Who programs your brand's channels?

2019 has turned brands into media companies. But who’s in charge of programming your brand channels?

Many production companies, agencies and freelancers offer to produce a company’s content.

However one of the things they don't offer is taking that content further - and programming the content for the client’s channels - and on other channels such as TV or SVOD. Media will offer to do this on their network - which is great, except it's only on one platform and your audience doesn't live on one platform.

When I was at MediaCom Beyond Advertising, we produced Air Rescue which was a fantastic example of the client, media agency, production company and our team working perfectly together. Here’s a case study from series 3. We produced the series for the network and the brand's channels all at the same time to ensure maximum exposure.

Many people don’t appreciate how challenging it is for networks or SVOD platforms to programme (not just curate) their content. Here’s how SBS programmers think.

A branded content TV or podcast (aka, hero) series is going to be an expensive and serious commitment -- so before you start, knowing who to involve is important to your success. If you’re thinking of creating anything like this, here are three things to think about from a programming perspective:

Is our series worth watching / listening to?

If you’re making a TV show or a podcast, it’s more expensive than producing some website or youtube content for many reasons, but you're doing this for an audience to engage - so it needs to be really great which takes people and time. And courage.

Standing out is getting a lot harder for brands. Here are a couple of schools of thought:

  1. Produce a familiar style show and do it bigger, better and a bit different. Networks piggy-back genres all the time - which is why you can see multiple singing shows, renovation shows and cooking shows around the same time. In Podcasts, “How I Built This” started a podcast genre - the successful person interview show. If you’re going to do to this, do it huge with a twist, that works for the audience and the brand.
  2. Do something completely different. A soap company producing a drama (or a 'soap'). A beer company producing a footy comedy show. If you choose this approach spend time and money on development so that when you approach the networks it's ready.
  3. Involve an Executive Producer or TV producer who has dealt with network programmers or sold shows. Get multiple paid opinions. Don’t just trust your gut because you’ve watched TV once before.

    What are our goals? (not just reach)

    If you know what (all) your goals are before you start and plan accordingly, the benefits will outweigh the costs.

    If you want to reach 1 million people, then producing a TV show could be great for your brand. If you want to teach six hundred people how to hang a door, then probably not.

    However, if you want to teach 1 million people how to hang a door, paint a room, renovate a kitchen and build a granny flat, then of course it may be very worthwhile because not only do you have a TV show for mass appeal, you have lots of bite sized content to attract as niche audience that you can use as part of your Hero / Hub / Help content ecosystem, provided you own the show and the rights to do this.

    An important question to ask is: has the distribution plan (strategy and budget) been approved prior to production? Do this before you start. Involving the client’s media agency early is important for the success of the project and avoiding headaches later. Creative and PR, and any other relevant agencies too.

    If your client is working on a project like this and they ask your opinion and you're not involved - make sure you get paid for your opinion but give an unbiased one, if possible.

    Agency collaboration on a project like this is mandatory and needs a client, and lead agency, to make it happen.

    Should our company produce a big project like this?

    Yes - you should. People are watching more TV / video than ever. Video works for brands. Podcasts are massively on the rise and they work for brands too - just so long as they are well produced and distributed properly.

    Producing long form content provides you with production economies of scale and allows you to tell a much bigger story - one that you can't when making a few videos at a time. And another plus - the costs associated with distributing a TV series on a network can be far cheaper than running a massive ad campaign...

    Audiences are demanding exceptional TV series and Podcasts, and will happily watch & listen to branded work, so long as it’s awesome. And - not an "Ad" for your company.

    Does your brand need programming help?

    Here are 4 quick questions:

    1. Are you struggling to stand out from your competitors?
    2. Do you, or one of your CSR partners, do something amazing for the community?
    3. Does someone in your team understand long form video / audio production?
    4. Do you have a great project manager who’s led a big project before?
    5. If you answered yes, yes, yes/no, no. Ask us for some help.

