Category Archives: Thought Piece

Branded Video Content all the way…

For those who remember, the expression ‘branded content’ was coined in 2001 with the launch of an amazing BMW project called The Hire, a collection of 8 short movies produced by BMW with some of the world’s best directors, starring Clive Owen as the main character and showcasing some of the best qualities of the mighty German cars.

As consumers had begun to be engaged with much more interesting, relevant and definitely longer content, in 2001 this was considered a breakthrough innovation. In 2010, nearly 10 years down the line, this marketing approach is still considered to be one of the best around and who couldn’t say the same with a bunch of new ‘branded content’ making their way into our ‘hearts=brains’ ?

It’s always good to remember what Gary Knight, ex ITV, once said:

The content element must be real, for real people, in the real world. It must never be advertorial, as it then becomes “fictitious” and the franchise is lost. The best starting point is to think about how to create a genuine viewing experience that can adopt true brand-extension positions, both on-and off-air.

The new decade has definitely started with a BANG within this marketing environment as more and more marketeers try and come up with cost-effective ideas; new ways to reach diversified audiences and create content that can be easily integrated within a marketing mix using different channels.

Just thought I’d show you some of the great examples from the last couple of years that I’ve loved, followed by some of the newly-launched ones, as I am really excited about 2010 being the year for branded content.

In the same style of The Hire, towards the end of 2008, Sony Ericsson launched an awards-winning campaign calledWho is Jonny X, a nine-part digital drama series to promote the new line of Xperia phones. Each episode (2 to 3 minutes long) followed Johnny X as he used his X1 mobile phone to try and piece together elements of his life following a kidnap by a gang. For those of you who didn’t see it, you can either watch the whole movie on the official website, or go to their YouTube page to see each single episode.

In 2009, Red Bull decided to create an online series whose target audience of extreme-sports fans could completely-relate-to and entirely-get-addicted-to. For this reason, they decided to launch ‘The Atherthon Project’, an awesome show tracking the exploits of the most famous family in mountain bike history. The series follows British riders Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton as they compete in the 2009 UCI World Cup Series and the World Championships in Australia. Totally addictive and perfect for their adrenaline-junky-core-audience.

Also last year, Schweppes launched a short movie called ‘SIGNS’ which is one of the videos I simply can’t stop watching. The viral seeding activity was brilliant as no one actually knew that it was a branded project by the Orangina Company. The video has reached around 10 million views since launched and it’s an absolute masterpiece in my honest opinion. It’s quite funny that until the last time I saw the movie, I didn’t realise at the end the ‘Schhhhhh’ sign made by the actress (which kinds gives it away…)

In 2006/07, Orange commissioned a TV show called ‘Orange Playlist‘ to promote the existing Orange Mobile Music Store. The show was broadcasted on ITV every Wednesday featuring different celebrities picking their 10 favourite songs. The show was so successful that it was commissioned for the following year. Orange and their brand entertainment agency Cake also managed to extend their Playlist content into experiential marketing through roadshows touring universities and city centres.

In 2009, Australian ‘uBank launched a rather successful campaign to help consumers understand the tough economic climate with a series of some very ‘tongue-in-cheek’ video-tutorials. Called Money Box the content aims at making the world of finance simple and easy to understand, helping you “make the most of your money right now” (Very ASDA-ish)

2010 has already had an impressive start with branded content….

Devil-worthy fashion brand PRADA has just produced a new short-movie called ‘First Spring’ in collaboration with one of the most established Chinese artists, Yang Fudong. The short clip has been shot beautifully and the awesomeness of the video is very much in the lack of heavy branded material. You don’t see the PRADA logo anywhere during the movie; a well thought technique that will definitely allow the brand to grab consumers’ attention even more.

As Daniel Granatta has already mentioned within Adverblog, ABSOLUT is one of the brands that better understands the concept of branded content. One of their recently launched sites to promote their ‘Rock Edition’ vodka bottle, called “You’re with the band“, is in fact a very good proof of that (this is a documentary made by Danny Clinch on how’s the life of a rock band such as Wolfmother).
However, their latest work is something that looks absolutely exceptional.
In collaboration with ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘ director Spike Jonze, this week Absolut has launched a short-movie at the Sundance Film Festival called ‘I’m Here’. As Contagious magazine reports, this is a wonderfully whimsical tale about two robots living in LA that Jonze says is his first love story.

Jonze says of the collaboration:

Absolut didn’t give me any requirements to make a movie that had anything to do with vodka. They just wanted me to make something that was important to me, and let my imagination take me wherever I wanted’.

