I’m not in the business of crafting ads for clients. Let me get that out of the way right up front. And maybe that’s what permits me to see the world in ways many folks in the trenches selling radio don’t.
I hear lots of terms: “Non-traditional revenue,” “integrated selling,” the “events business,” and so on. But here’s a term I hear very little: Branded content.
And yet, it’s one of the big growth areas in the advertising space.
Branded content is content that exists because it matters to the target audience, not just because it matters to you and your client. So it’s not the insurance guy who buys an hour every week on your AM station for his vanitycast. It’s not the “contextual advertising” cleverly (or not so cleverly) threaded into DJ conversation under the guise of content. It’s not the guest you have on the talk show simply because money is changing hands. It’s not a spot, and it’s not an endorsement.
Wikipedia (which is never wrong) defines branded content (or “branded entertainment”) as “a form of advertising that uses the generating of content as a way to promote the particular brand which funds the content’s production.”
Branded content has deep roots in the entertainment space dating back generations to the origin of the term “soap opera,” when shows were produced by soap-maker Procter & Gamble. So it’s actually the oldest of hot new things.
If I were a radio station I would ask myself these questions:
- What content can I create for any given advertiser that can achieve that advertiser’s goals – content that is digital, video, on-site, audio on-air, audio on-demand or some combination thereof?
- What content can I create that my consumers – and my client’s customers – will want to watch, listen to, interact with, and share?
- Will anyone care? Or is this just an ad dressed up to resemble content?
- Am I willing to create a SWAT team in-house to develop this content and experiment with different approaches?
- Am I willing to give the client only what I think they want, or am I prepared to listen to what consumers say and attend to how they respond, as in this example:
JW Marriott’s shift from traditional advertiser to content producer was a result of this type of this dialogue with its fans. In response to their fans desire for more entertainment (and less advertising), the hospitality chain released a 17-minute original short film, Two Bellmen. The success of the first film led to the sequel, Two Bellmen Two, which was released this year has had an unbelievably positive and engaged response from their audience.
That’s a video example, but the principles apply equally well to any medium.
The critical issue is to understand that your brand (if it’s a music-based radio station) exists to entertain audiences. Thus, the best branded content initiatives will do likewise. Entertainment with a value-packed twist.
Otherwise, it’s just another spot…you know, the things PPM tells us listeners want to avoid at all costs.