Brafton Creative Director Perry Leenhouts may just be a secret agent. That is to say, he’s mastered the art of the double life, taking enough branching paths in his career trajectory to make Robert Frost jealous.
From international rock star (we’ll get to that) to video production wunderkind to innovative driving force behind Brafton’s various creative offerings, Perry has done it all with a strong passion for creative vision (and a Western European accent that lends credence to the secret agent theory).
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Before he was leading Brafton’s Chicago office (home of the 2016 World Series champions, never forget), Perry went to college for art history and art education.
However, it wasn’t long before another creative force elbowed its way into Perry’s Rembrandt-focused educational sphere. As lead singer of rock ‘n’ roll group The Travoltas (seriously, Perry may be the only boss to have ever appeared on MTV and not brag about it endlessly to his employees), he was introduced to video production.
“Before I did anything video, I was very into audio production and music production,” Perry remembers. “I got involved with making music videos and becoming part of broadcast production work. I was more interested in the creation aspect than being in front of the camera. I was intrigued by the crew and the editing process and the equipment and using images to tell a story.”
Perry returned to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in broadcast television and film. The rest, as they say, is history.
Making a mark in content marketing
Perry joined the company in June 2012, and as is common in the “Braftiverse,” quickly worked his way up the ranks. Less commonly known is the fact he did it by building an entire department from scratch.
“I was hired as the video production manager, which basically meant I was the first video hire,” he says. “There was no team, there was no product. I had a background in videography and animation, so I was confident I could build the foundation for a future team and product list.”
From there, Perry built out his team, hiring people like Jim Davis, who is now Brafton’s director of video product. While there was a growing demand for video marketing, it was still new enough that clients needed to be sold on its value.
“It was the new kid on the block,” Perry remembers. “People were interested, but editorial was still bread and butter. Visual content marketing was still in the backseat.”
Of course, those days are over. Brafton’s video department has grown by leaps and bounds, producing a wide variety of high-quality products for clients across various industries, from live action video blogs to animated clips.
“I think video will be the most dominant force in content marketing moving forward,” Perry says. “Bandwidth is no longer an issue, and with that comes a need for shorter-format content that can be released on social platforms. That’s where the people are – it’s where they live on the internet. Then there are formats like live streaming and 360-degree video. Some people see it as a novelty, but it’s still in development. It will mature and has huge potential for people’s marketing goals.”
“I think video will be the most dominant force in content marketing moving forward.”
To video and beyond
Perry originally headed up the video department at Brafton’s headquarters in Boston. While Beantown was sad to see him go, Perry’s ascendance to the role of creative director was our Chicago office’s gain. Along with most of his earthly belongings, Perry brought fresh ideas and open ears to the Windy City. Now he is able to bring his passion for content marketing creativity to Brafton’s editorial and graphics departments as well.
“[My job is] overseeing the office, the team, and making sure there is a creative atmosphere where people will feel comfortable to do great things and excel,” he says. “The other part is setting out creative strategies for our clients, focusing on the vision and the story.”
Perry wants to help Brafton’s clients and creatives alike nurture content marketing campaigns from seeds to saplings to towering oaks. Of course, he knows doing so is a team effort.
“A creative director should never set out to do this by him or herself,” Perry says. “You always need insight from others.”
Perry has learned a lot throughout his years in the content marketing space. His greatest piece of advice? Never do something just because.
“You should never create content for content’s sake,” he says. “You should not create something just because others are doing it. All content needs a clear goal for what you want to get out of it. Otherwise there’s no point. You’re wasting your time and your audience’s time.”
Take it from him. It’s not every day a secret agent provides free content marketing counsel.