more on branded content

April 22, 2009 ·

yesterday i was in a q&a session at the iab online video day. the topic was branded content. as a planner who has brought this tool out of the war chest for his clients, i had some good insights to share (at least i think that's why they asked me).


the main point that i wanted to elucidate on more here was around why an advertiser should pursue this approach for their brand. i broke it down into two criteria that must be evaluated prior to pursuing. if it doesn't meet both of these, than other approaches should be considered.

starts with the brand

i know, it's not normally where i'd say it starts because it always starts with the consumer. in a way it still does, but i'm assuming we've already gotten past the assumption that you are pursuing a digital opportunity because that is where your consumer is and a preferred channel for them.

so to be more precise, it starts with a brand need or it fills some gap in the brand's ability to tell a story and communicate with consumers. a couple of principles go into the making of this first criteria.
  • the piece should link strongly back to the core platform or pillar program of the brand. it's not a one-off initiative that doesn't build off anything deeply embedded into the constitution of a brand.
  • doing branded content should come out of a genuine need to amplify the brand. not because you saw another advertiser do it or a case study at a conference that showed it was a good thing to do.
  • does our message require a longer form vehicle to communicate? if the product, it's usage or the story of it is detailed, yet essential, then branded content can be considered.
consumer checkpoint
once you've identified a brand need, which is probably often easy to say yes to, then we move to the side of the equation that is much harder to pass. that of the consumer. these are tougher and more subjective questions to answer, but the consumer is solely in charge of the success.
  • is it valuable to them? will they get something out of it that otherwise isn't met elsewhere?
  • is it interesting? have we really delivered something that our consumer will actually want to spend time with?
  • is it entertaining? have we made it enjoyable for them to consume?
  • is this something that the consumer will make a connection with our brand? will they feel better about our brand after having seen it?
it's an evaluation as you would evaluate any other media decision. it's an honest look into what your efforts are meant to accomplish and if you're setting yourself up for success.

you do have to be a little more careful (but still take risks in your execution) as it's a tricky space to master. consumers are fickle and discerning about these things. it's not like a tv commercial that is 30 seconds long with the absolute expectation in the consumer's mind that it is a commercial. this is a much less hard selling piece and a fine line to walk because consumer perceptions in this area are murky. not to mention there's a lot more ground here (longer than a :30 sec. spot) and potential for missteps.

some other considerations around branded content that are also essential into the decision making process include
  • measurement: how will we know it worked and delivered to objectives?
  • promotion: the notion of 'if you build it they will come' is a fallacy, so how do you want to use media to make sure your consumers see it and it has a chance to succeed?
  • distribution: what channels will carry this for maximum reach and impact potential?
  • overtness: probably best practice to not shove the brand in the audience's face. find a way to subtly integrate, but not so far as the brand is completely lost.
the last thought is around collaboration. this is not the area of any one agency or client. it is a cross-functional process that will deliver best results if it is. media, creative, client, site, producers, all need a seat at the table and a say in what happens.

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