Video Marketing and your brand…



Consumers must know when content is paid for and when it is editorial, said Trevor Fellows of The Wall Street Journal.

AS an annual presentation of new digital offerings to Madison Avenue enters its second week, marketers and publishers are focusing on ways to work together to integrate brands and products into video programming in the same way they are woven into the plots of television shows.

Such integration, known as content marketing or branded entertainment, was one of the subjects discussed most frequently and ardently during the first week of the presentation, known as the 2014 Digital Content NewFronts. Branded entertainment is a reason for a race among publishers to develop original video programming, because the deals that can be made with fresh content are a potential source of revenue. By contrast, no revenue results from deals previously made for video that is picked up from other sources.

Advertisers and agencies are interested in embedding brands in what people watch on desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets for the same reason they are interested in embedding brands in what is watched on television sets: Incorporating products into what viewers really want to see is typically more effective — and less annoying — than intruding on that programming with commercials.

Another aspect of online video works in favor of branded entertainment, in that viewers who want to watch clips may deem preroll — the unavoidable commercials that run before the desired content — more obnoxious than traditional commercials.

Advertisers making content marketing deals with media companies are seemingly being lionized during the NewFronts, which run through Wednesday, as much as the Hollywood stars acting in or producing the content. For instance, at an event on Thursday sponsored by Time Inc., a screen flashed the names of deal-making brands like Bacardi, Chase, Chevrolet, Du Pont, Ford, Kraft, Jeep, Lincoln and Toyota.

And a lavish promotion video — sizzle reel, in marketing parlance — at an event on Wednesday sponsored by Crackle celebrated brands that included Acura, BMW, FedEx and Honda.

The goal of product integrations is “creating a brand conversation with consumers,” said James Smith, head of digital media sales for Crackle and PlayStation and senior vice president at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

For all the benefits that accrue to brands through content marketing, executives acknowledge pitfalls, too, primarily the damage that can be done when the line between news content and advertising is deliberately blurred, smudged or erased.

“There can be no doubt in consumers’ minds when content is paid for and when content is editorial,” Trevor Fellows, head of global advertising sales at The Wall Street Journal, said after a NewFronts event sponsored by the newspaper on Friday.

“It’s a key principle,” Mr. Fellows added, that is held dear by “too few publishers.”

Another difficulty with what he called “bespoke content” is that, “I’m not sure it’s a key differentiator” in the video marketplace because so many publishers are now producing it.

Although “it’s part of what we do,” he added, “what sets us apart is our ability to distribute content to our amazing audience” of affluent professionals, particularly “high-quality content.”

After another NewFronts event on Friday, sponsored by the Time Warner Cable Media division of Time Warner Cable, Joan Gillman, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Time Warner Cable Media, described branded content as “one tiny aspect” of the “custom marketing solutions” that can be created for marketers.

In fact, content marketing was not discussed at the event, which emphasized the ability of Time Warner Cable Media to produce commercials for marketers that are enhanced with localized appeals to subscribers of cable systems owned by Time Warner Cable. Steve Jacobs, group vice president for sales at Time Warner Cable Media, announced the formation of “an internal creative agency” named Kernel, which will also be staffed with “production and account specialists.”

(According to Ms. Gillman, Time Warner Cable Media decided to take part in the 2014 NewFronts “long before the deal was announced” for Time Warner Cable to be acquired by Comcast. The circumstances were acknowledged with a wink by David Rone, president for sports, news and local programming at Time Warner Cable, who began his remarks by saying, “So now, about Comcast,” then grinned and changed the subject.)

The growing interest in content marketing will be demonstrated by an announcement scheduled for Monday by the Corbis Entertainment division of Corbis, introducing an interactive platform, the Branded Entertainment Network, or BEN, that seeks to give marketers access to placement opportunities in digital video, television shows and movies.

“We’re looking to change the way branded integration works,” Gary Shenk, chief executive of Corbis, said in a telephone interview on Friday, transforming it from a realm of “one-off” projects to a mainstay that can be found, planned, tracked and evaluated like “any advertising.”

Placements must be perceived by viewers as “organic and authentic” to the programming, Mr. Shenk said, or “the effectiveness will tank — exponentially.” The platform will be financed by “a commission, a percentage of the advertising spend,” he added.

BEN is to begin with 600 placement offerings, Mr. Shenk said, in scripts provided through an alliance with the Producers Guild of America. BEN also has a partnership with the Universal McCann media agency, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

“We’re actively working to identify opportunities for our clients,” Scott Donaton, global chief content officer at Universal McCann and head of its studios unit, said in a separate telephone interview, adding that he welcomed “anything that brings scale and efficiency to what we do.”

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