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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brands on Film

Yesterday I went along with my colleagues from Thinktank to the Brand-e 'Brands on Film' event - a sort of unofficial last day on the job before I leave for asabbatical in Japan and well worth the time The event was held at LBi's offices on Brick Lane - the very definition of rough and repurposed warehouse chic - and their own Chris Clark kicked off the day with a wide angle shot, arguing that brands need to be moving beyond advertiisng to create 'something of cultural value to people' whether film or something else. Andrew Creighton followed up with a remarkable success story - the growth of Vice from 'hipster bible' to fully-fledged media company, counting Dell, Intel and Playstation amongst their clients. The genius of their model now is that they can provide brands with a pre-packaged audience and offer a low risk model - produce a couple of episodes, see how they go down, if they work out then build on it. The beauty of this model is organic growth - if the content is good and it grabs consumer attention then it can eventually make the jump even to TV with a ready made audience and no risks. No wonder Vice already have a deal with CNN to synidcate their best content! Laurence Billiet from Babelgum also talked about how media distribution models are being turned on their head online. Whilst short 'webisode' formats are proving most popular online this doesn't mean that they can't later be turned into a full-length film for more traditional channels, a model they are following for How To Re-Establish a Vodka Empire with the feature film being premiered on More4. We also heard from clients leading the way with branded film - Wander Bruijel at Philips (alongside Jonny Hardstaff who directed one of the films on their Parallel Lines site) and Carl Christopher-Ansari from Playstation with their Game Runners project. Agencies specialising in helping brands engage with and around the more traditional world of feature films were also represented by Jodie Fullagar from M&C Saatchi and Ed Sharp from Film Tree. We were there as the 'voice of consumer' with Sabine presenting the findings of research we've carried out into how consumers are actually consuming this stuff at the moment. Our message - this stuff is all very new for consumers and at the moment they're not quite sure what to make of it. They are open to film from brands but they struggle to go beyond thinking of it as advertising, which can start to raise cynicism about commerce encroaching onto art. The key to getting consumers past this is - as ever! - good quality, relevant material that feels as though it is rooted in a genuine brand belief. I left the day feeling pretty excited about the future of branded films and content in general. Consumers are open to it if it offers them something of value, if it is relevant to their interests, if it is good quality. If brands can deliver on this then they're going to build stronger relationships with their customers. 'Creatives' are increasingly looking towards brands and business for funding. This could be a win:win:win situation. However for branded film to really make an impact there will need to be an accompanying shift in people's media consumption habits. At the moment most consumers are still watching traditional TV content, even when viewing online, whether this is on official catch-up services or the numerous unlicensed streaming sites. For branded film to really take off, this needs to change and it is the likes of new media online media 'channels' such as Vice that seem best placed to make this happen. With the emergence of 'curated' hubs such as Vice or Babelgum, consumers are learning to look beyond traditional channels for their content. As online viewing habits mature these hubs could be the real winners - well placed to form partnerships with brands and to bring them together with consumers looking for quality content.