SME 2016: Authenticity Is Crucial for Branded Online Video

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) says video spending on original digital content increased 114 percent since 2014, noted Dan Goodman, co-founder of Believe Entertainment Group, while moderating the panel “A Brand New Deal: The Thriving Evolution of Sponsored Content” at Streaming Media East 2016. Branded content is top of mind for many content creators, but it is especially hot in the digital video world.

Many video producers are looking to cash in on brands’ willingness to invest in this content, but the meaning of “branded content” varies wildly from one piece of content to the next.

Pointing to his company’s Royal Crush series, a teen love story that takes place on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Max Polisar, chief revenue officer of AwesomenessTV, said, “When you watch there are sweeping shots of the sea and boat and ports of call, but the story unfolds the same way it would on a TV show." The sponsor wants to target teens and convince them that “cruising is cool."

That kind of top tier content doesn’t scale well, however, advises Polisar. No matter what the platform, there is only so much room for big projects. AwesomenessTV also creates smaller, in-studio projects and everything in between.

Authenticity is crucial, noted Drea Bernardi, director of video programming at AOL Partner Studio, especially when the content runs on news sites.

“We really are looking at custom content based on what the advertiser is trying to achieve, what their goals are,” Bernardi said. But native content is coming from editorial with no influence from the brand partners. AOL Partners Studios adds a layer of multi-pronged delivery on top of the content creation that she says sponsors love.

While native content is “authentic to the editorial voice,” Bernardi said her team's branded video is “more authentic to the voice of the brand” and is distributed differently. Branded entertainment is pushed through ad units and the brand’s social channels.

When it comes to editorial content vs. branded content, Ryan Daume, vice president of sales and branded entertainment at Studio71, said, “We don’t distinguish…We just try to make good content that resonates with the audience it is meant for.”

Daume added, “If you walk away from the content feeling like it was branded content then we haven’t done our job properly.” Much of Studio71's branded content would be made even without a sponsor because it’s just plain good content, he added. When it comes to branded video, many of the lessons content marketers have learned in other areas still apply: Authenticity and transparency are key.

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