Is branded content inspiring film?

- in ARTICLES, The Drum
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dandad-panelConsumers are faced with a barrage of communication every day. ‘Media meshing’ – the use of two or more media at the same time – continues to grow, with 87% of all adults now multimedia tasking each week – a five percentage point rise in reach since 2013, with a corresponding 8% increase in hours spent doing this. At the same time, content is being created at an unprecedented rate. Consequently, trends are emerging that will help get brands noticed, one of which is a rush towards branded content.

At Advertising Week Europe 2015, DCM, in association with D&AD, hosted a branded content workshop with panelists Adrian Pettett, Steve Jamison and Luke Taylor. Our wide-ranging discussion covered definitions, production, distribution and partnerships.

We all agreed that brands looking to move into the content space need to have an idea that’s pure and original, while also understanding exactly who will watch the content, like it and share it. A key part of the session looked at opportunities available for brands to foster connections with film, such as live streaming into cinemas from big events to create more immersive experiences. Pettett noted that there was a clear opportunity to show branded content in the cinema, aligning it with film releases – there are 600+ films released across the UK alone every year.

While content will always be king, brands need to start being braver, bolder and more disruptive with their approach. The key however is to keep it simple. Don’t over complicate and don’t overplay it. The one trend that will never change is that the customer should always come first.

Luke Taylor, Head of Branded Entertainment & Channels, Pulse Films:

We consider branded entertainment to be anything that lives outside the 30- or 60-second spot, and the various platforms where that could live. Often we consider branded entertainment – when there is a TV spot – to have a number of different layers around it.

Squarespace with Jeff Bridges’ ‘Listening Tapes’ was an excellent example of how this works across all the layers. You had the Super Bowl ad, then Jeff Bridges creating his own Squarespace website using their platform, and taking it to ecommerce as well.

We also had an experience where films themselves are becoming the brand, and we’re creating content outside of the film alone to generate interest and engagement. We did a project called The Gun’, which was created to bridge the 10-year story gap between the two ‘Planet of the Apes’ films. It targeted a very niche audience and generated a lot more interest in the films. It’s now become a property in its own right that could potentially become its own feature film. That’s an interesting way in which film has embraced the notion of branded entertainment.

Adrian Pettett, CEO, Cake Group and Havas Sports & Entertainment:

For us, branded content is when an original idea is funded by a brand first and foremost. That could be a piece of film, an event, a story, a piece of art.

When I talk to my clients about branded entertainment, they’re talking about creating a narrative or a dialogue with their customers, in whatever the most appropriate channel might be.

For me, it’s about a brand genuinely creating something that is interesting, useful, or entertains. The key to success in this space is understanding who might watch it, share it and engage with it. And why.

The best examples are the ones that work on more than one platform. A brilliant example is BBC’s ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’, a brilliant idea, which was a ‘live’ documentary about these animals as if they were still alive today. Then they created a live experience and tour it around.

It’s a big investment, but it lives beyond the medium where it was originally produced. For brands that’s incredibly powerful; you can get into multiple touchpoints and start developing a relationship with something beyond just watching it once.

Steve Jamison, Co-Founder & Director-Producer, Archer’s Mark:

We’re saturated now – we can have whatever content, wherever, however. It’s easier to create, it’s easier to consume. For us, as filmmakers, it’s about how you break through that noise. It’s exactly the same on the feature film side as on the branded content side.

For about five years, we produced branded content for Nike and adidas. Then we made a documentary feature film called ‘Next Goal Wins’. Having a great relationship with those brands, we were considering taking it to them. But it would have poisoned the authenticity of what that film was if it had a brand associated with it.

We essentially paid for it ourselves, because of the support our branded content area provides. We have resources and infrastructure in place. In that sense, indirectly, branded content is inspiring feature films – because it enabled us to do that.

This article by Digital Cinema Media’s (DCM) Head of Film Tom Linay was originally published in the BOBCM Special D&AD Edition collaboration, co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.

About the author

Head of Film at Digital Cinema Media