All I can say is that the movie seems to be fitting perfectly with the ABSOLUT brand and even more with their latest comms positioning. The investment in such an acclaimed director seems to have already paid off with the 30-minute film being accepted into film festivals globally, including Berlin next month, Turkey and the aforementioned Sundance. (Ref. Contagious)

One last thing to mention for those who really don’t get the difference between ‘Sponsored Content’ and ‘Branded Content’.

Sponsorship is adding a brand’s logo to an already existing event or entertainment property, whereas Branded Content involves coming up with the creative idea together with the brand and the producers. It is an effort of collaboration in order to bring consumers entertainment that they want, in the form that they want it!

Who is gonna be next?



Most Contagious 2009 – Best of…


I checked my emails this morning to find the much awaited Most Contagious 2009 report in my inbox. It was a nice surprise and definitely something you should read to remind yourselves what a fantastic year 2009 has been. You can download the 45-pages PDF here or you can read the slideshare document clicking the image-header above.

I’m taking the opportunity to put down some of the best highlights from the REPORT together with some extra content that have stood out during 2009:

  • Live Stream facility coming to YouTube, as seen with Alicia Keys and U2 special gigs. But also, the integration of a Facebook Chat facility on LIVE events  as it happened with the CNN LIVE on the Obama inauguration and the Michael Jackson funeral memorial.
  • We’ve seen more and more brands using new Emerging Technologies to create outstanding pieces of work. The NIKE Chalkbot is a perfect example –  A robotic chalking mechanism that receives, processes, prints, captures and delivers data (text, GPS coordinates and photographs). It received messages from anywhere in the world via Twitter to @Chalkbot, via an SMS shortcode, or from an entry form on and printed them along the roads of the Tour de France in bright, LIVESTRONG yellow using 48 nozzles and vats of emulsified chalk. BakerTweet is one amongst many other tangible technologies using the Twitter API to create a rather useful tool. A London bakery called ALBION is using BakerTweet to tell their customers when the bread is hot and ready through Twitter. So customers know when they can come to the bakery and get the freshest bread. Check the video below:
  • The first real examples of Augmented Reality applications. As mentioned within the report, there have been way too many examples of brands/agencies jumping on the bandwagon to simply demonstrate a “look how cool this is and all this cool stuff we can do” attitude.  Possibly the handiest AR application of 2009 was the United States Postal Service’s Virtual Box Simulator designed by AKQA, San Francisco. The website-based app allows users to place their parcels inside a series of virtual boxes, calculating the precise size needed, and in doing so, saving them money on postage and tying in with USPS’ tagline of ‘If it fits, it ships’. Another really good example were the Topps’ 3D Live Baseball Cards. When scanned via a webcam, these produce miniature animated players in the palm of your hand or on your desk, which can then be controlled to play a series of simple batting and pitching mini-games.
  • Motion Sensor Technology integration with AR. See the Fashionista demo-video below to understand more. I honestly believe that we are going to see a lot more exciting projects using this technology; definitely something to keep in mind dear marketeers!
  • In terms of campaigns (some of them featured within the report), imho the ones below are definitely the top 10 to remember:
  1. Compare the Meerkat
  2. The Best Job in The World
  3. Walkers Do Us a Flavour
  4. Axion – Concerts in a Banner
  5. V Australia – 4320:LA & 4320:SYD
  6. Tampax – Zack 16 (website/blog)
  7. Air New Zealand – Nothing To Hide (website)
  8. Sprite – Green Eyed World
  9. VW – The Fun Theory
  10. Coca Cola – Expedition 206 (website)
  • 2009 has been a very ‘profitable’ year for Mobile Branded Applications as well – mainly for the iPhone but there’s definitely more to come for the Android and the rest of mobile OSX. The best ones below:
  1. Nike ID
  2. Absolut Drinkinspiration
  3. Pizza Hut
  4. ZipCar iPhone App
  5. Prius App
  6. VW Golf GTI Competition App
  7. ING – ATM Locator
  8. The Guardian
  9. Ocado
  10. Tide Stains Tips

Make sure you read Johnny Makkar’s blog at Attention Digital and take a look at his extensive spreadsheet of branded iPhone apps.

  • 2009 has also seen the very first ‘Digi-Novel‘ being launched into the publishing industry. Called ‘Level 26’, this is a trilogy produced by the CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker. The first novel, Dark Origins, is the very first book that drives users to a comprehensive site with exclusive interactive cinematic content. Zuiker claims: ‘Level 26 takes the best features of books, film and interactive digital technologies and rolls them all into a unique storytelling experience’. I really hope that this is only the beginning for content to be available on different media and initiate richer branded user experiences using interaction through different engaging platforms.

