3 fundamentals for successful branded video


iMedia Connection

When it comes to video, you have two options: create a commercial or create branded content. If you take the latter route, you’ll need to do more than just create a pretty video.

At one point during a film that I am too often chastised for quoting, the protagonist loses a competition and is confronted, quite publicly, with the realization that his old, tried and true methods for staying at the top of his game are no longer working.

Later, on a Manhattan backstreet, the heartbroken hero takes the opportunity created from his defeat to solemnly look into the eyes of his own reflection in a murky puddle. “Who am I?” he asks his reflection.

So, who are you?
In conjunction with the fabled “death of the 30-second spot” the web has put marketers looking to expand their online arsenal of tools in a position to offer the public pristine, longer-form video content. This means giving the base of enthusiasts even more ways to engage with the brand, while also allowing for the distribution of valuable content with which to catch the eyes, minds and hearts of users who may not seek out the brand.

Before an advertiser can start producing interesting, relevant content for their audience though, they need to make a decision as to who they are. The answer lies in whether they are making a commercial or branded content.

Branded entertainment
Whether branded entertainment employs an active or passive strategy, it still isn’t a commercial. To date, the videos used in banner ads have overwhelmingly been commercials. To successfully grab the user’s attention, the videos need to look amazing and have something engaging occur right away (a celebrity, an explosion, a hyper-targeted subject matter, etc.). Commercials need to express the benefit of the product or impart warm and fuzzy feelings in a matter of a few seconds.

With branded entertainment online, the canvas of time can be blown out to a three to five minute narrative, reducing the need for a hard sell. One company that has successfully extended branded entertainment content to longer form is AXE with its new “Naughty to Nice Program.” The program includes a five minute webisode about rehabilitating good-girls-gone-bad, featuring tongue-in-cheek product placement that’s interwoven into the plot. Another example is Dr. Pepper’s campaign “Band in a Bubble,” (also shown on MTV) which featured an online component where users could watch and interact with the band, Cartel, as they lived inside a giant bubble on New York’s pier 54 for 20 days, composing a new album. The only integration for the marketer there was logo placement in the bubble and on the website portal.

Last year, two television shows — “The Gamekillers,” which appeared on MTV, and “Cavemen,” which ran on ABC — were extensions of marketing campaigns from AXE and GEICO, respectively. The plots never revolved around being rejected because of musty armpits, or scavenging for lower car insurance, but with characters directly tied to the brand’s ad campaigns, the connection was very apparent. The staying power of the 30-minute shows didn’t play out on TV, but the ideas (which were highly anticipated) would have translated well in shorter webisodes online.

The three F words
So when the video you’re producing is longer than 30-seconds and doesn’t end with a call-to-action, witty tagline or activation button, how do you ensure success?

According to research by Millward Brown Chief Global Analyst Nigel Hollis in the paper “Branded Content: More than Just Showing Up,” branded content plays out on a continuum that goes from passive product integration up to actively produced branded entertainment. Success across the continuum lies with a focus on what he calls, “The 3 F’s: Fit, Focus and Fame.”

“Fit” has a lot to do with the relevance of the content to the brand and the relevance of the content to the target market. Dr. Pepper is a bubbly soft drink with a brand all about being young at heart. The band in the bubble concept fit the brand well.

“Focus” is the concept of where the attention is placed…on the content or on the brand? This is where the tight rope must be walked since, at the heart of it, marketers want people to be enamored with their brand, not the content. But alas, this isn’t a commercial. One issue with “The Band in a Bubble” campaign was that at times, extremely prominent logo placement distracted users from the band’s activities. Also, to get access to the bubble video feeds, one had to enter massive amounts of demographic information about oneself. This took away from the experience.

“Fame” is the “level of additional supporting activity” that an advertiser lends to their branded shows. In promoting “Cavemen,” GEICO played a veritable game of Where’s Waldo with the media, having the cavemen attend award shows, corporate parties and sporting events, as well as show up in online campaigns. Research from ComScore supports this strategy, stating that “brand recognition resulting from exposure to both placement and advertising is 23 percent higher than that achieved by advertising alone.”

Video is powerful, and when distributed online, whether as a straight commercial or as an engaging piece of branded content, it definitely needs to be of high quality. The difference, though, is that once an advertiser decides to benefit from the branded content format, he must recognize that there’s more to it than just making the content look really, really, ridiculously good.


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