Smarter Ways To Reach Out

Every marketing head loves making ad films. Not just for the thrill of discussing with top ad filmmakers, meeting models but also for receiving a cut from the approved budgets. If the ad were entertaining, most audience would love seeing it too. However, the big question really is whether traditional 30-sec ads will have a justifiable existence for the long term in this digital age when viewer habits are constantly changing?

The prohibitive costs of prime TV spots, the impatient viewer who is remote happy surfing channels when ads turn up, and the ad-free content offers of digital distributors are all time-zero events for marketers. If you want to be entertained by a movie, you probably prefer ad-free time and smart marketers should look for alternatives to reach out to you, if they have to relevant.

Last year, for instance, Burger King hijacked Google with a smart 15-second ad and extended their reach at much lower costs during the USA Super Bowl.

They extend their 15-second Whopper ad to 30 seconds at no extra cost.

Their 15-second ad featured a Burger King employee leaning into the camera and saying, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Wherever there was a Google Home near the TV, that phrase prompted it to begin reading the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper.

Many brands have tried sponsoring sports, events, reality shows or concerts.

Depending on the programme, a brand can have flex and banner for in-the-camera shots, or logo on the player jersey. Emirates has been doing this with cricket and football at much less costs as compared to that of the main sponsors. However, this is old news.

Marketers have also tried out product placement in movies and television soaps. Product placement can work when there is a story that can be created around it or the product is central to the story. If the product close-up only lasts a few seconds and not the focus of the programme, there is no point in investing in the project. Who remembers all those thirty brands in that Happy New Year movie of Shah Rukh Khan?

Smart marketers have moved on to something different now: Branded media.

Here, a brand invests in developing entertainment content planned around the existing expectations and lifestyles of a brand’s current and future consumers. Done right, the message reaches the right audience and entertains them as well as influences them. To a certain extent, “branded media” is a catch-all reference for a television or film property that contains a brand name or logo with a storyline that intersects the brand’s mission, current ad campaign or desire to reach the programme’s target audience.

Characters in the scene will mention about the brand in conversation, and there is signage on the sets. There are two big differences between product placement and sponsorship, and branded media. First, there is a difference between who does the talking and who does the listening. Second, there is a difference in who drives the deal. In the case of product placements, a marketer gets a call from a director of a movie or serial, asking to use the product in the show for a price. The script is usually already set and the placement is a quick-buck-making idea.

In branded media the roles of buyer and seller are interchanged. The marketer is the driver here whereas the director is the one who works for the product. The director learns the brand and the company’s mission. In fact we were working with a branded umbrella maker in South India for a storyline with umbrella at the centre of it. Obviously, the marketer must give the director a fair amount of creative latitude, but the product is an intimate part of the show, and marketer and director work closely together. Though equity and investment return are issues in branded media meetings, most directors and brand managers are still in the “I can’t believe we’re really creating a show together” stage and haven’t had public battles over the value of the advertiser’s equity holdings.

Consumers may not realise they are watching an advertisement (if branded media is done well). Sometimes advertisers also do not realise this is advertising and the same set of laws apply. In fact, they should involve their legal experts to chalk out all aspects of the branding including legal rights to use the brand in any other form. In addition to being the driving force in bringing together the brand marketers and the content, the legal team has to anticipate what may happen with the products to make sure the programmes don’t run afoul of the law. Branded media deals require carefully thought-out contracts to make sure that the marketer gets what she needs for the investment.

These contracts should spell out what the programme director can and cannot do with the brand marks and other intellectual property. These agreements are usually heavily negotiated and can take several months to complete.

If branded media is done right, both the marketer and the programme director will be delighted with the results.

(The author spearheads execution and innovation for clients @CustomerLab)