Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Agencies are calling the shots

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast April 23, 2015

Ad-funded content is increasingly sophisticated, says Kate Bulkley

Budding TV producers used to aspire to work on programmes with the biggest audiences for the most prestigious broadcasters. But don’t be surprised if the next generation are aiming in a slightly different direction.

Damien Marchi is perhaps a template for success. His career includes working on interactive extensions of iconic TV shows like The X Factor, Star Academy and Big Brother, produced by mega-indies like Fremantle Media and Endemol. But last month he was appointed global head of content for Havas Media Group.

Advertising agencies have woken up to the power of great content and are becoming more sophisticated, no longer simply buying 30-second TV spots or space in newspapers and magazines. There has been a rapid rise in native advertising (the new way to say advertiser-funded content) and the appointment of someone like Marchi to a senior role at Havas underlines that trend.

Havas is committing resources and knowhow to matching content with the distribution platform. To that end, it signed a deal earlier this year with content marketing and syndication software firm NewsCred that will put Havas’ clients’ content onto a wide variety of platforms. It also has a new partnership with Universal Music, which mines customer behaviour data to create new revenue streams for clients.

The best examples of ad-funded content do more than just sell product or increase awareness of the brand. Marchi cites a recent tie-up between Coca-Cola and Ubisoft. They created a branded song within video game Just Dance that was downloaded 10.7 million times via codes printed on the lids of Coke cans. It gave users not only ‘free’ content but a different affinity with the brand. “It’s about building an ecosystem to align the various platforms,” explained Marchi. “We stop trying to control the user, but control the experience on the platforms when they get there.”

Big brands are also adding in-house content specialists. Hotel chain Marriott International launched a ‘content studio’ last year and was named brand of the year at MipTV after releasing Two Bellman (pictured), which featured a Marriott hotel (unsurprisingly) and some well-known stunt guys from YouTube.

Independent producers are increasingly working with agencies and brands directly on creating content that is relevant and shareable. Lionsgate, for example, has just partnered with Comic-Con to launch a Netflix-like VoD service, hoping to attract all sorts of brands interested in the fan event’s younger-skewing demographic.

These online and digital content initiatives are for a variety of age groups, but are particularly being driven by younger demographics, including the so-called ‘Generation K’. The term was coined recently by UK professor Noreena Hertz (who is married to the BBC’s Danny Cohen), and includes girls aged 13 to 20 whose heroine is The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen.

Just like in those books and movies, revolution is afoot in the content creation world – and kids like Katniss are leading it.

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