Imagine a single advertising campaign, so powerful that it lasted for over a decade, worked in more than 50 countries, was successful across TV, digital and social media and won multiple awards. And now imagine that the brand did not need to pay for the campaign because broadcasters around the world funded every cent of it. And the more the campaign travelled, the more money it recouped, making it a highly profitable business. Do I sound like a raving lunatic?
This is the business of international television production, where scalability of content is key. The strongest TV formats are created with the potential to travel across seasons, territories and platforms. Each format becomes a brand in its own right. It may evolve and adapt to the nuances of the local market, but it has the same identifiable structure and values at its core. These TV formats, such as Fremantle’s Got Talent, Idols and The X Factor, are conceived with great care, de signed to have a long lifespan and international appeal. FremantleMedia’s IP shows are nurtured to keep them evergreen. They attract huge, highly engaged audiences who actively choose to spend time with them.
They maximize an initial investment to become profit centres. This is because their lifeblood is their Intellectual Property, or IP. Wouldn’t it make creative and economic sense to see global brands such as McDonalds or Nike create their own branded entertainment in the form of long-running international hits? To evolve “I’m Lovin’ It” into a family entertainment format, to turn “Just Do it” into a global competitive reality show? After all, Redbull took “It Gives you Wings” to create the world’s biggest branded content powerhouse. They embraced and grew their IP. I believe that Branded Entertainment has the potential to own IP and become a self-financing way to reach the hearts and minds of audiences who choose to spend time with content, regardless of whether or not it has been funded by a brand. The collaboration between TV production companies and the advertising industry can lead to a new Branded Entertainment model. With the growth of OTT platforms, the terms “TV”, “digital” and “branded” are now beginning to merge, and the only true requisite is that people want to be entertained. Having worked both sides of the business – in TV and advertising – I am aware of the different values that both entities revere. In advertising, annual campaigns mean that the pressure is on to refresh and renew. Sometimes the greatest creative ideas are adapted, convoluted and even obliterated to make way for the next big, shiny idea – and the only thing left is a copy line, which has its own sell-by-date.
Original and groundbreaking work is awarded, but little credence is given to the lasting power of a returnable message. Plus, the constrictions of a 30-second spot don’t usually allow the flexibility for local nuance and language. But I still raise the challenge to agencies and brands to join hands with IP creators and nurture a new, long-term way of doing business. More and more brands and agencies are beginning to see the financial potential of branded content. Unilever founded U Entertainment, BBH has Blacksheep Studios and Dentsu has grown Storylab. They are investing in scalable projects in which they own part of the IP, so when the show travels, they make a profit. Meanwhile, TV production companies are starting to see the benefit of working closely with agencies and are becoming increasingly willing to share their IP. The synergies between the two industries are growing. There are still a number of obstacles in creating lasting IP and many of them are inherent in the structure of the advertising business. Budgets may be released on an annual rather than longer-term basis. Autonomous local business units mean that global strategies are difficult to implement. And it’s always much less risky to pay for that cup on the desk in an existing format such as American Idol than to create your own new talent show. It can be precarious, you might not get it right first time, and you’d be mistaken to think that a healthy ROI is automatically guaranteed. Partnerships can be precarious without trust. TV production companies, brands and agencies all differ in their culture and business structures. So it’s important that each party does what they do best and sticks to it: agencies and brands, we love your vision, your creativity and your commercial drive, we really enjoy collaborating with new partners in refreshing ways… but please trust us TV types to get on with what we know best – making long-form content for devoted audiences and selling it to broadcasters around the world. It’s time for the industry to move into factual and entertainment. I can’t wait to see the next Big Brother, The Voice or The Price is Right co-owned by a brand. To date, there hasn’t been a global Branded Entertainment reality series, game show or shinyfloor programme. In the meantime, the best we can do is keep on experimenting, innovating, collaborating… and that kernel of a creative idea may turn into a global mega hit.
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