Until now, ambition in branded entertainment has been sorely lacking.
Brands must stop thinking about content sporadically and, as with the best of broadcast, should consider a rolling schedule of activity. Content with a recognisable tone that ideally creates ‘sticky’ formats which, as media continues to fragment and multiply, can be exploited across multiple channels.
There remains an under-served sweet spot in branded content at a time when new platforms, ingenious formats and working practices have democratised creation.
With a recent article in the Financial Times rightly suggesting that the entertainment wars of the future will go far beyond video streaming - and possibly into the so-called ‘metaverse’; that new, industry buzzword - there remains an, as yet, under-served sweet spot in branded content at a time when new platforms, ingenious formats and working practices have democratised creation.
Above: Brands such as Dior are now using TikTok and establishing a method of talking to its customers.
For instance, it was announced earlier this month that TikTok is now the world’s most downloaded app, and there’s huge potential in that space as the demographic on this increasingly influential platform is getting older. And, while it’s one which often relies on a dopamine hit of ‘cool’ rather than on any strict narrative structure, even luxury brands have become established on its canvas, a canvas which hosts content which has evolved far beyond simple pranks or shuffle dances.
It was announced earlier this month that TikTok is now the world’s most downloaded app, and there’s huge potential in that space as the demographic on this increasingly influential platform is getting older.
Storytellers today need to be able to span platforms with tailored, expert executions, rather than simply shoe-horning long form pieces into short form ‘snackable’ bites. We worked with Copa90 during Euro 2021 leveraging TikTok’s new live streaming feature to deliver fan-first football content. We’ve collaborated with places like Ravensbourne University to ensure we are learning about next generation content alongside the next generation themselves, given that platforms and consumption habits are evolving so fast, often displaying brilliantly bonkers thinking, unconstrained minds, and unfiltered creative expression.
Brands must not limit themselves to a polished, 90-second video, with scant regard as to where else the message could resonate.
With social content often working best when less polished, there is an increasing shorthand, too – one which has led to a more personal and engaging tone, often shot on the fly. Take Jamie Oliver who, last March, managed to film the remainder of Keep Cooking and Carry On at home on his phone, with the help of his family. Or our cloud-based virtual editing solution, Green Rock VCS, which enabled us to close our London post-production office well before the pandemic struck and to work with talent remotely, successfully producing and post producing a documentary for ITV during lockdown which was both critically acclaimed and a ratings winner.
Above: Jamie Oliver was forced to shoot his TV show, Keep Cooking and Carry On, on his iPhone over the lockdown period.
Brands must not limit themselves to a polished, 90-second video, with scant regard as to where else the message could resonate. Branded content must learn from the best of broadcast and digital publishing, with integrated, holistic ideas around programming and content which take a myriad of forms and formats. It’s content that can be combined with IP, conversation and the entertainment that lives around it in our increasingly omnichannel world. It must never be thought of as a singular thing, as a golden chalice rather than a central point.
The ultimate flop, Playmobil: The Movie, was borne of the notion of branded content rather than branded entertainment.
If brands can develop formats and franchises with master narratives that drive brand salience and embrace an overarching theme and identity, then the best is yet to come. To do this, approaches must be considered, rather than sporadic and scattergun. The fact that audiences may be on the sofa, rather than in buying mode, should never put us off. There is proven value in talking to consumers in a different mindset, and this is a core pillar which sits behind much of the most successful branded content.
We need to remember the power of storytelling, the need for an emotional pull.
Yet, today, the majority still remains poorly executed, forgetting about the notion of ‘entertainment’ at all. The ultimate flop, Playmobil: The Movie, was borne of the notion of branded content rather than branded entertainment. We need to remember the power of storytelling, the need for an emotional pull, with anticipation, trepidation, or intrigue – whatever the channel, and whatever the format – and sometimes coming from the most unlikely of sources.
Above: Playmobil: The Movie, says Berry, was borne of the notion of branded ‘content’ rather than branded ‘entertainment’.
Take a Supermarket Sweep remake, which proved to be a winning strategy for Tesco when it celebrated its 100th anniversary. The retailer partnered with ITV and Thames TV to relaunch the retro game show just as it sought to battle the rise of discount retailers. This enabled it to deliver its value message in a way which resonated with audiences. It proved to be ITV2’s most successful launch in years.
It’s important to think not only in terms of how the branded entertainment format will look, but also how you are going to exploit it in store, on shelf, and online.
In this way, brands must learn from the broadcasters and broadcasters must learn from the brands. They must take the best of both worlds, whilst also thinking in terms of Lego or Peppa Pig when it comes to IP, which can be exploited in multiple channels as opposed to one-off activations. It’s important to think not only in terms of how the branded entertainment format will look, but also how you are going to exploit it in store, on shelf, and online, so that it becomes a truly integrated idea.
This is the future of content and, indeed, entertainment, with an ever-expanding armoury of digital properties and a growing awareness of the broader ‘experience’. The streaming wars rage on, but, from where I’m standing, the future looks bright.