Branded Entertainment: Brands Driving Content

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I met Jess Search at breakfast this morning at Joe's cafe.  We got chatting as two Brit girls abroad do when they meet in a queue! 
 Branded content / Advertiser funded programming in film making was an
issue that started in the last recession (2000) and I brushed up
against it a few times.

Jess Search – Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation
Karol Martesko-Fenster – Babel Networks Ltd
Sara Pollack – YouTube
Evan Shapiro – IFC/Sundance Channel
Kent Rees – IFC
The audience here are spread between brands, film makers, sales / marketing people. the panel isn't really in that space – they are broadcasters AFAICS.  But about 20% of the room has used brand funding in films already…. could be a great match making opportunity.

Jess – I found brands more refreshing than the old gatekeepers.  There are new opportunities.  

Kent – we see this as partnersship based.  But a middle man platform delivers the most successful content.

Evan – how can you break in and provide / make content.  Integration the shot of the product in a scene.  Partnering and using IFC as the middle ground (we thinks this works well) MediaLab Studios is our open source film studio.  For pro-am high quality content filmakers who are looking for a break to whom we assign challenges that come from the brands, we treat this as content not filler.  RedBull – we profiled their action sports film makers and used it as content.  Their brand message is about wish fulfilment.

What does independence mean?  Jess – money always has a colour wherever it comes from – it raises questions.   Is this editorial independence if sponsored by RedBull? Karol – it helps if there is an intermediary e.g. panasonic we did 21 shorts for the Olympics.  We took the brief and they had no further interaction with the film makers = no interference nor approval process.

Jess mentions Shane Meadows and The Somerstown / Mother production…. [aside - My client Red Spider worked with them to put it together.]

Evan – Red bull game format for surfing aimed at high schools – we watched the movie… School of Surf.  And now MTV are thinking of making this into a 6 part series.  and being honets they did it for the money / least good part of it. It got picked up by surf magazines and sites…[it wasn't very smart of me to f**k up my own AV! A real pro!]

We had to get educated on the brand message and they got a lot of logos out there and they got somethign they never did before i.e. less glossy and big movie stunt driven.

Wodka wars – a pernod ricard funded documentary.  Using the  theme music from Midnight Express…. love it! Never mentioned the brand name!  No product placement. 

Dell – tech series on VBS called motherboard.  Content seseded on VBS and launches in May. This is the grown up side of 'vice' [Jess touch of Brit irony totally missed by the audience and the speaker!]

Jess – what you want to make and how to use the brand agenda and manage it.Different things.

When you do a series – do you own the content together?  does the brand pay the whole production cost?

Jess – poll the room.   more people had joint ownership with the brand of the content than the brand owning it.

Sarah – YouTube there is a new team dedicated to brand entertainment.  Seth McFarlane – cartoon comedy on YouTube. the brand facilitates the creation (priceline) without him having to use his story…Emily Nessbaum 7 pages in New York Magazine from autumn 2008 has good examples of pros and cons.  MadTV had to write for the Toyota Yaris… they wanted to spoof it and the brand wouldn't let them parody it.  Led to a moral dilemma.  30Rock has done a good job of a tongue in cheek branded entertainment. 

project Direct short film competition on YouTube – it has to incorporate the sponsor – Movie film.  2 props and one a red phone as product placement.  One of the top 10 was where a girl murdered her boyfriend with a phone… they didn't prevent this going onto the home page.  

Sara thinks film makers can go direct to brands and be successful e.g. Planet BeBoy using VW and Samsung films.  they approached Samsung after having made the movie because they happened to have Samsung mobiles….

companies who get it is good.  How do you articulate the value of what you are doing to a brand?  the language is different from TV and brands.

Jess – to middle man or not?

Karol – be savvy or diligent – go to the brand direct rather than via the agency who works with them. if it's your first time go to a middle man to get the experience. At film festivals the brand folk are watching the films – they may come and talk to you.

Poll the room – how to brands want to be approached.  Agency guy says must be via agency because they 'manage' the story of the brand.  The RedBook has a list of who's in charge of the brand.  Trying to get your idea to fit…. some brands bounce you back to the agency but at least you've got through the door. 

How to scale efforts and how film makers can work on smaller budgets?

if your goal is to make great content you have to be able to make it on smaller budgets.  The problem is more the cost of distributing content.  The value seems to be in the creation of an audience rather than the content creation.  Online there are few companies who understand how to distribute and create community around a film online.  

Kent – That's why you need a partner – broadcast or web. for us this makes good content that gets seen.  We help close the loop.  you need a content provider, a brand and a parnter = 3 legs.  Sara – a ton of budget goes to marketing and distribution for the Seth McFarlane.  A big advantage of working with a brand is to get the money for a media spend.

Recommendations to film makers wanting to get into this area….start thinking about this from the beginning and where you can place the story.  company like Placemine where brands look for content…think in terms of brand affinity which would work for you. … research agencies who are doing content…. pay attention to the credits in films ….. make friends with people who work with agencies and learn their business from them in a social way….subscribe to their email bulletins from their world – plug into their world… careful and choose your partners carefully……understand what makes your personal brand credible as a film maker…. have an understanding of audience.

7 replies
  1. rebecca says:

    Yes there is a distinct advantage when you are the first one to do something new – you get to define the territory and make it work for your brand needs.


  2. rebecca says:

    Yes there is a distinct advantage when you are the first one to do something new – you get to define the territory and make it work for your brand needs.


  3. Francesca Class says:

    I really love what IFC is doing in regards to this branding/budget situation. It feels more natural as a viewer than older methods.

  4. Francesca Class says:

    I really love what IFC is doing in regards to this branding/budget situation. It feels more natural as a viewer than older methods.


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