In this town, it's who you know

The migration of Hollywood blockbusters from the big screen to the smallest ones is giving more brands a chance to deliver a star turn. All they need is a helping hand

Douglas...“Producers weigh consideration of brand participation as judiciously as casting an actor”
Douglas...“Producers weigh consideration of brand participation as judiciously as casting an actor”

Hollywood: a factory of dreams, a source of re-invention. The city and industry can count on a steady stream of new arrivals and reboots every year. What has changed is the opportunity for content creators to control their destiny through emerging content distribution platforms. 

No longer are producers reliant on a lengthy development deal, a traditional TV cable model or the established feature-film studio system. Actors shopping around headshots and attending cattle calls are becoming the road less travelled. Rather, much of today’s talent is being discovered not on the small screen but on the even smaller screens of mobile devices. 

The evolution of over-the-top platforms is converting audiences and acquiring the best talent. When David Fincher and Kevin Spacey signed on to Netflix’s House Of Cards, industry peers took notice. At its launch in 2013, Fincher was questioned about moving to the nascent platform. He responded as only a film-maker would – by fashioning a small rectangle with his fore-finger and thumbs connected: "Because this, this small screen is where audiences will be." 

Long gone are the days when the small screen was considered a slip in your Hollywood ranking. Prestigious film-makers and their content have been embraced by HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and YouTube Red. Series on these platforms are being recognised by critics and global audiences, with adoption stoked by aggressive territory expansion plans and access to streaming through mobile apps. These platforms support their film-makers and are not beholden to advertisers. As one notable Hollywood producer put it: "I get little pushback on budget or script notes. I can do what I do best and make a film." 

This artistic autonomy is also affecting the way brands are integrating into content; decisions on brand integration are left to the discretion of the producers. Savvy producers recognise the shift of media spends and the desire from brands to participate in the emotional connection their stories make with audiences. But they also realise how crucial the role a brand can play in support of their story or in providing the shorthand needed to cue the audience about a character. For this reason, producers weigh consideration of brand participation as judiciously as casting an actor.

Content hitting near-critical mass, and the increased demand in brand integrations, resulted in the development of BEN – the Branded Entertainment Network – a solution towards aggregating these opportunities.

BEN is an interactive platform that provides global brands and media buyers access to integration opportunities within film, TV, OTT, and leading digital influencers on YouTube, Vine, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitch, Instagram and other platforms. 

BEN is the first of its kind and fuelled by veteran brand inte-gration specialists with years of relationships and experience in negotiating and executing memorable on-screen brand moments for our clients. As a Bill Gates company, IP protection is paramount, and this is validated by the monthly, 6,000-plus rotating pieces of content entrusted to us by global content creators. The technology behind BEN creates proactive strategy development, and brings third-party metrics to a practice that lacked the science and discipline needed to land a position as a line item in a media budget. 

BEN can help secure the audition, but experience and respectful collaboration with Hollywood gatekeepers and storytellers land the role. After all, in this town: "It’s who you know."

If you could get anyone to write (or direct) your story, who would it be? Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange Is The New Black). I am as imperfectly "balanced" as the next woman. I bask in my good fortune of career and children. Jenji moves stories forward for women that empower who we are and challenge the societal norms of what we are "supposed to be".
Which fictional character would you hire? Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride). He is relentless and tenacious with the task at hand… or six-fingered hand. 
Who would narrate your story? Matthew McConaughey. No matter how eccentric or disparate a chapter may be, everything will be "Alright, alright, alright". 
What’s your nemesis? Entitlement. I won’t stand for it. 

by Caressa Douglas, vice-president, branded integration, BEN

With more than two decades of relationships in the entertainment space, Caressa has a passion to seamlessly integrate brands into the fabric of Hollywood storytelling

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