After years of sponsoring content, Mailchimp is finally getting into the business of creating it.
The Atlanta-based marketing company has opened an in-house entertainment studio for producing podcasts, documentaries and fictional series. Mailchimp Presents, announced on Monday, will be working with a variety of content creation partners including Vice, WME, Pop-Up Magazine and Pineapple Street Media.
All of the content on the platform will be free and aimed at the entrepreneurial audience. The first shows include an unscripted series about business lessons from “unexpected people” and a trade show mockumentary from comedy director Jason Woliner.
According to Mailchimp, other shows are “coming soon,” including a 12-episode series from Scout Productions—the creators and producers of Netflix’s “Queer Eye”—that will feature business experts helping entrepreneurs and small-business owners grow their startups. A future animated series featuring filmmaker Molly Bingham and director Jay Duplass will show their internal thoughts even when they seem externally “stoic and put together.” Meanwhile, an upcoming unscripted series from Vice—which recently ended its relationship with HBO—will profile people who’ve switched careers.
Sarita Alami, production lead of Mailchimp Presents, described the various shows as “artful, tasteful and a little bit quirky.” New content will debut a few times each month, with the podcasts existing on every podcast platform but the videos mostly existing on Mailchimp’s own website and newsletters.
“It’s been more important for us to just focus on a bunch of people who are doing work that we both really enjoy and also just really believe in,” Alami said. “And the storytelling integrity and artistic integrity behind the work.”
As podcasts were entering into mainstream culture several years ago, anyone who listened to popular shows like Serial or the Longform Podcast likely heard of Mailchimp as an advertiser. (The adorable ad in front of every episode of the first season of Serial helped raise the startup’s own visibility long before it evolved from an email company to a broader marketing powerhouse.)
Mailchimp is just the latest to build out a massive content studio. In January, Shopify announced its own TV-and-film production house called Shopify Studios, which–just like Mailchimp—is “dedicated to inspiring entrepreneurship.” The inaugural series, which debuted on YouTube, included 20- to 30-minute movies featuring entrepreneurs from around the world. A second series looked at how a place inspires what a person creates. Meanwhile, a weekly podcast hosted by Anshuman Iddamsetty explores the “secret economies of the vanguard culture.”
Mailchimp’s initial shows were created in collaboration with Droga5, which began working with Mailchimp on the strategy and content creation back in 2017 but parted ways with the company in March before the rollout. According to Mark DiCristina, head of brand and Mailchimp Studios, the company now has nine full-time employees working on the acquisition and production of content or on promoting it.
“One thing is that great storytelling travels,” DiCristina said. “The best stuff tends to rise to the top, and we obviously experienced that with Serial and other podcasts we’ve sponsored over the years. We’ve always been really supportive of and attracted to the types of stories that are resonant.”
According to Felix Richter, executive creative director at Droga5, this was the agency’s largest content-production project yet with more in the works. (The agency, which was acquired by Accenture earlier this year, also recently produced a documentary for Under Armor.)
For Mailchimp Presents, Richter said Droga5 changed around how they normally work creatively—working in small “laser-focused” teams a few days at a time rather than the usual style of working on a campaign nonstop for a longer period.
“We almost wrote for ourselves,” he said. “We are all creative and entrepreneurially minded people. And if we like this, if we find it interesting and helpful, then there’s a good chance that Mailchimp’s audience will as well.”