By Tom Bannister
It’s NewFronts time, and the collective visions of digital networks and MCNs are beginning to come in. As the presentations are ongoing, I will write about those in-depth next week. My initial impressions are that the pursuit of advertisers is leading these players away from traditional competencies like short-form video and written journalism. As the FANG quartet along with Apple and Snapchat continue to roll out ever-evolving content initiatives, branded content becomes evermore multi-discipline, encompassing new modes of storytelling and message delivery. This observation is reinforced by merely looking outside of the NewFronts and into the real world over the past seven days, which isn’t sitting around waiting on sponsorship deals or greenlights from stakeholders. It’s happening.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the week in branded content, by medium (excluding “traditional” filmed digital video):
Branded content on social media platforms is increasingly taking the form of micro-content tailored to the moment and/or dealing with memes, which are current. The big stories this week that brands are getting behind include Leicester City’s Premiere League Win with micro-content from Virgin Media, Captain Morgan and Walkers Crisps and a video from Puma. Over in the U.S., apart from reacting to Jon Snow’s resurrection, key branded social moments of the week came from The Met Ball, where Instagram continued to roll out new video tools supported by Vogue with stylized, music video-esque sequences of some of the attendees. Instagram also partnered with Pepsi to launch an emoji-driven photography campaign. Lastly Snapchat continuse to offer new types of location and filter-based advertising, with a partnership with Netflix in which billboards, enabled passers-by to swap faces with Netflix characters like Frank Underwood.
Traditional media continues to align with digital startups and their tools. NBC announced “Saturday Night Live” would start showing branded content in place of some commercials. Vox and NBC partnered to launch Concert, an ad-buying system allowing advertisers to sell across both platforms. And Corbis announced their full rebrand as Branded Entertainment Network, allowing advertisers to buy creatively meaningful product integrations across SVOD platforms, along with traditional and digital media. Bushmill’s upcoming integration into “Suicide Squad,” being the next example. Indeed, with many of the NewFront presenters partially owned by traditional media companies, perhaps their future lies within traditional media.
The biggest brand app announcement of the week wasn’t from a consumer brand but from a celebrity who is marketing himself like a brand. Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. “The Rock”) has been working with Droga5, and their latest release is the Rock Clock, a motivational alarm clock that gets you out of bed. Droga5 have been one of the most visible of the traditional creative ad agencies working in branded content, and their endeavors often skew towards traditional celebrities. Perhaps Johnson has found a solution to discoverability and indexing challenges of working in the app economy.
The Met Ball was probably the biggest live event of the week, with its tech theme Manus Ex Machinia. Sponsored by Apple, whose creative chief Jony Ive co-chaired the event and was ring-master of the red carpet. IBM also sneaked in with their “cognitive dress” worn by Karolina Kurkova. This was created by Watson (a busy man these days) and Marchesa. The following night, Chanel launched a fashion show in Havana, Cuba, playing out on social media, mixing fashion with international politics. Mariela Castro, the daughter of the president, Raúl Castro, stated “The world is finally opening up to Cuba. Everyone wants to come and taste the forbidden fruit.” Following that, a consumer brand got its own day, with “Star Wars” Day and all the ensuing “user-generated content,” including some from the Obamas.
Live broadcasting is a clearly a big trend at the NewFronts, and some of the branded events this week included Ringling Bros, the world’s most famous Circus brand, which live broadcast its last ever elephant performance via Facebook Live. If the Met Ball, Chanel Show and “Star Wars” Day aren’t enough, this week also includes Cinco De Mayo, during which Jose Cuervo will live broadcast a “secret concert” from Brooklyn to Cuervo.com. Lastly, SpaceX’s plans to live broadcast their latest rocket launch today, along with releasing a 360-degree video of the previous one landing.
Virtual reality is clearly another big theme at the NewFronts and elsewhere. Ethiad Airlines launched a trailer for new a VR film starring Nicole Kidman. It’s great to see a brand taking a big swing in original IP like this. Budweiser also announced a partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with MINI and IKEA who also launched VR endeavors
In short, a lot going on in the world of branded content outside of the NewFronts.
This post was penned by VideoInk publishing partner Branded.tv, a one-stop shop for branded entertainment. Branded.tv features and catalogs the best branded entertainment campaigns from around the world.