Mr. Scott was one of four panelists who spoke with Ad Age's Claude Brodesser-Akner during the Digital Marketing Conference, being held in New York today and tomorrow. The panel explored the changing models for commercial content, both creative and distribution-oriented.
Frank Cooper, VP-marketing, Pepsi-Cola North America, said branded entertainment's position in the consumer marketplace is not to be isolated from traditional media or distributed only in new and emerging media. "We take a lot of what's happened before and try to integrate it into this creative leap forward. I won't say we've even done it, it's a process."
$1M buys six months
Mr. Scott added, "When you look at what the traditional marketer spends, the average 30-second spot in the industry is probably pushing $1 million or more. But the shelf life of that is roughly six months."
The shelf life of short-form branded content, however, can be several years. "The ownership of that content allows you to really mold the message you're looking to carry out there. There are a lot of co-investments taking place right now between brands and production companies. The movement you're seeing takes place on both coasts, from a brand and content standpoint."
Mitch Kanner, CEO and founder of 2 Degrees Ventures, is a two-decade veteran of the branded-entertainment space and views the traditional model as having been broken for a long time. If the original goal was for brands to tell their stories through longer forms of content, the new objective should be to marry that brand's story in the context of existing entertainment, too. He cited the use of Ray-Bans in "Men in Black" and FedEx's partnership with "Cast Away" as key examples.
"If I can have a relationship with an advertiser, I can place the advertiser in the same room with their agency and with a script team and actually integrate those values into those shows. Then we can take the shows for 13 weeks as an exclusive in the category to allow me and the brand to have two or three 'hero' moments."
But in terms of online distribution for these new projects, the agencies have only recently caught up. Mike Geiger, director-interactive production at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, said his agency has finally become more active in digital in the last four or five years, but the last year alone has become particularly game-changing in coming to grips with the quality of viral content.
"You don't really know what is good or what is bad," he said. "The client reads something about a widget and goes, 'I need a widget' or 'I need to be on YouTube' or 'I need a subservient chicken, it only costs 50 grand.' We actually never go, 'Let's create a video just for YouTube.'"
Even the celebrities who are turning to digital-marketing channels for their latest projects stressed the need to separate the ordinary rocks from the gold online. In a subsequent panel about digital talent, Damon Wayans, star of "In Living Color" and founder of WayoutTV.com, said, "MySpace and YouTube don't have that filter. Everything is a free-for-all. [Once you have content,] what do you do with it?"
Mr. Wayans pointed to Will Ferrell's FunnyOrDie.com as a great example of a celebrity successfully creating his own destination site for unique comedy content. But its major flaw was the lack of serialization of hit videos such as "The Landlord."
"That little girl is a star," he said. "If you did five episodes and showed how it worked, to me that's the trick. How do you get people emotionally invested in these characters you're creating and spin them off?"
The right celeb partner
For brands tackling the space, a big part of achieving viral success lies in partnering with existing stars. Robert Stone, director-interactive and emerging media, Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, hired viral video star Tay Zonday to plug his brand's new Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper via a remix of Mr. Zonday's YouTube hit "Chocolate Rain."
The results? Nine million YouTube views but a tricky scale and monetization model. "You can't monetize a viral campaign. You don't know where it's going to go. We made the assumption that people watched 'Cherry Chocolate Rain' three times a piece, so we had a unique audience of 3 million people.' It's a very small potential reach and we have to negotiate accordingly," Mr. Stone said.