Is Branded Entertainment The Future Of Advertising? Q&A With Helle Jabiri Falck at Biites

MarComm News' Q&A With Helle Jabiri Falck, Chief Operating Officer & Founder at Biites.

  • Why do you think long form branded content has such high viewing rates? Why is it popular with consumers? 

We’re all interested in compelling and engaging stories – and long form branded content or branded entertainment – hits that sweet spot where storytelling and entertainment meet brand loyalty and affection. 

From documentaries to talk shows, long form video content addresses the bigger issue of why a consumer should support, buy from, and ultimately advocate for a brand. Think Patagonia campaigns that have nothing to do with shifting products but focus on documentary-style storytelling to raise awareness of an issue or a cause. It’s content that touches people emotionally, tells a story and builds preference through conversation at the dinner table and between friends. 

We’re finding that it’s particularly popular with younger consumers who are motivated by brands that share their values and beliefs, rather than price-point or convenience. The power of long form branded video content is that, if it’s done well, it can convert an entire target group into a genuine audience – and ultimately create customers which actively seek out the brand.

  • What results are you seeing? 

We specialise in long form branded content which delivers an interruption-free, brand safe, and 100% viewable marketing platform to advertisers, for global and localised branded video content. Our entire ethos is to drive actions and conversions based on the engagement data from the long form videos, which has been proving very popular with consumers and advertisers alike. 

We’re seeing an industry leading average viewing time of 5.5 mins per play on the Biites platform across all countries and content. Even though only 1% of all the content on Biites is actually 30 minutes or more, these videos generate 41% of total engagement measured in minutes. 

Only a few brands are currently brave enough to produce true long form video content. To some brands everything above 30 seconds is long form, but we also see brands who are producing real programs which are 20-60 minutes long. On Biites we require content to be at least 90 seconds, and the majority of the videos are around 90-120 seconds (38%). But these videos only generate 5% of the total engagement, measured in minutes. So we’re seeing it definitely pays off to create longer content. 

For a recent Jaguar documentary which gave an exclusive look behind the curtain of the brand for both clients and future employees, the results included 6min average viewing time, 125k plays, and 730k engagement minutes.

Another example delivered for GSK brand Nicotinell, was a branded reality series, where members of a biker club aimed to quit smoking over four episodes. The result included 50% VTR on all episodes, 77k plays, 43% play through rate, and 270k engagement minutes. 

  • Why do you think there is an increasing trend for brands to create long form content? 

Brands are increasingly fighting for crumbs – a recent Dentsu report shows that even adverts that are only seen peripherally can be effective. They’re realising it’s time for a step-change, not only in how we measure and plan for attention, but also in how brands create strategies with attention at the heart.

We know customer behaviour is changing, with increased consideration, particularly around more expensive products such as luxury and automotive. The conversation is shifting from how and where do I buy, to why should I buy? The vital part of the relationship the customer requires with the brand is the why – why that brand, that product, or that service over one of the many others readily available? 

A few seconds isn’t enough to communicate this, and as consumers connect further with a brand drivingconsideration and purchase, brands need to move from entertaining to informing the consumer. In fact, we’d argue the entire marketing funnel needs a new section added – the ‘why’. Brand strategies need to consider this to better support building brand advocates from their target audience. Particularly when it comes to younger consumers who are more driven by values and beliefs, rather than traditional metrics like price and convenience. 

While marketers are familiar with the three main funnel stages, awareness (top), consideration (middle), and conversion (bottom), there is arguably a fourth ‘upper top funnel’ (engagement) for long form branded video content. As an additional level at the very top of the funnel above awareness, it’s the very first step in the consumer journey where evergreen stories should live. This level encourages engagement – it’s the place where you ‘suddenly’ find yourself spending time with a brand and its content – without even necessarily knowing the brand beforehand. This step is an engaging storytelling discipline that leads consumers into the awareness stage.

  • Who is long form content competing with – TV advertising, social media, or digital advertising? 

Brands have a multitude of platforms competing for consumer attention – social, online, TV, radio, billboard, VOD – with competitors fighting to utilise each and every platform more effectively. 

Long form content presents a double opportunity in that brands can produce shorter versions for channels like Instagram and TikTok and create a mix of content to appeal to as wide an audience as possible – and capture as much of their attention as possible. 

Ultimately to be successful long form content needs to be relevant. Brands need to emotionally connect with audiences and take them into a universe that reflects their interests, passions, and lifestyle choices, in an entertaining manner.

Long form videos do not compete with TV advertising, social media, or digital advertising. It is a whole new discipline that can serve and strengthen marketing campaigns, if it is presented, distributed, and measured in the right ways. 

We talk about an ‘upper’ funnel in the marketing funnel, which is where this type of evergreen content can live for a long time. It often generates a lot of engagement and awareness of a brand, and advertisers can use these insights in the lower levels of the funnel. 

  • Do you think this trend towards long form branded content will disrupt traditional TV / digital / social media advertising at all? 

