The growing relationship between brands and the entertainment world is a big theme once again at Cannes. The debate is focused on several growing issues for brands in this space – including the integration of social media and device technology at live events, built through partnerships with the likes of Snapchat and Twitter, and the distribution of branded entertainment through deals with big media companies.
Undoubtedly the biggest issue, however, is the need for brands to adapt to a changing world where they are part of a larger entertainment ecosystem. This requires some brave thinking about their brand and its role, together with the ability to connect with and, ultimately, move people in some way.
This concern emerged during the Lions Entertainment session ‘What’s Next in the World of Brands and Entertainment?” The point made most forcibly by Jonny Sabbath, of Anheusher-Busch InBev. He stressed the need for those in the brand world to “think like a marketer, act like a producer. As marketers we have to act more like entertainment producers, do less interrupting and more attracting.”
Sabbath raised what for me should be a significant focus for brands: bringing something that’s unique, entertaining, or useful to your audience. He cited one of his own projects, the Beerland show on Vice Media’s Viceland that follows craft brewer Meg Gill on a journey to meet home-brewers, to make his point that brands are now engaging with audiences by buying or creating TV shows and then developing their advertising around this entertainment.
This requires a different approach for brands, putting themselves more in the role of producer and asking whether people will want to actively engage with the content and whether the product or service has the permission to have a conversation with people at that time, and in that space.
And it’s not just in branded film and ad campaigns that this applies. People are looking for more memorable live experiences and creating magic moments that inspire people to act, taking out their phone and sharing them, has become an important task for today’s marketing team. But it requires the skills and willingness to get down and dirty with some clever tactical, in-field work.
The rules of branded entertainment are relatively straightforward, though the execution may not be. Brands make mistakes when they try to compete with entertainment by turning their advertising idea into content and just end up with something that inspires no-one. In practice the move towards a less interruptive model based around a content idea can also prove to be difficult for brands and for their agencies, requiring more flexible thinking from creatives and account teams for instance.
The clear goal should be to build a connection with culture and experiences that people care about. Brands that concentrate on this won’t go too far wrong.
The Cannes panel pointed out that the immersion of brands in the entertainment world will involve a shift that will lead to a lot of debate and arguments. It’s going to be a messy process that requires balance and give and take. But the marketing industry has no option but to embrace the change. Brands will enter a future that was outlined in Cannes of greater specialism of content experiences that are targeted more tightly towards receptive audiences through technology. So there’s really no choice. The old interruptive advertising model has to adapt.