For M3 Creative in Burbank, creating effective marketing content is so much about storytelling that it’s often hard to tell there’s a brand message in there.

That was definitely the case with the work M3 Creative’s Andy Meyers did for Chevrolet as part of its sponsorship of soccer team Manchester United. In the “What do you #PlayFor?” video series, Meyers showcased kids from impoverished places around the world from India to South Africa, Chicago, China, Brazil, and Korea who came together on soccer fields with equipment provided by Chevy.

In several cases, Chevy also sponsored a program to revitalize soccer pitches, including fields in Bandung, Indonesia, on behalf of a local organization that’s using soccer to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and drug addiction; and in Chicago, helping transform a gang-controlled neighborhood into one where children can play without worry.

Meyers also has shot spots promoting Chevrolet’s One World Futbol campaign, which likewise uses soccer to bring people together in an aspirational branded campaign. Since October 2012, Chevy has donated and distributed 1.5 million “nearly indestructible footballs” to organizations working in disadvantaged communities.

“It’s all about connecting with the audience,” says Meyers. “Authenticity is what everyone is looking for. The best way to be authentic is just to be authentic. We’re not trying to manipulate or twist, we’re just trying to tell stories.”

In the case of Chevy, Meyers was “passionate about this project and I wasn’t just there to create a campaign. I was there to meet people and really hear their stories. The whole Chevy Power Play campaign was such a life-changing journey. I’ve never been more proud of anything I or we’ve done personally,” he says.

But M3 Creative strives to bring that kind of passion to all of its work, whether it’s branded content, sponsored TV promos or digital extras for blockbuster movies.

Meyers started M3 Creative after working at CBS Television Distribution’s Entertainment Tonight for more than 13 years. Ten years ago, Meyers former M3 Television with partners, later rebranding to M3 Creative in 2009. Today, M3’s clients include Comedy Central, USA, Disney Channel, ESPN and NBC.

While M3 has turned branded content into a specialty, it also works heavily in film, creating value-added digital content for its clients and directing and producing its own film, John Dies at the End. For example, for Warner Bros.’ blockbuster film, Interstellar, M3 worked with physicist Kip Thorne, a consultant on the film, to create a digital short about the science featured in the movie.

That content used to exist – and still does, in many cases – as a DVD extra, but in today’s world, it’s often better offered on YouTube, where views can quickly grow into the millions.

Brad Baruh, M3’s partner and lead producer, has a long relationship with Marvel, and has created digital content for Iron Man, The Avengers and most recently, Guardians of the Galaxy.

“We were hanging out on the set and Chris Pratt gave an MTV Cribs-style tour of Star-Lord’s ship,” Baruh says. “It turned into a spoof piece. Sometimes that stuff happens and it goes all the way. That’s what the clients respond to.”

Creating content that goes viral and “that clients respond to” is a double-edged sword for agencies, Baruh admits.

“We tend to throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks,” he says. “I think clients would rather see failed ideas on paper than take the same old stuff. Five years ago, I might have been scared to send clients some of the stranger things that we do. But today, the sky’s the limit.”

It’s not always easy out there for agencies. While the sky may be the limit in terms of creativity, that also means sometimes boundaries must be set.

“The biggest challenges I think for me and for my agency is that in today’s environment change is an everyday and every second occurrence,” says Meyers. “You have to constantly be communicating to your clients that it’s okay for them to change as well. But change is scary – people tend to go with what they know.”

Still, Meyers and Baruh like the Wild West-feel of it all.

“This is a cool time to be in the industry,” Baruh says. “If you work hard and you are creative, there’s always a place for you.”

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