Film Feature UK

Cyberdrum: Branded content

By The Drum | Administrator

March 21, 2008 | 6 min read

Brands hatch

Of course it will be of no surprise to anyone reading CyberDrum that multiple channels and new technologies mean that an average consumer is no longer sitting passively in front of the telly, waiting patiently for their daily hit of being sold to. He is, of course, rushing about all over the place, looking hither and yon for stuff, which not only amuses, but also informs him. He wants to be tuned in and turned on, and the last thing he wants to feel is ‘sold to’.

People like to be spoken to rather than shouted at. People don’t particularly enjoy being interrupted, but they do enjoy discovering new things for themselves. The brave new hi-tech world of media and communications embraces this, and whilst the opportunities are numerous, for me, the greatest opportunity of all is only just beginning to poke its nose above the parapet. People are starting to call it branded content; others prefer to call it branded entertainment. And let us not forget branded utility.

Whatever name you put on it, how does this new opportunity swerve from advertising’s traditional fare?

While traditionally advertising has been ‘amusing’, it’s also occasionally been ‘useful’. It’s never been ‘substantive’ though, so perhaps it is a combination of these things that makes the branded communications revolution so appealing and so unique?

But where does that leave us, the ones tasked with reaching out to these people? Presumably selling to a less attentive (or overloaded) consumer means that brands need to be less subtle with their communications than ever before…or does it? Many would argue the opposite is starting to happen.

Pixilated porn

Amidst all the debate, one media channel that is starting to gather momentum and dominate is online video. Of course what instantly springs to mind at the mention of online video is heavily pixilated porn or grainy images of people re-enacting Star Wars scenes in their bedrooms. As broadband expands, however, and video streaming becomes ever more sophisticated, full screen and high quality video is quickly becoming a reality. Stuff with production value. Stuff that is substantive, amusing and useful. Stuff that sells.

Today the internet is one the largest platforms for live action advertising, and both traditional ad formats and newer techniques such as viral, live action banners and interactive digital marketing are being used by the biggest brands in order to get their messages across – not only to a core demographic of the young early-adopter, but also to increasingly wider audiences.

While the content at the top of the online video charts all points to most people’s pre-conceived idea that the typical viewer of online video is the adolescent male, recent demographic surveys have revealed a very different truth.

American company Emarketer, in a study widely reported on the web at the end of 2006, estimates that 54.5 percent of the YouTube audience is in the age group 35 – 64. Only 19 percent of YouTube’s audience are 25-34 and only 12 percent are teens aged 12 – 17. AC Nielsen also reports that 55 percent of the audience falls into this older age group, as does Comscore.

What all this means to me is that while there is a sizeable amount of people doing the porn and slapstick thing, there is also a sizeable amount of ordinary consumers who are using the technology to its full potential; being informed, inspired and entertained – as well as amused or titillated! This older, more mature user has grown up with the internet and is also more likely to be sitting on a bigger disposable income, more likely to be looking for an emotional ‘big ticket’ purchase, more likely to browse in their own time and on their own terms.

We’ve recently shot a number of films for Lexus, which offer the customer a sense of what it feels like to drive the car. Though they feel a bit like extended commercials in the fact they offer a highly polished vision of the cars in action, they are also informative in that they communicate key aspects of the design and performance. They don’t feature shots of svelte models looking on with admiration as smug men throw their keys in the air, because they don’t need to. The people looking at these films will already be considering owning the car and will therefore have already bought into the brand to a certain extent. I guess the films are almost the final leg of an emotional journey, and hopefully provide the last decisive piece of persuasion necessary for a sale.

The other big thing for online video, and one which takes its lead from the most globally popular form of media in the world today, is the use of narrative. Good, old fashioned, Hollywood-style storytelling is now a real and viable option for brands that seek to connect with the consumer on a deeper and more fundamental level. People love stories and now brands have access to a technology that can enable them to engage with people in far more immersive ways than ever before.

Being online, you don’t have to worry about costly distribution deals…instead, there is now a direct line into virtually every home in the country and if the brand manager is the new studio executive, advertisers can be the new film makers.

Handled clumsily of course that could seriously backfire, but if you make stuff people genuinely want to watch, they will do so in their droves and be more than grateful in the process.

Production values

It seems that good branded communications should be entertaining as well as informative. It should be useful to people as well as interesting. Branded content should be entertaining if it’s going to sell stuff, and if it’s useful to people then that’s great too.

One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked though is quality. High production values are important to brands, or at least they should be. Just because it’s a video and it’s online doesn’t necessarily mean it has to look like it was shot on a phone or a camcorder.

For me, if you sell quality stuff, everything you do should be quality. No matter what the product being sold or what the brand is, it should always look its best.

Perhaps I should leave the final word to a great pioneer of the last great revolution in media communications, Cecil B DeMille. His sage words were: “Remember you’re a star. Never go across the alley even to dump garbage unless you are dressed to the teeth.”

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