“Marketers speak one language,” says Rob Tait, “and entertainment folks speak another language.”
Tait, the managing director for branded content at Toronto-based Silent Joe, acts as an interpreter, employing a sort of bilingualism to educate marketers on how storytelling in the changing nature of media consumption can yield benefits—specifically, in branded video.
And it’s branded content creators—not advertising creatives—who are illuminating this new thinking. “The DNA of advertising creatives lacks story arcs, character development and long format dialogue,” says Tait.
“Content works like low/medium budget television or movie production. Advertising spends 200k for thirty seconds of film. Content producers will get fifteen minutes (or more) for the same money.”
When pitching clients, Tait brings to the conversation the understanding that brands play a real role in our day-to-day lives. “Storytellers just need to be true to those roles,” he says. “The rule of thumb is to write a role for the brand that is authentic to the brand, whether it's the hero, companion, enabler, observer, etc. Don't try to shoehorn it in to something that does not align with the brand's essence. That said, some brands can play many different roles. Think of a car company. Say the story is about a guy on a cross-country trek. In that case, depending on the story, the vehicle could be a hero (saves the guy's life in a crash). It could be a companion (he travels alone with the car, his only friend). It could be an enabler (the purchase of the car acts as a catalyst for the trip). As for being the anti-hero, some brands by their brand essence can play that role, but that's pretty limited, and it takes a brave marketer who allows their brand to leverage that part of the brand's DNA.”
One brand that has embraced this new thinking is McDonalds, for whom Tait and Co. last year produced a nine-part web series, Originals.
For the content creator selling branded video, challenges do abound. “Clients are being bombarded with all sorts of options (social media, other digital solutions, gaming, etc), says Tait. “And they have a hard time evaluating which is best for them.”
Still, Tait believes we’re on the tipping point for a next wave of branded video. “We’ve seen much more traction in the last six months,” he says. “Marketers know they must innovate and all the players seem hungry for new thinking. Traditional interruptive advertising models are being undermined, and creating something that the consumer will choose to watch—as opposed to an advertisement, which by its nature is invasive—does that. In short, I believe for most marketers it is not a question of if they will be using content, but when.”