🎭 Creatives in Lockdown
The Story Behind @LONDON .
Hello everyone and welcome back to Creatives in Lockdown. This is episode two.
My name is Val, I'm here with Raju and Zanoni and we're hosting today Alice and Dave and we're going to let them introduce themselves in a few seconds.
But before we go, I just want to mention that if you want to send any questions during the live show, if you're watching this now live, please either call the phone number you see on your screen under the player.
If you're watching this from your mobile phone or mobile device, you can just tap the number.
It's going to directly call our number and then you can just place whatever questions you want and we'll get that through.
Or you can also email us at livestudio at Cloudflare.tv. And again, if you're watching live and we have enough time today, we only have 30 minutes but hopefully we can get to as many questions as possible.
If not, we will answer, well actually Dave and Alice will answer and we will send back via email questions that they have for you.
So Dave, Alice or Alice, Dave, welcome. Please introduce yourselves and let's start the show.
Okay, greetings everybody. Hello. Who are you? My name is Alice, I am an Italian living in London and I am a digital creator and that's all really.
That's me. That's my life. I'm Dave and I'm the founder of the AtLondon Instagram channel and AtLondon is also a digital agency in London and I'm a Londoner, although I kind of grew up outside of London.
But yeah, if you've been in London for more than 10 years then you're classified as a Londoner.
So here I am.
I'm almost a Londoner. Yeah, so we thought we'd tell you a little bit of our story and I guess that there might be a few people who are joining us who follow the AtLondon Instagram account.
That's what we're sort of mostly known for. I follow.
There's one follower, that's great. At least one follower is watching. Exactly.
Hey, how you doing?
I joined yesterday for your Instagram so I'm following. Oh really?
Welcome. We got two. Single follower counts, three. Yes, we're still going.
Guys, if everybody follows like one per second then this is a good rate of growth.
Well, in 30 minutes we'll have enough people. Exactly. Should I take you back to the beginning, Paolo?
Yes, please. Actually, that's why we even started the whole Creatives in Lockdown series, was to go and discuss with creatives, photographers, videographers, people who live by digital, delivering content, creating content.
And then, of course, the pandemic happened and lockdown happened, which by the way, I think is going to happen in London pretty soon.
But I'm going to let you talk about that.
And then what do you do? We were talking in episode one.
Raju was shooting outside the window, birds in the distance. I was trying to build food and whatever there's on the table and Zanoni, something else.
What can you do?
So now, of course, you can tell us more about what did you do. But first, before that, start with your story, please.
Okay, beautiful. Well, let's share a few kind of memories and I'll take you back to my beginning and then I'll explain how me and Alice sort of linked up along the way.
These three cheeky chappies are me and my best friends.
We grew up in Maidenhead, which is close to Windsor, if everyone knows the royal family and the queen who live in Windsor Castle.
We were living a few miles down the road from Windsor.
Sorry, I can't stop looking at you.
The tall, dark, handsome guy on the right is me, obviously. And that's my chopper on the left hand side.
That's how I used to roll. And yeah, so I mean, I grew up in Maidenhead, but from about 18 years old, I found myself working in London and I was using photography as a way to kind of really escape my day to day life.
Many people on the call will probably relate to photography being a hobby or something you do for therapeutic reasons.
And it was the same thing for you, wasn't it?
Yeah, it was just an escape, you know. Also, it's a passion as well, you know.
So whenever I had free time, I used to just go around London or in groups of people with my friends or by myself and take pictures.
It's all I wanted to do really.
It's what we did. Yeah, I was fascinated by it. I think, you know, I mean, I had a weird love affair with London from 18 years old, really, because I was finding that my job and my commute was stressful.
And I think that if your existence within London is stressful, you can have a tainted view of London.
You can feel that London's a negative place because you have to commute on a tube train every day.
Maybe you hate your boss or you feel like you're in a job that's not going anywhere or it's not what you're born to do.
And so I had a lot of pent up frustration because I always felt like I was supposed to be my own boss and have my own business at some point.
