Mondelez Dives Into Content Creation in New Media Approach

Snack Maker Teaming Up With Fox, BuzzFeed and Others to Produce Content Backed by Its Brands

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Will a skydiver attempting a 25,000-foot jump without a parachute help sell more Stride gum? Mondelez International is ponying up the money to find out.

The snack maker is taking a new approach to media buying by actually partnering with studios and others on content creation. The effort, in the works for about eight months and being announced this week, comes as marketers, including Pepsi, try to find new ways to connect with people who are ignoring traditional advertising and finding new ways to block even newer forms of marketing.

PepsiCo's new, state-of-the-art content studio, dubbed Creators League, is meant to pump out branded content while also pursuing distribution deals with film studios, online publishers and other outlets for brand-agnostic content. The company envisions selling enough unbranded content to cover the costs of creating ad content that does fuel product sales.

The big bet by Mondelez comes after the global marketer tinkered with different media monetization ideas over the past few years. The prior efforts included an "Oreo Twist, Link, Dunk" mobile video game; having musicians in Southeast Asia remix its Oreo Wonderfilled song and airing the results as music videos on local TV; and Lacta chocolate creating full-length feature films including "Love in the End," which ran in movie theaters in Greece.

As Mondelez sees it, media monetization means "making content that's good enough to make money," said Laura Henderson, the company's global head of content & media monetization. "What that's going to do is hold us to a higher bar."

One of the first big plans under the new strategy is funding the production of a one-hour skydiving special July 30 on Fox. The show, "Heaven Sent," will promote the Stride chewing gum brand's summer introduction of "Mad Intense" flavors. Along with the Fox show, the special may air via streaming and in other countries. Mondelez shared a teaser video of the show, which focuses on Luke Aikins. Mr. Aikins, a third-generation skydiver who has made more than 18,000 dives, now plans to jump without a parachute, from 25,000 feet, on live television.

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Two other partnerships were also announced, with plans for more. Mondelez is working with BuzzFeed on integrations such as recipes to be shown on BuzzFeed's Tasty, and will co-create an original content brand in the well-being space. Mondelez is also working on branded games it hopes will be commercially viable, starting with a mobile game featuring its Sour Patch Kids brand later this year.

Ms. Henderson said that BuzzFeed brings "tremendous reach and scale," and that its test-and-learn type of model is really valuable for Mondelez. The companies have worked together in the past on brand content such as holiday season recipe videos.

Mondelez's media agencies, led by Dentsu Aegis' Carat, will play a big role in the process including strategy and brokering some of the distribution deals, Ms. Henderson said. Dentsu's The Story Lab content agency team based in London is working on a content monetization model. SMG will work on the projects in markets where it works with Mondelez as well, but the global leadership is held by Carat.

Mondelez's U.S. media spending fell to just under $151.6 million in 2015 from $175.7 million in 2014, according to data from Kantar Media, which excludes Internet buys. The company has set a goal of getting up to 10% of its global media investments to break even or turn a profit by 2020.

Ms. Henderson talked with Ad Age about the new approach.

Ad Age: What inspired this new approach?

Ms. Henderson: We're seeing mass disruption in the industry. We're seeing huge amounts of media fragmentation, so people consuming more media in more places than ever before, and yet it's more difficult than ever to actually reach them. We're seeing a growing sense of audience empowerment, so really taking control of their content viewing experience. They can skip our ads, they can block our ads, they can avoid them entirely. Advertising isn't any longer an assumed part of that equation. All of that is really wreaking havoc on the economics of the industry. So it's become more expensive than ever before to actually reach the same amount of people. We really saw an opportunity to define a new model that would help us move into the future.

Aside from the industry transformation that we're seeing happen, this is also a really important part of our growth strategy in terms of increasing our investment on our power brands, those brands that are higher growth and higher margin. If we're successful in this endeavor, it means that we will be able to actually reinvest some of this money back into our brands.

Ad Age: Will you have your own content studio or partner with other outlets on content?

Ms. Henderson: This is predominantly a partnership-focused approach. This is not an in-house studio. We are partnering with the best in the industry. We think that the content game is a really hard one and so we're focused on partnering with those who are best equipped to understand their audience (and) communicate in a compelling way. So this is just about really working differently with media platforms, with agencies, with other brands outside of Mondelez, to unlock more value for everybody.

This first year, we're really focused on trying a range of different formats and a range of different models. We were really intent on making sure we had variety. We were attracted to Fox because we think they've done interesting things in the live space, including what they did most recently with "Grease Live." I think they're very focused on what the future of advertising looks like in a world where interruptive advertising is not the only currency.

Clarification: Because of incorrect information given to Ad Age, this story originally stated that The Story Lab is under the Carat umbrella; it is not. It's a sibling of Carat within Dentsu Aegis.

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