The Branded Entertainment Observatory (OBE) has been reviewing over 120 branded content cases from last year, including: Advertiser Funded Programming (AFP), Native Advertising, Brand Integration, digital projects, short films, apps and more.
Our following Top Ten Italian Branded Content guide for 2014 has been put together based on the following criteria: originality, design and production values, platform integration, sharing, and above all, their ability to highlight the potential of branded content marketing approaches that go beyond simple product placement and sponsorship:
1.) illycaffè: A small section of the world: A documentary produced by illycaffè about women from a village in the Talamanca mountains of Costa Rica who decided to fight back against the economic hardship in their small community by growing coffee. It is a tale of resilience and female emancipation. The documentary was directed by Academy Award winner Lesley Chilcott, and has been nominated for international prizes.
2.) Enel: X Factor Challenge: The 8th edition of X Factor by FremantleMedia reached a record audience both on TV and online, as well as trending several times on Twitter’s world top rankings. The format successfully manages product placement for a whole number of brands, including: Lozza sunglasses by De Rigo Vision, Max Factor, Morellato Gioielli and Sector no Limits, Peugeot, Puma, Testanera, Twix, Yamaha, etc. It also shows how existing TV shows can be extended for interesting new forms of brand integration that provide multiple touch points for brands to engage their potential consumers. For example, the Italian Energy Group Enel was integrated into the main show as sponsor of the 2nd chance for the eliminated contestant at the beginning of the series. Their Enel Challenge also allowed the audience to contribute to an episode of Xfactor, by choosing songs that had a Light theme for the remaining competitors.
3.) Samsung: Maestros Academy: a branded content initiative helping launch the next generation of Italian artisans, where young adults can attend online training courses by the Maestros on the Maestro Academy who explain their craft through video tutorials. In the accompanying TV series produced by Magnolia and aired on Discovery Networks Europe’s Real Time and DMAX channels, 12 protagonists aged between 20 and 35 learn the art of creating with their own hands. Despite growing up in a technological society, they show a great passion for tradition and for the craft. The brand is present but not intrusive, because it is inserted coherently into the narrative flow with Samsung products being used as tools to support the learning activity. This promotes the Brand as the means by which young adults can learn from the Maestros and realise their dreams.
4.) Lavazza: Inspiring chef – il gusto dell’arte: a four episode documentary produced by Zodiak Active for Sky Arte. In each episode, audiences are introduced to the two starred chefs featured in the 2014 Lavazza calendar (Bottura and Bras, Adria and Cracco, Oldani and Canavacciuolo). They take the viewer on a voyage of discovery in search of special and unique ingredients, and places of art in their region. The initiative aligns the brand with haute cuisine, taste and culture. The product is not discussed or presented in the show, but it is conveyed through iconic shots of espresso or coffee capsules that are enjoyed by the chefs, as well as being made more explicit at the end of each episode after the credits (“a Lavazza and Zodiak Active production for SKY ARTE HD”).
5.) Pasta Garofalo: Caserta Palace Dream: This was the last short film produced by Pasta Garofalo, and forms part of their “Garofalo firma il Cinema” film project that was distributed online and on Sky Cinema Cult. It was written and directed by James McTeigue of ‘V for Vendetta’ fame and is set in Caserta Palace. It tells the story about the platonic love between Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony (Kasia Smutniak), the wife of King Charles of Bourbon (Valerio Mastandrea), and the genial Italian architect Luigi Vanvitelli (Richard Dreyfuss). The brand only appears in the films credits at the beginning and end, but it is more than simple sponsorship because Garofalo instigated and the funded the production.
Storytelling plays a central role here not least by developing the brand identity through the regional heritage and its spirit (Campania is the region where the company is located), but also through the ‘way of life’ that emotionally engages the audience. At the same time, the brand is linked to values evoked by the short film that are relevant to the target audience, such as the elegance (in the mood, in the characters, in the directing), Italian invention (Vanvitelli), and the status of both the location and brand (the palace and the ability to attract international actors and directors).
6.) Corriere della Sera: Italia Volta Pagina: italiavoltapagina is an online platform created by Corriere della Sera that collects papers written by journalists, collaborators and bloggers on positive stories about Italy – providing a positive analysis on work, family, school, health, environment of a country that doesn’t give up, but faces the crisis. The business partners (Enel, Eni, Intesa San Paolo, Ferrero, Telecom Italia, Vodafone) are not only sponsor, but also active contributors with articles about development, sustainability, technology and other areas (scroll down home page to find native ads from Vodafone, Intesa, Enel, etc.). In association with Eni, Corriere produced an English digital version of the special edition “L’Italia che ce la fa” that’s free to download from the web site Digitalians.
7.) Radio DJ: Top DJ: This eight-part talent show format by Endemol Italia and produced by YAM112003 was commission by Italian pay TV channel Sky Uno and free-to-air counterpart Cielo. It’s comprised of a nationwide search for Italy’ best disc jockey, where famous DJs from the show’s brand partner Radio DJ judge and mentor the talent who who can win a contract with Sony Music and headline tour. Top Dj is a cross-media and cross-platform project that also includes online magazine, documentary film, social integration and product placement from brands like Vigorsol, SKYY Vodka, Alfa Romeo and others.
8.) Miu Miu: Women’t Tales: The Prada brand asked to eight female film makers to tell what it means to be a woman through a short film. The 8 short films are narrated from a female point of view and cover beauty, self-care, deeper values as love and friendship. Somebody written by Miranda July is the eighth and final chapter. This Funny and touching film presents a radically new way of messaging invented by Miranda herself, who believes that it would be nice to deliver messages face to face (rather than using telephone, email, sms) even when one cannot be physically present. The audience was invited to visit the web site somebodyapp.com, where everyone could leave a message. In partnership with Feltrinelli Tv, Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales project aired on laEffe Tv. The first run was accompanied by director’s interviews about their work, along with examples of women’s imagination and poetry.
9.) Levissima: La Scalata: This real docu-game that uses the potential of HTML5 and Gopro cameras to provide POVs from professional climbers. La Scalata (The Climbing) gives the user an immersive experience as if part of real scientific documentary as the climbers tackle the mountainous terrain. The project is a partnership with FoxLab for National Geographic Channel.
10.) Ferrero: Magic Kinder: The Magic Kinder app produced by Zodiak for Ferrero for tablet and smartphone. The App allows the brand to engage their audience with a range of content, including: educational documentaries and games, bedtime stories, and the ability to customize your own avatar.
As you can see above, the Italian Branded Content space is still dominated by more Branded Entertainment projects that leverage TV, although brands are being to invest in more projects delivered through digital-first channels. Interestingly, radio has yet to be exploited by brands despite the huge potential it offers. The Italian Radio Industry has yet to define a coherent strategy yet when it comes to incorporating branded content. Brand integration or product placement – where products are endorsed by hosts during their shows – is, however, more mainstream though, and there’s some Radio Funded Programming like RDS Academy and Radio Italia Live, aired on Sky platform and Mediaset.
The projects above have been ranked qualitatively as part of our review rather than quantitatively, but we hope our guide provides a flavour of the quality and professionalism of the Italian Branded Content and Entertainment industry, and how practitioners here are ready to compete with their peers internationally.