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'Make the client uncomfortable' - advice from marketing experts on creating the best branded content

At the ‘Best of Branded Content Marketing’ panel in New York last week, execs from JWT, Mashable, Piro gathered to discuss how the lines between advertising and entertainment continue to blur and what that means for both brands and consumers.

Moderated by The Drum’s editor Stephen Lepitak and hosted by Tenthwave, the panelists discussed how to best approach branded entertainment and what brands should look out for when creating this type of content.

Below, see a takeaway from each of the five panelists.

Don’t make branded content for the sake of having branded content

While branded content is one of the buzzwords of advertising these days, MRY’s chief marketing officer David Berkowitz said it’s important for marketers to keep in mind that there must be a clear reason for creating it in the first place – it has to help a company meet its goals in some way.

“It should be doing something for them and that should be clear from the outset,” said Berkowitz. “That sometimes gets lost.”

Break out from the sea of sameness

Since there are already thousands of movies, TV shows and apps competing for our attention at all times, it can be hard to believe that brands would even try to break into the entertainment space when there’s already so much other stuff out there.

That’s why Mike Wiese, head of content & entertainment at JWT, said it’s crucial for brands to embrace tension and try to create something that stands out.

“I think we try to make it too nice, too vanilla, too safe,” he said of today’s branded content. He told agencies that they should try and “make the client uncomfortable” when creating branded entertainment, “otherwise it’s the same and there’s a sea of sameness in content.”

But at the end of the day, he added that audiences don’t really care if something is branded or not most of the time.

“They just want to be entertained,” he said.

Authenticity is the relevancy on the internet

Chief marketing officer at Mashable Stacy Martinet said that companies need to make sure they have an authentic message to send before jumping into the branded content space.

“Everyone is rushing into branded content but it’s expensive so if you don’t have something to say, you don’t have something to make,” she said.

She added that since “authenticity is the new relevancy on the internet,” brands should really think about what they stand for and what they want to say before creating something on a whim.

“You have to be prepared to invest capital, talent, analytics and just philosophically invest in this form of marketing,” she said.

Good means lots of different things to lots of different people

Jason Krebs, head of sales at Maker Studios, said that agencies should keep in mind when creating branded entertainment that “it will always come down to sales or whatever the client’s goal was.” In other words, sometimes a simpler option or a more traditional route could actually help a brand more than an expensive and time-consuming piece of branded content.

He used the example of YouTube star PewDiePie, whose videos aren’t exactly high-class premium content but are authentic and viewed.

“His fans rush to anything he says to do,” Krebs said. That doesn’t mean that every brand should rush to PewDiePie, but it does mean that certain stars or formats or mediums can help a brand meet its goals without the extra bells and whistles.

Advertising & entertainment are miles apart

Even though some brands are getting more comfortable with the idea branded entertainment - Piro’s founding partner Tim Piper cited the agency’s own ‘Farmed and Dangerous’ series for Chipotle as a successful example – he still thinks the concept as a whole has a long way to go.

“For me, advertising and entertainment are miles apart. I think the divide will remain for a while,” he said. “In advertising, people are thrilled if an ad goes viral or even gets watched. Then there’s a few thousand people in LA who create work that people pay to go and see.”

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she oversees creativity coverage in North & South America and runs The Drum’s weekly “US Creative Works” roundup. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal and has interviewed dozens of creatives for The Drum’s “What does it take to be a great creative?” video series.

All by Minda