busy, very, very demanding jobs. You’ve done a really neat thing, which is you’ve taken it one step further. You’ve made it a part of your career, but you’ve moved your own position – a little bit of better opportunity to control your own quality of life, and not to have every day during the season spoken for by the team.
RYAN: Yeah, definitely. I think that sports is, when you’re working directly for the team, like we talked about with working all those games, it is tough. It’s a long, grueling schedule. I always have joked that a lot of times, ideally, it’s a young single person’s game. [laughs] Obviously, a game ends, you get off work at 11 p.m. You’re ready for dinner, but everybody else that you know is already going to bed.
So, not only did you spend the whole day working with those people at the ballpark or at the arena, but you’re probably going to go out and get dinner and a drink with them afterwards because if not, it’s Taco Bell for the eighth night in a row. [laughs] The agency lifestyle definitely allows you to be a little more healthy, I’ll say that.
ROB: [laughs] Nice. When along this journey did it start to become more real that you were going to have to hire people, bring them along for a ride, and start building – you always want to have a business, you want to earn a living, but at some point you have to start hiring people and thinking about the structure of the business and being a little bit more strategic. Tell me about your realizations along that path.
RYAN: For us, again, this being Year 11, we got our start and it was your typical design/creative agency startup type thing. It was my brother and I. We had a unique opportunity fall into our lap for a couple clients to work with.
Then we said, “Hey, we think we can do this on our own,” so we took a spare bedroom in my house. I think when we first started, it was actually even in my parents’ basement. [laughs] We basically took that spare bedroom and made it into an office. We had some late nights where we would work at my house and Jeffrey would crash in the guest bedroom, I would go to sleep in mine at the end of the night, we would wake up and we would start working on the next video again the next day.
We did that for a while, and it’s funny thinking back how different those days are – even though they’re not that far removed, only being 11 years in – to where we are right now. Probably about 6, 7 years ago is when we brought in our first full-time person. That was definitely a big step for us in terms of – it’s intimidating. When you’re just doing it yourself, like you guys are probably all familiar with, you’re responsible for yourself. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t work, you’ve got to figure out a way around it.
But, once you start bringing in employees, there does become a lot more pressure of, oh wow, other people’s lives and wellbeing and decisions that they make are based around this company and what we’re doing here at PEG. It was definitely an intimidating process at first.
We’ve grown. We have eight full-time people now on our team, so we’re still on the smaller side. Definitely consider ourselves more of the boutique agency when it comes to this kind of stuff. But yeah, I would say you get used to it in a bit, but that’s always part of the pressure and the stress of owning an agency – knowing that you become responsible for a lot more than just yourself. It’s just like a family, but in the work world.
ROB: Talk a little bit around the boundaries of your service. It sounds like there’s some things you know you definitely are deep and skilled at in terms of video, animation, design, live events. Within that, I’m sure there are other things that people ask you to do. I’m sure you didn’t do all of those services on Day 1. Some you’ve intentionally ramped up, some things you’ve intentionally said “no” to or partnered on. How do you think through that dynamic?
RYAN: It’s been an evolution, I would say, a little bit. I think probably no matter how many years we’re doing this beyond now, I think it always will be. That’s kind of the nature of the business. Especially in a world like video, where things change so quickly, you have to be nimble and you have to be willing to say, “Is this a service we’re going to add? Is this a service we’re going to say ‘no’ to? Is this a service we’re going to partner with somebody on?”
There’s so much stuff now. All of the cameras that we shoot on. You think about when we started this company, drones weren’t really a thing. VR wasn’t really a thing. AR definitely wasn’t really a thing. There’s so much that has evolved. I think that we’ve tried to do a pretty good job of walking that line of wanting to continue to evolve and make sure that we’re staying up-to-date and learning all those new technologies, but also being realistic about we still have to have our bread and butter.
For us, I think a good example of it would be website creation. We had a couple projects when we were younger where we had clients come to us and say, “Hey, we know we’ve worked with you guys on videos or events before. We also want a website built now.” We tried to figure out how to build it ourselves, and we did.
It was successful, and we still have a couple of those clients and projects onboard today, but it’s not something that we actively seek out as much anymore because to us, we realized, while we could do a good job with doing websites, we can do a great job doing video and doing animation and doing projects like that. Being quality over quantity is a thing that we say a lot around here. That, to us, has always been where we draw that line. We want to be the best at it and we want to be really good at it, and if we can’t, then that’s not going to be our bread and butter.
ROB: There’s probably a good opportunity that you have in talking to a client. If someone comes to you and says, “We want a video,” that seems like that’s probably really just the tip of the iceberg. “A video” can now go so many places, so many different formats, so many different ways to use it.
