Branded Content Italia: a radical mindset change required

- in ARTICLES, FEATURES, Strategy & Planning

As a born & bred Italian, it was with extreme pleasure that I took a break from the London media scene for some time in the motherland over the past 12 months.

Given my background, my remit included Content; in particular working very closely with MediaCom’s clients as well as the Italian media to develop innovative branded entertainment programs.

If I had to describe in one sentence the state of the Branded Content industry in Italy I would say that in many ways it mirrors the general cultural situation of the country… Hopefully by the end of this article it will be clear what I mean by that.

Italy has a world’s reputation for its obsessive pursuit of beauty. The aestetically pleasing is top priority in most parts of life, across all industries and amongst all demographics. Content Marketing is no exception to that. For a taster of what I mean the Top 10 Italian Branded Content Projects recently published on BOBCM offers some perfect examples.
Just a few seconds of the documentaries produced by Illy Caffe’ and Lavazza… or the films by Pasta Garofano and Miu Miu will be enough to illustrate this.
These examples also illustrate that when the Italian Creative community mobilises, they mean business. Moving storytelling, beautifully shot scenes and very high production values. It’s the Italy of La Dolce Vita, La Vita e’ Bella, La Grande Bellezza…But just like in the cinematographic industry, those examples of excellence are far and few between. They are isolated cases rather representations of a thriving industry that consistently delivers.
Furthermore, to date the industry seems to be made of these isolated attempts by Italian power brands (in many cases still family-run businesses), who are prepared to invest decent chunks of money behind important productions, perhaps more for prestige than with a clear content and/or distribution strategy in mind. Agencies, especially creative agencies, seem to have taken a back-seat; they have been slow and somewhat reluctant to accept this significant change and they have been resistant to it.
That brings us to the third and final most important component besides brands and agencies: the media. Also here enthusiasm has been patchy and attitude divisive.
My gold star for being open and embracing this new trend goes to the smaller Pay TV channels, such as Sky & Discovery… Again, the Top 10 compiled by the Osservatorio of Branded Entertainment confirms that any significant branded content project was developed with and/or aired on one of these channels.
’Terrestrial’ channels instead have been very slow to jump on the branded entertainment wagon… Like in other countries, there are some valid reasons for that, especially for the State owned channels RAI. However, the lack of interest and proactivity in wanting to collaborate with brands and agencies to try and find a formula that would work for all parties finds no justification. Channel 4 in UK provides a great example of what can be done within the restrictions of a public broadcaster.
That said, the biggest disappointment by far have been the digital properties. Even properties such as Yahoo! that in other countries have been very active players in content marketing, in Italy have not made any significant contribution to date, in fact no contribution at all. It is a huge anomaly as generally across Europe and outside content marketing has been driven by digital platforms to a great extent. The exception comes from the world of the so called YouTubers, the new generation of digitally-born stars, which have made huge headways also in Italy.
In conclusion, the Branded Content industry in Italy is currently characterised on one hand by a very creative talent community and on the other by too many parties going out of their ways to maintain the status quo… There are strong bases for this industry to thrive but that will require a radical change of mindset from these key parties as well as a climate of three-way collaboration between clients, agencies and media. Collaboration is indeed the primary ingredient for successful content marketing programs.
Tia nominated Rimmel’s Educating Binky for our latest report, which was a series of shorts created in partnership with Channel 4 and launched during the second half of 2014 on 4oD.
If you’d also like to share an example then please tweet via @juzzie using the #BOBCM hashtag or get in touch through the contact page.