Meet the dynamic young Manchester duo who have breathed new life into video content creation
Fraser Cottrell and Nicholas Beddows, aged 23, were college friends who knew they did not want to leave education and work for other people. Instead, they channelled their entrepreneurial spirit into creating a vibrant start-up business that shook up the existing world of staid and formulaic video content
The result was award-winning social media video production agency Fraggell Productions, which to date counts Barclaycard, Saint Laurent, Gap and PrettyLittleThing, Lavish Alice and Papa Johns as loyal clients.
Discussing the USP that sets them apart, Fraser Cottrell, Creative Director for Fraggell Productions, says: “All of our content is created specifically for social media, not as an afterthought or as part of a wider traditional media (TV, print, radio) ad campaign. Our content is tailored to each individual social media platform, meaning that it resonates with their varying user demographics and drives home whatever message we are conveying to a vast audience.”
Having grown up alongside social media, the pair were aware of the vast capabilities that this powerful medium could offer. Crucially, they also recognised the value of video content for brand evolution, growth and engagement and its absence in general across the most popular social media platforms.
The results have been impressive, with Fraggell’s videos clocking up more than 27 million views worldwide and their GIFs over 51 million. A GIF they did for the Northcoders summer campaign logo hit a million views overnight, showing up on the Instagram GIF homepage and since increasing to 2.1 million views. A LadBible video called ‘Manchester Pugfest’ received more than three million views and 50,000 likes.
Fraser, Creative Director for Fraggell Productions, says: “When we started there were a few companies making video but most of them were run by out of touch former television professionals. No one young was doing it and that, paired with the move to social video, meant that we spied a gap in the market. People wanted videos creating specifically for social media and no one was around to make them so that’s what we did. We started creating digital-first video for brands all over the world.”
The pair’s educational background helped to pave the way for them to become frontrunners in a bold new era of video content creation. They both studied for a BTech in Media Video Production, alongside watching hour upon hour of YouTube videos and reading books as study aids.
It was this commitment to study and practice, paired with raw talent in spades, that earned them the skills and knowledge to produce intuitive, intelligent and creative video content for an entirely fresh audience via social media.
Fraser says: “We learned a lot of traditional video skills during our time at college but videos across social media hadn’t taken off. In fact, they were nowhere to be seen, other than on YouTube.
“Over time, online video platforms have risen in popularity and have become the way in which the majority of people digest content. There is a need for quality content that doesn’t patronise and always makes the audience pause for thought. We would be foolish to ignore this new appetite for video content. If we didn’t make these videos, someone else would so we took a chance and it paid off.”
Aside from sharing a strong work ethic, Fraser and Nicholas discovered a synergy between their passion for video content, holding both mutual and separate interests that perfectly complemented one another. It also helped that they were both passionate about photography as children, meaning that a joint career in video appeared to be in their blood.
Fraser explains: “We instantly got along and found that we had many common interests, including our love for online video channels like YouTube. However, Nicholas wanted to be an editor and I wished to work behind the camera and so an ideal match was established. We worked on projects together and so the foundations of our relationship were crafted very early on.”
It was during their final year of college that Fraser and Nicholas’s first opportunity to enter the world of paid work emerged. The work in question was a promotional video for the college, rewarded in gift vouchers. The project gave the duo their first real insight into the possibility of making videos for others as a proper job and their desire to carve a living out of content creation subsequently grew.
Reminiscing about the early days, Fraser says: “Using gear we’d hire from college, we went on to make a few short videos for friends, such as event and music videos. We’d charge about £50 and split it 50/50. This was all before we’d left college but we wanted to get an early start and see what we could achieve.”
Upon preparing to leave college, Fraser and Nicholas were faced with essentially two options; university or the Job Centre. Fraser initially decided to take a gap year and apply for university. A lot was riding on this year long hiatus as the pair vowed to use the time to try and grow their own video production agency and client base.
Fraser says: “We both left college with top grades in Media Video Production. Even though we’ve never been asked for our credentials, I think it gave us the confidence to carry on and do it for life. We certainly don’t have any regrets about not going to university. I personally think that traditional education is falling by the wayside for many creatives. The skills we need for life aren’t being taught. We grew up thinking if we wanted something we should just go out and try and make it happen. We never really wanted a ‘normal’ job.”
