Entertainment, persona marketing and the power of being authentic
Everything counts as ‘entertainment’ today. From mobile gaming to e-sports, branded content and new realities in tech, there’s no telling where the entertainment industry will go. And it continues to evolve. So how are brands taking to entertainment marketing? The Drum invited members of The Drum Network to a roundtable discussion to explore the trends and technologies reshaping entertainment marketing.
Brands are increasingly producing entertainment content, causing the rules around entertainment to change. Having recognised that this sector can engage audiences more intensely than traditional methods like paid-for media or three-second social posts, brands are smartening up their acts and focusing on “persona marketing” – according to Contented co-founder Moz Dee, who along with other participants around the table agree that no longer is entertainment limited to music, cinema or TV but that data is critical in identifying the audience’s need and teaching marketers how to reach them.
The roundtable, moderated by The Drum associate editor Sonoo Singh, highlighted the importance of brand authenticity and taking risks when creating content.
Nick Ward, joint planning partner, Cubo
Fiona Meynell, digital strategy lead, Think Jam
Moz Dee, co-founder, Contented
Adam Rubins, CEO, Way To Blue
Ed Leech, senior account director, Cherry London
Richard Marshall, co-CEO, Influence Digital
The power of partnerships and authenticity
While most of the media that brands are buying (up to 80%) isn’t being seen by their target audience, Way To Blue chief executive, Adam Rubins, suggests brand owners “create content that’s connected with entertainment brands or entertaining content that can be used on other platforms” to widen their reach.
While entertainment might be the new and exciting frontier, many clients aren’t prioritising entertainment budgets just yet. Instead, they’re looking for innovative ways to produce engaging content, such as by interacting with people from different aspects of the industry to talk about creating a format that fits their brand’s persona, he added.
“Brands want to target a particular audience but they don’t have either the capability to reach that audience or the justification to do it,” said Cherry London’s senior account director, Ed Leech. “Sometimes they may feel that they need to borrow credibility from elsewhere, which is where big strategic brand partnerships come in. They can create content with brands that have valuable assets so that they can target their customers in a space they want to reach.” But while most marketers want to enjoy the same level of success as Lego or Marvel, these opportunities aren’t available to all brands.
“It really depends on who the brand is and what they’re trying to achieve,” added Rubins. “Fundamentally, it’s about authenticity – the partnership and opportunity has to feel authentic to that brand, so doing something that’s very commercial isn’t going to work. If you’re after brand awareness or brand affinity, it’s achievable but if it’s about converting sales, then authenticity is key.”
And unfortunately, there’s still a way to go until brands get this absolutely right. “A lot of brands still don’t understand the levels of collaboration that make good partnerships,” said Leech. “They’re willing to do it on the surface but they're not willing to collaborate as deeply as they should do.”
Should entertainment feel like marketing?
So, what should entertainment content look like; should it behave more like traditional marketing or can it be disguised within entertainment?
As streaming platforms continue to evolve and viewers become increasingly comfortable paying to access entertainment, Rubins thinks some marketing fodder should be expected, so long as it matches a viewer’s interests. He reckons Netflix will lead the charge once they increase their package price and move towards an advertising model. “They have a very personalised data-led approach,” he said. “They advertise things you want to see and buy. I’m ok with that; but once I'm being advertised to about things I'm not interested in, then it becomes obstructive.”
Netflix’s docuseries, Juventus, about an Italian football club, is a case in point. Dee said, “It’s a marketing film. It’s a piece of content that I'm being recommended, that Netflix knows I’ll enjoy, yet it’s paid for by a football club to market itself across the globe. I think we'll start to get films made this way. They’ll be targeted but as long as brands make something substantial and entertaining, why wouldn’t we watch it? That’s where the monetisation model is interesting; it could open doors for us all to explore.”
All the attendees agreed that viewers didn’t mind being confronted by a brand in a piece of content if it made sense contextually. Consider James Bond’s Mercedes Benz or his Omega watch.
But convincing marketers to fully invest in entertainment can be testing as “it requires them to be brave; to do something that takes the focus away from the brand,” added Dee. “It’s about taking it out of the brand ecosystem and sticking it in another world to see what happens. And we're very much still at the start of that journey.”
