Branded content and entertainment go hand in hand, particularly in a broadcast space. Market-leading corporates, including Unilever, Red Bull, ESPN, Omo Door-to-Door and, more locally, Standard Bank, Coca-Cola and Brandhouse are investing heavily in content property that is inspired by the brand, and captivates an audience for hours on end.
Think Fanta’s So You Think You’re Funny, Sunlight’s Flash In The Pan or Amstel’s Class Act. The crème of industry awards are giving it a coveted thumbs up too, with Cannes Lions recognising it for the first time last year as a category in its own right and, more recently, Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity rolled out its Branded Content and Entertainment category this year.
The question on many South African marketers’ minds, though, is how and where they can find such a production company. One that a) can formulate a great property and b) produce the required creative to capture and keep the audience engaged.
Johannesburg-based Quizzical Pictures (formerly known as Curious Pictures) has, for many years, been producing highly regarded television dramas such as Rhythm City, Hopeville and Intersexions I & II. Through their work in the broadcast space, and more specifically around branded broadcast content, Quizzical’s Harriet Gavshon has come to understand (from a production company’s perspective), what clients (marketers) should look out for when scouting for support. Additionally, Alan Bell, CSD for The Hardy Boys, a client of Quizzical, has some insight to share from the client’s perspective.
1. Sport advantageous
“As media consumption habits evolve in the always-on digital era, advertising and entertainment have long been merging, particularly in sport where made-for-TV competitions prove that eyes-on-screen are more valuable than bums-on-seats. While the 30” TVC is still the most powerful form of communication in Africa, branded content allows viewers to engage with our brands in a more natural context. Natural, because great TV immerses viewers in their favourite shows – to the extent that they become an extension of the family – and we all know that brand endorsement from people we love is hard to ignore.” Bell
2. Key qualities
“The production company needs to have long-form production experience (as opposed to 30-second advertisement experience), as branded content plays out differently to traditional commercials. A production company with solid experience in storytelling, be it in drama or documentaries, is also key. Experience with working in these genres puts the production company in a great position to deal with narrative and story-arcs that can be translated into branded content.” Gavshon.
“High production values, content production experience, the ability to work well with a creative team, and a lean costing model are key qualities to look for.” Bell
3. Deepen engagement
“Content is great for deepening consumer engagement with a brand position. But it is first and foremost entertainment, so it usually needs to fulfill a role that is supplementary to thematic brand advertising. It’s also important to differentiate between licensed content, where the brand is usually relegated to the role of sponsor and original content, which can be created around the needs of the brand,” Bell.
“On the other hand. “I don’t think there is necessarily a specific time for this. Brands and marketers need to constantly seek new ways of improving efficiencies and the means that they employ to get messages to their consumers. Branded content is relatively new to many brands and they therefore need, at the very least, to research what is being done by those marketers who have employed branded content as part of their marketing strategies and potentially build on that?” Gavshon
4. Informed agency
Believing that advertising agencies should be in a position to recommend to clients who the best content production companies are, purely from an informed perspective, Gavshon is quick to sum up: “But, the best branded broadcast content production companies should be knocking at your door, too, and introducing themselves – if not complacency may have well set in, which often is to the detriment of a production company’s delivery.”