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Double standards - Why you need cojones to crack branded content

If Red Bull proved anything with its supersonic skydive, it's that it pays for advertisers to take risks. Here, two experts discuss the changing face of branded content.

Mark Rivers, deputy creative director, Drum

Mark Rivers, deputy creative director, Drum

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MARK RIVERS, DEPUTY CREATIVE DIRECTOR, DRUM

What trends are we seeing more of in the advertiser-funded programme category?

Rather than just creating a TV show that sits at the bottom of the schedule, advertisers are now funding content that commissioners actually want, developing programming brands in their own right and telling much bigger stories across multiple platforms. Outside of traditional TV, brands are exploring how they harness the audiences of the YouTube creator generation. They’re also understanding how they use technology such as wireWAX to properly monetise digital content. The smart advertisers are working out how they benefit by fulfilling the growing need for programming across 4G and the new band of media owners such as Netflix. But, as ever, a brilliant idea must sit at the heart of any brand-funded content.

What are the biggest barriers to getting an innovative new content idea signed off?

What are the biggest barriers to getting an innovative new content idea signed off?

To paraphrase the great Danny Baker: "Those who know only the timid, the generic and the abacus." But, seriously, creating content means a brand thinking audience first rather than their product or service, so bravery can be a big barrier.

Where are clients finding the budgets to fund content?

Cash is still being found down the back of the sofa of media, advertising, PR and digital budgets. However, with more content-led ideas becoming the centrepiece of brand communication, marketers are beginning to reallocate money from these established budget pots to support content initiatives.  Things will heat up when brands start to create standalone revenue streams out of intellectual property they own.

How innovative have the product placement solutions been since the rules were relaxed?

Nothing genuinely innovative has happened. But with broadcasters and agencies having a better feel of what’s feasible, 2013 will see interesting things happening. Drum has developed a format for Sainsbury’s where products will be integrated naturally into the heart of programming, and technology then used to provide consumers with seamless ways to explore more about the products.

How will the rise of ad-funded content change the agency model?

Agencies will become stakeholders in the IP they create for brands, so it will change how we make money. And it will change who’s being hired. Producing content requires a new breed of creative talent. It’s not about crafting the perfect headline. It’s about consistently conceiving brilliant ideas, understanding how to execute them and making things happen. Agencies that develop content for brands need people who understand the advertising and editorial worlds, and are part-creative, part-strategist, part-entrepreneur.

What’s the most innovative use of content by an advertiser you’ve seen recently?

Putting aside the inevitable energy-drink mention, American Express has created a credible digital magazine for small businesses with its Open Forum platform. And a nod should go to one of the world’s best content developers – Jay-Z. Not only does he use an in-house editorial team to create daily rolling content for his Life+Times brand, but he was also the driving force behind Made in America for Budweiser. Who else could bring together Rocky Balboa, Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Ron Howard and Barack Obama to create a multiplatform story celebrating the American dream?


CHANTAL RICKARDS, HEAD OF PROGRAMMING AND BRANDED CONTENT, MEC ACCESS

What trends are we seeing more of in the advertiser-funded programme category?

Media partnerships rule, OK. It’s no longer good enough to do a piece of linear advertiser-funded programming (or branded content, as we should all be calling it) as the opportunities of doing wider media partnerships offer so much more. Think big and wide. Think holistic. Think about amortising your content costs across every possible medium.


What are the biggest barriers to getting an innovative new content idea signed off?

Bravery and having the cojones to be first, the best, the brightest and the boldest.

Where are clients finding the budgets to fund content?

Interesting question with no simple answer. In general, money is found from the media budget; occasionally, a creative agency releases some of their production budget; but, sometimes, content monies can come from PR budgets that aren’t usually masterminded by media or creative agencies. From time to time, ad hoc marketing funds can also be found.

How innovative have the product placement solutions been since the rules were relaxed?

There have been some cracking product placements in the last few months: we have done five at MEC and have seen them cleverly cutting through in cluttered places.

How will the rise of ad-funded content change the agency model?

What is already changing is the idea that only creative agencies have creative people working in them – Group M media agencies have had branded content units for more than five years, populated with ex-producers and directors from ITV and BBC. More and more frequently, former TV producers are being brought into both media and creative agencies to bolster their offering. Knowing how to make a 30-second commercial doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to make short-form or long-form audiovisual content or how to produce a book or a radio show.

What’s the most innovative use of content by an advertiser you’ve seen recently?

Visa sponsored the Olympics last year and signed Usain Bolt to be an innovations ambassador to highlight its contactless – and very speedy – payment system. We worked closely with Sky 1 to help amplify this message by taking on the broadcast sponsorship of its comedy sports series A League Of Their Own. We co-created a new round in the show called the Visa Sprint Challenge; we made extra content to sit inside the show with Bolt; and we used Visa branding and perimeter boards through the show. We also placed the Bolt TV ads in the centre breaks, did a homepage takeover and shot extra material with Bolt to sit online including a short film called Lightning Bolt Camera Action and another called Fast Talk. It rocked.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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