In my opinion, the biggest entertainment shows will be brand funded within the next ten years. It’s going to be the main type of content we all watch and enjoy. So, to get the attention you’re looking for from consumers, now is the time to make some brave choices. This is also where you can turn your target groups into ‘an audience’, who voluntarily choose to watch, follow, and engage with a branded series, documentary, or talk show etc.

Rather than disruption it’s likely to create a symbiotic relationship. Long form content will be used to fuel traditional TV and social media channels, with broadcasters and OTT platforms buying the branded entertainment TV series to distribute through their own platforms, and shorter versions produced as ads and for social media. 

  • What are the barriers to brands making long form content? 

Well, it’s expensive. High quality, longer-form video content needs investment from planning and production to post-production and distribution, which is arguably the biggest challenge. While brands could ultimately solve the problem of ring-fencing budget to create branded content, there’s little point in doing so if there’s nowhere to put it.

Instead, what we see is brands creating long form video content and then slicing it into snippets. 30 seconds here, 15 seconds there, and then distributing this edited content to deliver performance metrics. When asked why they didn’t just share the full, say, 15-minute documentary, they simply responded they had nowhere to post it.

Most platforms don’t allow for video over 60 or 90 seconds, which leaves YouTube as the only option which is often full of distractions, or the brand’s own website. But let’s face it, not many of us visit a brand’s website to watch a 15- or 30-minute documentary.

What we’re talking about here is the need to allocate budget into ‘paid content’, and as things stand, it’s an element of distribution that’s missing from the overall marketing mix. Platforms like ours, at Biites, are beginning to address this gap, but there is a need for the wider advertising industry to adopt and normalise a new distribution model and new commercial models that benefits longform content.

  • Where does it sit – within a company – the advertising or PR team? 

One of the challenges that we’re finding is that ownership and responsibility for long form branded content can sit across numerous different teams. From content, media, marketing, social media, procurement, PR, corporate communications or social teams – and often these teams don’t coordinate with each other, so the long form content is used standalone rather than as part of the wider ad and marketing campaign. Which, in my view, is wasteful. 

There are huge opportunities for brands who prioritise long form content as their main starting point from which to roll out wider advertising and social media campaigns, with spin off content from the longer versions. 

Once brands are working in the field of branded programming and entertainment, it is our belief that brands will begin moving away from being advertisers and move towards becoming entertainers. Long form video content helps them do this because it allows them to tell a story and use pictures, sounds, and emotions in the same piece of content. But it requires a paradigm shift from marketers who need to step away from the temptation to create 30 second adverts, and instead concentrate on storytelling and using producers and creators with that specific skill set. 

  • How are brands using the data collected from long form content? 

Long form video content is arguably the antidote to our age of distraction. The data out there around its use is compelling, with viewers retaining 95% of a message they’ve watched on a video. Compare this to just 10% of written content. And 72% would rather learn about a product or service from video. In fact, 85% of consumers want to see more video from brands. They’ll reward them with their attention. 

Data collected from these attentive viewers can help inform future ad campaigns and areas for improvement across both the product and marketing. It also includes topic preferences – making it easy to direct more relevant and personalised content to them. They’re more likely to share content – and additional extras such as discount vouchers with friends – making it a very compelling personal recommendation. 

We believe that branded entertainment will become ‘the base’ of future advertising, delivering more value, transparency, and relevance. Especially to younger target groups. New consumer journeys will start with entertainment and engaging the audience in a much more relevant and positive way. And from there drive them further down the funnel. We are definitely moving into a new consumer era, where it is much more ‘why to buy’ (a product) rather than ‘how and where to buy’ (a product) helping to build strong brand preferences. 

  • What do you think the future looks like for long form branded video content?

Brands will start putting more thought into how to distribute their content. Far too much quality long formcontent is being cut into smaller pieces for social media. With the full-length version ending up hidden on a staff intranet, YouTube channel, or website that is never really utilised to its full potential. 

Better platforms will become available to display content in an engaging way, make it easy for consumers to find it, and make it valuable for brands by demonstrating the value of the data and insight it captures. As I mentioned, the average duration per view of a branded video on Biites is more than five and a half minutes, and there aren’t many brands that wouldn’t be interested in that high level of attention and engagement. Also, it’s likely broadcasters and OTT platforms will start using branded entertainment as a source of content for their channels. 

Brands will invest more in quality long form content becoming ‘entertainers’ – and this spend will ultimately be higher than traditional or digital ad budgets. Content that appears on Biites from brands like Jaguar Land Rover, and Carlsberg works. It gets high viewing rates because it’s fundamentally really good content. There are no shortcuts to producing content of this level, and brands need to be brave to do so. It also leaves them with a piece of ‘evergreen’ content that serves the brand over a much longer period of time, so the investment keeps delivering far longer than a traditional three-month ad campaign.  

Brands have so much to tell – and they must see themselves as true ‘entertainment partners’ to win their audiences. Within the next five years, I’m certain that brands will become the main way our video, film, and TV entertainment is created and funded.  

Helle Jabiri Falck is Chief Operating Officer & Founder at Biites.

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