- LOS ANGELES
Pardon the interruption has given way to often not getting the chance to interrupt at all. And because of that sea change in the marketplace, brands need to proactively seek new ways to attract audiences and engage prospective consumers--that was among the key messages to come out of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s inaugural Digital Content NewFronts West event spread over two days (Oct. 9-10) in L.A., during which varied companies presented their content slates and development opportunities to a gathering of decision-makers from the brand and ad agency communities. Up until now, these industry upfront previews took place exclusively in NYC but now the ice has been broken on the West Coast by the IAB.
The importance of collaborating to develop content of value to viewers was espoused at Digitas’ opening day panel discussion titled “Musical Chairs: Will Brands Always Have a Seat at the Content Table?” Moderated by Scott Donaton, global chief creative and content officer at Digitas, the conversation featured insights from a panel consisting of: Ari Avishay, director of entertainment for Lyft; Kristin Patrick, president and chief global branding officer of Sugar23; and Shannon Pruitt, chief marketing officer, The Honest Company.
Panel consensus was that brands cannot become complacent or entitled, thinking they are assured of having a place at the content table no matter what. Pruitt affirmed that “brands have to earn their seat” at that table. It’s akin to being invited to a dinner party by consumers, she observed. The consumer is your host and if all you do is talk about yourself, how great your brand is, and show no interest in the other attendees, “you won’t be invited back to the party.”
Ignoring that party is not an option in that we are no longer in an era where traditional media buys are a panacea. Buying time is no longer a guarantee of getting time with viewers. For example, two-thirds of the drama and comedy series nominated for Emmy Awards this year were from non-ad-supported networks and platforms. So it’s become incumbent for brands to define who they are, what they stand for, and to generate content based on those insights that’s not only true to them but can also add value to people’s lives. Such content development often necessitates brands seeking and finding expert collaborators, as well as building in-house creative and strategic resources.
Patrick exited PepsiCo this past July after having served in such capacities as SVP, global CMO for Pepsi, then SVP of global brand development. She oversaw PepsiCo’s in-house content house, the Creators League Studio, yielding such fare as the "Uncle Drew" feature film based on the viral Pepsi ad. For the movie, Creators League Studio teamed with Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment and Temple Hill. Patrick noted that her PepsiCo tenure demonstrated the value of collaboration, experimentation and commitment to branded content.
During the NewFronts West panel, Patrick explained that she left PepsiCo for a mix of personal reasons and the good fortune she had to connect with a kindred spirit, Michael Sugar, a Best Picture Oscar winner for producing Spotlight. She came aboard his Sugar23, which is in the business of investing in, incubating, creating, producing and consulting for brands. Sugar23 maintains an equity stake in an experiential company and has formed a partnership with a social media shop. As president and global chief branding officer at Sugar23, Patrick is positioned to immerse herself in generating relevant, entertaining, engaging content for brands.
Donaton said research consistently shows that “content marketing can outperform consumer advertising in every way.” He recalled penning a piece on the commandments of content--one of them being “go all in” instead of “tiptoeing” into content creation. Brands need to make a firm commitment to content development and to finding the right collaborators to create that content.
Lyft’s Avishay stated simply that marketing nirvana is when a brand can “connect with people through popular culture.”
Striking a responsive chord
Among the presenters at NewFronts West was BBC News which unveiled the neuroscience study Science of Memory. Commissioned by content studio BBC Storyworks, it uses neuroscience techniques to investigate how emotions impact memory, and how brands can create powerful moments that lead to long-term memory creation. It builds on several years of previous research by the BBC.
The research takes the emotion tracking tool, Science of Engagement, which BBC StoryWorks developed in partnership with emotion specialists, CrowdEmotion, to track the impact of branded content presented on BBC.com. This has been combined with the latest methods for measuring long-term memory, developed by neuroscience specialists, Neuro-Insight, to test six branded videos on over 2,000 respondents in four markets around the world.
“This study was a fascinating opportunity to interrogate some commonly held ideas about content creation,” said BBC News director of multi-platform research Caitlin Harley. “We also uncovered surprising results which suggest actionable strategies for brands making memorable content.”
Krystal Bowden, director of BBC Storyworks for the Americas, added, “The content we produce at BBC Storyworks is driven by audience insights. When we commissioned the first ‘science of’ study in 2016, we embarked on an ongoing effort to take a deep look at the efficacy of content marketing, first with facial coding and now through neuroscience techniques. We’re excited to continue investigating this topic, and using the results to help us craft more effective content for our partners.”
The study fused facial coding data with the neuroscience technique, Steady State Topography, which captures electrical activity in the brain and was able to track second by second, the emotional state, degree of emotional intensity, and level of long-term memory encoding of the respondents.
Emotions are an integral part of creating impactful content and can drive long term memory of the content and brand. The use of intimate personal narratives--stories with one to two main protagonists or content that is personally relevant to the viewer--can make brand stories more memorable.
The three key findings are:
- Emotions are a key driver of memory. The research demonstrated that, if you’re watching a brand film, the bigger the emotional spike, the more likely it is to trigger long term memory. When it comes to triggering long term memory, there is no such thing as a bad emotion. The Science of Memory shows that the influential factor is the intensity of the emotion being experienced, not the nature of the emotion being experienced, that ensures long-term memory encoding.
