As the digital landscape changes and consumers become more media and tech savvy, brands are having to adapt quickly in the way that they find customers and market to their audiences. Recent research has shown that display advertising is rapidly losing its effectiveness due to the widespread use of ad blocking software and viewers’ increasing tendency to distrust and ignore explicit marketing techniques. After sixty years of overt disruptive advertising, it seems audiences are getting wise to it. Technology is putting the power firmly back in their hands. Digitally competent consumers can now decide when and how they interact with brands and demand uninterrupted digital experiences with value-adding, entertaining content to keep them engaged.
But with more global competition and marketing noise than ever, this increasing rejection of hard-sell advertising means that brands now need alternative ways of reaching their audiences. Branded video content has therefore become the newest and most effective tool for brands to engage with their customers.
It’s complicated! There is much disagreement about what actually differentiates ‘branded content’ from other forms of marketing. At its very basic level, branded content is customer focused and puts the brand’s ‘audience’ first. Rather than traditional advertising which informs and persuades customers of brand benefits, branded content takes a different approach. Treating its audience as real individuals instead of merely ‘customers’, branded content attempts to foster relationships socially and emotionally with consumers through tailored storytelling and engaging creative content rather than explicit advertising. The aim is to build customer loyalty and an authentic brand-consumer relationship rather than strong-arming people into buying your products.
Traditionally, brands have sought to reach new or larger audiences through paid advertising with the big content publishers and broadcasters. In the past they might have taken thirty second TV commercial spots and/or bought up display or banner advertising with print or online publishers. Of course this still happens, but brands are having to become less formulaic in order to connect with and engage their customers. Traditional advertising still has a place – but is increasingly being used as part of integrated campaigns with diverse types of branded content across multiple channels. Taking a more holistic approach to content and distribution in this way enables brands to achieve the sort of in-depth creative storytelling that viewers might actively choose to consume.
The point of branded content is that it should seem less like disruptive advertising and should integrate well into the surrounding online content and TV programming. Because of this, it can take many different forms – from sponsorship of brand-aligned existing programming to full length ad break ‘programmes’, documentary film collaborations, music videos and even feature films. It is this diversity of style and content collaboration with the big publishers and broadcasters that has led to a blurring of the lines between traditional advertising and programming and between brands and traditional content publishers. As long as this doesn’t advance brands’ agendas in a biased or dishonest way – the rise of branded content can be seen as a welcome injection of creativity and funding for traditional content publishing and programme making.
Here are some of our favourite types of branded content campaigns:
The programme sponsor:
Wickes advertising sponsors Homes programming on Channel 4
Waitrose ran full-length ad break ‘recipe shows’ with Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith between food programming and have also launched their own YouTube channel to showcase their content.
Carling partnered with the Premier League and Sky Sports to host a Friday night football show, Carling in off the Bar – a half hour live pre-match broadcast from a pub, simulcast on Facebook Live, YouTube and Sky Sports with half-time match analysis streamed live on social media and post-match analysis. An ideal cross-media vehicle for Carling to reconnect with its target audience of 18-35 year old men.
The Performers – Gucci with GQ
Featuring 5 of the world’s ‘coolest’ guys (according to GQ), this series of films followed 5 performers as they travelled to places of personal pilgrimage to share stories of their inspirations. The characters and stories take centre stage, but Gucci accessories are ever present.
The US Comedy Central Channel is now running a 2 ½ minute branded content series once a month instead of a traditional ad break in an effort to blend advertising with quality comedy content and keep viewers watching.
Volvo + Sky Atlantic – Human Made Stories
Volvo partnered with Sky Atlantic to produce a series of inspiring short documentary films centring on the emotional impact of human innovation, raising brand perception of Volvo as a progressive, innovative manufacturer and taking advantage of the increasing popularity of socially-aware content.
The best example of a brand commissioning a feature film and probably the finest and most successful piece of branded content ever created.
Whatever the moral ins and outs of the rise of branded content and its impact on the big content publishers and broadcasters – one thing is clear, and that is that brand influence on the digital content we consume is growing – whether audiences perceive it to be ‘advertising’ content or not. TV – be it broadcast, playback or video on demand still accounts for 76% of UK video consumption and it’s where brands want to be (Thinkbox). With other vehicles like Facebook Watch up and coming, brand-funded programming and programming agendas are definitely here to stay. The less direct approach to marketing is working – and both brands and publishers are fast cottoning on to that fact. The big brands have started the ball rolling, but surely – the smaller ones won’t be far behind?
If you would like help with creating branded video content for your business – contact us here
Small Films are video content specialists. By combining strategic minds with creative flair we create powerful stories with video that deeply resonate with audiences, supporting our clients to achieve their ambitions in growing their organisation, brand or campaign.