Lightricks' Corbett Drummey On Growing the Creator Economy

Lightricks' Corbett Drummey On Growing the Creator Economy

Interview by Anja PaspaljAnja Paspalj
Published: June 16, 2023

Who Is Corbett Drummey

Corbett Drummey is the VP of brand collaboration at Lightricks and a pioneer in innovative mobile photo and video editing technology. Corbett co-founded Popular Pays in Chicago in 2013, leaving his role at Leo Burnett. Popular Pays was acquired by Lightricks in March 2022. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College of William & Mary. A regular author and speaker, he was named part of the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 in marketing and advertising.

As social media platforms developed, a new kind of content creator came to light. Influencers grew to become the driving forces behind consumer behavior, in turn growing the creator ecosystem. 

The award-winning app developer Lightricks grew from the release of Facetune, which quickly became Apple's #1 Best Selling Paid App in 2013. Recognizing the gap in the market for easy-to-use mobile tools for content creation, Lightricks began developing a range of apps with the goal of tapping into the potential of the creator economy. 

In conversation with Spotlight, vice president of brand collaboration at Lightricks Corbett Drummey spoke on how to monetize creative contentthe growing role of artificial intelligence, and the expanding content creator economy.  

Spotlight: How has the rise of social media platforms and influencer marketing changed the way that brands approach content creation, and what role do creators play in this ecosystem?  

Corbett Drummey: Creators have emerged as a new form of media in the brand ecosystem. Their role extends beyond mere content creation - they are thought leaders, entrepreneurs, trendsetters, and a driving force behind consumer behavior

Brands no longer solely rely on traditional advertising agencies for content creation, especially given the dramatic increase in content requirements for brands and today’s fractured media landscape. Brands are instead turning to creators, influencers, and even their own consumers to produce authentic content that is tailored, timely, and relevant to each channel and audience. These audiences are not just passive consumers, but creative contributors themselves. Brands are recognizing this, and use platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and others to leverage creators and user-generated content to strengthen their brand identity and reach. 

The influence of social media platforms is driving a need for a constant flow of fresh content, which has a shorter lifespan and needs to be updated to remain relevant and engaging. Creators are seen as more relatable and genuine, with their content carrying stronger trust and authenticity - powering the scale to succeed in the social networks’ advertising systems. We'll see even deeper integration between creators, brands, and networks with new technologies and agile approaches to advertising. With new AI tools emerging, this explosion of content will increase and evolve. 

Research shows that 69% of businesses plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2023. How does Lightricks contribute to the growing content marketing industry, and what sets it apart in giving content creators a competitive edge?  

At Lightricks, we're really focused on our vision to shrink the gap between imagination and creation. Lightricks has a unique family of solutions for creators and brands to create content, as well as a leading platform for them to collaborate. This includes our portrait enhancing tool Facetune, photo editing app Photoleap, powerful video editor Videoleap, and with the acquisition of Popular Pays last year, a platform for brands to collaborate with creators and influencers.  

Apart from its comprehensive suite of tools for creators and to collaborate with creators, one thing that sets Lightricks apart as a competitive edge is its ability to integrate the latest AI technologies rapidly into its products. We’re seeing it happen before our eyes! Last year, Lightricks was first-to-market with a generative art feature that integrated AI to create avatars (which pushed Photoleap to #4 in the App Store). 

(Source: Lightricks)

Tell us more about the company. How did Lightricks begin, and what was the first product you chose to develop?  

In 2013, a group of five friends (who also were postdoctoral students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem), shared expertise in computer science, computer vision, and graphic arts, but also a passion for pushing the limits of what was possible with digital imaging on mobile devices. 

Their first product was called Facetune, a photo-editing app primarily for retouching selfies (which became a global phenomenon along with Instagram that rolled out that same year). They identified a unique opportunity in the market, with the rising trend of smartphone photography and the ubiquity of social media. They recognized the need for a powerful and easy to use tool for mobile images, allowing everyday users to create high-quality images without the need for professional equipment or extensive training. It was a massive hit, topping the App Store charts in over 120 countries and earning the title of Apple's #1 Best Selling Paid App in 2013. 

This initial success paved the way for Lightricks' expansion, reinforcing a belief to democratize the power of creativity for everyone. Over the past decade, our engineers created and evolved a suite of apps that cater to different facets of the creator economy. Today, our product family is focused on Facetune, Photoleap, and Videoleap - used by millions of consumers and creators around the globe. I joined Lightricks in March of 2022 after Lightricks acquired Popular Pays, which continues to evolve as we develop and translate all our powerful tools and services for brands. 

Lightricks now offers a range of content creation tools, including photo editing apps like Facetune and video editing apps like Videoleap. How do you ensure that each app meets the unique needs of its target audience, while still maintaining a consistent brand identity? 

Creating unique and powerful tools for a diverse user base while maintaining a cohesive brand requires a delicate balancing act. Whether a user is enhancing a selfie in Facetune, editing a photo on Photoleap or creating a project in Videoleap, they should always feel that they are in a Lightricks environment. It’s a synergy of consistency and customization that helps us cater to our users' diverse needs while still maintaining a unified brand identity. This requires intense focus on user feedback to drive our product development. We base our app evolution on the experiences of our users and understanding what they find valuable and invest in extensive user testing and surveys to best understand these needs. 

(Source: Lightricks)

Lightricks' Popular Pays platform helps streamline influencer and content creation strategies. What methods can brands use to find suitable creators to partner with, and how can creators connect with the right brands? 

