Co-owned media: the equilibrium reached when a strong consumer brand and a strong media brand come together is a match made in heaven.
The whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts. That means that alongside the traditional categories of "paid, owned, earned" channels, we should insert a fourth term prominently in between the first two – "co-owned" media.
Media agencies have to prime themselves to treat media owners as communication partners.
To talk not about media space, but connection strategies. To meet first with writers and content creators, followed up by a meeting with the commercial team to make good ideas happen.
Why 'native' advertising is like a brand giving up
Co-owned media has to work for both parties or it ends up being a less productive transaction than it otherwise could be. At one end of the spectrum is a brand-buying space on a media platform to impose themselves on the environment. It's how media budgets are often spent…and it works.
But because advertising stands apart from the content it sits alongside, it can be easily filtered out, and this approach doesn't extract as much benefit from the two-brand relationship as it could.
At the other end of the spectrum is native advertising; brand owners funding content that looks so much like the media owner's content that the prominence of the brand is diminished. Arguably, the less prominent the brand is, the more successful it is as a piece of native advertising. I'd argue that in this case, although the content may not be so readily filtered, the brand will be.
Co-owned media means neither the brand imposing themselves unsympathetically on a media environment, nor going so "native" as to give up having a strong point of view in favour of assimilating into the publisher environment.
Media agencies need to communicate their client's brands in a way that 1) shows the brand’s strong point of view on the world, and 2) is endorsed (properly, with feeling, not just by badging) by the media partner.
A forum for partnership
Those kinds of partnerships are the focus for one of Vizeum's regular client initiatives – Vizeum Connects. In a speed-dating setting, we set up "dates" for our clients with the best and most innovative media partners in the industry, with the hope that new partnerships will be created from scratch to suit both parties.
With Vizeum’s involvement admittedly it's a bit more like a ménage a trois than a date, but, hey, that’s how we roll.
This kind of close collaboration is typified by campaigns such as the launch of 20th Century Fox’s 'X-Men: Days of Future Past', which used a combination of film and C4 talent to evoke the theme of the film and the re-naming of XFM to X-Men FM, or a joint venture with the Sorted Food Channel on YouTube as a way of demonstrating in an ultra-real way how Lea & Perrins can be used in everyday cooking.
So rather than going native, we work hard to involve media owners in our vision to find new ways of communicating our clients' brands. We want to talk to them not only about the space that they have to sell, but also about what they believe in, what their own consumers care about most, and about how we can collectively say something about the world more strongly and interestingly than either brand could on their own.
Scott Magee is strategy director at Dentsu Aegis Network's Vizeum