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VOL. 40 | NO. 18 | Friday, April 29, 2016

Hail to the Kid President’s YouTube success

By Linda Bryant

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Robby Novak, aka “Kid President,” with producer Brad Montague

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Robby Novak became a YouTube sensation three years ago when his video, “A Pep Talk from Kid President to You,” went viral.

The video now has more than 38 million views, and Robby is still going strong playing the Kid President (www.kidpresident.com) character.

Robby, 12, who lives in Henderson, about 15 miles southeast of Jackson, has since been to the White House to meet President Obama, starred in of dozens of YouTube videos and even hung out with celebrities such as Beyonce.

The SoulPancake Creative Agency, a Los Angeles-based production company co-founded by actor Rainn Wilson, discovered Robby through his YouTube videos.

The videos were created for friends and family, but the folks at SoulPancake felt that Robby had a wider appeal.

Behind the scenes shot of filming a “ConAgra + Kid President” project for Feeding America commercial.

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“We stumbled on Kid President when SoulPancake was first beginning in 2012,” says Correy Stoner, Kid President brand manager at SoulPancake. “We thought he was joy incarnate.”

But there were a couple of other things SoulPancake didn’t know.

Taking kids seriously

Robby has osteogenesis imperfecta, often referred to as brittle bone disease. It’s a rare genetic bone disease characterized by a lack of normal collagen needed to form strong bones.

Robby has broken bones all over his body over 70 times and had surgery over a dozen times.

Robby sometimes travels to Nashville to participate in events at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. He also has been a patient at the hospital.

Another thing the SoulPancake team didn’t realize is that the show’s creator, Brad Montague, brings a lot to the table when it comes to supporting, producing, inspiring and loving Robby.

“We really had no idea there was this brilliant and gentle man named Brad Montague behind the camera,” Stoner says.

“He had been working in the media department of a university and writing and filming these videos on the side.

“We were very inspired by Brad,” Stoner adds. “Here’s this amazing creative genius in this little Tennessee town whose mission is to empower kids and to get adults to listen to them.

“We reached out and invited Brad and Robby to create content for SoulPancake. We act as executive producer and help build and manage their audience. We provide resources so they can keep telling important stories.”

Robby typically dresses in a suit in his videos and pontificates as the commander-in-chief. He communicates about a range of topics and issues, from the very serious to the seriously silly – and always from a child’s point of view.

Even if Robby gets serious for awhile, he usually breaks out in a silly dance at some point during a video.

“When you use a child to talk to adults about really tough things, adults will listen,” Stoner points out.

Keeping the kid real

Even though it sounds like Kid President has fancy Hollywood-style management, Stoner says that’s not really the case. The agency’s mission is to develop media that’s meaningful, creative and “not afraid to chew on life’s big questions.”

Keeping Kid President real is big part of that mission.

“It would have been easy to build Kid President as a big LA brand, but that would have been inauthentic,” Stoner explains.

“We want people to know you don’t have to be a big star in Hollywood to have something important to be heard.

“Brad likes to say you can ‘use what you have where you are’ to make a difference in the world.”

Montague did eventually leave his university job, and he now runs his own media production company, Montague Workshop, in Henderson. That’s where the majority of Kid President videos are produced, although Stoner says the duo does occasionally travel to Los Angeles for bigger projects.

Stoner has strong opinions about the storytelling potential of Internet TV and YouTube channels.

“Authenticity is the thing we talk about the most,” she says. “There’s a real need in the world for telling stories that matter. Brands and content producers have been trying to manufacture emotions for years.

“Those aren’t the things you remember. You remember the genuine moments. You remember it when you connect on a human level.

“Robby and Brad have pure intentions,” she adds. “That’s why Kid President works.”

The Kid President brand is more mission-focused than financially-driven. But the Kid President videos still draw various streams of revenue via sponsorships and commercials with brands or non-profits that fit with Kid President’s mission and from licensing of content and public appearances.

“Video is the future,’’ Stoner says. “It’s the way Millennials and Gen Z are consuming just about everything. It’s the next generation of cable networks.”

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