Home > Branded content, future of advertising > unbranded content: trend or fad?

unbranded content: trend or fad?

From Wiki:

A trend is something that somehow becomes popular within mainstream society over a long period of time. It is the direction of a sequence of events that has some momentum and durability.

A fad is something that is very popular with a small group of people for a short period of time.

Unbranded content is all the rage (again) at the moment, at least in the UK.

Take the Eurostar film, created by Mother and directed by Shane Meadows.

Greg Nugent, Eurostar marketing director, says in Campaign:

SomersTown is not an ad; it’s a Shane Meadows film. But then Somers Town isn’t about advertising. The film does not feature smiling train drivers, logos or even a shiny, new Eurostar train. The closest you’ll get to sniffing out the subtle scent of Eurostar is its location: Somers Town is right behind the new St Pancras rail terminal.

But as Campaign’s magazine says:

Why fund a film that erases your brand’s message or logos?

Nugent says he wants to move away from traditional communication and harness the “power of unbranding”, while gaining credibility from creative and innovative circles.

I love the idea. I love the fact they’ve commissioned a director I love. I’m sure the movie will be great. HOWEVER, how does one harness the ‘power of unbranding’? What is the point, if the content does not in any way, talk about mention or reference Eurostar?

I can’t speak before watching the film itself as it might work beautifully, but at this stage, I just got a feeling that Eurostar have given carte blanche to a director to do whatever he wanted BUT promote the new terminal or service.

I think the beauty of our job is to seize all the creative opportunities available to us to create content people will want to see and engage with AND that somehow sells our brand values or products. Not just creating great content and hoping that people might remember we’ve helped produced it.

Only the combination of the two makes a great advertising campaign (if it’s still what’s it all about).

Making a great movie with very little, or nothing, to do with the brand or product or making unappealing advertising is equally lazy to me.

That’s why BMW films were so great. Product as the hero + top content. That’s why most of CP+B work always win awards. It always starts with the product at the centre, but delivers it in very engaging and fresh ways. Nike doesn’t seem to be embarrassed by its brand logo, in its latest ‘take it to the next level‘ campaign, also directed by a top director.

But I’m a new optimistic and I’m sure Mother and Eurostar will deliver.

Now take Honda’s new campaign: ‘difficult is worth doing

W+K have taken an interesting approach trying to create excitment before the launch of a new car model. As the Guardian puts it:

The campaign, developed by ad agency Wieden & Kennedy London, consists of four short teaser clips that are devoid of any Honda branding.

Each of the clips […] talks about different aspects of the skill needed to create large skydiving formations.

You can view all the videos in their Youtube channel here.

They apparently also advertised the URL of the blog in outdoor with nothing but a subtle brand logo. W+K account director says:

“With previous ads such as Cog and Choir we have been open about how we made them because the story behind the production is often as interesting as the commercial itself.”

Which might have been true for Cog and Choir. But so far, it doesn’t seem to work for that campaign. Unless you are into skydiving.

I know from experience that it is extremely difficult to tease and create buzz before the full launch of a campaign.

I personnally think it’s better to start with the main piece, get people really excited about it and give them more collateral if they want to engage more with the campaign.

Hoping that people will go en masse to the website after seeing these teasers or urls in the street is too big an ask in my humble opinion.

Yet, I’m sure the final ad will be amazing. Or so I hope anyway. I love my Honda ads.

Conclusion: unbranded content = fad.

I understand the excitment about it and why it seems to be popular amongst marketeers. However, I still think we will quickly realise the buzz generated will be for the piece of content itself and that associations with the brand behind it will not be worth the money and efforts.

And that the trend will be content that is branded. I don’t think consumers mind the fact that a piece of content is branded, as long as it’s good, entertaining and / or useful. We shouldn’t have to be shy about our intentions and have to hide our brand and products from the content we produce. Only make it great and be intelligent with the role of the product within it.

That goes for the Levi’s ‘viral’ I was talking about yesterday. Would it have been less successful if they had been frank about its commercial origin? Nike and Ronaldinho ‘touch of gold‘ and its 22M views on Youtube seems to say the opposite.

A last example was key to the reserva from JWT and featuring Scorsese. Great content, product as the hero.

I think it’s our duty to make great branded content people want to engage with. Only I do agree it’s the most difficult job to achieve!

  1. Rob
    May 17, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I love this post but I think the industry has got to be careful not to climb up t’s own arse by saying the ‘brand’ isn’t important, when it’s these brands who are paying our bills because they want us to help them be more commercially successful.

    Saying that, I am in wholehearted agreement that you have to find a way [from comms to packaging to product to distribution] to make that brand actually interesting – not just to the company marketing director, but anyone and everyone who could/should be a ‘customer’

    All I’m saying is that it is rather important the industry keeps it’s eyes on why we are hired rather than running full pelt into a philosophy which further undermines our value in the eyes of business and society.

    Saying that, I’ve done some ‘unbranding’ work in a past life and it was very successful but only because we did some major branding work to tell everyone what we were doing. Irony? Isn’t that what adland is built on, ha!


  2. Digicynic
    May 19, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Hi Rob,

    I’m in agreement with you again (this is becoming a worrying trend).

    I agree about the brand bit, wich I talked about in the post.

    Doing branded work to promote your unbranded work. That’s hilarious. Irony indeed.

    Hope you are well matey.

  3. Rob
    May 19, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Would it help stop us being so mutually agreeable if I said all London ad agencies are cocks? 🙂

  4. Digicynic
    May 19, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I’m afraid not.

  5. Rob
    May 20, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Oh bugger, guess we’ll have to be mates then!

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