  • As I predicted at the end of 2008, Crowdsourcing has indeed had a major push however it still hasn’t reached the mainstream level I was expecting. MySturbucksIdea, Threadless Twitter, Marmarati, Walkers Do Us a Flavour and Fiat MIO are just some of the brilliant examples of how important your community can be to the development of new services and products. I mentioned RYZ last year, however I’d still like to advertise it as it’s still one of the best crowdsourcing community to create trainers I’ve ever seen around the web… get on there!
  • The astonishingly well-known T-Mobile FLASHMOB advert has initiated a bunch of other brands using the same promotional technique hoping to reach those ‘viral charts’. Some of the ones which have managed to do so…
  1. Antwerp – Sound of Music
  2. Bondi Beach
  3. Sony Central Station Mannequins
  4. Oprah 24th Anniversary
  5. Just Dance Sky1 -Diversity
  6. Elf Yourself in NYC
  • 2009 has definitely been THE year for Facebook! With more and more brands understanding the platform and initiating conversations with their fans, the biggest innovation must be Facebook Connect which allows users to log in with their Facebook credentials on any website whose settings enable users to do so. Since the API was made publicly available, a lot of brands have been using it very avidly – either implementing the facility within their official website log-in sections or developing bespoke campaigns using the new tool. Some Log in examples are available at, the Hffington Post, Vimeo and Joost. From a creative point of view, there have been many useless and superficial ways of using the tool however the very best implementation was the one used for the PROTOTYPE Game trailer. I’d highly recommend for you all to give it a go here and read some more examples here!
  • Last but not least, I can’t really say that 2009 has been the year of Virals in itself as it’s not a NEW trend. However, as it happens every year, there have been some really good ones; below the ones I think have stood out…
  1. SIGNS by Schweppes (Amazing story/Emotional Value)
  2. Inspired Bicycles (Entertaining Content/Value)
  3. Audi Electricity Untamed (Entertaining Content/Value)
  4. Transformers Sightings (Curiosity)
  5. MSI Acrobutt (Entertaining Content/Value)
  6. All the Single Babies (Amateur Content gone Viral)
  7. The Apple Store Kid (Amateur Content gone Viral)
  8. Samsung Claymation (Very Good CGI)
  9. Cloverfield (Curiosity)
  10. Diesel XXX (Entertaining Content/Value)

And obviously, probably the most watched video of all time, the JK Wedding Entrance

I shall leave you with that and very much hoping that 2010 will be as amazing as 2009 has been…

Happy Making peeps!



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The Digital Mainstream Needs Engaging Interaction

shapeimage_3-4Try to open your Facebook account and look at the number of applications you have installed on your profile. Some Facebook aficionados may have an average number of 50 applications sitting within their pages, often causing some visitors’ computers to crash. Now, try and write down the amount of them you actually use on a daily basis. I suspect the majority of you might have a number from 0 to 5.

Due to my young age, unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to personally experience how every other media has gone through the same process in the past, but time has arrived for our beloved ‘Digital space’ to become as mainstream as the rest.

However, as Lord David Putnam says, there is nothing wrong with being mainstream!

It is all about understanding this environment, taking advantage of the interesting elements surrounding the digital space and creating values for our ideas, developing extraordinary user experiences online.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee once said: “In 1989 one of the main objectives of the Internet was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute”.

Now, in 2008, we still watch TV, we listen to the radio, we read our magazines and, hungry or not, we are constantly ‘fed’ by advertising messages wherever we are. However, we have widgets, blogs, applications and forums where people are being creative, actively interacting with each other, making friends joining communities and sharing interesting information.

The great thing about ‘digital’ was the imminent and satisfying interaction element that came with it and, now more than ever, this is seen as a compulsory element to create successful and valuable ideas.

We cannot listen to a Radio show and talk back to the DJ, if not using email and TXTs; we cannot go through a pile of Marketing magazines to find that great quote by Steve Jobs, but we can use Google to find it and also read what other people think about it. Also, after watching an episode of Skins on Channel4 we cannot get all the fans together to talk about what just happened, however with Facebook not only we can now create such thing but also we can record reactions, evaluate comments, measure interaction and consequently create value for branded initiatives.

So many opportunities have recently risen for brands to take advantage of this Digital space but, always more often, many of them do not seem to get it right, creating a cluttered arena of branded content with not enough thinking behind it.

Very frequently, agencies do seem to have the perfect answer to the toughest brief – be this an outstanding creative idea which can impress ‘the’ client or be this a media strategy employing the ‘coolest’ sites – whatever this is, deploying interaction should always be considered as simply essential if entering the digital space and trying connecting with the right audience.

However, this is not always taken into account…

Digital online advertising was the big revolution when for the first time through a standard ad format brands would measure response and behave accordingly.