And of course, just because marketers can, doesn’t mean they always should. For instance, he questions the instance where HSBC recently announced the launch of its first sound identity created by electronic music producer Jean-Michel Jarre. “For me, the partnership didn’t match up,” he said. “Are they being brave for doing something different or will they look back on it and say, ‘we tried, but it didn't work’? I wonder if you can go too far in creating a brand persona…”
Think Jam’s digital strategy lead, Fiona Meynell agrees, although she thinks that ultimately, partnerships don’t have to be “too well” matched. She thinks that if, for instance, branding in a successful film were discreet the audience will fail to take much notice who’s behind it.
Creating standout content that cuts through is key. Yet brands are increasingly competing with younger and more risk-averse generations, who can create content – and monetise it – seemingly effortlessly.
Few brands are prepared to take the risks needed to keep up. “Fear is the number one stumbling block to creativity,” said Rubins. “I don't believe there’s a winning formula to creating content. A Fortnight or Deadpool only comes along once every ten years and then suddenly the whole industry wants the same things. You can’t apply that to all brands; it doesn’t work. It’s got to be relevant.”
Working out the ethos of a brand will help marketers get to grips with its philosophical standpoint. Influence Digital, co-CEO, Marshall mentions his client, the Barcelona-based festival Primavera, which boasts a gender-neutral line-up for its 19th rendition this year, a rarity for the music industry.
Taking these sorts of risks will position brands in a favourable light with consumers and make them more memorable and likeable.
“But it has to be a full commitment from every fibre of the client that this is the route they want to take,” said Dee. “Deliberately saying what their brand values are and what they stand for has to a total global commitment from a business.”
Understanding consumer habits
And equally, considering where to place that watchable piece of content is just as important. According to Cubo’s joint planning partner Nick Ward, “What makes me quite sad is that brands will team up with a decent cultural partner and then they just plonk the end piece on their own page where no one looks. Internally, the conversation concludes that the content didn't work, but we need to think authentically about how people consume content in the first place.”
Investing media spend across different platforms is crucial, but it requires working out together how that content will work, from conception through to distribution. “At the moment, it feels tactical rather than a fundamental attitude,” said Rubins. “You create these things and someone will have a bright idea - like committing to entertainment - but it’s very siloed within most organisations. You need to put the full weight of the business behind it.”
Whatever the format, there’s always room to create interesting content around entertainment. Perhaps a podcast could be constructed around a documentary for instance. These assets will form a 360 approach on top of the traditional media to appeal to different audiences, said Rubins. Meynell agrees. Even if marketers don’t have access to the content from the get-go, they can still promote their entertainment. “If you’re trying to do a launch without any assets at all, make a brand experience around it,” she said. “Look to Disney. They make content out of kids and grandkids reacting to their trailers or they produce DIYs on how to make a mask from the next marvel film. It’s about thinking outside the box to make new content that’s entertaining or informative.”
The future of entertainment
New technologies like AR and VR have undoubtedly pushed the entertainment space forward. Yet some participants question whether a cultural pushback to our excessive use of data is inevitable.
“It will be really interesting to see how brands and businesses deal with this growing feeling of hesitation,” said Ward. “But it’s not necessarily a bad thing for brands to respond to consumer reactions. They just tend to be quite slow at picking up on cultural trends.”
Media and entertainment companies meanwhile are at the center of disruption, driven by the inception of new technologies and changing consumer attitudes. So, what should be the priorities for marketers and how should they respond to these changes? Rubins concluded, “It’s quite ironic; we’re moving towards a more collective community feel when actually politically, we’re separating. I think it’s a bit of a reaction to that. People are coming closer together; they want to collaborate; they want to create a model that works for the collective whole rather than for each individual part. We're going to see a huge amount more consolidation in the entertainment market as well, more businesses will buy other businesses; more agencies will buy other agencies.
“There’s never been a better time to invest in entertainment for audiences to emotionally invest in.”
This roundtable discussion feature originally appeared in The Drum Network's recent Entertainment special publication. To find out more about how The Drum Network can help boost the profile of your agency, click here.
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Think Jam is an award-winning specialist entertainment marketing agency, proven to deliver communications strategy, consultancy and content creation to global clients across film, TV, gaming, the arts and publishing.
