Who’s doing video right?


iMedia Connection

By Bradley Werner

A number of brands are producing original online video, but not all the content is hitting the mark. See why Suave and Sprint get it, and why Bank of America does not.

At my recent high school reunion I reconnected with an old friend. She mentioned that she works at a creative agency, which opened the floodgates for me to launch into a wild monologue about why relevant online content is a dynamic vehicle for exposing an engaged audience to a brand. I used those exact words too.

When I finished, she hugged me, told me she had a huge crush on me in high school, and insisted we do lunch sometime (though she ran away before we could nail down any specific dates). My hard sell was obviously ineffective and inappropriately placed.

So what does this have to do with the ads-before-every-video, buy-me-now-click-here-and-click-hard business of online advertising?

What Bank of America is doing — wrong
First, let me say that I am a BoA customer and have never been wronged by them. I harbor no ill will towards any of their officers, employees or ATMs.

BoA recently launched a series of online videos called “MoBanking” starring writer, comedian, and satirist, Mo Rocca. The series features Rocca “dumping a load of banking knowledge on your internets” by conducting man-on-the-street interviews around New York and casually working new products from BoA’s banking portfolio into the conversation.

As usual, Mr. Rocca brought home the hilarity, and the candid responses of the interviewees were funny in their awkwardness. The production quality was high too. So why isn’t this a great piece of internet content?

First, it’s a matter of fit between the content and the BoA brand. Banking just isn’t much fun, and the BoA brand isn’t all that tongue-in-cheek. Rocca’s witty, pseudo-conservative persona may fit the BoA brand if it had a cocktail in its hand, but humor about checking your balance? Does that even fit into an existing genre of comedy? What type of person is compelled to virally shoot around video about credit alerts?

Second, it’s a matter of intent. In many of the videos Mr. Rocca tees up the audience so they know the focus of the piece is to give them information about a banking product. In other videos, the reference to banking is latent (“So, how do you feel when something you need isn’t there?”) and the punch line to Mo’s questions is a title card alluding to a BoA product (“Overdraft Protection”). This approach makes the whole series a sales pitch, which may not make it ineffective, but does tend to inhibit how people embrace the show.

What Suave and Sprint are doing — right
When Suave and Sprint wanted to target mothers, they co-produced a web series for them called “In the Motherhood.” The show stars the very talented Jenny McCarthy, Chelsea Handler and Leah Remini: each episode’s script is inspired by true stories submitted by mothers.

The episodes all start with a five-second bumper for the show that features the two brands’ logos and mentions that they conceived the program.

Besides that, there is no obvious intent to tell you that Suave and Sprint are the sponsors or to sell you on their products.

Jenny McCarthy’s character doesn’t constantly talk on or about her cell phone. Chelsea Handler doesn’t only see Leah Remini’s character when they’re getting shampooed and conditioned. Story lines don’t culminate with a moral like “Mothers who communicate more clearly, and have a natural looking shine, are the best mothers.”

It’s a soft sell based on association. The show is really entertaining, the production quality and talent is obvious, and by making it available to the audience for free, the brands benefit from the halo effect of good programming.

What’s more, on the show’s MSN homepage, both brands have special sections where users can learn more about their latest promotions…but the brands in no way take over the experience or try to take the focus away from the content their audience wants.

What are you doing?
When it comes to producing branded content, advertisers can definitely benefit from giving their target markets entertaining and relevant content. They just need to remember that the canvas they’re working with is much longer than 30 seconds and that the attention level is intrinsically higher. This makes a hard sell much less appealing.

If the brand tries to force itself where it doesn’t belong and Trojan horse its way in front of a user by pretending to be content, or if it doesn’t fit with the tone of content, users will pick up on that, and ultimately, they may be turned off by the brand, even if they once had a huge crush on it.


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