But at the same time, the photography then gives you a different angle because you can learn through photography to celebrate the world around you and to celebrate the city that you're in.
So I was constantly between these.
I hate it. I love it. I hate it kind of life going on. So who won? Did love win?
Yeah, of course, love always wins. Love always conquers. But it was like, you know, it felt like I was being dragged through a hedge backwards to get to where I am today.
No. So, you know, Instagram obviously launched something like 10 years ago.
And at that time, I was living a bit of a double life because by day I was wearing snazzy suits and I was working in the financial services sector with huge technology companies.
People in America will know Verizon and Hewlett Packard.
I was, you know, selling millions of dollars of software and IT systems and telecommunication systems and helping the biggest investment banks in the world, basically.
And then the weekend I'd wear ripped jeans and pretend that I was like, really cool.
And my, you know, my Canon 5D and, you know, I started kind of getting into the kind of Instagram game.
But it's quite exciting back then because what was really different about Instagram was that there was an incredible community online that existed.
And suddenly I found outside of work, I was able to connect with real people in London, in a city that, you know, I love.
And these people were photographers like Alice and other people, you know, we were out there just kind of really enjoying the beginning years of Instagram.
And it was very much done as a passion led thing.
It was very, very much a community thing. Back then there were no influencers, there were no brands, there was no advertising.
Yeah, it wasn't a marketing tool at all, Instagram, you know, it was just posting pictures.
Yeah. So what happened is Instagram, I basically wrote to Instagram and said, hey, would you be willing to give me the at London username?
If you give it to me, I'd really love to celebrate the creatives in London or the photographers.
I'd like to celebrate cafes, independent restaurants, celebrate music, and I guess try to tell London story in a really, really beautiful way, but do it in an Instagram way.
And to my complete shock, one of the founders of Instagram wrote back to me within a couple of hours and said, hey, we'd love to give you the handle.
And so very quickly I inherited the username at London. And over time we've started to understand how iconic that username is because, you know, don't get me wrong, you know, we've poured a lot of hard work to build the channel to where it is today, where we have 2.5 million followers closing in on 2.6 million followers, but actually we've ridden the fact that people around the world are obsessed with this city.
And so it's a very easy channel for people to follow.
So you can, you know, we can pick up organic growth very easily just simply because, you know, it's the number one city in the world.
That's been to our advantage, but then equally there's been, it's always been like a huge responsibility because it's not the official channel for London.
There are other channels that do that, like Visit London and so on, but we still feel like a responsibility to represent London well and to showcase it well.
And so we do it in our way as well.
Yeah. It's based on our perspective, but, you know, we've poured hours, days, years into it.
And along the way, I think what we realised is that you can't really do London justice on your own.
And so the community that was around us at the beginning, there was this like symbiotic thing going on where photographers were saying, well, hey, can I send you some of my photos?
I'd love to get featured on your channel.
And I was welcoming and inviting that collaboration with the creative community and say, look, you know, we'd love to share your work.
So send your photos to us.
And for me, you know, it allowed us to show London from a range of photographers and from a range of different people with different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives.
And that meant that actually you can do a lot better job showing, telling London's story if you've got like somebody's out of Shoreditch, somebody's in front of Buckingham Palace, somebody's at a rock concert, you know, you can suddenly have all these different things kind of feeding in almost like a newspaper would have a lot of people.
I have a couple of questions, Ed.
One of them is, you know, how do you stay connected now during the pandemic or Covid?
And then two, how's that changed, you know, kind of the, you know, what you're showing on Instagram handle as pictures or content?
I just asked the first part of your question.
Can you repeat it? Yeah. How do you stay connected with the people, the creators that, you know, you usually work with?
And how's it changed?
Yeah, it's changed. I mean, if I take you through the roots of the Instagram community, I mean, back in the day, we were creating Instameets and that was basically photographers meeting up and doing like, we put on the most incredible events in London, no face masks back then.
