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Branded digital content: an alternative for funding TV and film projects that needs to take off in Brazil

Branded digital content

In times of crisis and cuts in government budgets, part of the funding for the Brazilian film and TV production tends to wane, especially the ones offered by Petrobras, a semi-public Brazilian petro company involved in recent corruption scandals, who was a great sponsor of numerous works in recent years. Meanwhile, new digital platforms have emerged and generated a deeper connection with consumers, creating new opportunities for producers to finance their projects. 

Although the incentive policies and local film commissions (such as Ancine, Rio Filmes and SPCine) have been successful in promoting and providing a several production financing tools that enabled the birth of a true local market for film and TV, there are some barriers that can limit access to these sources of income and progress of these activities.

In response to this issue, new alternatives for content producers have been emerging to reduce the dependence on governmental money. In many private companies, the current challenge for marketing teams is to make their products, brands and services noticed outside the traditional points of contact. Since customers´ attention span is increasingly becoming fragmented due to the excess of information, advertising during commercial break of soap operas, game shows or movies is no longer enough to grab the audience´s attention. After all, with on demand content available on smartphones, the audience is no longer exclusively in front of the television.

In this context, new advertising models have been created to generate a deeper connection with consumers, including branded entertainment marketing. By sponsoring web series, taking brands into digital platforms, inserting product in narratives and financing feature films, new alternatives emerge for independent producers to find resources for content production. Branded entertainment marketing mixes brand values with entertainment to engage consumers, increase their awareness (knowledge, perception) and create positive associations with their products to boost sales. The goal is to draw the consumer's attention using emotional cues, celebrities, TV characters, news providers, sports teams and others.

This growing emphasis on branded entertainment marketing and content is a reaction to the new consumer behavior as well as being an excellent way for producers to make the most of their content. Also, we have more empathy when we spontaneously find brands, products and services. It is also the way companies are using to reach to younger audiences. Among the funding possibilities, one of the alternatives is through product placement, strategy increasingly being used to integrate brand names, logos or products into different medias. Although it is still a small practice, it is growing rapidly in the branded entertainment segment, with a 13.5% increase in global revenue in 2014, which amounted to approximately US$ 11 billion worldwide. The United States, Brazil and Mexico together account for more than 3/4 of the total amount collected.

In this scenario, brands are beginning to create dedicated teams to manage opportunities and to create branded entertainment. A few years ago, most of the producers and writers of TV and film wouldn´t even consider doing content production for brands, but this scenario is changing. Insertions are now subtle and not hard sell. A good example in Brazil is the film "Minha Mãe é uma Peça," the highest grossing local film of 2013, with over 4.6 million viewers. The multinational P & G placed two of its brands as hooks for two jokes that culminated in the audience laughing. The brands are there, but it is important to notice that the audience is having fun.

 In more mature markets than ours, like England, there are inspiring initiatives such as the gin brand Bombay Sapphire, which two years ago held the film competition "Imagination Series" in which filmmakers were invited to write and shoot a short film in the most creative way possible based on a predefined script. In partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival, the challenge of the last edition was to reinterpret the work of Geoffrey Fletcher, screenwriter of the award-winning film "Precious". So far, more than 1 million people have watched the five short film finalists on YouTube. This practice has also attracted winning directors like Wes Anderson, who had already directed several 30-second commercials. In "Castello Cavalcanti", 2013, a short of 8 minutes is a tribute to Federico Fellini, but it is also a commercial for Prada. The company logo appears at two different times - during the initial credits and  in the suit of the main characters - but it does not affect the script. This is a sign that luxury brands are trying to associate with creative material quality, aligned with its mission and values.

On TV, another good example is the episode "Connection Lost", from the US sitcom Modern Family. The script unfolds in the desktop of one of the characters. There´s no brand mentioned in the story, but all the features, applications and navigation make it clear that these are existing resources on Apple devices. The writers ensure that there was no kind of commercial investment from the tech company, but that there was a "patronage" in the use of technology. This can be used as an inspiration to anyone who wants to pay to have your brand used the same way.

 All these possibilities begin to generate a debate about the commercial influence in the movies and the loss of creative autonomy, however, these directors claim it is possible to maintain artistic integrity in business projects with brand financing. Moreover, it is necessary that the brand integration is performed in a subtle way to ensure creative freedom. Many producers are reacting positively to this scenario, therefore, they are specializing in branded entertainment. We can see that many do not mind working with multinationals companies such as Microsoft, L'Oreal and other small and independent brands. The dynamics of such partnerships are different, so it is necessary to assemble a creative team to write a concise story that is delivered correctly. In the end, no matter if the investment comes from the government, brands or even crowdfunding, the important thing is to present to the audience emotional, creative and fun content. And above all, it needs to entertain us.