This week’s Advertising Week discussions will inevitably turn to how Web publishers can do a better job of helping marketers match their online media spend with overall consumer behavior. Advertisers and publishers have had a fair share of collaborative successes, but many brands have hit potholes, speed bumps and complete rollovers in their attempts to figure out best practices.
Branded entertainment initiatives are sure to take center stage as a promising solution. As marketers continue shifting ad dollars online and stretching the creative boundaries in the process, branded entertainment allows them to create campaigns that pack solid emotional punch, build deep consumer engagement and create the same type of connections on the Internet (if not better) that they’re used to from offline channels.
I like to think of it as a “You Turn,” because branded entertainment is all about understanding you, your brand promise and how you can, and should, be interacting with and developing deep and rich emotional connections with consumers.
P&G has figured it out, which is no surprise since they figured out the “You” in radio and television advertising when both were in their embryonic stages.
P&G took its You Turn via a multi-dimensional original program on the Yahoo network called The Thread, which this week celebrates its 100th webisode. The experience—including video, slide shows, and a blog platform—runs on Shine [http://shine.yahoo.com/event/the-thread/] and provides content for women interested in celebrity trends and styles that they can adopt and make their own. Now in its second season, The Thread harnesses a vast and engaged online audience and uses deep data and insights to power and deliver an experience through celebrity photos, interviews, and news that is relevant to the brand and the consumer.
For example, the set of The Thread changes to match the profile of the brand featured in each episode, and guests who appear on the show are chosen to match the brands’ demographic. When other brands are featured, the set orientation changes and the guest demographic is more in line with that of the target, but the consumer’s experience is the same. The content is equally relevant and valuable, which is critical. To succeed, the brand presence needs to be authentic, additive and seamlessly integrated.
Branded entertainment doesn’t work when initiatives are launched as an island and left with nowhere to go. To avoid this pitfall, you need to look for points of integration online so the content can spread. Here, too, The Thread provides a best practice by more deeply integrating with the Yahoo experience overall. At the start of its second season, the show extended beyond Shine to find a permanent home on Yahoo video, it is now integrated with Comcast and available via mobile devices. From this, we learn another key tenet of successful branded entertainment efforts—with saliency, you can accomplish longevity.
Today, the advertisers who are leveraging branded entertainment are leaders in their respective industries. They are actively thinking about driving emotional connections and using the full arsenal of creative elements to bring it to bear. They understand their consumer, play a role in consumer conversations, and put the consumer in the driver’s seat to spread and share branded content. They experiment to grow, expand, and evolve their brand. They are pioneers.
And they can leverage the vast scale of the Yahoo network to find and deeply engage with their target customers.
Take Nestlé, for example, which partnered with Yahoo in 2008 in an effort to drive brand awareness and purchase intent for their ever-so-famous Butterfinger candy bar. To do this, Yahoo and Butterfinger created a unique, branded entertainment experience called the Butterfinger Comedy Network (BCN) on Yahoo Video [http://video.yahoo.com/network/100284668]. The BCN features hundreds of the funniest videos from across the Web and is a hub for online comedy, spoofs, pranks, standup, and original segments. Butterfinger recently added a user-generated content contest to the campaign called “Protect Your Butterfinger Bar,” where consumers could upload funny, homemade videos about the lengths to which they would go to protect their Butterfinger candy bars. All of this led to increased sales of Butterfinger candy bars, and all categories of measurement have exceeded targets to date.
As branded entertainment continues to evolve—as all advertising will—you should pursue even more creative ways to deliver integrated experiences for your brands that drive deeper engagement and ultimately a more emotional consumer connection.
To best leverage branded entertainment, it’s important to:
* Remember that content is king. Like most types of programming, branded entertainment lives and dies by the caliber and quality of the idea and how meaningful it is to its audience.
* Harness the potential of the medium through a non-linear approach and multi-dimensional format.
* Be relevant. Success happens when the experience is unique to brand and offering to the consumer is spot on. Build on consumer or programming insights to make the overall experience pop.
Branded entertainment is different from traditional and digital media buying. It works best when we’re all at the table—the publisher, advertiser and agency partners. Though we are only beginning to realize the potential of these new experiences, I believe our industry now understands the potential of bringing together the best of advertising and entertainment in ways that both marketers and consumers win. Together, we can own the intersection of digital advertising and emotional connection, the all-important intersection of Madison and Vine.
Erika Nardini is vice resident, brand packaging at Yahoo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.