How do you take someone who comes to you and says they think they just want “a video” – maybe they’re operating old school and they want a 30-second explainer video, a 30-second TV ad – how do you walk them through the picture of all the places they should think about taking that video and what they really could do with it to generate more value?
RYAN: I think the first part of that process is asking questions. I think that’s something that we’ve gotten a lot better at, too, as the industry has evolved. It’s also then created those opportunities to put it in all those different places when you’re creating a video.
When a client reaches out, especially if it’s a new client, and they say, “Hey, I want a video,” rather than just saying, “Okay, cool, what do you want? When it’s due by? What’s your budget? Okay, we’ll send you a quote,” it’s making that more of a discussion and saying, all right, what prompted you to want this video? Where are you planning on using it? Do you have these other social channels too? Do you have these other uses? Can you cut it down into a bunch of smaller pieces, so instead of investing a decent amount of time and energy and budget into a video that can be used one place, can you cut this down into 10-second clips that you can make 10 of them to put on Instagram over the next couple months?
So yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing that we try to do: not just listen and say, “Okay, we’re going to make exactly what you’re asking for,” but learn about their business, learn about what their uses are, and then also make those suggestions to them and say, hey, we can not only create the piece, but we can also add value in making sure that you are maximizing your budget.
We do tend to be a company that makes higher quality pieces, and generally we’re not going to be the cheapest one on the market – and we’re not looking to be the cheapest one on the market. We’re looking to do the best stuff on the market. Whenever a client has to make an investment in something like that, you want to make sure they can get the most bang for their buck possible and really maximize that value.
ROB: For sure. I think it brings some interesting questions to mind, like what are some channels for video that you think people might be overlooking more than they should right now? Perhaps underappreciated, underutilized video-focused channels?
RYAN: That’s a good question. At least my general recommendation is . . . I tend to be a little more on the conservative side when it comes to some of the new apps and channels and things like that. I hate to see people invest tons of time and energy and money on a platform that’s not going to get that many eyes on it.
So, for us, I do think our biggest focus still is on the Big Four when it comes to the social side – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and then LinkedIn also – but also thinking about the different uses for each of those. Like I said, making videos that can be cut down into breakout segments and different sizes, and can you utilize some of the animation elements in a separate piece for a different platform than you would the full-form video that you have on Facebook or on YouTube?
There’s so many things out there that you could get in the weeds and name off 10 or 15 different small, obscure startup apps and sites that you can put stuff on, but ultimately I like to see those as icing on the cake type stuff, if that’s something you want – but still with the focus being on the major places that are getting all the eyeballs.
ROB: Very, very interesting. As you have built PEG, what are some things you’ve learned that you might consider doing differently if you were starting over 11 years later?
RYAN: Well, there’s probably a lot of things. With our agency, and speaking for myself in particular, I wasn’t somebody who ever, growing up, set out to own a business. I wasn’t someone who went to college for owning a business.
So, in a lot of ways, on the business side of things, I’ve been pretty self-taught. I’ve definitely had mentors along the way who’ve helped and given insight, but there’s a lot of things that you just don’t know till you get it. You don’t know what the value is of perhaps paying a bit more for a good accountant right off the bat instead of just trying to do certain things yourself and file payroll yourself and do things like that.
I think that that’s one thing I tell people a lot. You really need to think of what your best use is and think of every hour of your day as a billable hour and not just an endless amount of time. I know personally, especially when we were small and starting, you obviously want to save money and you want to keep every dollar in the company account you can to help it grow. In doing so, you try to take on all of those things, and you’re doing the accounting, you’re researching insurance policies, you’re doing everything.
Then at the end of the day, you realize that you’re not spending time on growing the business as much as you could because you’re in the weeds with something that you might be able to pay somebody a small amount of money to do. In the meantime, you could go out and get a $5,000-$10,000 project and pay somebody else $100 to process a tax payment or something like that.
That’s one thing that I think I’ve learned a lot: really trying to make the most of your time each day and knowing what your best use of that time is in terms of helping the company and helping it grow.
ROB: I think it can even be interesting in terms of how you go to market and how you earn business. There are probably ways that you are uniquely gifted in finding business and ways that you are not. Is there anything you may’ve learned there?
RYAN: Yeah. For one thing I would say, to go back to the sports background that I had, I think that’s something that plays really well into my skillset that I can offer when I’m working with a client or even when we’re onboarding a new client or a new project. One of the things that I like most about sports and the live production element is that you get an immediate and instantaneous reaction to what you did.
