I believe entertaining customers with commercials is a huge, mostly untapped opportunity for brands to capture both attention and trust (read part 1 to this article first). Brands can actually produce YouTube mini-series, TV shows, and potentially even full length movies themselves. This is a completely different business and foreign to most companies and the agencies they hire. This challenge also creates a unique opportunity because so few companies are involved.
We can see examples of companies such as Banana Republic taking steps toward the future of branded entertainment by forming direct, cross-promotional partnerships with TV shows such as Mad Men. The main character, Don Draper is by far the best salesmen Banana Republic could ask for as he lives his suave, elite, Manhattan lifestyle while wearing their latest clothing line.
Red Bull has committed so much to producing media that they’re almost become more of a media company than a product company. They sell energy drinks, but they aim to appeal to very active people and have been developing incredible surfing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and sky diving (to name a few) multimedia for years. This is great promotional material, but isn’t new. You can see other companies such as Oakley doing the same thing. What Red Bull is pioneering is the level of commitment and involvement in doing this sort of thing. They have created a whole facility in LA and dedicated a big portion of their company to this. They have gotten into the business of multimedia production and can rival almost anyone in that space now.
Green Screen Product Placement
When I was at the Interactive Day San Diego conference in June 2012, I was talking with a VP at ComScore named Phillip Grote about all of this and he shared how product placement is changing. He had watched a film in the United States and when one of the characters opened the fridge, there were cases of American beer in it. When he watched the same movie back in Germany where he is from, the fridge was full of beer you can only buy in Germany.
Movies and TV shows can now be filmed with green screens so that product placement can be tailored to specific countries or regions later. When films are translated into different languages, captions are added, and distributed to other countries, the products throughout the show can also be changed. Products only offered in certain countries or ad campaigns only run in certain regions can now be featured in mainstream films. This relevance and customization adds a lot of value for the advertiser which can justify much higher price tags for them. Technology developments like this can make product placement much more lucrative and more importantly, much more effective.
Soon, this approach could also be utilized with online video. Companies can already find out viewer demographic and psychographic information as well as where viewers live within a country (i.e. New York versus San Diego). They can even find where viewers live within a particular city. Additionally, White Label video platforms with ad servers such as Brightcove can already customize advertising placement at the beginning, end, or bottom of an online video player. The next step is to be able to easily plug in different products throughout a TV show or movie (ie. on Hulu or Netflix) based on very detailed user information such as location, buying habits, and individual interests.
As this technology develops, we’ll see the ability for one product to be shown in the fridge when a TV show airs for the first time, but a different one later on. For example, a special edition beer can be shown at first, and then when it is no longer sold on the shelf, it switches to yogurt. When people go back to watch a season 3 years old, they will see up-to-date products currently available in their local markets.
Using data collected about users’ online behavior to target them (behavioral targeting) is a whole additional area used to maximize advertising effectiveness. Here I explain how Amazon is leading the industry in this area.
I see a big opportunity to use Amazon’s data driven, behavior targeting approach to seamlessly embed ads within Movies, TV shows and other branded entertainment online.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road; Revenue?
Executives will scream “budget” right away. How much is all this going to cost? I am keenly aware of the costs of these ideas, but I think that even companies with small budgets can greatly benefit from implementing small portions or at least take steps in this general direction.
You have to spend money to make money. The amount of investment in a business or ad campaign is never too much if the revenue it will make exceeds it. Harley Davidson didn’t produce the second Terminator movie themselves, but it did prominently feature their motorcycle in a really appealing way and sales sky rocketed after that movie came out. This is also why BMW repeatedly gives something like 18 brand new cars to the makers of James Bond films so that they will be featured in the film. Once those films come out, they become part of pop culture all around the world, people rent them for years, and they get played on TV for decades (granted, TV is changing fast).
The cheapest option is not always the best option. Placing an ad in a newspaper that only costs a third of an online ad still isn’t a good value if no one reads the newspaper.
Additionally, consumers not only don’t avoid this content (like they do with disruptive ads), but they want to watch it, and actually pay to see it. The movie business is huge and if brands can capitalize on selling their content like this, they will find another revenue stream here. On a large scale, selling this content could look like showing it in traditional movie theaters. On a smaller scale, they could sell it through subscription networks like Netflix.
Not for Everyone
Obviously producing entire cinema movies and hit TV shows such as Mad Men are exorbitantly expensive. Many of these concepts will likely be reserved for larger brands with larger budgets. This level of investment will often exceed even the largest companies’ budgets. Most companies will likely have to work up to this level of execution over time as they see a higher return with this type of investment.
The way smaller companies can take part is by piloting smaller versions, focussing on cheaper production and utilizing cheaper distribution options. With the cost of production and distribution continuing to fall rapidly, companies with smaller and smaller budgets can participate. We see this with very small media production studios finding a larger voice online than big broadcasters do on Prime Time through traditional channels. For many, YouTube is the only distribution channel they need and it is free.
Every client and boss wants to do something truly innovative and see 3 case studies that prove it has worked before. New ideas and projects are risky, and risk should be managed. Developing strategic partnerships with groups with different core competencies helps ensure success and reduce the initial investment. This can help companies get started, invest at the level they are able to invest at right away, and mitigate the risk of getting into the entertainment business for the first time. Banana Republic’s partnership with Mad Men is a great example. Banana Republic knows fashion and the Mad Men producers know story telling.
As always, it’s your turn. Do you see evidence of this trend? What related opportunities do you see? Do you see any wholes in my analysis?
Listen to me speak on 7 Social Media Trends on November 27th in San Diego.