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The Evolution Of Branded Video Content

The Evolution of Branded Video Content

Brands have increasingly put branded video content into their marketing mix. This is neither a commercial, nor an advertorial but a video which lives primarily in an editorial space, where the story lives first and when done well weaves the brand in seamlessly. Where did branded video content come from and what’s it all about? We discuss the evolution of branded video content.

What is Branded Video Content?

Let’s start by defining what we mean by branded video content. There’s not one simple definition to be found, branded video content can mean slightly different things to brands, corporation and agencies.

So here’s our definition:
In its simplest terms, branded content is a form of advertising, paid for by a brand. The content creative itself comes first and foremost, with the brand helping shape, influence and editorialise the content around its products.

In the creation of branded video content, it’s all about telling good stories which connect with the brand and its audience/customer. A well-made piece of branded video content will have its own credibility and in the best examples will have natural shareability.

Branded video content may include direct product usage or placement, but never to the detriment of the story.

Typically, branded content will be distributed through editorial platforms and social media. Conversely, branded video content (in our eyes) is not:

  • Commercials
  • Sponsorship
  • Advertorials


Where Did Banded Video Content Start?

Branded video content has been around a lot longer than you may think. Brand advertising itself started in a much more editorial way. Telling stories came first, everyone in the advertising world knowns where soap operas get their name.

Branded video content can (unbelievably) be traced back to almost a century ago and the biggest single core of films ever made from a brand’s single-minded point of view.

So, who are we talking about? Who was the first branded video content producer?


The First Ever Brand to Create Video Content

It was Shell – making over 500 films. The archive is now owned by the BPO and the films were distributed in cinemas. Shell originally sponsored films in the 1920s, before its in-house film unit was created in 1934.

Designed in a subtle way, these films avoided direct reference to Shell itself or its products and service.

Shell weren’t alone. Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) set up its own film unit in 1929 and were followed by London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1934. They were joined by British Transport Films and National Coal Board Film Unit and Dunlop.

BP, Ford, Unilever, Wimpey, Mullards and many others also worked with independent producers. In those years, 1000s of films were being made each year for sponsors.

By the time the 70s rolled around, brands had moved away from film making and instead commissioned large creative agency ad firms to make 30 second adverts. These ads stuck long in the memory – in the UK, many of us remember famous ads from the likes of Hamlet, Yellow Pages, BT, Nescafe, Carling Black Label, Scotch, Flake Ad or Wonderbra.


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Branded Video Content in the 21st Century

By the early 21st Century, things started to change once more. Few adverts really stood out (Compare the Market, John Lewis and Cadbury Gorilla aside). Attention span has decreased and the ability to fast forward ads is adding to the issue. A more engaging form of advertising is necessary – this is leading to a rise in branded video content.

By this time, new media has reinvented the third space beyond cinema and television.

The first branded video content pieces Silver Bullet (in our former incarnation as Tough Cookie) produced were in the live music sphere.

Music was one of the most searched for content online and came with a certain kudos for brands. At that time, there wasn’t such a wealth of live music available to view online – before cameraphones or even YouTube!

From 2000 onwards, MSN live webcasts like those from The Cavern with McCartney and Brixton Academy with Madonna. Festivals such as Reading and O2 Wireless were also broadcast online and branded. This is event based content which we’ll get back to.

Then in 2005 Bebo (anyone remember?) started the ‘KateModern’ series with six brand partners: Microsoft Windows Live, Buena Vista International, Orange, as well as Proctor & Gamble brands Gillette, Pantene and Tampax. This hailed the start of editorial based branded video content.

In the US, ‘LonelyGirl15’ had cut a deal with Neutrogena to be featured as the employer of a new young scientist character in the show and integrated Hershey’s Ice-Breaker Sours Gum in an episode which racked up 50 million views.

Then there was ‘Fiesta Movement 2009’. This placed Fiestas in the hands of 100 social ‘agents’ to have them promote Ford’s new vehicle through Twitter, blogs, video and events without any traditional media spend.

One brand in particular caught the bug a few years later… It’s almost an anomaly this even happened in the days before social media, when traditional PR and emails had to do the job. In 2001 – 2002 BMW produced a film series, ‘The Hire’, consisting of eight short films averaging about ten minutes each. This branded video content featured popular filmmakers from around the globe and starred Cliver Own as the ‘Driver’, highlighting the performance of various BMW cars.

11 million views in 4 month from 8 films on BMW’s website. Starring Clive Owen, directed by Guy Ritchie, Tony Scott, Ang Lee and more. The series came back in 2016 to promote the 2017 5 series.


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From Guesswork to Accurate Engagement Stats

It’s in the last five years that brands have really started to see results. The guess work surrounding this space have (in general) been replaced with far more accurate engagement stats.

And with tangible results, large investments can be made with the likes of the Lego getting involved in movies ($200M ticket sales) and Go Pro (712 million subscribers) and Red Bull’s (1Bn YouTube video views) putting millions into their video content.

High profile Directors and Actors are in the space too such as with Burberry’s Tale of Thomas Burberry Movie and Robert Carlise for Johnny Walker.


Influencers in Branded Video Content

It doesn’t need to cost the earth either. Brands are engaging creators via platforms and talent from influencer networks. Working with influencers can mean tapping into a large and expectant audience. Although there are a few pitfalls – influencers can be costly, aren’t traditionally presenter-skilled and branding can jar against influencer style videos. Having said this, it can be done well, even if we do say so ourselves…

We produced the above video on location at the prestigious Goodwood Festival of Speed. Event based branded content can be a highly effective way of making branded video content. Though, many brands that get involved in sponsoring events don’t have a distinct and clear video creative. Our advice would be to focus on the creative format at the very top of the event plan.


Where Next for Branded Video Content?

At Silver Bullet, the most recent areas we’ve seen increased interest in and have developed creative formats for are ‘playable editorial’ and ‘influencer-led’ videos.

Playable formats work best with video platforms that offer some tech too. In simplest terms, even YouTube has playability with its VR channels. But, you can build out to hardware as well, such as Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift. Brands are really starting to enter this playable space.

We’ve touched on influencer-led videos and playable formats above – we’ll pick up on both in more detail in future blogs… watch this space!

The landscape is continuously shifting and evolving with different trands taking the place of another in an unrelenting cycle. Brands need to be careful not to just jump on the latest craze of video making or follow one bit of distribution datat. Evolution of video content runs alongside the evolution of video watching; creative video solutions for brands in this space need to take into account both of these aspects – and then the possibilities are endless.

If you’re interested in the production of award winning branded video content for your company, find out how Silber Bullet can help you create your branded video content here.

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