But, you know, this is disclaimer, this is pre-Covid, just to make sure.
2016, I think going back, but, you know, we used to gather hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of photographers because, you know, people were sort of united through the desire to belong.
It wasn't just a photography thing.
I think London's, you know, there's 10 million people in London.
People are often looking to belong to their tribe or to belong to a community of some kind.
We put a lot of time into creating and fostering community and we gathered over 5,000 photographers in those, just in the first few years, actually.
But what happened is I think Instagram sort of really evolved and it went from just being a purely organic community-led platform to people started to realise, well, maybe I could do this full time.
Maybe I can make a living out of this.
And actually, there was an actual evolution of what was a very, very pure thing at the beginning.
But actually, I realised that I was hugely passionate about, you know, this world I kind of got myself into, but how was I, you know, could I do it full time?
Could I dare to dream of doing this full time? How would I create a commercial model where there was revenue coming in that I could sustain myself?
Because I thought the more I could do this, the more, yeah, the more time, if I'm full time on this, then I could do exponentially more with this platform than if I was trying to hold down a full-time job.
So, yeah, those are kind of the rootsy days.
I mean, what happened is over time, we still have all those relationships with the photographer, but we've not really put together big face-to -face events for a number of years now.
Instead, we continue to have the relationship with those creatives and photographers.
And we, you know, our DMs are open, you know, to the photographers that we've worked with for years.
So, you know, people are still saying, hey, Dave, you know, every day, I get maybe 10, 15 people hitting me up or tagging me in their content.
And, you know, I can testify they're actually responding to everyone, because that's how we met.
The trick is not to open your DMs to anybody that you don't want to talk to.
We've got some amazing friends, you know, of AtLondon.
And they get the benefit from it too, you know, we get about 25 million views a week through this channel.
So it's, you know, to put it in perspective, there's over 2 billion Instagram channels in the world.
And we're inside the top 5000. In the UK, AtLondon is the number one lifestyle channel on Instagram.
And it's inside the top 50 Instagram accounts. So you've kind of got the David Beckhams and the famous people that will be at the top of that tree.
And even, you know, football clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal and so on.
But to be sort of in the top 50 of all Instagram accounts in the UK is pretty crazy.
But that means it's an incredible opportunity for the creatives to contribute to the content.
Because, you know, people have literally had life changing job offers off the back of having one picture featured on our account.
I could tell you a story about a guy who was contacted by Nike off the back of a feature on AtLondon and he quit his job and went to join Nike.
So, you know, it's pretty amazing the power of the channel.
Yeah, but it's evolved a lot now. Does that help?
Yeah, that's great. You know, and you and Alice, how do you guys, you guys kind of work on the same things or do you guys bring different skill set to, you know, to AtLondon?
How do you guys, you know, work with each other? Okay, I'll take you through it and then I'll bring Alice in.
So basically what happened is Instagram got in contact with me after a while and said, hey, we love what you've done with the channel.
And they said, we're going to make your Instagram account a suggested account so that when everybody's signing up for Instagram at the beginning, they often recommend 10 Instagram accounts that you might like to follow just to get started.
They made AtLondon one of those suggested accounts for two weeks and we picked up a quarter of a million followers in two weeks just from the fact that Instagram kind of did that little thing for us.
And so the account really, really started to blow up.
And then what happened is the doors just started opening to me.
Like after that two week period, I was getting emails coming in from brands, from different people, from hotel groups, all sorts of different people.
I had an arrangement with a helicopter company in London. You can see me hanging out the door here.
I'm wearing a harness, I promise you. But, you know, back then we started to fly, you know, with the doors off in these open door helicopter flights.
We were using the helicopters to sort of take photos of London from a completely different perspective.
And there's been occasions where we've flown with two helicopters in tandem with two different crews shooting between the aircraft.
And so this is one of my favorite photos of me sort of hanging out the door doing what we do.
And, you know, over time that thing kind of evolved.