For brands, creators are a gateway to consumers; and for creators, brands represent a way to earn a living doing what they love. The magic happens when the right brand pairs with the right creator, resulting in content that is both effective from a business point of view and resonates with the creator’s audience. To achieve this, brands should:  

  • Ensure brand-creator alignment. The first step, but thankfully often the easiest, is just to review the creator’s content to see if it aligns with the style you’re looking for. Platforms like Popular Pays can make it easier to search for creators based on lookalikes of other ones you like, or to match based on preferred audience or search terms
  • Leverage real-time data. If using creators as influencers, it’s important to have a technology partner who can provide analytics to identify creators who line up with your targeted audience and so you can monitor the performance of their post. But don’t overlook creators with great content and without much reach, you can amplify their assets with paid spend to target any audience you want. It’s also key to understand what is trending and relevant for your brand, as content and trends gets stale quickly 
  • Be willing to experiment.The most important part of the whole process is testing and learning – try partnerships with a variety of creators, content types, and channels, double-down on what’s working, and let go of what’s not

Creators looking to establish brand relationships should be mindful that:  

  • Their content should align both with their personal brand as well as brands they wish to attract. If you feel like you’re compromising your feed for a sponsored post, it’s not a good long-term fit, and what’s most impactful for your earnings over time is to have reliable work from an enduring brand partnership
  • Consistency in style, tone, and values will attract compatible partnerships 
  • Engage with a brand, its content, and its community through their social media, or identify an appropriate online platform that allows you to showcase your work, where brands can browse portfolios and match their needs
(Source: Lightricks)

Your content creation apps currently have over 680 million downloads worldwide! What do you credit Lightricks’ success to, and what were the biggest challenges you faced?  

We identified a growing demand in the mobile content creation space, at a time when the ubiquity of social media made content creation more accessible and relevant than ever. Our mission is to build top-tier, intuitive, and robust tools that meet this demand and empower users to create professional-level content on their mobile devices, while bridging the gap between their imagination and content they create. We’re believers in always learning, iterating, and evolving and continually seek feedback from our users to stay ahead of their needs and desires. It’s always challenging to build apps that are feature-rich and easy to use, but also are scalable to a global consumer while being accessible to a professional or beginner. Striking this balance required constant iteration, user testing, and feedback implementation.  

Your company recently implemented more powerful artificial intelligence features in the app Photoleap. How is AI influencing the visual creator economy and what can companies do to keep up?  

AI will continue to dramatically shift the landscape of the visual creator economy by making the creative process accessible to even more people. These new powerful capabilities will allow people to realize their creative spark without the need for lengthy training or access to expensive or complex tools. We really will get to a point where if you can imagine it, you can create it – quite easily. Integrating AI will not only save time but also allow creators to focus more on their creativity and monetization opportunities.

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A post shared by Popular Pays by Lightricks (@popularpays)

In an interview, Lightricks’ founder Zeev Farbman said that a few years ago 75% of your users were creating content for fun, whereas now 75% are looking to monetize their creative content. What changed? 

The shift from content creation for fun to monetization can be largely attributed to the evolution of the creator economy itself, with the introduction and adoption of social media platforms increasingly creating opportunities for creators to monetize their work. From ad revenues, to sponsored posts, to direct fan contributions via platforms like Patreon or the introduction of features like Instagram's Shopping or TikTok's Creator Fund, the infrastructure and avenues to monetize creative content have evolved dramatically over the years. This has in turn, incentivized more creators to seek revenue from their work. 

There also has been a cultural shift in the perception of what it means to be a 'creator'. Today, it's seen as a legitimate career path rather than just a hobby, leading to more creators who are actively looking to make money from their content. As the global economy has evolved, more people are finding ways to diversify their income streams, and the democratization of content creation tools like the ones offered by Lightricks is enabling that shift.  

At Lightricks, we understand the importance of creators being able to monetize their work and aim to continuously innovate and provide tools that not only help them create but also monetize their content in an increasingly competitive digital landscape. 

How do you see the content creator economy developing in the next few years, and what does Lightricks have in store?  

The creator economy is on a trajectory that will continue to redefine the way businesses operate and how consumers interact with brands. With the rapid evolution of social media platforms and the rise of creator-centric technologies, content creators are becoming the epicenter of brand storytelling, and are effectively already the lifeblood of social platforms and current pop culture. But they're no longer just influencers – they're entrepreneurs, marketers, and even brands themselves. 

Platforms will offer AI tools that empower creators to produce professional-grade content more easily than ever before. This democratization means more competition, but will also drive more unique, engaging content as creators push their creativity to the limits.  

There will be a shift towards long-term creator-brand partnerships, with brands moving beyond one-off influencer campaigns to forge ongoing collaborations with creators who align with their values. This approach will deliver more authentic storytelling and deepen audience engagement.  

We’ll probably also see a new social network emerge in the AR/VR field this decade, made possible by AI and advancements in wearables, opening tons of new content creation possibilities. We believe we’ll also see a rise in AI agents supporting and teeing up the everyday work brands and creators do; it’s possible humans will move towards more curation in the coming years as AI tools become even more autonomous. 

Lightricks will continue to adapt quickly to these trends to provide creators with the best tools and opportunities. By connecting creators directly with brands, we're aiming to make collaborations more seamless and mutually beneficial. This way, creators can focus on what they do best – creating – and brands can benefit from authentic content that resonates with their target audiences. 

Keep up with Lightricks on Instagram and read about other successful businesses here.

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