To promote the new Julia Roberts vehicle "Eat Pray Love," the Home
Shopping Network is devoting 72 hours of airtime for programming
that simultaneously plugs the Sony Pictures film and more than 400
products across multiple categories that are somehow related to the
Sony wants to promote the film to the HSN demographic (women 30
to 50 years old). HSN wants to find new ways to sell products.
It may be tempting to dismiss the whole exercise as one big
promotion-palooza. There's always the possibility that it won't be
executed well and that it falls completely flat.
But in theory the promotion is a great idea that illustrates
four principles behind branded content that any brand marketer can
benefit from observing.
I Want My ... Branded Entertainment?
With all the rapidly expanding entertainment choices out there, why
should audiences pay attention to entertainment that is branded?
It's not likely audiences are waiting for the next piece of branded
content the way they might for the next Julia Roberts film.
However, there are ways to use content that the audience cares
about to drive the kind of commerce a brand cares about that go
beyond traditional advertising and one-dimensional "brought to you
HSN is using content from "Eat Pray Love" to sell products tied
to themes in the film (though the vast majority of products are not
in the movie). Brand marketers should also be thinking about ways
in which they can package ancillary content from an established
property to market their products. It goes beyond product placement
or integration and into creating experiences audiences are likely
to pay attention to -- behind-the-scenes excerpts from shows or
movies, cast interviews or additional footage.
Distributors and Distribution Are Central
Distributors have invested years and billions to cultivate what
marketers want: audiences. And Sony Pictures wants to cultivate
HSN's audience of 30- to 50-year-old women for its film.
Media companies (even those as unsexy as HSN) have established
properties and assets that audiences care about. Smart, proactive
media companies want to work with advertisers to use those assets
across a full spectrum of branded-entertainment techniques (not
only product placement). Amazingly, there is still some reluctance
among brand marketers to engage with media owners in this way. The
reason for the reluctance may be a fear that this kind of
engagement clouds media-pricing discussions. Which brings up
another principle to keep in mind. ...
Creativity in Deal Structures
Reportedly, no money is changing hands in the "Eat Pray Love" deal.
Consideration in the form of media support is what HSN is putting
forward in order to be able to use the "Eat Pray Love" property to
sell products. And while HSN is a media network in the traditional
sense, brand marketers very often have media of their own (like
their product's packaging) that can be used as consideration in a
deal to promote an entertainment property.
In the more typical case of brands buying (rather than
bartering) media, media buyers want to push for better CPM
But buyers can also ask media properties to create more
customized programs that take advantage of their creative and
programming assets. Smart media buyers do both but not enough
buyers think about the latter.
Of course, nothing is free.
Customized branded entertainment programs cost more than
straight media buys. Choosing to do them may have the effect of
concentrating more of a buyer's media budget with fewer media
properties, thereby sacrificing some reach. However, if you accept
that the "audience attention" that inventive branded content can
bring is as (if not more) important as "eyeballs," that can be a
trade-off with tremendous benefit.
Creating Context Around Content
Using content to stimulate commerce is about more than a brand
simply being present in content. It's about creating the right
selling context around the content.
In the case of "Eat Pray Love," HSN is using the content in a
very direct way to sell products.
For brand marketers not dealing with such direct selling
channels, the task in any branded content exercise is to leverage
at least some of the entertainment assets in PR, promotions,
in-store and (whenever possible) in advertising.
Using entertainment assets in this way not only helps achieve
specific marketing objectives but also can take some of the
branding pressure off of the editorial and entertainment value of
the content itself.
So while the "Eat Pray Love" platform on HSN is not the kind of
sexy, original content program that generates a lot of attention as
the next great example of branded content, it does offer some
creative structural approaches for brands to start thinking about
how they can take a page out of the entertainment playbook and use
content to turn audience attention into commerce. From that point
of view, it's already a success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is co-founder of Indigenous Entertainment, which develops and
packages content-driven marketing programs for both media and brand
clients. You can reach him at [email protected]