Will consumers pay for branded content? They will if they find entertainment worth paying for, contended some speakers at the Entertainment Lions. The new segment at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2016, saw speakers discussing how brands can harness the power of entertainment.
Pelle Sjoenell, worldwide chief creative officer, BBH; Scott Manson, chief operating officer, SB Projects, which manages talent including singer Justin Bieber; Giovanni Perosino, head of marketing communications, Audi; and film director Jon M Chu addressed the theme, ‘There's no business like the show business’.
BBH's worldwide CCO kicked things off by underling that the advertising business has to learn from entertainment. "People pay for entertainment, and they look to avoid ads," said Sjoenell.
He added that the best ad he's ever seen was one for Lego, offering two reasons: "Firstly, it made millions on the back of the ad. Secondly, it brings a conflict into the ad. The conflict is that people can either build their own Lego set or follow the build set."
Addressing Manson on Justin Bieber, he asked how the company managed to make him the ‘most loved’ from being the ‘most hated’.
"Our history with Justin is long. Scooter discovered him when he was 12. Then we went through a tough phase recently. We hoped that he would just go through it and continue doing what he loved. We were just waiting for him to resume (music). It started with Calvin Klein taking a risk to make him brand ambassador. Then came the roast on Comedy Central. This was followed by consistent behaviour. He showed he was a good guy. Then Skrillex and Diplo happened and he was back with 'Where Are You Now'. So, a 30-second or 60-second ad announcing Bieber was back wouldn't have worked. We needed to build his brand and we acknowledged that," explained Manson.
He went on to add a warning for talent managers that this may not work always, and could suddenly go wrong as people like Bieber are humans and could go do something terribly wrong that could tarnish their brand image.
Director Chu came into the discussion and added the storytelling angle. Among Chu's direction list is a documentary on Justin Bieber (Never Say Never). He's also directed a couple of movies from the Step Up series and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, among others.
He said, "There's no motion without emotion. We are trying to be really authentic in our storytelling. In making Bieber the movie, we presented his home videos. We featured home videos of him playing the drum and him playing with his family before getting into Bieber the pop star."
Chu spoke about his entry into branded content and how he felt restricted in making 30-second or 60-second ads. Talking about his experience of working with Microsoft, he said, "I felt restricted when I had to make those ads to begin with. But, then I stopped thinking of it as an ad. I was told to just focus on the 'click' and worked on that. Then the Virgin America safety video came in. Because of some (aviation) laws we didn't even have a plane to shoot in. But creativity helped us overcome it. It's the storytellers job to put something in your movie."
Perosino, who took over as head of marketing communications at Audi in 2013, said his first task was to find direction for the brand. "Human attention is the biggest scarcity we have. When we have scarcity, you must fight for it (attention). It's about playing a role in getting the entertainment. At the same time we need authenticity and to be yourself. For Audi, we have to do this and add a technological innovation. It's about showing a video and not putting the rings (Audi's logo) in the end, and people still understanding it," he said.
Brand fit and RoI
On new media, Manson said, "One of the most exciting things with new platforms coming are the options it can give people like John (storytellers). But at the end of the day it's all about strategy. Whether it's a car, a brand of cars or artists, we have fans who are consumers. It's about feeding that beast to your community to keep them genuinely engaged. We turn down 9 out of 10 brands coming to us or our celebs. We need the right brand values so that we can put out the right stories. Consumers are so fickle. The moment they see Bieber (or someone else) just Tweeting or promoting something that doesn't have the right value, they will pass it off as something that's bought. You just can't take pay cheques from here to there."
Perosino added, "The good news is that the centre of our culture are images. This is very good for us professionals. The culture of millennials is completely image-driven. Whether it's long form, short form movies, it's about producing images with quality. My challenge is that we're investing in media to buy media space. We should instead move media money to create productions. I want productions that have engaging entertainment. This can help us compete against Hollywood, YouTube. If we'll be good, then we should ask people to pay for it. When you (consumers) get things for free they don't value it. I want to make people pay for our content. That's the next step."
Speaking about branded entertainment, Manson branded entertainment was a buzz word. “Ultimately it is upon people like Giovanni (marketers) to get marketing spends from one bucket to another, which doesn't really have a clear RoI. Branded entertainment will only be successful when people start taking risks, but in a strategic way," he contended.
Perosino responded, "If I give you 100 euros and get back 400, 500 or 800, then it makes sense as it costed nothing. But this is a science – the calculation of RoI and how you evaluate the success of your content."