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Four branded content trends that you need to know about

It’s estimated that around a quarter of brand communications budgets are now being spent on content and Credos research shows that more than half of UK marketers increased their content marketing budget in 2015.

While traditional TV commercial and branded content production remains at the heart of ITN Productions’ creative output, we are also seeing three other trends emerging that our more adventurous clients are starting to leverage, as well as one old favourite. Brands who take these trends seriously will deliver stand-out content.

1. ‘Always on’

Today’s digital audiences demand regular topical content that they can share. Brands that produce content of this type create meaningful conversations and drive engagement. These brands become truly relevant and authentic.

Brands like to binge on big campaigns, that do drive huge awareness, but only for a limited time. We are working with clients like Thomas Cook to sustain and build an audience on an ongoing basis. This ’little and often’ approach to digital marketing moves brands into a content publishing model, where they are rewarded with increased agility and increased return from their social channels. The CLUB 1830 TV channel we manage taps into a millennial audience whose combination of constant connectivity and fear of missing out (‘FOMO’) has driven over 6 million views in five months, with huge engagement on Facebook, also being seeded across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

2. Interactive and Personalisation

These are two big buzzwords in the marketing industry – and for good reason. Done well, interactive video allows a consumer to move from being a passive viewer to an active participant, while personalisation brings a more nuanced, granular approach to connecting with customers. If a viewer feels engaged with a piece of interactive content he or she is more likely to ‘watch’ for longer than a linear film. While brands like Honda have had great cut through with interactive content, we are now working with brands who are empowering their consumers with choice and options in interactive videos. This enables ‘users’ to reach a suitable call to action, specific to their decisions.

Meanwhile, our personalisation films bring into play that other buzzword ‘big data’. It means a company could serve different films to different customers, depending on their profiles. Broadly speaking, consumers are in favour of online personalisation: a recent Yahoo study showed that most consumers are not only aware of it but believe it provides added relevance, with 78% expressing a desire for some form of personalised content.

A caveat: marketers must ensure that use of this technology adds to the overall experience. There is a software element, a tech process as well as a production one – is that extra layer necessary? Not all cinema films benefit from the 3D treatment, for example, but some – Avatar, Everest – absolutely do.

3. 360-degree video / Virtual Reality

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says Virtual Reality (VR) is the future, the world takes note. The social platform recently brought native 360-degree video to their platform, which only serves further to open this format to advertisers. With YouTube also supporting 360-degree videos, and a number of consumer VR headsets, along with DIY phone headsets coming out, it’s likely that VR that will find an attentive audience beyond the small numbers who own headsets.

As VR moves into consumer homes and phones, the brands that innovate quickly will be well placed to own this space - it’s the most vivid way for consumers to connect with the places they can’t physically go. Star Wars and GoPro are amongst Facebook’s launch partners, and expect innovators such as Honda to jump in quickly. Also expect to see brands launching linear TV ads with second screen 360 content.

Again 360 is only right for very specific applications, it best applies to giving interesting access to a spectacle, where the viewer benefits from having control, or from being placed in the heart of the action.

4. Ad Funded Programming

We are also seeing a resurgence in ad funded programming (AFP), whereby a brand funds the production of broadcast programming based on subject matter that aligns seamlessly with their brand. It works particularly well for brands seeking international exposure, because you need a broad distribution base to make it viable, and working with passion topics such as sport, music and food.

Certain subject matters work well, such as sport, food, fashion, tech. Kia Motors commissioned ITN Productions to produce ‘Road to Rio’, a six part factual entertainment comedy series as part of its global FIFA World Cup activation. Which went on to play out on Dave in the UK and 50 countries worldwide as well as working across digital.

It is an exciting time to be involved in branded content: brands are investing more in this area, publishers and broadcasters such as ITN are leveraging their skillsets commercially as well as editorially, and consumers welcome great content – wherever it comes from. Creativity driven not just by production quality but also editorial know-how, delivered with topicality and authenticity will always find an audience.

ITN Productions is ITN’s creative production business creating award-winning commercials and branded content. Our broadcast heritage gives our clients greater agility and authenticity when using video content to market and communicate.

Simon Baker, Head of Branded Content, ITN Productions

Tel: 0207 430 4511



Twitter: @ITNProductions

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