5Qs with… CAA’s Sarah Passe
/ Jul 1, 2013

Sarah Passe (1)

Sarah Passe is a business development executive at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Based in LA, Passe is responsible for identifying and packaging deals for clients within the digital space. During her time, she has worked with top-name talent like Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video, The Jonas Brothers, and Zooey Deschanel, among others. Prior to CAA, she was the digital content development manager at Digitas. Speaking of which, she also emceed the CAA event during the 2013 Newfronts.

In other words: Sarah Passe has a lot to say about the online video space. For this week’s 5Qs, we decided to give her a platform to do so.

1. This year it feels like we’re starting to see a lot more major distributors get in the digital game — from CNBC, to Conde Nast and Meredith, and of course Amazon, Netflix, Scripps Networks, Yahoo!, AOL, and Dailymotion, among others. What has been the platform that’s most appealing and promising for your talent, from celebrity to YouTube stars, and brands? Basically who is getting it right?

Every buyer has its selling points that may make it more appealing for a specific client or project. The platforms that are true partners in marketing and audience growth are especially appealing. Technology platforms and traditional companies each have different strengths when it comes to telling stories and building audiences and brands. It is our job to source the best combination of these strengths to bring a client project to life in the most strategic way possible.

2. Windowing seems to be a hot button topic at the moment. What are you seeing on the deals front with first and second window runs?

Everyone is doing everything they can to bring their projects to life in the most premium manner so windowing is exciting because it brings a greater pool of financing to the table. Much like the independent film space, the dollars are being pieced together through various windows and territories. The maturation of that marketplace is great for creators because they have even more resources with which to be creative in this medium.

3. CAA packages a variety of deals — from brand integrations and sponsorships to financing and traditional-like production deals. What is the biggest education curve you hit on the dealmaking side for digital, with talent and with programmers/networks/digital studios?

CAA has been working at the center of the digital revolution for years. We are not only inventing new models but taking parts of other industries that work, such as television and motion picture, and bringing them into this new space in new and innovative ways. It’s been a process for us to educate our partners, serving as translators for those that have not worked together in the past. For example, a movie producer is now learning how YouTube works and how they can engage with it, and vice-versa.

4. In terms of brand appetite for video, it seems we’re hearing less and less about “branded entertainment.” What are some innovative ways you’re seeing brands integrate with online programming?

Brands have been extremely innovative through partnerships with YouTube talent. By partnering with target-right talent, it’s a win-win for everyone. The brands are able to create access for talent — access to events, to celebrity, to production resources; providing avenues for them to create meaningful content and programming. In return, brands are able to become a part of an existing relationship between talent and his/her community in a way that adds value. Consumers are excited to see their favorite talent getting to work with big brands and be a part of big experiences.

5. What was your online video “aha moment” — when you first got excited about the digital entertainment space and online video as a real business opportunity?

My “aha moment” came years ago when I was working on the Starburst/NextNewNetworks/Nite Fite program at Digitas. During this campaign, Starburst funded the creation of additional episodes of the successful Nite Fite animated online series and included seamless brand integrations. This was when I truly saw that a brand should not just try to attract an audience but should engage with a built-in audience.

It was exciting to see a brand enable the creation of meaningful content that resonated with its target market. How we were able to creatively activate the Nite Fite audience around the Starbust brand made me realize the great opportunities that awaited in the digital space.

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