Branded Content Made in Germany, Austria and Switzerland


We launched our first regional version of the Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM) yesterday. The launch event was kindly hosted by Omnicom Media Group Germany at the dmexco digital marketing exposition and conference in Cologne and covered by WuV. You can now see the whole book and download a PDF copy over on Slideshare. We’ll be serialising content here over the coming weeks starting with the Preface and Market Report below from joint editor and co-author Sandra Freisinger-Heinl:

Branded content is a big pool of wonderful ideas and opportunities for businesses. It’s so much more than just another marketing technique – in fact, it’s on its way to becoming a core activity for companies and their brands.

This is the first edition of the Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM) international ebook series exclusively for, from and about the German, Austrian and Swiss (DACH) region. I’m proud to be the local editor. I’m also thrilled that we now have a guide that sets some standards in this area and serves as a kind of ‘DIY tool’.

The book focuses mainly on branded content made with moving images, as the use of this format continues to rise and offers a variety of ways to connect emotionally with viewers.

All of our contributors shed blood, sweat and tears to develop branded content marketing within the DACH region! So this book is not just a technical guideline. As we provide insights from our daily work with brands and showcase the best examples of our projects, we hope that you will be inspired.

Whenever we present and recommend ways of using branded content in this book, we take a close look at the specifics of the German-speaking market, including legal and research aspects.

There’s still a long way to go. Our intention is to build up a community of experts in this field, to consult with and encourage brands and agencies to use this very effective marketing instrument we call branded content. You can connect with us on LinkedIn – please join the 650+ strong international BOBCM Group moderated by BOBCM’s curator Justin Kirby.

Some Germanic traits – such as organising production well and relying on technologies – will encourage the development of branded content marketing in our region. Some might inhibit it. For example, the desire to have evidence of value or success at any given time might kill off some excellent ideas, and make some brands and agencies cling to the use of traditional media only. We all have to be courageous to use branded content to its full potential in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

I personally want to thank the book’s main partner SevenOne AdFactory, an innovative company of broadcaster ProSieben SAT1 Media SE – particularly Petra Kroop who has a detailed knowledge of branded content trends and who supported this book in many ways. Thanks also to Margret Knitter from SKW Schwarz Rechtsanwälte for looking at the difficult legal areas of branded content marketing in order to increase our understanding. And I am very grateful to all the other dedicated contributors to this book.

Equipped with all the ideas, experience and insights from this book, you can prepare to test the waters. You can dive into the ocean of branded content and use the power of the branded content wave to enrich your business and engage better with your customers. We all love good content – let’s go for it now!

The use of branded content is increasing and becoming more and more important in Germany. Austria and Switzerland are hot on Germany’s heels. But what is branded content exactly?

Germany’s Digital Association, Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V., provides a definition for branded entertainment: “Entertainment on behalf of a brand or product. This brand-specific content for the web delivers the brand’s or product’s messages in entertaining formats (videos, games, etc.).” BVDW also supports a focus group on ‘moving image’ where video content is discussed, and a roundtable on content marketing.

I would define branded content as a “marketing activity where content is produced and distributed on behalf of a brand or product.” But it’s even more than that, as it influences marketing strategies, PR, sales, personnel and so on.

A German example that illustrates this point well is Deutsche Telekom ‘Familie Heins’. It features a family facing all the challenges of modern communication, presenting its daily life in multiple videos on the web and appearing in different locations in real life – including an Ed Sheeran concert and a casting call for the movie ‘Fack ju Göhte 2’. Telekom’s related commercials became a coherent extension of this idea, including detailed product information. The campaign shows what happens when a brand places the idea of branded content at the core of a product strategy.

In the DACH market, branded content activities can originate from marketing, media, or company management. Ideally, all departments and all agencies are involved, forget their silo mentality, and work together to generate relevant content for the brand and to engage with its consumers.

Branded content in different lengths and formats
There’s an amazing variety of successful branded content projects in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Categorising projects by length and media platforms used – (a simplification, as all good projects are multi-channel) – identifies five main groups:

  1. Long formats and TV shows
  2. Short videos on TV and the web
  3. Branded content connected with concerts and events
  4. Social media influencers, hashtags, user-generated content, etc
  5. Live branded content

1. Long formats and TV shows
Branded content can stand alone or be part of a TV show, even a prime-time show. A Nissan car was elevated in more than one way on Germany’s famous Saturday Night TV show ‘Mein bester Feind’, presented by popular hosts Joko and Klass. Broadcaster ProSieben created a car bungee jumping game featuring Nissan for the show, wowing the participants and the show’s viewers.

An entire TV show can be built around one product: ŠKODA Austria’s ‘Die Große Simply-Clever-Show was developed with Austrian TV channel ProSiebenSat.1 PULS 4 to accompany the launch of the ŠKODA Fabia car.