However, the challenges the two teenagers faced along their chosen path were equally as significant. Videos were not yet a major player in the world of marketing and it also turned out that not many businesses were willing to trust two 17-year-olds with a contract to produce content.
Frasers recalls: “We did face discrimination because of our age and it’s only just starting to change. We found this a major problem when starting out. People wouldn’t trust us because of our age and didn’t let us show off what we could create, meaning we lost pitches. Happily, times are changing and people know that the younger generation holds the key to success.
“We had to work hard to build up trust, even if that meant working for reduced rates to prove our worth. A willingness to take on a wide variety of projects allowed us to build our portfolio. Once people could see what we were capable of, we rapidly gained more clients.”
It was at this point that Fraser and Nicholas turned their full attention to building the nascent Fraggell Productions. They landed their first major client, coding bootcamp Northcoders, in June 2017 and this gave them the reassurance to continue on their growth trajectory. The next steps included creating a brand identity, developing a strong website and online presence and expanding their equipment base to offer clients the best possible video quality.
For the first few months, Fraser and Nicholas each worked from home, sending footage between houses and talking on iMessage but this became difficult to maintain as their workload increased. In September 2017, the pair moved into their first business premises. It had no heating and a roof that leaked but it was cheap and a place to call home, a pivotal part of Fraggell Productions’ pledge to create a business that is also a family at heart.
Fraser says: “We spent our days off decorating and making the place look presentable. Having the space allowed us to be more creative and always be working on growing Fraggell Productions so this was a huge step for us. It’s always hard to get people to believe in a start-up but we worked with some pretty great brands early on, like LadBible, which gave us much needed credibility.”
Fraser and Nicholas also credit the support from their families in setting them up for success. Fraser adds: “They believed in us enough to push us on and help us when times are hard. For me that’s really great, having struggled with mental health issues all my life.”
Determined not to let personal issues affect their professional lives, Faser and Nicholas took on a host of projects.They recently edited a new web show, ‘Best Friends’, for Logan Paul, a YouTuber who has notched up more that 18 million subscribers and is revolutionising the online video landscape.
In 2018, Fraggell Productions took on fashion brand PrettyLittleThing and Fraser says: “Having them become a regular client was a major goal for us. It’s one of the biggest brands worldwide and happens to be based in Manchester. We love the team there and working with them is amazing.”
Fraggell Productions’ principal goal is to create digital-first video for its clients. This can be videos to use for Facebook and Instagram adverts or simply original, organic content. A lot of the work is aimed at the Millennial and Generation Z markets, with videos for Snapchat and TikTok, a destination for short-form mobile videos, proving popular.
But what does the future hold for video content? According to Fraser, a massive decline in a traditional media like TV and cinema. He says: “There will be major growth in the way that we consume video and where. Platforms like YouTube will take over our big screens at home and not just our phones and laptops. For us a big one is Twitch, currently a niche streaming website for gamers that will see major growth. Everyone wants live content and entertainment and Twitch gives us all that as well as amazing opportunities for advertisers.
“Knowing about the latest developments is how we say ahead of the competition. Much of our lives are spent observing what’s coming up so we can beat people to it. Research is key for us and always trying new things with clients that trust us. We sit down together a lot and talk. Letting our minds just be free for a while allows us to think up some crazy ideas and new ways we can make video.”
Next steps for Fraggell Productions include growing what it can offer clients and the type of clients it works with. Fraser says: “A lot of how we pitch is just showing off our work. We have an amazing client base and videos and they do the talking most of the time. We also win clients using our vast knowledge of the social media landscape and how video pairs with that in 2019.”
With a turnover of £100,000 in 2018, alongside a £30,000 pre-tax profit and three full-time employees, this burgeoning business has plans to increase to a £1m turnover in the next five years, while adding 30 staff members and Fraser adds: “I never want us to become a marketing agency but more a full-blown creative content agency with a much bigger studio to house the team. I have so many ideas for Fraggell Productions and I think that the work we create is already at a standard above larger agencies. I believe that investing in talent is important and giving younger people a chance is vital.”