Media: Double Standards - 'Make a brilliant programme, and they will come'

Two industry experts discuss branded content, which aims to reward consumers and clients alike, and is changing how we interact with brands.

ANDREW WILKIE - MANAGING DIRECTOR, GUM

- What are the branded content opportunities available to advertisers?

How long is a piece of string? Branded content should be as limitless as the imagination and as adventurous as the strength of the agency/client relationship. Anything that's relevant for the brand and the consumer is capable of branded content application.

- What are some of the new and innovative things in branded content?

Opportunities such as mobile TV become much more realistic with the advent of DVBH (digital video broadcasting - handheld). As soon as mobile phone technology allows instant streaming, the landscape will change dramatically, with tailor-made content transforming the way consumers interact with brands.

- What are the challenges involved in getting users to interact with branded content?

The main challenge has to be keeping up. With new technologies and new forms of entertainment leaping up everywhere, the trick is really getting to grips with consumer needs and ensuring brands respond swiftly, insightfully, creatively and appropriately.

- What is the best piece of branded content you have seen?

BMW films still ranks pretty highly for brave, bold, highly creative content delivery, and I loved the Billabong Odyssey. However, speaking personally, I'm still very proud to have been associated with getting Xfm as the key partner for John Peel's Meltdown on the South Bank in 97 (despite obvious Radio 1 connections) - proof that great business ideas don't need formal classifications to exist.

- Which brands are doing great work in this area?

For the sheer breadth and depth of their content delivery, you still have to be respectful of both Red Bull and Diesel. Red Bull, because its audience's understanding of the brand is so strong, that it can get some genuinely innovative consumer-generated content produced at whim. Diesel, because of its numerous initiatives in connecting with urban youth.

- What is the difference between branded content and sponsorship?

Sponsorship, more often than not, is the relatively straightforward association of a brand with an existing entity. At GUM, we insist on using the model of creating brand-authored content, where the content itself is created specifically from the heart of the brand and its unique positioning in the market.

- How can advertisers best use branded content?

By clearly understanding the media sociology and cultural language of their consumers. Acute awareness of brand, platform, consumer and the potential of the content itself is the only way forward.

- How willing are people to view branded content?

Providing there is a genuine sense of entertainment value, there should be no issue. As Kurt Cobain once said: "Here we are now, entertain us."

- What is your dream project?

The Sagatiba project we undertook last year has to come close. Creating a 50-minute documentary investigating the pure spirit of Brazil and then seeing it air across Europe on Christmas Day and Boxing Day was very rewarding professionally. There are a few others in the pipeline, so I hope Santa's still a strategic partner in 2008.

ADRIAN PETTETT - PARTNER, CAKE GROUP

- What are the branded content opportunities available to advertisers?

Limitless. TV is vital for adding scale to a project, but it's important to think beyond just broadcast media. Compelling content can come from bespoke brand entertainment activity across many platforms, making it easier for advertisers to reach the consumer.

- What are some of the new and innovative things in branded content?

Broadcast commissioners are now getting it. Also, interactive, mobile, download and slice and dice for user-generated content online.

- What are the challenges involved in getting users to interact with branded content?

Quality. First and foremost, you must create content that people want to watch. It needs to be entertaining and compelling in its own right. Too much sell and brand-speak, then the quality nose-dives. Plus, you won't get the broadcast slots that deliver numbers. Creating low-budget, late-night narrowcast copycat programmes does the brand more harm than good.

- What is the best piece of branded content you have seen?

Orange Playlist because it was a milestone. It's the first ever AFP (advertiser-funded programming) series on ITV to have naming rights, the first ever to be re-commissioned and, at several points, the highest-rated music programme on TV.

- Which brands are doing great work in this area?

Orange, Vodafone, Motorola, Carling - all these guys are conduits to content, and are doing great things. Mercedes, BMW, Pepsi and Adidas have all delivered projects that have accelerated the genre.

- What is the difference between branded content and sponsorship?

Branded content is created from scratch, developed outward from the core brand. Sponsorship is appending a brand name to an existing entity - increasingly difficult to find a perfect fit.

- How can advertisers best use branded content?

To drive brand awareness, respect the audience. They're smart enough to understand the deal - "we entertain you, you feel good about us", not "let's try to shoehorn in some over-wrought brand-speak bollocks at every turn". Never worked for ads, doesn't work for content.

- How willing are people to view branded content?

More than four million people worldwide have watched the Red Square concert we did for Motorola. As long as it's entertaining, they're as engaged as any other form. No-one watches a show just because of the way it was funded or put together. Make a brilliant programme, and they will come.

- What is your dream project?

One that over-delivers on client expectation and entertains the audience. Every successful brand-funded project must set out to fuse together the boundaries of TV, radio, mobile and the internet. A strong identity and compelling content are the cornerstones.

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