The Future of Brands and Entertainment

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Entertainment is booming. Entertainment is everywhere. We consume more entertainment than ever before thanks to the emergence of distribution platforms like Facebook, You Tube and Apple, with average media consumption reaching a record 506 minutes per day in 2017. Entertainment is a broad church today with formats ranging from opening a mobile app with a thumb, scrolling through short videos in social to streaming video, blockbuster movies or a console-based gaming experience. That’s even before we start to contemplate the opportunities emerging with augmented and virtual reality.

What is true, more than ever, is that entertainment brands and franchises can, and indeed must, exist cross-platform. The rise of Netflix’s effortless cross-platform UX illustrates what a frictionless content experience should look like.  Consumers’ insatiable appetite for being entertained is on the rise but conversely the amount of down time in which they have to consume new content is smaller than ever. Not only does today’s consumer live a busier life, they are inundated with visual stimulation through the mini computer that rarely leaves their hand. The growth of the mobile gaming industry is a perfect illustration of satisfying downtime with new, easy to access, addictive formats.

Advertising has always over indexed on entertainment rather than utility. Arguably, advertisers must embrace utility and being more helpful to consumers, but that’s a topic for another day. Brand favourability and recall from the hero ad spot has been effectively correlated to advertisers that entertain. Today, though, brands have a plethora of more engaging opportunities to deliver entertaining and enriching experiences to existing and future customers. The sports sponsorship space has continued to grow over the last few years, with predictions that sport will account for 70% of global sponsorship investment in 2017. Sport’s lesser cousin, from a revenue perspective, namely film/music/content has quietly been on the rise, with entertainment sponsorship spending growing by 5.6% in 2016.

Advertisers and agencies have become accustomed, almost addicted, to the historical model of buying a fixed spot around a piece of content. That model is established, scalable and measurable. When the most important metric for media is reach and attention, this remains an effective approach. Thanks to the improvements in data and analytics, most brands have a much keener sense of not just who their customers are but critically also what will engage them. Even FMCG brands, which find this more challenging, are now building direct to consumer platforms.

The cost of entry for a brand to become a content producer has reduced to almost zero. Social influencers, in many cases, have bigger, cross-platform audiences than traditional media owners. Every piece of content or advertising produced today is competing with every piece of content ever made. Our Meaningful Brands global study tells us that over 60% of content created by brands is considered irrelevant. This tells us that brands are failing to deliver the entertainment that consumers yearn for. Our Meaningful Brands study also found that content-led brand partnerships are effective at delivering greater understanding of brands and higher consideration.

With this as the backdrop, Havas firmly believes that brands should be building media properties, as well as buying them. What does this mean? Agencies have a new role to play – leveraging audience analytics to inform content partners that can serve and entertain a brand’s audience. This means not only bespoke content, but content and experiences commissioned for different platforms – with mobile as a core focus – different audience segments and a variety of content formats. Many of the world’s best storytellers and entertainers are rarely leveraged by brands. By this I mean film makers, TV producers, music artists and game creators but also the talent that brings the screen to life, namely actors, artists and, today, equivalent influencers in social. Historically, these individuals featured in TV ads and in voice overs but, increasingly, I believe you will see them fronting more entertainment properties, owned by brands. Netflix leads the pack today in leveraging analytics to inform content investment decisions; in the next few years that will become a normal behaviour for brands.

With brands and agencies today able to access all parts of the value chain, the possibilities are endless. The smart traditional media owners will also evolve to become content houses themselves. We shouldn’t mistake this for an evolution of the advertorial or a branded content partnership – those have their place but are commercially-led, restrictive formats.  I am talking more about a complete re-invention of the assets a publisher may have, namely influencers in a category – today called journalists – to commission and create rich media properties. Some may at this point call out church and state, but with the dominance of GAFA and declining revenues in news brands, it’s time to reimagine new ways that editorial teams can partner with advertisers.

So practically, what am I saying? All the progressive advertisers I talk to are focusing on three things –behaving in a more customer-centric way, leveraging owned and earned channels to reduce reliance on paid, and using data to inform smarter targeting and content creation. The narrative above plays beautifully in to all of those requirements. As a result, I predict we will see the rise of brands commissioning unique content, social influencers, media owners as content houses and new martech that enables cross-platform content management and measurement.

We are entering a new era where the brands that crack how to deliver relevant, engaging entertainment experiences will have huge competitive advantage. Look at O2’s work with War Child during BRITs Week last month. O2 re-invented the traditional TV ad, airing 3 bespoke spots immediately after three live gigs including throwing live to the artists at their own music venue, the O2.

This kind of behaviour is becoming the new normal. Sports and entertainment properties capture the real passions and engagement of their audiences, and as such present the perfect opportunity for converting “entertainment fans” in to “brand fans.”

Look out for a shift of paid media spend to experiential and entertainment-led thinking which, by the way, doubles down on earned value. What’s not to like if you’re a marketer?

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