Branded Content WTF? My 2¢…

On Tuesday I attended Mumbrella’s Festival of Branded Entertainment, the first of its kind in Australia, all curated by the very switched on Cathie McGinn. Whilst participating in this joyous celebration of all things branded content and participating in some twitter banter I realised that I needed to do some thinking on the definition of branded content/branded entertainment, and why it was being discussed and debated so often.

Really the definition is so straightforward even Wikipedia have it nailed.
Branded content blurs conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes entertainment. Branded content is essentially a fusion of the two into one product intended to be distributed as entertainment content, albeit with a highly branded quality. Unlike conventional forms of entertainment content, branded content is generally funded entirely by a brand or corporation rather than, for example, a movie studio or a group of producers. Branded entertainment is used in events and installations, film, video the internet, and television.

Seems straightforward right? Then why has there been so much discussion about what it is?

I think what we’re actually trying to do is define what makes quality branded entertainment. An argument and debate that is way more complex not to mention extremely subjective.

So what do I regard as quality branded content? **Video warning. I warn you that this subjective opinion will obsessively hero video.**

I believe branded content isn’t just one film on its own, it’s a body of work, it’s tiers of continually updated content that transforms the brand into a broadcaster. Brands like Nike and Red Bull have this nailed. Brands need to have content strategies, they can’t just think about campaign work, they need to plan for the year ahead, brands do it with marketing plans, well now, there needs to be a content plan that accompanies that. There needs to a be mix of utility, entertainment and types of content. Page 4 of the 360i report says it better than I can. (Great article)
The content needs to be successful in communicating the brand at the core of the concept without it being either product placement or sponsorship. (Sorry, that’s my branded entertainment snobbery)
Content needs to carry a utility, does it entertain, or inform or challenge? Or do all three? And …just putting a TV Ad online doesn’t make it content.  The Grand Prix winner on the day was for the  Opera House,  The Ship Song Project, (Featured above) the question is, is this just a long ad? I feel if it was just the music video in isolation, it might be a long ad but sitting along side the longer documentary and the recently released Opera House Project it turns a music video into what looks like a steady content strategy.   What do you all think? Long ad or Branded Content? I’d love a debate on this.

Content that doesn’t have a specific audience in mind, content can’t just be made for the brand or creatives own amusement. I have to reference the most recent Seek campaign Beached Az, seriously – never show your own marketing department in a film. And finally my other bug bear is distribution and marketing support. . . content that isn’t seen and has no audience.  You can’t just make a film or 10, plonk it on YouTube or a branded website and expect people to see it.

Which quite smoothly brings me onto the argument of media support and distribution – another hot topic at the Festival of Branded Entertainment. One of the most agreed points was on media support and distribution. You can’t just make a content series and expect an audience to find it on your YouTube channel or brand site, you need to drive people there. ATL and digital campaigns need to point an audience to the deeper engagement and communication of your online content, not to mention a detailed seeding plan. Upfront editorial distribution plans need to be discussed, PR needs to be involved if possible. Why ignore any channel to gather your audience.

Another discussion I had with people at the Awards part of the day and was focussed on how we should be measuring branded content Not all content is about hits or views, if it’s online it’s the perfect place for narrowcasting. The question should be are you reaching your audience? What were your targets? Another one is on budget, when we’re measuring and awarding in the budget category, are we measuring on just production or are we talking media spend and entire campaign spend?

It was great to have all these discussions and debates, and it all feels so topical for Australian brands right now. If you’re a brand and you’re not creating content right now, you seriously need to be asking yourself why. The festival brought together branded entertainment advocates and content geeks discussing potentials about their dreams for the future of the industry, which is in my book, a success. We had our own success too!

In Australia we have the perfect landscape for branded content, so many skilled artists from broadcast and journalistic backgrounds and with budgets falling out of TV and traditional papers brands stand at the ready to harness and create content with these skilled artisans…

Congratulations Mumbrella and specifically Cathy on a very successful day. Thank you again.

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