Telecom Carrier Orange Gets the Balance Right

'Unsigned Act' Program Harmoniously Blends Content and Marketing

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Thiago de Moraes Thiago de Moraes
The second season of "Orange Unsigned Act" has just started. It's a TV show where new bands play live and compete for a chance to win a record-label deal. At first it seems like a straightforward reality-TV format, but it's completely owned (as opposed to being just sponsored) by the European mobile-phone carrier Orange and serves as a platform for a whole load of other music-related activity: a live tour, pocket shows and single releases.

Advertising-funded programming (AFP) is nothing new, but it seems like the rising spend on digital marketing and the increase in broadband penetration in the U.K. has renewed interest in it.

A lot of new AFP initiatives started online. In a partnership with Channel 4, TalkTalk has created a series of short videos on how to save money. Audi has its own TV channel showing exclusive content, and Nike has produced a series focusing on athletes across the main European soccer markets.

One obvious repercussion of this is a much closer collaboration between advertising agencies, media owners and TV production companies. It also asks the question of who does what: In a few cases, agencies aren't involved at all, but in others, like the Audi channel, they control the whole process.

Advertising agencies have traditionally been bad at coming up with long-form content, and brands have a tendency to think consumers are more interested in them than they actually are. So sometimes what they produce together is content that isn't compelling enough. Film and TV production companies have a great understanding of what viewers will want to engage with and how to format it, but sometimes they don't understand the brands from a marketing perspective and can't create content that really resonates with their objectives and values.

The "Orange Unsigned Act" show is a good example of when it works. The content is great to watch, the brand fit is seamless, and consumers can access it in all the right places and formats.

Here's a video about the show's judges:

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