      Have a producer explain the process, mechanics and timeline. There’s a lot that happens when you make TV or podcasts, and it’s a team effort.

      Considering how your company programs its content will give you a competitive advantage - you’ll be in market for longer, at far less cost, to a greater audience who’s paying attention to your brand. Isn’t that why you’re making content?


      What’s the budget?

      I often notice a mismatch between a project’s budget and its ambition. Or a client’s expectation of production vs the reality of what goes into making video / audio. Yes - it’s simple to make a video of your kid, take an awesome instagram filtered photo or have a voice note conversation with your Dutch ex. It’s also pretty easy to edit video on your phone.

      But none of those things consider the action you want your audience to take when they hear/ see that video or audio (ie buy your service/product!!) – and the journey that you need to take them on in order to make that happen. Nor do they rely on a return on the investment made.

      Moreover, the scenes you want to film and stories you want to capture aren’t unfolding in front of you like your daughter’s school concert, or that holiday sunset in Hawaii. No - they need to be crafted. And that costs more than a home video.

      Having the right content, produced with the right budget will drive your brand / message. If you spend the right amount on production, your bottom line will thank you for it.

      Here are 4 questions to ask to help you get your production budget right:

      1. Is this a big campaign or a small one?
      If it’s a big one:

      Let the ideas coming in from the creatives go wild. It’s a very very noisy world and if you want yours to be noticed, then you have to do something different. You might have to spend more than you want to as great ideas take time.

      If it’s a small one:

      - Can you bundle a number of small(er) productions together so they can all film at the same time with the same production team creating economies of scale?
      - Can you reuse footage from your footage library?
      - Could you just use stock footage and text?
      - Are you setting the budget or getting 2-3 quotes?

      If you are setting a budget for your production without getting quotes, then you might be spending too much or too little. Set enough parameters and ensure the quotes you get back are in the right ballpark.

      True Story: Budget for a job awarded was $50k to production co. Real budget should have been $30k. Had client have budgeted two jobs at the same time then both would have been $51k. So - for $1k more, they’d have received double the deliverables but because they told the team to work to a budget, they got what they asked for.

      2. Do you know everything that needs to go into your job?

      There are many things that go into a film shoot, and its important that all these are accounted for in the budget. If they’re not, expect either a very stressed shoot leading to many problems in post production, or a revolving door of production companies and no economies of scale.

      True Story:A car company didn’t realise that there are hours of work that go into painting out camera and crew reflections in their videos. They produced a job in house for $34k with some freelancers and then spent another $45k going to a top end post production facility to remove the camera and people from the reflections in the car, because they didn’t the car wasn’t available to film again in time for their media bookings. If they would have gone with the medium quote of $58k, then they would have avoided spending $25k extra and not had the pressure of missing the booking.

      3. Do you always go with the cheapest quote?

      The cheapest quote is the one who is cutting corners. What value are you missing out on by not going with the most expensive?

      4. What's the media / production spend ratio?

      In years past, many production budgets were determined by a percentage of the distribution spend. Historically, 10-20% of total budget was the amount spent on production. However, >50% on production is actually fine because if it’s great creative, your audience will help with distribution and share it for you.

      True Story: How many of us care about buying a Volvo Truck? Well more than 100m people have seen Jean Claude Van Damme’s Splits?

      The distribution budget shouldn’t be the gauge on production spend because you could be using the content for years or for a week.

      Remember that you’re spending money to distribute it to an audience who you’re trying to interrupt - so don’t be cheap - be smart. There are many clever ways to create cost effective content these days - particularly dynamic creative which is something you should be considering. if you aren't sure what dynamic creative is, let us know

      If you are ever looking for a comparison quote, please email us and we’ll find you production efficiencies, perhaps some different ways of working, as well as delivering you a budget within 24 hours.

      Could Commercials be the reason to watch TV?

