There are three interesting trends emerging in branded content. These trends appear to be global and have been born out of observations of both recent successes in the branded entertainment area, as well as what science is telling us.
The first trend is ‘First Grade Production’. Branded entertainment is now often not the side meal, it’s the main meal. Being the main meal means it’s getting more creative focus and more strategic importance. In many cases, it’s taken hold of the production budgets normally set aside for interruptive advertising and traditional media – Volvo Trucks being the prime example.
Further, branded entertainment is on the radar of every creative department. They have been slow to throw off the shackles of the 30-second TVC, but they are now well and truly free from this restrictive time slot. Award-winning, long-form branded entertainment is perhaps best exemplified by The Lego Movie. The clever people at Unruly (the viral video hit parade) tell us that the most shared pieces of viral content average over six minutes in length. That’s a lot longer than 30 seconds!
The second key trend in the space is the realisation that branded entertainment is only different by degree to advertising. That is, you’re still going to have to pay people to ensure your branded message gets watched.
The work led by Dr Karen Nelson-Field shows that branded entertainment spreading purely organically via being shared is still extremely rare. It’s tough for things to go viral. There’s a lot of branded entertainment out there that’s very high on the former and very low on the latter – and that starts to look and smell a lot like advertising. But don’t worry, it’s a tried and tested model.
The final trend in the space is the ‘zero sum game’. Zero sum game refers to corporations getting better at finding a way to create something entertaining where consumers choose to engage with it, but no money has to be outlaid as everyone wins. One example is the Cleo-winning work from Cummins&Partners New York where they put together Sia and the Heidi Klum Intimates range, the end result being a music video for Sia staring Heidi Klum wearing her Intimates. It was viewed by over 30 million people and is a very nice example of branded content done well.