- We can fine-tune emotions to maximize and “color” memory. BBC found there are certain strategies to employ emotional spikes and make content more memorable. Emotions color memory. The emotions experienced when consuming content are encoded into long-term memory. So stimulating and engaging audiences with storytelling that delivers truly emotional engagement leads to really powerful outcomes for brands. A key bit of advice is to set the emotional stakes early--brand films that triggered their highest emotional intensity in the first third of their duration ultimately delivered stronger memory of the content overall. With emotional peaks, quantity is important. Research has shown that content that provokes numerous peaks of emotional intensity throughout, rather than slow building to a singular event, delivers a higher memory impact.
- Brands can “ride” memory moments. Emotion often precedes memory. A sudden spike in emotional intensity causes memory encoding to rise shortly afterwards. Seamlessly integrating a brand in the memory window after moments of high emotional intensity allows the brand to ride the wave of the narrative into memory. Richard Pattinson, SVP, BBC StoryWorks, said: “We already have a tool that enables us to assess the emotional impact of the branded content we create--our Science of Engagement toolkit--and we use it to help our key clients deliver engaging and effective brand films.
The study also suggests practical ways that brands and filmmakers can use these techniques to help create long-term memories in viewers. For example, cinematic devices also serve as a way to keep viewers engaged and lead to memory events. Things like lighting changes, unique camera angles, and changes in music can all help keep the viewer engaged and create a larger opportunity for memory encoding.
BBC News wasn’t the only source of research unveiled at NewFronts West. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released “Ad Receptivity and the Ad-Supported OTT Video Viewer,” an in-depth study that reveals an opportunity for brands to connect directly with key consumer segments through ad-supported video (ASV) delivered over-the-top (OTT). Results show that the largest audience segment of ASV OTT viewers is 18-34-year-old adults and they are likely to be higher income ($75+K). In addition, the audience includes households with kids and skews more male. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those that regularly stream video say that they have watched ad-supported OTT. Moreover, 45 percent of streamers report that they watch ad-supported OTT the most.
ASV OTT viewers are not easily reached through TV or subscription-based video on demand (SVOD). More than half (52%) of ASV OTT viewers are cord-cutters or cord-shavers, largely due to cost (77%), while 42 percent of ASV viewers cite ‘convenience/flexibility’ and 38 percent cite ‘better content on streaming services’ as a reason. Additionally, they spend less time watching cable than SVOD viewers. ASV OTT viewers report watching more video OTT than they did a year ago.
Important for brands is that ad receptiveness is stronger for ASV OTT viewers than those who watch SVOD or TV-only. A higher percentage of the ASV OTT segment also enjoy interacting with ads in comparison to SVOD viewers, providing opportunities to engage and develop one-to one-relationships with these households and consumers.
The study also found that ASV OTT viewers are more likely to try new brands, with 36 percent stating they learn about new brands/products/services from video ads. In fact, ASV OTT viewers report spending more on online subscription purchases ($119 per month vs. $89/mo for SVOD viewers)—from meal kits to contact lenses—making them an ideal target for direct-to-consumer marketers.
In addition, ASV OTT fans are more likely to follow social influencers than SVOD and TV-only viewers, pointing to an important part of the media mix that marketers should pay attention to if they want to reach this audience.
“Advertisers have a real opportunity to make connections with younger consumers, who are likely to have higher-income, through ad-supported video delivered over-the-top,” said Anna Bager, EVP, industry initiatives, IAB. “The findings from this study can help marketers navigate their way to valuable and receptive audiences by deploying an OTT strategy.”
“This study showcases the high value that brands should place with increased investment in ad-supported OTT,” said Sue Hogan, SVP, research and measurement, IAB. “IAB research is dedicated to helping brands optimize their spend on digital media—and the findings of this report underscore that commitment.”
Offerings from Ellen
Ellen Digital Network (EDN) unveiled new and returning original programming during the 2018 Digital Content NewFronts West. The diverse slate--which reinforces Ellen DeGeneres’ distinctive brand, showcasing the power of funny, kindness, and authenticity, includes:
--EDN has entered into a collaboration with body activist, entrepreneur and supermodel Ashley Graham. The new digital series titled “Fearless” will explore self-acceptance and belonging in a new and deeper way. Graham, a game changer in the body-positive movement, will host the series infusing her own personal and authentic insight to help empower audiences to embrace their true self with confidence.
--In a continued effort to celebrate empowering women whose values perfectly align with Ellen’s brand, EDN announces their partnership with entrepreneur, mom, television host, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Ayesha Curry. The mother of three will help other busy moms by offering valuable professional advice and providing motivating tips on how to juggle work and motherhood.
--EDN will also join forces with Ellen’s favorite cousins and home makeover experts Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri for a new digital series, “The Build Up.” The series will follow a deserving community in need of support as The Cousins provide their expertise and resources to rebuild and instill a sense of hope.
--Based off two successful seasons resulting in over 154 million cross-platform views, EDN announced Season 3 of the original digital series “Momsplaining with Kristen Bell.” The series, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, will continue to highlight the multi-talented Kristen Bell who will infuse her one-of-a-kind humor throughout the new season as she attempts to master motherhood while taking viewers along for the ride.
--In addition, EDN has seen great success in the mobile gaming app world with “Ellen’s Road to Riches Slots” and “Heads Up!,” which continues to be the #1 Paid App for the past four consecutive years in Apple’s App Store with over 39M downloads and over 1 billion games played. Inspired by Ellen’s continued love for games, EDN has launched new apps, including “Ellen’s Game of Games” app with a debut timed to Season 2 of the hit NBC primetime game show. The innovative app will give users the chance to play fan-favorite games from the show. The more fans play, the more chances they have to win real-world prizes like gift cards and tickets to a taping. Plus, when viewers tune-in to the show each week, they can play the “Watch Along Challenge” for a chance to win big from home.