An interesting Swiss public TV series is Mission Surprise’ for Swiss International Air Lines. This series of highly emotional surprise visits to Swiss people living in foreign countries was part of a larger campaign to strengthen the airline’s image.

TV shows for brands can also be made in shorter formats, like the six-minute episodes of Fiat Urban Stories. This magazine-style TV series was broadcast on sixx to reach females and on ProSiebenMAXX to reach males. It involved famous TV presenter Annemarie Carpendale interviewing designers, extreme athletes and musicians from a Fiat 500 dubbed “the smallest TV studio ever”.

2. Short videos on TV and the web
The majority of branded content is in shorter formats: advertorials and paid-for advertising space on TV, or videos that are seeded on the web.

The hit last year was a simple idea, Edeka ‘Supergeil (feat. Friedrich Liechtenstein)’, which has clocked up more than 14 million views so far – just by saying combinations of the word super, like “super-sweet” and “super-products at Edeka food supermarkets”.

Relating video content on TV to a popular programme makes sense. A classic example is Maybelline Make-up School’ for L’Oréal, developed in connection with ‘Germany’s next Topmodel’. The Maybelline advertorials give advice on using make-up and feature make-up artist Boris Entrup creating special looks on models from the cast of the show.

Videos can also have the high production values of film. Following its mission statement #MeetTheModernTrailblazers, luxury brand Montblanc filmed a high quality new storytelling campaign about bloggers, artists, designers and Montblanc craftspeople on a virtual trip.

The video Telekom ‘Wi-Fi Dogs’ had a high quality requirement as well: to produce a credible campaign with the right cast. The result was ‘Jose’ promoting Telekom’s European Wi-Fi product with ‘dogs that are trained to search for Wi-Fi in holiday areas’. The first time you see it, you think, “Is that real?” That’s what they wanted and it was worth a Cannes Lion.

The Swiss video ‘Kleenex Kiss of Life’ engages viewers just by connecting simple paper tissues to highly emotional moments in life.

Piggybacking on a topical news story can also be engaging. The entertaining video ‘Letter is better!’, created by Austrian Post, assumes that the NSA knows everything about our digital communications but can’t get inside real paper letters.

Other videos show that branded content even works in the B2B sector, at least as part of an integrated campaign. This was recently proven by Dell ‘Tough Enough’, a sitcom shot in an office and aimed at IT administrators.

3. Branded content connected with concerts and events
Sometimes you don’t believe that finance or insurance brands can tell good stories, but they can. Well-established German building society Schwäbisch Hall created ‘Band sucht Bleibe’ (‘Band looking for a place to stay’), in which singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko appeared on music TV channel VIVA and online asking viewers if they could put him up for a night in their homes as he travelled Germany on a concert tour.

Car brand MINI worked with the band ‘The Vaccines’ as an integral part of the MINI John Cooper Works launch. To create a TV commercial, they used Instagram as the platform to receive user-submitted photos of places people wanted the new MINI to drive through.

Swiss drinks brand Rivella also used concerts and events to create emotive branded content. It developed its own event tour, #Pool Hero, in which funny challenges in swimming pools were staged. It was supported by famous Swiss YouTuber Bendrit Barja.

4. Social media influencers, hashtags, user-generated content, etc.
This leads us to the next phenomenon: YouTube stars as influencers with high reach are becoming more and more important in the German-speaking branded content world.

Brands are also creating their own concepts and starting their own branded YouTube channels. Coca Cola has popular CokeTV, a collaboration with young YouTubers presenting videos from events and taking part in new experiences.

Entire concepts can be based around YouTubers, as illustrated by #wireinander from Techniker Krankenkasse. Although it’s difficult for a health insurance company to reach young people, this campaign succeeded by telling stories about YouTubers who had to change their lives after accidents or illness. Other young people then shared their own stories via #wireinander. The campaign involved YouTuber LeFloid who recently interviewed Angela Merkel, which shows his reputation in Germany.

An international campaign in which user-generated content (UGC) played the main role is #lovemyfridge by Robert Bosch AG. It inspired users in 12 countries to post online declarations of love to their fridges. Food bloggers supported this initiative with their own love messages and cooked their favourite leftover recipes. Humorous and charming UGC was created.

5. Live branded content
The latest trend we’re seeing in branded content is one that’s been recognised internationally as well. It’s the trend to go live and it works on TV and online. However, the use of live-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat is still rare.

An outstanding campaign with an important live TV feature is Media Markt’s ‘Rabbit Race’ (Das große Osterhasen-Rasen). A series of races involving real rabbits that had been given humorous names and back stories was broadcast live on nine major German TV channels in prime time slots and live-streamed on three websites simultaneously. Sports presenter Frank Buschmann commentated and viewers could win reductions on their Easter shopping at Media Markt.

