Marketing Video Content

YouTube recently announced it will spend $200M marketing its $100M worth of original content.  They announced it at their YouTube Brandcast event, in an effort to convince brands that YouTube is a good place to spend their advertising dollars.

Their $100M went out to two groups, Hollywood and YouTubers, and these new channels have been slowly rolling out since January.  The marketing spend surprised some, but is roughly in line with Hollywood movie budgeting, where film studios spend about as much on P&A (prints and advertising) as they do on production.

This is very different from how many brands and independent filmmakers spend their dollars.  In each of these camps, most spend money on production and hope to go “viral” — but the chance of being seen by millions without any marketing behind your video are near zero.

I recently had a great meeting with Pixability where they were showing off their new (and very impressive) analytics tools.  Their data shows that 45% of videos published by companies get less than 1000 views.  With no marketing behind them, videos are not worth the price of production.  But if you are willing to spend a bit on creative social media and other marketing, video can be worth far more than you spend creating it.

BMW’s The Hire series brought them a 12% sales increase; Degree antiperspirant’s The Rookie series brought them a 22% sales increase; Blendtec’s Will It Blend videos brought them a 500% sales increase; and there are many other stories like these.

The best story is Red Bull — their extreme sports content is so popular that they make more money from other advertisers advertising against their content than they spend creating the content.  Their content is a profit center.

The moral of the story?  Don’t create video for the sake of having video.  Don’t keep up with the Joneses — be at the cutting edge.  Create great content (crowdsource through us to get lots of options for a great price), and save some of your budget for a smart marketing campaign.

Great Branded Content

We come across great branded content all the time, and our posts on branded web series are among our most popular.  So here are some more examples of both episodic and single-serving branded entertainment.

Brand: Grasshopper
Series: New Dork
Format: Three-minute music video
Views: Almost 2 million views

Brand: Hornbach
Film: The Infinite House
Format: One beautiful, moving, 9-min film

Brand: Revlon, Ford, Biore and Schick
Series: Dating Rules From My Future Self
Format: Nine 10-minute episodes
Views: 14 million

Brand: Dentyne
Series: The Single Life
Format: Four 4-minute episodes

Brand: Denny’s
Series: Always Open
Format: Quite a few 4-minute episodes
Views: 6 million

Branded Film for Luxury Collection

Brand: Luxury Collection
Film: Here
Format: 15-Minute film

Even More Branded Entertainment

A lot of great video content has come from brands spreading the word about something or other.  Check out this love story from the National Relay Service (an Australian government initiative for the deaf):

Brand: National Relay Service
Series: Quiet Signs of Love
Format: 2-part series, 6-10 minutes each
Views: 45,000

The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation commissioned this lovely piece to raise awareness about the hardships family farmers face in America:

Brand: Chipotle
Video: Abandoned
Format: 4-minute short film
Views: 100,000

Hardees sponsored Slotcar, a web series spoof of stock car auto racing:

Brand: Hardees
Video/Series: Slotcar
Format: 9 episodes, 1-2 minutes each
Views: 100,000

Royal Caribbean worked with James Brolin and Jenny McCarthy who each acted and directed a comic short film that happens on a cruise ship:

Brand: Royal Caribbean
Series: Ocean Views
Format: Two 10-minute films and various short clips
Views: over 1million

Ikea has a lot of video content…we’ll just mention one of them, their Easy to Assemble series:

Brand: Ikea
Series: Easy to Assemble
Format: over a dozen 5- to 10-minute episodes
Views: 80,000

Lexus has tons of video content, much of it seemingly unrelated to the brand.  Check out this sci-fi short film (available at the link):


Brand: Lexus
Video: Rift
Format: Lexus Studios has dozens of films and series

Good Stories Win

There are probably few internet users left who have not run across Old
Spice’s campaign from early 2010, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,”
featuring the shirtless football-player-gone-Hollywood Isaiah
Mustafah.  The ads, whose run correlated a doubling of Old Spice sales
in just six months, succeeded in turning the brand from an uncreative
Father’s Day gift to a product synonymous with sex appeal and
satisfying humor.

Sure, the actor is good looking, and quasi-famous.  But plenty of
star-powered and ads throughout history did not come near the success
of Old Spice’s campaign, which launched during the Superbowl of 2010
and by the next morning had touched off 250,000 YouTube views.  In the
ads, Mustafah was not merely a model but a storyteller. His attitude
said, “You could be like me if you want to, and I’ll tell you the
story of that ideal man.”

