Branded content – one way forward

One of the areas I find extremely interesting when it comes to multiplatform and transmedia storytelling is that of branded entertainment (or not even necessarily ”entertainment”, but rather just ”content”).

At MIPTV last week Ogilvy hosted a session where they presented the case study of ”Love in the end”, a movie branded to Greek chocolate manufacturer Lacta. The idea of the project was that chocolate and sad love stories are perfectly matched. For the movie, Greeks were invited to submit their unfulfilled love stories, three of which were picked up for the movie and resolved in a fictional drama setting. The movie outperformed all other movies on the opening night – so not only did Lacta and the production company get great advertisement, they also made some money out of it!

This is the way the powerhouse Red Bull functions as well. I believe they are the only marketing division of a brand that regularly turns a profit. This simply by sponsoring crazy sport events, producing content – TV series – out of them and selling these series to broadcasters around the world.

Now, the best branded content is where no one reacts to the brand, as the brand is a very natural and even essential part of the narrative. If there is a TV series about a clock maker, no one will react to there being Casio watches present. If there is a film about an airline pilot, he will, naturally, be flying an airplane, which could be and MD-83, or a Dreamliner, or something else. These are crude examples, but you get my drift.

This is where transmedia storytelling methods enter the picture. Just like the newly-premiered series ”Defiance” (which I talk a bit more about here) every IP needs to be stripped down to the very basics, so that the creators and developers can build the foundation, the story world, in a very solid way. Looking at this foundation, it is easier to see what brands – or types of brands – that can and should be approached, brands that will fit the context of the content and vice versa.

I’m not only talking about fiction/drama in this case either. The way I see it, documentaries, traditional advertisement as well as other entertainment genres not connected to television such as e-publishing have need of better integration of brands into stories. As can be seen with the Lacta-example above, such integration – brands connected naturally to a great story – can even bring revenue back to the creators and the brand.

I moderated a session at MIPCube last Wednesday entitled ”Producers: Take Back Your Monetization Power”. Jadis Tillery talked about harnessing social media strengths in production, working with celebrities for example. According to Jadis, the best way to go about working with a brand, from a producers point of view, is to look at the needs of a brand. What are the needs, wants and goals of any given brand, based on their profile, history and target groups, and how can these fit into content in a natural way?

On the other hand, she added, if you already do have brilliant content, it is quite possible to go the other way around. Analyze your content and reach out to brands that fit the tone, the feeling and the message your content conveys.

In this, I still believe there is place for indie storytellers telling alternative stories and more ”anarchist” or ”artistic” visions. There will always be brands trying to reach niche audiences, and as long as the artists feel they can cooperate with such brands without compromising their integrity or the integrity of their content, it’s a way forward. In my book, there’s nothing wrong with making money out of what you do. It’ll only enhance your chances of getting to make more of what you do.

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