Launched in 2004, Think Jam nurtures a culture of entertainment enthusiasts with innovation and unrivalled expertise at the heart. Experts in franchises, heritage brands and audience insights, Think Jam's 100-strong global workforce delivers campaign strategies, tailored services and solutions across Communications and Content disciplines.
We are Contented, an award-winning global creative production company delivering conversation-changing content for the world’s most engaging brands. Working with household names such as Heineken, Eurosport, eBay, Sky One and HSBC, our core services include Social content, Branded film, broadcast, TV and cinema, Media planning and buying, Creative, Podcasts and audio plus Digital and print production. Founded in 2013, we have forged our reputation as thumb-stopping and jaw-dropping creators of branded, episodic and social content.
With offices across Europe and North America, our specialist teams of creatives, designers, animators, producers and editors make over 200 videos a week, with over 100 million people viewing their content. So, the chances are you’ve already seen what we do and didn’t know it. We work with brave brand marketers to systematically produce and test content, allowing us to identify the optimal approach for any given business objective, platform and audience.
We are the chosen global creative partner to Snapchat, working closely with Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to make sure we continually produce engaging content for brands that works on all platforms. We also produce television programmes for the likes of ITV and SKY.
Way To Blue
We are Way To Blue, an award-winning global integrated communications agency working with consumer, lifestyle and entertainment brands.
We develop digital-led, strategic brand communications for brave brand marketers who want to connect with their audience through the ever-changing consumer landscape. With offices in London, Los Angeles, Sydney and several locations across Europe, we are an independent agency reshaping the future of brand communications.
We have specialist entertainment and consumer full-service marketing teams in each office and pride ourselves on being globally collaborative, integrated and flexible. We believe in empowering our people with the ability to improve themselves personally and professionally. This is why our culture is central in every decision we make, ensuring that we live and breathe our values to Inspire, Innovate and Share. Check out what we get up to and follow us @waytoblueglobal
Some of our clients include Amazon, Hamleys, InterContinental Hotels Group, 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures International, The Walt Disney Company and Red Bull. For more information go to our new website www.waytoblue.com
Cherry London is a new breed of marketing agency with a story about the power of collaboration. Independently owned, it is based in London and works globally. As a multi-award winning company, Cherry London is always looking towards the next challenge or brilliant idea.
In 2009, Cherry London founder and CEO Tamara Gillan created a strategy for VISA to unite world-leading brands sponsoring the London 2012 Olympics. Through the power of collaboration, it became a games to remember for London and Team GB.
Since then, the company has been helping ambitious businesses everywhere to become extraordinary. By creating inspired partnerships Cherry London has launched giant success stories such as O2 Priority and Jade by HSBC. It has elevated powerhouse brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover and shifted perceptions of Saga, Malibu and sport for young women through its expertise in customer engagement.
Cherry London has achieved all this thanks to an extraordinary team that combines vision with commercial experience and a deep understanding of new technological solutions. Together they have unlocked millions in measurable value for their clients, proving the incredible potential for alchemy through collaboration in a connected world.
Big achievements include:
Making O2 Priority one of the UK’s most successful loyalty programmes globally Engaging 93% of the hard to reach global affluent tribe for HSBC Premier with Jade Putting Aviva insurance in to 1 in 3 homes with Aviva Advantages
Founded in 2009 by Richard Marshall and Gareth Currie, Influence Digital is a consumer-first, digital and social marketing agency in partnership with Independent Talent Group.
Our view is that no one strand of a digital and social media campaign should operate in isolation and that a broad, holistic strategy leads to far greater impact. By considering the audience first, along with the channels and the content which engages them, we infuse every experience with meaning and relevance. Why? This delivers results.
Our core services are strategy & planning, creative, development, paid media, influencer marketing and community management.
The Miroma Group is a communications collective offering data-driven ideation, creation and distribution services. Established in 2002, challenger thinking, creativity and innovation has always been at our core.
With our expertise, agility and scale, we have developed a business that gives our specialist teams industry-leading insight with exposure and unparalleled access to next generation technology.
We are spearheading a new age communications model across our global network and with over 200 clients in 11 markets, we work with brands such as Hamleys, Tesco, InterContinental Hotels Group, Samsung, Spotify, eBay, Volkswagen Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, L’Oreal and Amazon.