Old Spice built a powerful brand through storytelling and character
development.  One of the most popular features of this campaign
included Mustafah himself recording snarky video answers to viewer
questions posted on Facebook and Twitter.  He established a character
and storyline, and extended it over time, racking up more sales for
the brand as he built a community of viewers.

This campaign represents a good example of brand integration.  When
done correctly, the process of brand integration weaves branding into
entertainment so deftly that the spectator feels a pleasant sense of
harmony.  It elicits identification with the brand through the
vicarious experience or catharsis that we feel when a good story
resonates.  Consumers connect these pleasant, powerful emotions with
the brand, developing a strong personal link to it.  Once
expertly-done brand integration reaches a broad audience of consumers,
sales climb – at times rapidly.

The creative powerhouse behind “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was
Weiden + Kennedy, also known for Nike’s “Write The Future.”  Other
creatives gunning for brand integration include Mark Burnett, producer
of Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Voice.  As Burnett told Digital
Entertainment Examiner earlier this month: “Story, story,
story…..And whether it’s going to be on any kind of screen that’s
invented, you need to focus on your quality and through-line of
storytelling.” Burnett is a pioneer of Video In My Back Yard (VIMBY),
a method of bringing branding and entertainment to video screens in
heavily-trafficked local areas in cities throughout the country.
Burnett is currently working with brands like McDonalds and Wal-Mart.
Rounding out his credits is the creation of a new platform for Cliffs
Notes:  cartoon versions of literature, such as Romeo and Juliet,
useful to kids hoping to ace their English essays.  Now there’s
storytelling in advertising!

You might wonder what the differences are between brand integration
and product placement.  In the latter technique, brands are placed
quite obviously in the hands of television and movie stars.  For
example, in 1999 Jennifer Aniston drank out of an enormous wax paper
cup emblazoned with the Pepsi logo in Office Space, and in 2010 Gossip
Girl characters used iPads to video chat.   In these instances, brands
may get a boost from association with stars in glamorous settings.
However, the products are only peripheral parts of the story, and
their prominence within a camera shot may inspire cynicism in the
viewer rather than identification, as spectators remember that their
favorite entertainment has been “sold out” to corporations.

Brand integration, on the other hand, builds stories in which the
brand is the essence of the story – it becomes integrated with the
entertainment.  In our hunger for good stories, we tend to forgive the
corporate nature of the piece so as to appreciate the thrilling
emotions inspired by the stories.  When we experience a good story, we
feel enlivened by possibilities.  Brands that succeed in integrating
can propel their audiences to buy products in their quest to fulfill
these possibilities – like buying Old Spice for your man.  Because who
knows?  He might start to look better without a shirt, tell funnier
jokes, and build your dream kitchen.

More Branded Content

As we were writing the first Branded Entertainment Examples post, we came across so many we decided to split it into two.  Here are some more great ones.

Brand: Intel
Series: Visual Life
Format: 10-minute documentaries
Views: 1.5 million

Intel filmed this series of documentary shorts in an effort to move away from its business market positioning to become a consumer brand.

Brand: DC Shoes
Series: Gymkhana
Format: a few 10-minute made-for-web shorts
Views: 11 million within two months of first episode release
Benefits: “It’s been very successful. It’s definitely improved retail sales,” according to DC’s Ken Block.

DC teamed up with a film production company to film founder Ken Block’s hobby: rally racing.

Brand: Red Bull
Video: Way Back Home
Format: 8-minute short
Views: 25 million (just this episode)

Red Bull has sponsored a number of documentary shorts.  This one features Danny MacAskill’s amazing bicycle stunts in the beautiful Scottish landscape.

Brand: Old Spice
Series: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
Format: 3 30-second commercials and over 180 2-minute response videos
Views: over 36 million views for the first commercial alone
Benefits: 55% sales jump

The original Old Spice commercial featured Isaiah Mustafa and showed during the Super Bowl.  Weiden and Kennedy, the marketing agency who created the commercials, eventually filmed over 180 video responses to twitter, facebook, and youtube comments.

We have even more examples on our third post: Even More Branded Entertainment.

