Phil Birchenall, K7 Media’s Projects Director, discusses why more and more food and drink brands are becoming producers and broadcasters.
As I sit down to write this piece, two news items pop into my feed which remind me how rapidly the changes we’ve predicted for a while are now catching fire in the TV world. On one side of the Atlantic, EndemolShine has revealed it is to launch a musical talent show best.cover.ever, entirely native to YouTube. Meanwhile, back in the UK, Amazon has announced its latest unscripted commission – news enough in its own right just a few months ago – a cat documentary produced by an advertising agency.
The TV industry is no longer what we thought it was; the lines between production companies, distribution platforms, ad agencies, and therefore brands themselves have become fractured. In their place, new relationships have been fused. Meanwhile, consumers are far less likely to accept the ‘push’ advertising models of old. There are challenges, but these challenges present exciting new opportunities.
An area visibly at the forefront of this change is content directly funded by brands, which K7 has been looking at in great detail with our colleagues at VAST MEDIA. Of the verticals innovating in such content, the food and drink sector, has cooked up some particularly tasty examples in recent times.
The second series of Världens bästa burgare launched on TV3 in Sweden at the beginning of April 2017, following celebrity chef Johan Jureskog on a culinary road trip across America to find the World’s Best Burger. The Zodiak Factory format is a spectacular example of ‘unbranded branded’ content; though fully-funded by McDonald’s, no branding actually appears within the show. This is about subtly re-establishing the chain’s visibility amongst the trend towards gourmet burgers.
Jureskog’s creations are made available to buy in McDonald’s each week, with the burgers effectively becoming the branded content. Further, the meaty delights highly outperformed sales estimates, the show rating higher than TV3’s average. It’s a model for ‘branded content’ we are certain to see much more of.
In October 2016, Sky Sports launched a branded online series created to accompany its Friday Night Football show, Carling In Off The Bar. The ultimate beer-soaked pub crawl sees a pop-up soccer-fused entertainment show tour the UK, with each episode filmed in a pub local to one of the teams playing that evening. Capitalising on visibility via the ‘mother show’, but tapping Carling’s own social media feeds to further promote the series, In Off The Bar reinforces the relationship between the lager brand and ritual of watching soccer in the Great British boozer, with celebrity banter and jovial games to boot. Back of the net!
Starbucks’ rather more sedate, and socially-minded, documentary series Upstanders tells inspiring stories about ordinary people making positive changes in their communities. As with Världens bästa burgare, the Starbucks brand is practically invisible within this online series. Rather than selling you another stomach-expanding caffeinated delight, this self-funded, emotionally charged factual is very much about pitching Starbucks’ corporate mission to millennials. Note that Starbucks’ corporate mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.”
Meanwhile, it’s impossible to look at branded content within this industry without mention of one of the biggest players in the field, the mighty Red Bull. So advanced has the brand become in media production that its founder Dietrich Mateschitz reportedly once said that “Red Bull is a media company that happens to sell energy drinks.”
Red Bull has produced so many fascinating examples of branded content that you’d probably need to sink a few cans of the stuff if you were attempting to list them all in one sitting. But perhaps one of the most interesting formats the company has produced is the online adventure series Can You Make It? 165 teams of students from over 50 countries try to get to Paris from a variety of starting locations across Europe. At the beginning of the adventure, they are stripped of all cash and handed just 24 cans of Red Bull as ‘currency’.
The brand has created an adventure format that combines a number of factors most students will find very relatable; a desire to see the world, an over-reliance on stimulants and, of course, being completely broke. Now that’s synergy, and perhaps the ultimate example of how brands really are giving branded content wings.
Phil Birchenall is K7 Media’s Projects Director