Another live TV event, running annually for more than 10 years in Germany, is ‘WOK-WM’, in which stars go down an iced toboggan run in a wok (yes, an Asian cooking pot). Competing teams are named after brands like Dr. Oetker Pizzaburger, and handyflash. This year, a worldwide team of YouTubers from Studio71 – including Sarazar, LeFloid and Dner – took part, adding a new twist: enormous reach on social media driving young viewers to watch TV.

Live branded content is also taking off on the web. Charity poker event ‘Let’s Play Poker Show’ regularly brings together a group of card players and YouTubers in locations from the Caribbean to Berlin, and broadcasts live on MyVideo and YouTube.

In Webers großes Grillfest, live web banner ads asked viewers to click and watch famous chef Johannes Lafer showing them how to cook a four-course meal on a BBQ in a live TV event. Viewers could join in by sending ingredient suggestions and questions via #WeberGrillFest.

A glance at brands becoming media, and platforms being used by brands
Brands engage the services of famous actors, artists, presenters and YouTubers to drive attention to their content. They invest significant effort in storytelling, whether emotional, comic, or functional. Many key players are involved, as you need a lot of factors to work well together in order to create great content. This has changed the agency world in DACH and found its expression in content and media hubs, too.


Austria’s Red Bull Media House is well known for its advanced content strategy. It produces great content about action sports and even extreme basejumping (culminating in the ‘Stratos’ project with Felix Baumgartner in space). The brand has effectively ‘become’ a media house.

Originally the job of TV ad producers and ad agencies, now all media agency networks, like MediaCom with Beyond Advertising and Omnicom with Fuse, have large departments supporting the creation and production of content for their clients.

L’Oréal has gone one step further and invested in a German-wide sustainable strategy for its brands. In April last year, L’Oréal’s Content Factory was founded under the roof of WPP and a new agency model that reacts quickly to client interests was born.

Roles change and the traditional lines of the client–agency–media triangle have become blurred, wrote W&V.* They explained that a lot of agencies are rebuilding and investing in digital as the advertising market changes. In general, the borders between media, creation, production and distribution are becoming less defined.

C3 Creative Code and Content evolved from corporate publishing to cover all types of storytelling for brands and is now one of the leading German content marketing agencies.

Private TV broadcasters have also joined the content business, as they recognise the necessity and have the resources available in their different departments. Large private TV channels can create branded content and arm it with image and reach.

Meanwhile, TV media houses are becoming interested in the younger target group, as many of the traditional media players sign up prominent YouTubers via subsidiary companies or collaborations.

New media players are also getting on board as the importance of non-linear TV is about to grow. For example, Vice Media, with its innovative channels for millennials, has increased its presence in Germany.

Germany’s AGF Arbeitsgemeinschaft Fernsehforschung is working on a measurement project, ‘Moving Image Currency’, which will provide cross-media data on streaming ads. Google agreed to join the project, making it highly relevant for mobile video research.

According to a Nielsen study cited in W&V, YouTube reaches an amazing 21.4 million unique viewers each month. Web pay-tv broadcaster Netflix has only 0.2 million, but is not really relevant for branded content here yet, although this is predicted to change (W&V 27-2015, Thomas Nötting ‘Die Grenzen Verschwimmen’, p.23-25, Nielsen 2014). German video platforms, like MyVideo with 3.5 million or T-Online with 2.2 million, also reach large audiences. Platforms like Vevo that focus on the music business can also be relevant partners for brands, as used for example in the Seat branded content campaign ‘On Tour’ (Auf Achse).


Google’s YouTube provides tips on building a content plan and engaging with the community in the YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands.

Social media are compulsory to distribute branded content and to engage with users by asking for comments or soliciting UGC.

Since the Facebook video player was relaunched in 2014, the number of videos on the platform has risen rapidly. According to a Facebook source, Facebook usage intensity in the DACH region is higher than global usage intensity, and more rich media formats are shared. This is due to our good infrastructure with a 3G+ network, which make videos available more easily than in other parts of the world. 34 million people are active Facebook users in DACH, 27 million in Germany alone, which offers massive potential to integrate branded content into the Facebook stream and be discovered by the right people.

Instagram is used for sharing emotive content such as photos and very short-form 15-second videos.

The importance of mobile is growing rapidly in DACH. As a lot of branded content is watched on mobiles, some experts advise that videos should work without sound and be very short-form. Regardless, the decisive factor will be the user experience.

In conclusion, the German-speaking market is increasing and perfecting the use of branded content and media platforms. In one episode of Telekom’s ‘Familie Heins’, Grandma Charlotte orders a rocket device to jazz up her grandson’s school presentation. She clearly knows how to grab attention, present a complex topic and engage a large number of viewers. That’s exactly what branded content in Germany, Austria and Switzerland does – it inspires.

Check out the Slideshare version of the book below, or read more in this series on BOBCM