And one of the first brand deals that I ever landed was with Nike. They saw what I was doing in the helicopters and they said, look, we have a pile of money that we're willing to give you, but we want you to pitch a creative idea for Nike Air Max Day on how you could do something that's Instagram and YouTube based.
So I pitched the idea that we could do something with the helicopters where we could basically be sort of walking on air with Nike Air Max trainers and we launched the entire campaign.
And back then, we still didn't have influencers back then, you know, we were taking up YouTubers and presenters of MTV and we were hanging them out of the helicopter and then shooting all their content.
So that was the sort of very first moment where I was like, somebody wants to give me like £50,000 to shoot an ad campaign.
Yeah. Holy crap, that's a lot of money. So it really started to open my eyes to the fact that we could evolve what we're doing in terms of maybe this publishing platform, you know, it's moving into the realms of being like The Evening Standard or Time Out or some of these more traditional publications where you can perhaps have a nominal amount of ad revenue to support the broader editorial coverage that we were doing.
That's right. So yeah, and Jamie Oliver also, I always like to give him a shout out because he also, right at the beginning, championed the channel and he told everybody on his Instagram, and he told everybody to come follow that London and we had like 55,000 people follow us the next day after Jamie posted about us and he's been a great supporter.
And things started to really change really, really quickly.
And then other doors opened.
So then people like Universal, Atlantic, Warner, Polydor, you know, started opening up the doors and saying, hey, do you want to come and cover some concerts?
So I often found myself running around the O2 Arena shooting, I don't know, you know, we've done British Summertime Hyde Park, you know, we've shot everybody from Green Day to Justin Bieber, you know, to Lionel Richie.
We've done so many different things and it's been great to sort of celebrate music through photography and often being like within just a couple of meters of these artists.
So those are great shots.
Yeah, that shot's a bit of one of my favourite shots because I didn't know they were about to launch fireworks off and I didn't realise that I was stood next to the fireworks.
This is a fluke shot where basically I was just lining up to shoot him like crushing down on his guitar.
And then there's this huge explosion and I was stood next to the cannon that exploded and I nailed the shot.
And you got, what is that? You got a mic in the way between you? Yeah, there's a little mic at the front of the stage and I basically, I cracked myself because it was such a huge explosion.
But I still, when I looked at my camera roll at the end, I was like, nailed it.
And then all sorts of crazy stuff happened.
I started meeting some pretty crazy people.
That's David Hasselhoff. No, that's Kit. Sorry to burst your bubble. So you might recognise this guy, football legend and so on.
And then just before I get into sort of how I just kind of joined up, then there's another guy that I started to work with called Clark and Wellboy.
And we really wanted to take what we're doing in the food space to another level.
So Clark and Wellboy back in the day, I mean, even still to this day, in fact, he was a completely anonymous food blogger.
And I said, hey, how would you like to become like our food editor and help us to really champion independent food in London?
And we did that for coffee and music and the arts and other things as well.
We started to work with tastemakers that were really good in specific cultural spaces.
But Clark and Wellboy has done an incredible job with us for more than six years now to really champion the food scene.
And that's never more poignant than when restaurants are struggling in a time like lockdown, because when they're trying to innovate and switch their business model from being people in restaurants and suddenly having to kind of move into like a delivery model, because we have so much traffic, we can actually organically and editorially support restaurants without charging them any money at all.
We just do it for the love of it.
And so we do a lot of good through our food coverage. And then kind of car brands started getting involved with us and started turning out.
This is me and the Morgan Roadster.
And that's another Morgan Roadster. This is me and Alice.
You know, we launched the launch of the latest Rolls Royce Ghost, which is about 14 years in the making.
And then we sort of arrived to sort of Alice turning up.
We started to see each other in 2018. And Alice had been, well, what were you up to at that point?
No, basically, I'm Italian, of course. I moved here six years ago.
And back then, I wasn't using Instagram at all. I was just using it on a personal level, just to share pictures with my friends and family.
And then back then, I always loved London.