This is obviously still happening and, especially with improvements in creative formats and tracking facilities, 21% of the total marketing expenditure online still sits within display advertising.

Although many brands still believe in the power of these formats, with the digital space turning mainstream, they should make themselves fully aware that our audience is bored of being bombarded by advertising messages within an online environment as well.

This is exactly where what I call an ‘Engaging Interaction’ is required

Whenever the interactive element is considered, more than often this is under-estimated!

It is rather simple to generate creative ideas involving an interactive game, an interactive micro-site or an interactive Facebook application, however brands seem to be struggling in considering the ‘engagement’ element when developing such things.

What is the value of an interactive branded game if I am not engaged enough to go back and play with it? The same thing can be said about millions of application on Facebook or on any other social network.

I could make an example here with the Coke Tags Widget.

This widget was developed for users to include their favourite things of all time into a widget branded by Coca Cola to then post on their blogs and social media profiles.

Users would populate this widget and every element would be linked to the correspondent content i.e.. their favourite YouTube videos would click-through to the actual content, their favourite fashion brands listed would click through their official websites and so on…

This is the perfect example of an application which would sits there on your profile without allowing any engagement. What about showing me if other friends love the same fashion brands or are into REM? What about asking me to update the tag for the chance to be connected with more users with the same interests? Or what about including a competition for the best rated Tag owner to win a related price?

It is rather evident that Coke was simply looking for a widget that would sit there on my personal space and be forgotten after a day or two…. I personally created one and never used it again!

This is where many brands are simply making a huge mistake.

Wanting to be part of the Social Media environment and connect with a specific or a mainstream audience does NOT involve creating interactive dull experiences. Users needs to be engaged, they often await for or expect any kind of reward, they want to feel part of the brand through engaging user experiences which ask you to come back for more.

People do and will always talk about things that got them glued to the screen –  and we all know how powerful WOM can be….

I have 89 applications downloaded on my personal Facebook page.

How many do I actually use?


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Posted by on November 15, 2008 in Thought Piece


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When Brands Listen

shapeimage_3-5Following a great blog-entry by Jamie yesterday, I decided to give my voice on this subject

It’s been quite a while now that the blogosphere has been rather influential in understanding trends, efficient in creating discussions between users and interesting enough to generate reactions. I am sure we can all think about campaigns or brands’ activities online which have generated such things and created a massive buzz…

However, only recently brands have started to become truly aware that what before was a ‘niche audience’ is now a ‘mainstream voice’ to hardly ignore.

We had so many examples in the past few weeks on how brands have started listening to their consumers online, giving a special attention to us bloggers out there, setting remarkable examples on how brands should really behave towards us consumers.

It is fairly basic knowledge that through listening to the consumer companies learn what product and/or service aspects drive purchasing decisions.

Online marketing gained greater effectiveness thanks to the lack of interactivity that display offline media used to offer, which to certain extent still does today!

We initially started to record click-through-rates and conversions; then we got to measure interaction rates within the elements of a rich media ad; now, we can easily read what our consumers think about us and our products in real time… as simple as that!

Brands nowadays need to understand that users find so much easier leaving short comments on forums and blogs than spending hours of their time to go through customer service or write an angry email which never gets replied.

As mentioned in Jamie’s blog-entry, brands do need to engage their users into a two-way communication. Now I wonder, what is better than monitoring the influential blogosphere for your brand, listen to what people are saying about it and behave with them accordingly?

It doesn’t take much does it?

Today I was reading a brilliant post by Jonathan Hopkins where he’s writing about his experience with Vodafone. The blog post is called “Vodafone is Listening” which is definitely worth checking out. Jonathan had written a very long and angry post about the recent crappy experience he’d had with Vodafone concerning using mobile broadbrand abroad.

The post included 10 fairly-direct accusations to Vodafone from Jonathan who was obviously disappointed by the whole experience after receiving a bill of nearly US $3,000

Astonishingly, after 4 days from the complaint, a certain Gemma from Vodafone replied to his blog entry through the comments’ space (and also emailing him directly) with one of the longest replies I’ve ever seen on a blog … sorting out all the issues for Mr. Hopkins

This is what Jonathan then replied – “I really appreciate the fact that you (Gemma) have responded  to my post and as such feel a lot warmer to Vodafone now. You’ve put a human face on things and made me feel like my whinge was just a little bit worthwhile.”

That’s exactly what every brand should be doing and create those ever-lasting relationships with their consumers, retaining their loyalty and constantly let them feel part of the brand

Companies like Vodafone, as in this case, together with EA and Becks mentioned in Jamie’s entry, are definitely some of the ones who get my respect for simply ‘listenting’ the way it should be done…

Who is next?



Posted by on October 15, 2008 in Thought Piece


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