Brands…The New Executive Producers.

Are brands going to be the new executive producers…and will they use UGC (User Generated Content) as their new talent pool?

In the 50’s, Marlin Perkin’s ‘Wild Kingdom’ was not just sponsored by, but actually produced by Mutual of Omaha. They were intricately involved in the production of the show. Those were the early days of television. Days when the consumer actually loved the shows and the commercials in between. Remember Kraft Television Theater or Colgate Comedy Hour?……..never mind…

The point is, they did what brands still strive for today. To build a deep, authentically emotional connection with their audience. The audience did not mind the sponsorship or the commercials because they were being given something of genuine value.

Who feels that way about any of today’s commercials or sponsorships?

What goes around comes around – and for good reason. While a few of us experiment with buying shows, sans commercials, off of the likes of iTunes, this will most likely play out to be an exception to the rule. Why own something when you will most likely only want to watch it once, especially when most things will most likely be available on demand anyway? Most consumers are used to and will continue to prefer to get their ‘TV’ for free. So, we need sponsors & advertising. It pays for things. So, how to execute it in a way that is not intrusive, and makes the treasured connection in a new, but lastingly authentic way…

Brands as the new executive producers and solo sponsors of entertainment makes sense for a number of simple reasons. For starters:
1. It will render DVR & Tivo ad skipping as irrelevant.
2. Brands can now engage consumers on an authentic level, bringing them value. Pull vs. Push.
3. TV/Internet convergence will be all about niche markets, and brands know these segments even better than the networks.

As for UGC (User Generated Content) as the new talent pool? The convergence will bring a two way dialogue with a ‘TV’ audience in the same way that social networking influences the internet now. So, yes, it makes sense to use UGC if it starts to bring this two-way conversation. It does NOT make sense to use UGC as the answer to ill thought out marketing campaigns.

Two recent Nike pieces illustrate this. The first is a spot shows Ronaldinho, one of the most recognized figures in soccer, breaking in some new Nikes with extraordinary feats of his soccer skills. It is an amateur attempt, and the problem became that it was found out that digital manipulation was used in exaggerating the skills of this already skilled athlete – rendering the brand as unauthentic. That hurts the brand because it is fake. Shown here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6h4WACknkY&search=nike%20ping%20pong

Alternatively, “The Longest Soccer Chain” is so simple it is brilliant. Nike invites users to upload a video of themselves kicking a soccer ball around and passing it to ‘someone’ else. This is accomplished by cutting one piece against the next. What we end up with is a world-wide community of soccer fans, all playing around with the ball – connecting with one another. A forum for the game’s collective creativity.
http://nikefootball.nike.com/nikefootball/siteshell/index.jsp#,us,0;jogatv,,0,0,0

Now, the ‘Longest Soccer Chain’ is a simple idea and hardly constitutes a whole show, but it is a start. It could even be the start of a channel. It engages, is entertaining, and is forming that illusive connection with their audience in a way that is authentic and unobtrusive.

Now, NBC & ABC have both launched in-house brand integration departments in order to bring brands back to the table. If they don’t participate, they risk brands running off and doing it on their own. Remember, it is the internet & TV convergence I am talking about here- and nothing will stop ideas like these from becoming the next channels when they do. The networks and advertising agencies must participate in bringing ideas like these to brands or risk losing out. The brands that take matters into their own hands will be sitting pretty, and their audience will love them for it.

So, perhaps what goes around does come around, albeit in another form…

More food for thought…

More Video Ads Move Online, Rivaling TV.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/23/AR20060523000…

Procter to teach on the tube.
http://cincinnati.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2006/04/24/daily56.html

TLC Creates a show inspired by their Home Made Simple online newsletter.
http://www.homemadesimple.com/en_US/tvlanding.do

More Marketers Using Branded Entertainment
http://www.adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=108717

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