That's the reason why I moved here. I was really in love with the culture, with the city itself.
I come from a very small town.
So I always loved the idea of living in a big city. And so, you know, when I moved here, it really started a passion for me, like to express myself through photography and sharing it on Instagram.
So that's basically all I was doing during my free time.
I was meeting up with people that I met through Instagram. So weird. I remember meeting, you know, the first time I met people through Instagram, I was like, Oh, my God, this is crazy, because I was so close minded.
I was coming from a very small town.
So for me, meeting people from the Internet was totally like, so weird.
We actually have a question from a very early fan of yours, Anna. And she says, Alice, I've been following you since your days as at Alice in Wonderland, going GoPro London pictures now developing to a lifestyle, like are you seeing as a few influences changing their focus, how much of this change in focus is driven by personal interest versus global crisis, like the current pandemic.
So it's kind of a turning into, you know, the pandemic moment.
Yeah, I mean, I started my journey, like I was never putting myself into pictures, because I don't know, I've always been kind of private.
I know it sounds crazy, because I'm on social media. And nowadays, I share my life.
But, you know, 10 years ago, six years ago, I never had Facebook.
I mean, I had Facebook, I was the last person on earth joined Facebook, because I was so against it.
You literally the last the first year of university, I joined Facebook, and I'm young.
So I mean, like, so it was literally like, eight years ago, you know, and so I've always been against social media, but then, and that's probably why.
Look at you now. No, I mean, we evolve, we change, of course.
And so I started by, you know, sharing pretty pictures of London, which I love, you know, it was really my passion.
It was very therapeutic for me, it was like me time, I'm doing what I love, whatever I'm by myself, or with people, it doesn't matter.
And then I started to build an audience.
And I was like, damn, it would be amazing if I could do something more than just a hobby, you know.
And so then it's when I started to focus even more on travel, and I became a GoPro ambassador.
And so that gave me really confident and be like, damn, like, if GoPro, like, you know, like, really trusts me, and wants to be one of their ambassadors, it means that I'm doing something not right.
But you know what I mean, I'm going to the right direction, you know.
But it's also not only a confirmation, but a boost of confidence as well, I'm sure.
I need it, you know, everybody needs it, you know, a boost of confidence every now and then.
So when I really started to focus on travel, and then it was so hard, to be honest, to monetize it, because tourism board don't want to pay you, rest, like hotels, they pay you, but it's so hit or miss, you know, it's not, it cannot be constant, you cannot have a constant stream of income through that.
So it was like, okay, I need to diversify myself.
And again, I always love beauty, I always love fashion, it has always been there.
But I just never shared it on my social, you know, because I've always kind of be afraid of what people might think.
And oh, my God, I'm gonna spoil myself, you're gonna be mean, I don't know, I was just worried.
And then I was like, what, whatever, you know, I do what I want.
And I feel that for me, living in London, it meant for me that somehow, because no one knows me here, I just feel somehow that I can do whatever I want.
Whereas probably when I was living back in Italy, I was coming from such a small town that everybody judges you, and you know, everybody, you know, you know, you stop 10,000 times in the street to, to start with people because you know them and say, Hey, how are you doing?
You know? So anyway, I just felt more restricted.
Whereas here, I just feel I can do whatever I want.
And then I started more, you know, to share on social media, more lifestyle, more fashion.
And, and that was incredible choice, especially now that we were in lockdown this year, you know, because if I was stuck in the travel industry, I would have been totally gone, you know, because we know, we know people who are pure travel bloggers or travel influencers.
And of course, they lost their job for all the year.
They had to go back and get jobs. Yeah, they had to. That's exactly what Patricia from Portugal is asking, like, how did the lockdown actually directly influence the content you're delivering?
Yeah, so talking on that, just to say, picking up on something Alice said as well, the way Alice evolved her personal Instagram is a reflection of how we also evolved at London as a channel, but I think it's how influencers across the board evolved.