Really, especially when it comes to video and creative-based pieces, that’s all we’re doing. We’re trying to elicit reactions, whether we’re trying to get somebody to buy something or feel an emotion or attend something. You’re ultimately trying to get a reaction from people.
One of the toughest things about 2019 world is that technology is great, but a lot of times what it means is that you finish a project that you put a ton of time into, you upload it to Dropbox, you WeTransfer it, you post it on Frame.io, something like that, and then you hit “send” and that’s it. You’re left to wonder what people’s reactions really were once they watched that piece.
So, I think the sports background really helps not only myself, but our company, because everything that we do, we think of from a standpoint of what’s going to get that reaction. When we did get our start, it was like if you’re playing a pump up video, you want everybody on their feet cheering at the end of it, or if it’s a tribute video, maybe you’re looking for that emotional reaction and applause. Being able to take that mindset and also take it into the corporate world I think has been a really unique thing for our company because a lot of it translates, and it’s a really different mindset than a lot of people look at video.
ROB: Do you have any sort of rubric for measuring the response to a video? Or is it still more of a subjective measurement?
RYAN: I think it depends on the client and depends on the project. On the sports side, you certainly do.
It’s cool, for instance – we have three different NHL teams that we’re working with that we’ve worked with this season that are playing in the playoffs right now, and there are times that literally you can turn a game on TV, even if it’s happening all the way across the country, and see noise animations that you’re making playing on the boards and stuff like that. You physically see and hear the crowd and you’re like, all right, that’s really cool. I can see that from my living room in Ohio even though it’s going on in Las Vegas or in Raleigh or something like that.
But on the corporate side, I think it is a little more challenging depending on the piece. Sometimes it’s going to be an internal video where you’re not even going to be able to rely on certain metrics, like hits and views and things like that that you would get online. You’re going to have to rely a lot more on that feedback coming in from the clients and being like, “Yeah, we sent this link out with the piece to our 100 different locations.” But yeah, sometimes it is tough to be able to say we have a specific measurement that we can come back from and say, “This is what everybody felt about that video,” because ultimately sometimes once it’s into the client’s hands, it’s into the client’s hands.
ROB: For sure. I do want to go back to something you said. You mentioned Frame.io, which is apparently a tool in your toolkit. What is that tool, and what should people think about using it for? It sounds like it’s useful to you.
RYAN: That’s the program – I guess it’s more of a website – that we use for video review. It’s kind of nice. There are multiple different types of software out there that allow you to do it, but basically it’s just a way to be able to upload all of our videos for review. Clients can leave notes and make little mark-ups on the screen and stuff like that based off of what their feedback is. It just makes for a nice, easy process.
It also even integrates with Slack. For instance, if we send a link off to a client and they go in and start making notes on it, in our Slack channel for that project, we’ll immediately start getting notifications that this client is watching the video and is making notes on it.
It makes it a lot easier to monitor that as opposed to even what we had to do 5, 6, 7 years ago, where it was sending clients emails and being like, “Hey, have you watched this yet? Do you have any notes? Do you have any feedback?” You know immediately when it comes in, which especially when it’s a project on a tight timeline, I know our editors really appreciate.
ROB: Right, and even to be able to know when they’ve started looking at it. Sometimes if you send over a PDF or some sort of asset, you wouldn’t always know, even on Dropbox. That’s super cool. That’s a good tip.
RYAN: It’s definitely a cool piece of software/website that we started using when it was a little bit smaller, and they’ve started to make a lot of changes and upgrades to it. So, it’s been cool to watch that service grow, too, as we started using it.
ROB: Very cool. Ryan, what are you excited about that is coming up for PEG or perhaps more broadly for the areas of marketing that you’re involved in?
RYAN: We work on so many projects that I hesitate to say that specifically one project we’re working on is any more exciting than the others because they’re all different and all have their own unique challenges and stories to tell, which is cool.
I think industry-wise, the thing that I get excited about is just continuing to learn how fast the technology is changing and trying to do our best to stay on top of it. I just got back recently from South by Southwest, which I know you were down at as well. We also had a couple of our team members just out recently in Las Vegas at NAB, which is the big show for all of the new tech and gadgets and stuff like that that’s coming out for the industry.
That’s the stuff I think that’s really cool. You never want to get in a rut and you never want to be making the same-looking things that you were years before. So, for us, it’s always staying up-to-date with the most recent equipment and also just video inspiration.
This is a piece of advice I give to people a lot. We have a whole Slack channel that’s just titled “Video Inspiration,” and every time somebody sees a movie trailer, a commercial, a video at a sporting event – anything you see that you think is cool, we put it in there and we try to take away from it. We even have a little blog entry we do on our website where we post our favorite things each month, just as inspiration pieces so other people can see them.