      David Sable, Global CEO of Y&R, recently wrote of the advertising revolution - where TV returns to prominence, as Google’s and Facebook’s ROI diminishes. And if he, and the data, is right that it’s better value to reach audiences via TV commercials then that opportunity needs to be seriously considered by:

      1. Companies (Marketers) when briefing their agencies;
      2. Agencies when they are creating strategy, creative and planning media buys; and,
      3. TV networks when they are selling space and integrations - especially via their on demand platforms.

      So — (ignoring programmatic) — how can marketers, planners, strategists, creatives and programmers work together to improve the audience’s viewing experience, while ensuring their messages reach the consumer, err, audience?

      Marketers consider the product’s sales, creatives consider the brand, programmers want people to watch the show and sales people care about selling spots and integrations. Who's considering the audience during the ad breaks?

      Netflix considered this. Now they have 100 million subscribers. In TV, ratings are continuing to decline... and the share price of Channel 10 is less than 50 cents.

      Perhaps it's time TV networks created a set of Entertainment Specs for their channel, outlining requirements an ad needs to meet around relevance, originality and entertainment value in order to be on their channel (during prime time).

      For example, ads on during Masterchef, could be more than just food related: they should also entertain or inform the consumer to enhance their viewing experience. A sauce brand could do a 60 second recipe/cooking spot, a stain remover might follow with tips on cleaning sauce from clothes, and a sports brand could round out the segment with a series of exercises to work off those carbs. Whatever it is, to appear during Masterchef, an ad should be on brand for the network and the advertiser, so the audience doesn't want to switch off during the breaks.

      Think about how great this advertising approach could be during comedy shows. If funny shows required funny ads – people might tune in for 30 minutes of continuous laughs, rather than just for the show. Kind of like how people watch the Superbowl for the ads, even if they don’t like the sport.

      What else could a network do differently to better connect with the audience during the ‘ad breaks’?

      Do something Live

      In London, Google Play crossed to Sam Smith live in concert singing his hit “Stay” for the entire 3.30”. Everyone loved this, but 3 years later, it’s still a rarity. Same with hosts of shows doing live ad breaks - see Graham Kenned sell shoes.

      Make ads that are Funny/Sad/Poignant

      think twice about selling on price. Tell a story the audience will relate to. And get them involved. There is almost always a second screen present when people are watching TV, so why not use this to your advantage and engage them?

      Work with the network's audience and brand

      create programming paid for by the Brand - see Carlton Draft’s The Front Bar (now the biggest AFL show on TV) or Westpac’s Air Rescue — to get better brand awareness, improve affinity and create brand stories audiences want to watch. You can then extend that content into other areas (digital, OOH, on pack etc) - increasing reach and ROI for your campaign. And then in the ad breaks, use the extra content as your ads.

      Because, if a TV ad is playing but no one is watching, will the reach affect sales?

      What I've learned about Brand Funded Content

      I’m from Melbourne, so no surprise, I’m a coffee snob. Serve me a Long Black without decent creme and I’ll send it back. I will. But I also have a dirty secret::

      I love instant coffee.

      Moccona number 8, but on a holiday, number 7 with a little Vanilla French - delightful. And those powdered mocha sample-packs they give out at the train station? The best. After 3.5 years as Head of Content Production at MediaCom Beyond Advertising, a place I have absolutely loved working, it’s time for me to return to full time production. And I’d be lying if I said wasn’t excited about having my instant coffee on set or in a studio, rather than at my desk. Coffee aside, there are a few other brand funded content secrets I’ve learned along the way I wanted to share:

      It’s all about the brief.

      Great content is made when the strategy is underpinned by a rock solid brief. It’s the insight, the foundation and the framework. It helps the many stakeholders and agencies involved in the project understand why you are making the project and what you're trying to achieve. So -- first thing's first. Spend the time on getting an awesome brief created - if you're giving or receiving a brief, it is up to you to ensure there is an exceptionally clear business reason why you're producing the content and what success looks like.