So I think there was this Instagram journey and what I then call the rise of the influencer, where we were really just Instagrammers at the beginning and just kind of taking pictures of the places we were.
But actually, you know, I've got some friends who make good money from shooting landscape photos for property developers and shooting cities and so on.
But actually, it's unless you're the best of the best of the best, and you're consistently operating in that space, it's quite hard to monetise landscape pictures.
Into travel, to be honest with you, after a while, most of the hotel industry recognise that they can trade with influencers.
We'll give you two nights, stay at the hotel, we'll give you a bed and breakfast if you post X, Y and Z.
So it's very hard to make money in that space. Whereas actually, if you can get more into that lifestyle space, Alice has been able to work with, you know, like when she's shooting, we shot a campaign today for Vitabiotics, you know, you've done stuff with BMW and played golf for them, you know, there's a lot more brands that operate in that lifestyle space.
And so I think at London, for me, I'd always felt it's important to have an Instagram platform that's hugely diverse, and not to be obsessed with the engagement numbers.
Because I think another problem that a lot of people have faced is, well, I get loads of engagement on that type of content.
So if I then start doing this type of content, my engagement is going to drop.
And the truth is, absolutely, it will.
And to link with that, I think lockdown for me on my personal channel, I don't know, it reminded me to be back in the old days of Instagram, where you were posting whatever you wanted to post, for the love of it.
So diversity of content in the middle of lockdown brings much more audience, actually, even less audience.
Well, I think the thing is, is we've been on that we've been going through the process of diversification for years, if you suddenly find yourself in lockdown, and you're like, oh, crap, I need to suddenly figure out how to switch up my Instagram, you are at the start, whereas I think we've often seen for years ahead, the need to be able to talk about an independent coffee shop, and know that actually, if I support that local coffee shop, I'm probably going to get a third of the engagement of a picture of Big Ben.
But I don't care. Because I'm like, that's important to us to be able to represent.
And it's building relationships with those.
And over time, the more you, you know, over the time, the more people see coffee content on the channel, the more they come to you for coffee content, because then they're like, oh, I'll check on the OutLondon channel, because they always post great coffee shops.
What's new? What opened? I think if you, you know, you have one single person or five people, for me, it's still, you know, it's really an achievement.
So I think during lockdown, we simply, I don't know, for me, I don't know, it's just felt for me, like, I don't know, a fresh breath of air.
Because it was like, for me, going back to the beginnings, being able to post a selfie without thinking, oh, they're not used to, you know, I always need to be in front of pretty places in London or iconic London, whereas, of course, in lockdown, you can't do that.
So you need to pivot, change and adapt. And it's like that on Instagram, not just during lockdown, but I think every week, even in normal times, Instagram keeps changing, evolving.
There are new features being added, like monthly, you know, there is IGTV, there is stories, there are just so many things that keep evolving.
So as a content creator, you have to be able to change and pivot according to what's evolving around you.
But also, you want to be doing what you love, rather than the thing that you're contained within a box.
And, you know, I think at London, at the beginning was, it was pretty pictures of London.
I didn't want to just be like the pretty pictures of London guy, I wanted to be able to evolve the platform.
So we could actually tap into like, you know, we went pretty hardcore on Black Lives Matter earlier on this year, when that all kind of kicked off.
And I was like, I've got a friend who's from the Windrush generation. And she had to sue the British government.
Because she didn't have enough money to get a lawyer.
So she represented herself and went and fought the British government and won.
We have less than 30 seconds. So we're going to get disconnected anyways. But for sure, if you guys accept, I want to get you back.
So at least another episode, because we have a lot to talk about.
Questions keep coming in. We can do part two anytime.
Let's do more than two parts. Thanks for having us. Thank you so much.
It will be a pleasure to have you back. And again, thank you everyone for watching.
And I think we're going to get disconnected anyways. But for sure, we're going to plan at least one more episode with Alice and Dave.
Fire us some questions if you want as well.
Thanks, Dave. Thanks, Alice. Thank you, guys.