Following Carl’s Jr. brand integration with Discovery’s Naked and Afraid, 2C Creative was already having a good week. Now, the creative production company has taken home eight awards in the 2016 PromaxBDA Promotion, Marketing and Design Awards competition. 2C Creative is at the bleeding edge of where entertainment now meets brands and marketing.
brandchannel spoke with Brian Eloe, Creative Director for 2C Creative, about the brave new world of branded promos, brands that take risks and when—if ever—the audience will find an acceptance limit.
brandchannel: Can you explain branded promos. They aren’t really program content and they aren’t really ads.
Brian Eloe: A branded promo comes in many forms these days. The underlying idea is that consumers are tired of messages that interrupt what they want to watch. To combat this, advertisers and networks have expanded their media partnerships to leverage the equity of what viewers are tuning in for.
The simplest form is a sponsor billboard, which is essentially a “brought to you by” message. From there, it elevates into creating custom ads that essentially position brand A with some network property/show or host, then all the way up to making unique content that links the two brands and attempts to bring added value to the viewer.
Simply put, the best co-branded promos put the advertiser message in the hands of network talent or show brand. Viewers are significantly less likely to time-shift through the commercial if it’s being delivered by someone or something they’ve tuned in for. Plus, statistically, it has been demonstrated that viewers are more engaged/activated and likely to think favorably of a product or service because there is a level of trust viewers have with the shows and talent that a simple ad can’t achieve.
To that end, the most effective brand integrations create the sense of extended content versus feeling like a commercial interruption, and the two parts work together to create something bigger/better than the individual parts do by themselves.This is an area we have really worked to develop at 2C, with more and more clients recognizing us for our ability to navigate such nuances.
bc: Given its former messaging, it probably wasn’t hard to get Carl’s Jr. interested in a Naked and Afraid tie-in. But how do you convince more conservative brands to have a sense of humor or take the kinds these kids of brand integration risks?
Eloe: It really comes down to the network programming slate when creating these partnerships. Certain brands simply won’t take these risks while another show on the slate may connect better with a particular advertiser. There are also different ways to link a particular advertiser and show brand when a connection is not obvious.
Humor worked really well for Carl’s Jr. and Discovery, but it was tricky because Naked and Afraid is actually a pretty serious show. In other words, the more difficult portion of this piece was protecting the integrity of the Discovery property. We didn’t want to demean or discount the struggle that the Naked and Afraid contestants have, whereas Carl’s Jr. is all about the hyperbole of sexiness and suggestion. Almost every co-branded promo is a careful compromise seeking a plausible connection where the product or service makes sense.
For other conservative brands, perhaps more serious connections can be made. Usually, when a network ad sales department is pitching ideas to advertisers, they present a number of approaches that range in tonality. It’s about the best creative way to strengthen both brand messages, and that’s not always humor. An example might be taking at an advertiser like SC Johnson, a conservative company careful not to associate itself with controversial content or network talent. It produces all kinds of products to help us live better, some of which would also make surviving (naked) in the wild a little easier. Imagine, then, pitching something aimed at using bug repellent or pest control as part of the co-branded promo. By shifting the focus from nakedness to a problem we all have in the woods, such as pest control, they might see the value in the association.
Ultimately, some brands just don’t work well in this arena and. 2C helps networks and brands find these connection points. Sometimes they’re funny and other times more serious and thoughtful. The bottom line is seeking that symbiotic relationship whereby both brands are made stronger by coexisting.
bc: Is there a saturation point at which audiences will reject brand integrations?
Eloe: I am not sure if it’s a saturation point as much as it is being careful not to turn hosts, shows or franchises into pitch machines. Because content is ever-evolving, there are constantly new shows, talent and ways to create compelling co-branded content. But in the case of hit shows, the trick is in not over-selling associations and creating a fatigue or distrust in the viewer.
The other factor that increases rejection is in the plausibility of the connection. Do we believe the show talent would use that product or service? If the answer is no, the chances of success or acceptance diminish drastically.
bc: What has been your favorite brand integration work to date?
Eloe: I really enjoy all of the challenges associated with these types of projects: Finding a good brand connection, capturing the voice of both brands, getting good performances from talent that often aren’t actors, and managing the process of working in the promo world with the commercial client expectations.
If I had to pick a few favorites, I would say I like the ones that are a little more unique or have a less overt product story:
The Color Run for OXYGEN. The idea was to create a series of Oxygen brand pieces that celebrated the lifestyles of the network’s viewers and then make them linkable to any number of advertisers. The challenge of capturing this event in real time, in crowds of people, and with tons of finite powder was really fun. I think it is a vibrant celebration of the Oxygen lifestyle, and it offers an aspirational invitation to get out there and live.
The “Inspiration Session” for the Sundance Channel. Predating my time at 2C, I was part of the team that produced a series of longer vignettes that explored now musicians and their producers inspired each other in the recording studio. This was linked to Infiniti through its tagline of everything being created with the spark of inspiration. Ultimately, we produced 26 vignettes with artists like David Gray, Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Nelly Furtado and Snow Patrol, who were able to articulate this relationship in personal, unique and interesting ways. Each resulting piece was a very compelling piece of extra content. In the context of the Elvis Costello show Spectacle, these brought an added level of value to the viewer rather than an interruption.
Naked and Afraid. This is one of my favorites because I am really happy with the performances of the actors. I think they really nailed the feel of both the show and the humor of the idea. Even though the product story is more overt, the overall execution is really fun and memorable, and both Carl’s Jr. and Discovery benefit from this association. From production through post, I am very proud of the 2C and Discovery teams for how this integrated promo came out.