Yeah, I think it’s cool to stay on top of the trends and get to continue to evolve with them.
ROB: It’s wonderful to stay inspired like that. You probably get to see even some cool technology that’s coming down the pipe. I think that’s been a theme of video over the past – I wouldn’t dare to say quite what time, but let’s say the past 10 years. Very advanced capabilities have been rapidly moving down market.
Is there anything that’s been getting cheaper and cheaper, but maybe just out of reach for you and your clients right now, that you think may be trending hard over the next few years?
RYAN: I think it’s been interesting seeing things like VR and AR evolve, for sure. Especially when that stuff first came out, it was a little tricky because not everybody had adopted it yet, and it was one of those things where you can watch it in the YouTube app, but you can’t watch it on a browser on your phone, and things like that. So, it’s been interesting to watch that. I think that’s becoming more and more accessible.
Now that I think the accessibility hurdle is overcome, I think it’ll be really interesting to see where that ends up going in terms of practical usage, because I do still think with VR, that’s a little bit of a challenge at times. You don’t want to do VR or AR for the sake of doing it. You’ve got to have a purpose behind it.
We have somebody on our team who . . . that’s his bread and butter. He pays attention to all that stuff and he knows how to create all those pieces, so he always keeps us up-to-date where that’s going. I think that’s particularly interesting.
I think another industry trend that has been interesting over the last 10 years, since I think that’s the timeframe that you threw out there, is just like you said – it’s interesting to see how much more accessible certain things are.
I remember when the company started, the idea of stuff being shot on an iPhone and being used in a professional environment was absurd. You would hear people talk about it, and it would be stuff that we would laugh at and be like, “Oh yeah, that can’t be done. Yeah, it’s better than the flip phone that preceded it, but it’s still not that great of video quality.”
Now, some of the stuff that it can capture – I think that it’s made video accessible in a unique way on our end, where it’s evolved from a point in time where we told clients, “Hey, you can’t be professional and be doing stuff on iPhones. You have to bring an outside place like us in to help you with that” – to now being like, “If you’re all-in on video, let’s maximize this. Maybe there is stuff that you can shoot yourself.”
Obviously from a budgetary standpoint, it doesn’t maybe make sense to have an agency like us come in every day with a nice RED camera or something just to shoot a quick little walkthrough of the warehouse that you’re doing with one of your plant managers.
So I think there’s a lot of stuff now where it’s fun to strategize with clients and be like, “All right, these are things that are actually manageable by you in-house now and can be done with a relatively low cost of entry, and then these are the more showcase, higher-end pieces where it makes more sense for us to work with you on those ones.”
It really keeps video front-and-center to them, because they go from doing a few projects a year to now being able to have video part of their everyday life, and they get really excited when they do get to go do those higher-end projects because they know what goes into it and they are familiar with the lingo and everything like that.
ROB: Right. People can almost know that they can’t shoot the video that they need you to produce sometimes, which is great.
But I think you’ve also alluded to a mindset of abundance, which I think consumers can see on their own pictures. We don’t have too few pictures. We don’t have a camera roll with 24 pictures. We have too many pictures, and we need almost these photo assistants. We need Google to help us find which pictures we should care about and punch them up a notch. I wonder if there’s a little bit of computer-assisted discovery in terms of when you have too much video, how do you find the right video for the case?
Ryan, when people want to find you and PEG, how should they find you?
RYAN: Our website is prittentertainmentgroup.com. That’s our main site. We also have a separate little subsite for our sports clients. That’s PEGsports.com, if you want to check out some of the stuff we’re doing in the sports world. But of course we’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn – you name it, all those good places.
If you are able to follow us on those accounts or check it out, we do try very hard – obviously clients always come first, but we try very hard to create a lot of internal content as well that can be informative and also helpful for people to read and see.
Like every time we get a new piece of gear in, we’ll do a video about it just to explain what it is. When people send us questions that they have about the industry, we’ll have one of our production team members come down and answer the question and do a video about it and do a little explainer. We’ll show “how it’s made” videos of how we’ve achieved certain effects we’ve done for high-end pieces.
So, we do try to keep a pretty ever-growing amount of content on those sites. Anything that people want to see, we hope is on there – but if it’s not on there, feel free to visit us on one of those places and let us know, and we’ll try to make it.
ROB: That sounds great. We will look to get that in the show notes as well. A special thanks today to one of our former guests, Jess Miller from PR 20/20, for this connection. She was in our HubSpot series and introduced us to Ryan. Thank you so much, Ryan, for coming on and sharing your own journey and expertise.
RYAN: Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
ROB: Fantastic. Take care.
Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.