Branded Entertainment Examples

Branded entertainment is becoming more popular as a way to reach consumers.  It allows brands to represent their products and their brand identity in a format that viewers seek out and naturally share.  Here are some examples of great branded entertainment that have paid off handsomely for the brands that created them.

Brand: BMW
Series: The Hire
Format: 8 10-minute shorts
Views: 11 million in four months; 100 million in four years
Benefit: 12% sales jump

Each film in this series of shorts was directed by a different A-list actor, and each one featured Clive Owen.  The films were so popular that BMW produced a DVD for customers who visited certain BMW dealerships, and they quickly ran out of dvds.

Brand: Hell Pizza
Series: Deliver Me to Hell
Format: Choose-your-own adventure style web series (4-minute episodes)
Views: 4.8 million for the first episode alone
Benefits: 43% sales bump

Hell’s Pizza is a New Zealand pizza franchise.  They recognized that online order receipts were usually 30% higher than telephone orders, and decided to create engaging web content to drive traffic to their site.

Brand: KMart
Series: First Day
Format: 6 8-minute webisodes
Views: 8 million
Cost: $600K

Produced by the makers of “Gossip Girl”, this series has plenty of unmarked product placement.  Each character is wardrobed from a line of KMart clothing, and sets are also made with KMart products.

Brand: Intel & Toshiba
Series: Inside
Format: Eight 4 to 8-minute episodes
Views: over 2 million

This series of webisodes is being hailed as the first “social film experience.” The main character has been kidnapped and throughout the series calls out to viewers to “like” her on facebook and pass the request on — and viewers did.

Brand: Blendtec
Series: Will It Blend
Format: over 120 1 to 3-minute made-for-web comedy infomercials
Views: over 130 million across all videos
Benefits: 500% sales increase

Produced and acted by Blendtec’s CEO Tom Dickson, these videos range from 1.5 minutes to over 3 minutes. They show all sorts of things being blended including marbles, an iPhone, and action figures of various famous people.

Brand: Unilever’s Degree Antiperspirant
Series: The Rookie
Format: at least 12 4-minute episodes
Benefits: 22% sales bump

In an effort to reach the viewers of the popular series “24”, Unilever created a three-season web series.  The series was so well-liked by the producers of “24” that they included it in their season dvd.

And for more examples, see our follow-up post.

Branded Entertainment Marketing on the Rise

As video audiences are being fragmented, brands are coming under pressure to find new ways to reach out to their customers.  More and more advertising dollars are being moved to the branded entertainment segment and away from traditional advertising.

Branded entertainment refers to the strategic use of events, video, and entertainment to attract and engage targeted audiences.  Identity media refers specifically to one of these branches: the branded video content, which can be one-time or episodic, and integrates the brand identity into the storyline and characters.

The early days of television were the heyday of identity media, when programs usually had only one brand sponsor.  As television moved to using commercials from various sponsors, video content became less brand-integrated, but lately advertising on television is becoming less dependable as viewers move to the web.  So brands are spending more on events, identity media, and advergaming. In 2010, branded entertainment spending reached $25.93 billion dollars, up from $20 billion in 2007.  Advergaming and webisodes make up the fastest growing segment of branded entertainment, with a growth rate over 30%.

In a recent survey by EMI (Event Marketing Institute), over 70% of C-level marketing executives and marketing managers agree that branded entertainment makes stronger emotional connections with the consumer and builds brand affinity with the desired target audience.  21% of respondents have earmarked at least one fifth of their marketing budget to branded entertainment, and another 29% have allocated at least one tenth.

According to eMarketer, $3.1 billion will be spent on web video ads and sponsored programming in 2011, up 43% from 2010.  The sponsored programming segment of that (identity media) is growing especially fast as marketers strive to overcome viewers dislike for interruptions to their entertainment.

“Branded entertainment is emerging as a leading alternative media strategy,” said Patrick Quinn, CEO of PQ Media. “Brands and their agencies have been forced to rethink a lot of their long-held strategies.

He added: “The difficulty of reaching more elusive target consumers, and the transformation of personal communications due to these developments have made it more important than ever for brands to invest in strategies to engage target consumers in captive locations for extended periods of time through the power of emotional connections.”

