Branded Content

Here’s a great post on the MAD Blog which is owned and operated by TBWA\EUROPE. The post is pulled from the weekly memo penned by Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman of TBWA\ Worldwide.

He says, “We have been talking about branded content for years. And also of brand content. In the first case, the brand participates in pre-existing editorial content, created by others. In the second case, the brand creates its own content.

We have recommended to numerous clients that they play an editorial role, to create content that wouldn’t otherwise have existed. For instance, consider the short Visa Winter Olympics films; or “Replay,” where Gatorade created a re-match between the Easton and Phillipsburg College football teams, 15 years later, with exactly the same players and the same referees. I am also thinking of all those great brand content initiatives from Nissan, Pedigree or Absolut.”

Nissan Canada, in partnership with TBWA\TORONTO, recently took this advice to heart and created branded content that was highlighted here and that also lives here. The initial results have been great. To date, the spot has been viewed nearly 500,000 times.

Arguably this success shows that brands can create content that is as ‘legitimate’ as what’s produced by traditional media.

According to Pascal Somarriba, who is the former advertising director of Benetton, “People believe that the media are by definition independent. As a consequence, this freedom would guarantee the quality of the content they create. This reasoning is not justified.

“In fact, the media are profit-making businesses with commercial constraints that brands don’t have, because brands’ resources come from other activities. The desire to offer different brand experiences leads them to create qualitative content, and pushes them to invest in media projects which are financially inaccessible to traditional media. This is even truer for international companies, able to pay back their content on a worldwide scale.”

I think brands also have constraints. They need to live within their brand values that are carefully guarded by clients who can sometimes be risk-averse. Also, when Mr Somarriba refers to ‘the media,’ I think he’s only referring to journalists and editors. If so, he’s missing the entertainment media which is the largest creator of branded content.

Saturday Night Live for instance doesn’t suffer from limited resources. Consequently, in light of this content-creating juggernaut, the challenge goes beyond creating legitimate content. The challenge also includes creating entertaining stuff worth watching.

Fortunately, brands such as Nissan understand the advantage of creating branded content. It also helps that the Nissan Sentra SE-R Project is worth watching.

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