      Your audience needs to be entertained or informed by your content.

      You content needs to be audience first. Not budget first, not channel first, not even business purpose first. Unless your content is giving your audience something they actually want to consume, stop and start again.

      Everyone preaches about how important strategy is, but if you don't consider WHO is going to watch/listen/read your content and WHY, then don't make what you're about to make. It's going to be a waste of time, money and energy. Better you do something else.

      Engage the business in the content you’re producing.

      Don’t make something just because someone’s boss said you should. Take the time to understand the wider business teams, priorities and strategies/activities.

      In big organisations, many projects happen without buy-in from the senior management or even awareness of other teams. Help your client/boss/team inform the entire business of your content project - other stakeholders may want to jump on board which can lead to economies of scale, connecting the wider business’ marketing.

      Once there’s an audience for the work and a business case to make the project scalable, you can achieve an ROI that everyone will be happy with, and everyone will know why you’re making it and jump on board.

      It’s all about the 5 W’s and 1 H (not just ROI)

      When someone would ask me to make a video / TVC / TV show for them, I used to say, “Sure. It'll be X dollars and take Y time." Occasionally I would up-sell a podcast opportunity.

      Now - I ask lots of questions: Why does the business want to make this content? How does it fit into the media plan? Who is your audience? Where and When do they consume media? What does success look like?

      Knowing these answers before you start is crucial to framing the content you produce. By the time you're in production, it's too late to be trying to answer these questions.

      Work with your media owners on distribution.

      So, you’ve decided to make a content series instead of a commercial, or a podcast instead of a series of radio ads. You have your brief, your strategy and you know what you’re going to make and why you're making it.

      Next, distribution.

      Media owners know their audience and how to talk to them. So, by understanding what your strategy is before they're briefed, you’ll be able to work with them on finding a solution that hits your audience to ensure you’re entertaining / informing them. Not just trying to get spots and dots to interrupt their TV / Radio / Web experience.

      Work with your media owners on distribution.

      No project happens in isolation. Every Brand Funded Content Series, TVC, podcast, radio campaign, web series or display campaign has a cast of media, creative, content, PR and digital agencies behind it. So aim to work with your (client’s) partners to create the best project possible.

      Don’t fight for turf. That’s a waste of energy and delivers nothing positive.

      Ok. I’ve just realised there’s no milk in the fridge, so I’m going out to get my coffee and pick up some milk for later on. I love a coffee strategy with clear outcomes and ROI (read: go buy more coffee to drink more coffee).


      Podcast Advertising: brands listen up

      Every brand is creating content - but there's only so much that an audience can consume and recall. This article featuring the amazing Jad Abumrad from Radiolab, discusses the future of podcasting and advertising within it. He thinks that there's a glut of podcast shows, but not enough advertisers to support them, which presents a huge opportunity for brands. Does your brand need to make audio content... or should it just advertise effectively within it?

      In Australia, where podcasting is taking off, many marketers should consider advertising in podcasts because audio on demand offer listeners an intimate audience experience. Produced correctly, a well made audio ad will not be skipped and could be far more valuable than a video, commercial or social post due to the ability to tell relevant, engaging brand stories that connect with the listener, without disrupting their enjoyment of the show. Gimlet media has perfected this.

      Moreover, smart use of offer codes and promotions enable brands to identify listeners and track the ROI on their ads. Many marketers have been slow to adopt this new form of advertising due to a lack of metrics. Edison has done loads of research around how effective podcast advertising is. A few key take outs:

    6. over 70% of listening is done on smartphones;
    7. 65% of podcast listeners were more willing to consider podcast advertiser's products;
    8. 63% agreed that their opinion of the brand advertising in the podcast is more positive.

    9. If you're a brand and you haven't been looking into the podcast advertising space, now's the perfect time to establish a relationship with a great show, and speak to a captive audience in a style they'll listen to. (For an up to date list of Aussie podcasts you can advertise in, check out this review by The Guardian)