Branded content: fun to make but not making much money

Ads are for selling and branded content should be too, says Adrian Flores, even though he’s very happy to make cool looking YouTube videos that don’t do all that much.

This is the information overload age. Precious consumer eyeballs are constantly being distracted. Hollywood, gaming, cat videos. Our audience no longer has the inclination or attention span to pay attention to paid advertising. Banners are blocked, ad breaks are time-shifted and print is dead. It’s a sad old world out there for traditional advertising.

But fear not, salvation approaches. Lo, behold branded content and its promised bounty of earned media. See, what has been holding advertising back has been this pesky insistence on shilling things like product benefits and, horror of all horrors, selling. We’re in the entertainment business now fellas. For creatives, this is great. We just have to come up with cool shit that will clock up YouTube views. There’s no need to worry about that hard bit, that ‘making the client’s product interesting’ thing. So long as at some point in the four-minute short the audience sees a cameo by the brand, it’s all good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deriding every piece of branded content out there. There are brands that have impeccably woven the narrative of their product into something compelling. Harley Davidson’s Ridebook perfectly tapped into the Americana heritage ethos that currently dominates the male fashion blogging worlds and used mixed media collaborations to position the brand as an object of lust for a new generation of 20 to 35-year-olds.

But for every pitch perfect execution like that, you have an Intel asking Kiefer Sutherland to reprise a character from a defunct television show with the only link back to their product being the fact it’s in the same room as him.

Like so much before it, branded content is falling victim to the overzealous marketer, the ‘it worked for Apple, it’ll work for soap’ lemmings.

As 1950s adman Howard Gossage said: “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” And if your ad is not about selling, the question must be asked; why exactly did you make it?

Adrian Flores was an award-winning copywriter at Sydney agency Publicis Mojo. He has recently moved to London.


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