Telling A Story

In our quest to get closer to what makes great branded film, we talked with Adam Marx, founder and co-owner of MK3 Creative.  Marx’s passion is uncovering and developing the stories in ways that naturally impel consumers to buy.   His credits are impressive.  He’s worked with clients such as AT&T, Dunkin Donuts, Metlife, and Reebok; he has also directed network television, including the first seasion of “Survivor.”

These days, Marx makes videos and other types of marketing, mainly for the internet.  Each video can be over a minute long, thereby taking the time to tell the story of the brand.  “You can have a long video on the brand’s website, send out an email blast asking people to go that website.”  Then, he says, data is available on who has gone to the website and how much time they spent on it, because they clicked on a link in an email sent by the company.

“Understanding [a company’s] brand essence is most important,” Marx explained. The story, he said, is “the differentiator” of the brand – what sets it apart from the others.  He routinely asks his clients, “What’s the brand all about, what are you actually selling?”  He added, “We help a tremendous amount with that.”

Marx explained the work he did for UFood Grill, a franchise selling healthier fast food. So we built a fast food revolution.  “People are craving alternative healthy fast food that’s good for them and we built this revolution idea.”   Another client, PatientKeeper, helps doctors by organizing and providing up-to-the-minute data on patients.  “They make a product that’s not easy to understand, so we did a story on the day-in-the-life of a doctor, as opposed to explaining features of product.”

It’s not necessarily easy to tell just how well this advertising translates into sales and money for the client, Marx said.  “The reality is you can’t measure the sale because many are large-item sales -” such as information management and franchising.  On the other hand, the fact that most of MK3’s business comes from repeat clients should say something about the creative company’s effectiveness. To illustrate a particularly innovative idea, Marx described a push for UFood Gril to acquire more franchisees.  The company snail-mailed a colorful burger box to their mailing list.  In the box was a USB flash-drive containing UFood Grill marketing. Because of the way the content on the flash sticks is electronically tagged, Marx said, “we know who watched them.”

Check out MK3’s website at  Don’t be surprised if you’re lured in by the relaxing music, bright yet soothing city-scapes and easy-to-use navigation features of the site.  And of course, the videos and brand stories that keep MK3’s clients coming back.

Consumer Choice and Viral Video

What is different about ads that go viral and ads that don’t? Is there a difference between television ads and ads that go viral on the internet? The folks at Visible Measures are experts in social video analytics and advertising — they are the measurement platform behind the Ad Age Viral Video Chart. We sat down with Matt Fiorentino, head of marketing at Visible Measures to get his take on trends in viral video and earned media content.

According to Matt, ads are seeing a large increase in viewership online — 2.7 billion views in 2010 up from 820 million in 2009. But these are not the same ads you see on television. “This content isn’t traditional advertising with facts and features,” Matt says, “it’s more about storytelling.” Television spots are limited to 30 or 60 seconds, but online video ads can be up to 10 minutes in length. This is long enough to engage the audience in a story that speaks to the brand’s identity. DC Shoes created the “Gymkhana” series of videos, each around 7 minutes in length, and this series has garnered over 100 million views. Toshiba and Intel created the “Inside” series of videos about a woman trapped in a room with nothing but a laptop — her only hope of escape is to mobilize her social networks.

Why does storytelling matter so much? “It all begins with choice,” according to Matt. “Advertisers are looking for premium content to advertise against — but there is a limited amount of premium inventory.” Matt’s advice for brands: “If you want to tell your story, there are an infinite number of opportunities to do this through social video advertising. This enables consumers to choose to watch and share your story.” Don’t interrupt their chosen media — become their chosen media.

This kind of storytelling allows brands to embed their identity into the users chosen media, into media users want to share. It takes brands out of the realm of paid, earned, and owned media and into the realm of identity media, where the brand can control the message, and users want to share it. An increasing number of brands are having great success with this — Red Bull has created content affinity with their series of extreme sports videos. “When you think Red Bull you think extreme sports,” Matt observes.

These campaigns lead to sales bumps. BMW attributes a 12% increase to their “The Hire” series; Old Spice showed a 27% increase in sales in just the first six months of their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” series with Isaiah Mustafa.

“Consumers are in control now,” Matt reminds us. “They can skip ads if they don’t want to see them, or watch ads when you don’t expect — on their smart phones, on an airplane, almost anywhere. The brand might not even know. What’s important is to give them what they want. Give them great storytelling, get the customer to embrace the brand’s identity, and they will be your best marketer.”