The second day of the NATPE Conference 2008 focussed on engaging the consumer in the digital age, and looked at various models that allowed advertisers and networks to do that. One way of communicating in the new age was branded content in its different forms, absolute sponsorships, product placements and so on. The various global heads agreed that unless done sensibly, the consumer today was smart enough to switch off from the content itself.
Gayle Troberman, Global GM, Branded Entertainment, MSN, said, “It has to be simple for it to work, and at least on the digital medium you can see the impact of the various moves instantly.” Matt Seiler, President and CEO, PHD North America, said, “For any kind of communication, even branded entertainment, you should be able to chalk out the communication objective, and once you have done that, then that should guide you on the road that you want to take to achieve it.”
Agreeing with Seiler, Eric Plaskonos, Director of Brand Communications, Philips North America, said that sometimes the brand needed to create the time to talk to the consumer. He cited examples of complete sponsorships that eliminated ad breaks and placed the product in the content. “We were actually appreciated since the content time was elongated,” said Plaskonos. A quick word of caution that came here was that mindless product placement was a lose-lose situation for the medium it was on as well as for the advertiser.
Laura Caraccioli-Davis, EVP, Entertainment Director, Starcom USA, said, “The audience knows when you are just putting things in their face. You have to create a consumer experience, and brand integration with content has to be grounded in insights. There is no other way to doing it.”
Troberman brought another point here, that great content could work but the key to success was to give it scale, and for that, finding the right distribution platform was necessary. She further said, “Unfortunately, it is the fads and trickery that get all the press, but these die out soon. It is only the simple solutions that have stayed and delivered the impact. The challenge now is to take these and consider them in media plans in all seriousness.”
Another problem raised was that the various teams that contributed to a communication plan and branded entertainment worked in silos. The speakers suggested that for branded content to work, the message had to appropriate and useful, and it shouldn’t be cluttered.
The content and advertising marriages could also be made in hell if the marketing objectives were not taken cognizance of, and according to industry heads, this worked out better when the media agency, the creative agency, the brand and the media owner had worked closely. Douglas Scott, Senior Partner and ED, Branded Content and Entertainment, O&M North America, said, “All partners bring value that helps create a final product that would help the advertiser in meeting his objective, and mutually benefit everyone involved. The advertiser, too, would want the content that he associates with to be classy and accepted.”
John Ferriter, SVP and Worldwide Head of Non-scripted Television, William Morris Agency, said that packaging of content too played a very important role in the final product. Kevin Townsend, Founder, Science + Partner, said that the race that was going to click the new world of entertainment would be those who understood advertising just as well as they understood content. Scott Neslund, CEO, MindShare North America, asserted that media owners today were far more open to trying new ideas and that this was helping in the new communication wave. He further said, “The client has the control, and that is the simple truth of it. They are speaking to media owners in a very engaging manner, since there are many new challenges now that need to be addressed separately.”