Pernod Ricard's Philosopher of Branded Content

Entertainment Head Chris Monaco Intertwines Spirits Into Pop Culture

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Who: Chris Monaco, director of entertainment marketing at Pernod Ricard.

Why you need to know him: A veteran of the music and marketing industries, Mr. Monaco set up the Hollywood outpost
Chris Monaco is the director of entertainment marketing at Pernod Ricard.

for Allied Domecq Spirits North America more than three years ago to ally with the entertainment community. Now with the company that acquired Allied Domecq, Mr. Monaco and his team continues to scout for partnerships, as well as to develop original projects that intertwine its brands -- including Kahlua, Malibu, Seagram's gin, Beefeater, Wild Turkey and Martell XO -- into pop culture.

Credentials: A native of Los Angeles, Mr. Monaco spent several years with several record labels, managing artists, promotions, tours and distribution before founding and serving as president of lifestyle marketing consultancy GoodLife Music. He also served as the head of international marketing for SpikeRadio.com before launching Allied Domecq's entertainment division.

What types of branded-entertainment projects have you recently produced? Mr. Monaco and his team have brokered partnerships with Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Music and others, and developed original fare such as the Oxygen network series "Kahlua and Conde Nast Traveler present Bring Home the Exotic." He also helped craft the Stolichnaya integration into Spike TV's reality show "The Club."

What is Pernod Ricard's philosophy on creating and owning content? Most marketers don't take that route. Isn't it risky? "Creating our own vehicles or content allows us to employ the philosophy of being in control of your own destiny, rather than waiting for an opportunity to come along, and in most cases trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. For some, this philosophy may not work, but within Pernod Ricard we have the skill set both internally and with our agency partners to navigate the industry with this mantra in mind. Additionally, within the spirits industry, this approach works in our favor, as we have certain marketing and advertising criteria that must apply to all of our brands. Social responsibility is of paramount importance to Pernod Ricard. By being the arbiters of our content, we can ensure the highest level of social responsibility in all our marketing practices and branded content vehicles. This includes content, promotion, through-the-line integration, budgeting, timing and exhibition. For us, the risk could be greater if we don't employ these tactics."

Is it important to create consumer outreach programs around a piece of branded content? Do you have a particular approach or style with those? "All programs or content must be complementary to through-the-line brand strategies and work within a 360-degree marketing mix. In most cases, creating a branded-content vehicle is only another mechanism to bring your brand to life and complement or enhance existing business channels. The approach can be rather pragmatic, basically, defining the objectives of the brand, such as equity, PR, media, awareness, consumer engagement, communication, pricing, etc. Then ask yourself, 'How will this vehicle help you to accomplish or complement each?'"

How do you structure these projects so you'll get a return on your investment? Basically, how do you measure success in branded entertainment? "In many instances, people tend to focus on how much time a brand receives on screen for both TV and film. If a media component is attached, this is a very academic element to measure. While this is an important factor to evaluate a portion of your spend, it is only one element to the equation. Much of the success of a project for our brands is already measured before we have even completed the project or it has gone to exhibition. This is because each vehicle is created to complement or enhance clearly defined objectives for each brand, through the line. One element I emphasize in the early development stages of a project is what the brand will do with the opportunity or vehicle. Branded content should be a complementary element to a complete marketing mix. Best measurement is to define what success will look like, before moving forward."

Would you consider tying in with entertainment properties such as high-profile films or reality TV shows? How would you evaluate those? "Yes, and we have. We had great success as a partner on 'The Club' [a 10-episode series on Spike TV] as well as a few major studio films. These opportunities fall into the brand-integration or cross-promotions category. Evaluation is on a case-by-case basis, as a project may be compelling to one brand, but it may not be to another because of strategies, targets, timing, objectives and so on. Film is an amazing medium to engage. We have learned a few lessons over the years that have got us where we are. I am open to looking at all appropriate opportunities for our brands, as we continue to successfully develop projects internally."

There is still some confusion out there on what exactly branded entertainment is. How do you define it? "An entertainment property, created and funded by a brand, to bring the brand's strategies, communications and essence to life. A complementary element to [through-the-line] brand planning that is utilized as a means to engage consumers and enhance brand objectives."

What are the best examples of branded entertainment that you've seen lately? "'Kahlua and Conde Nast Traveler Present Bring Home the Exotic' TV series would be a prime example. As would the 'Stoli Presents Be Real' documentary and exhibition tour. There was a music documentary and national promotion by a tequila brand last year that was very well done. Mountain Dew Films and the team at Davie-Brown did a great job with the 'First Descent' documentary. BMW Films is an old example but definitely a good model to look at. In the integration and cross-promotions category, Michael Yudin at Carat Entertainment has done some great things with his show 'King of Vegas' and Schick. Ben Silverman and his team at Reveille did a great job with 'The Biggest Loser' and 24 Hour Fitness."

And the worst? "Not for me to say."

What are some obstacles branded entertainment still faces? "From a brand perspective, there are not a lot of properties to engage. Most of the opportunities I do see are a tough fit with brand strategies, timing, objectives, and would not comply with our social responsibility standards or media criteria."

How can those obstacles be overcome? "Creating our own vehicles helps us to avert these potential obstacles. Not pinning all your hopes on the perfect vehicle to come along at the perfect time. Be in control of your own destiny."

What's on your TiVo? "'The Office,' 'Huff,' 'The Sopranos.' 'Extras.'"

What's on your iPod? "She Wants Revenge, Arctic Monkeys, Atmosphere, Flaming Lips, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soulphonic Soundsystem, Thievery Corporation."

What do you do in your free time? "Free time. What's that?"
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