Viability Checklist For Branded Entertainment
There are many people very keen to be on television and who have a romantic notion about getting a show produced, but equally there are those who are missing out on a viable means to reach a large audience in an authentic and entertaining manner. So, how do you really know if a big show or event idea is viable for you?
Here’s a step by step process to determine if your current big idea is viable, or to give you the confidence to start considering branded entertainment for your brand:
1. Do you have the cash?
NO: As much as it is a dream of many who have that AMAZING TV concept, the idea that television station programming will pick up the idea and produce it for you is pretty slim in fact. Station programming works with a select few production providers to produce their shows, and it is a very closed shop. Often they’ll consider existing properties before producing something new as it is cheaper, and they are certain about what they’ll get for their cash. Depending on the cash you have you may be able to consider content for a website or social media campaign. The production values for a digital solution rarely translate to good entertainment for television.
YES: If you have a good idea and can self fund it, it is more likely that the stations will consider running it. It will likely be in off-peak times, possibly even on their digital channels. It is also likely you’ll need to cover the costs of the airtime as well, and sponsor the ad breaks between the show episodes. Because the process is now more open though, there is room for a brand to create content that is highly engaging and can be seen by a large number of people in the one viewing – and no one skips through your ads! You are likely to have the opportunity to target specific niche audiences attracting a significant reach to a highly targeted audience. If yes, go to question 2.
2. Do you have ENOUGH cash?
This is a different question altogether. Many people mistakenly think there is one price and one solution for every idea. I get it all the time! They simply ask for THE price of a creative solution as if there is one magic number only, as if buying a widget of certain specifications from a factory. The truth is that if your production people are serving you properly they will work with your budget expectations and come up with solutions that work for you. Much like asking how much is it to produce a car, if you have $20,000 to spend or $250,000 to spend you’ll be getting a very different car for your needs and the real magic is in making sure you get the best value solution and that it works for your business and brand objectives.
The ultimate objective is to tailor something to suit your budget and after taking into consideration all the other factors in this checklist including your brand strategy and business strategy you’ll end up with something that works for you.
YES: You have any sized budget at all, so a solution can be figured out for you if you are flexible with your concept, the deliverables, the production execution, and the media or distribution methodology. You may not get on mainstream TV but you can produce content for any budget with clever thinking and flexibility.
NO: You have a fixed idea or production parameters and you’re inflexible about changing anything. You’ve discussed it with an inexperienced producer and they didn’t come up with alternatives. You are told there is only one price for the job. You are dealing with one single provider who has a vested interest in the methodologies they recommend.
See also my blog on ‘What do I get for my Content Budget?’
3. Do you have the expertise?
YES: You have successful TV shows or major public events under your belt.
NO: You have no proven success with long form or branded events. (Advertising TVC’s alone doesn’t count, sorry!).
It is unlikely an unproven production service or creative will be considered through the typical processes that the industry follows. OK, sorry, to those in advertising – you’re not proven in long form actually, as much as you may think you are an awesome writer, director, producer… etc. Likewise, do you know many strong long form film directors who have made it big in advertising, or photographers that can really understand motion and talent performances? – it rarely happens, or if it does they’re not often at the top of the game (no offence to the few I know who actually do transition well). Even corporate video directors and producers (the old title for content directors and producers) don’t always translate into long form television well.
There really is a specialty skill required for each platform and that especially includes producers. Even after 30 years in the industry I wouldn’t consider solely taking on a TV show or major event production on my own without having the support from someone experienced in that type of production to at least consult with. Having worked at agencies, film companies, post production and in visual effects over the years and even organised some events from time to time there are few with as broad advertising experience – however I humbly consult with specialists to get the standard of work I expect and to be protected from the pitfalls.
4. Are you working with people who are on your side?
YES: You have hired a specialist service or producer who solely works on your behalf to determine if the production and event providers are capable of the project, that the budget they propose for you is actually the right cost for the job relative to the brand objectives, all wastage is removed from the job, and that there is enough of the right things in the budget to cover the less obvious.
NO: You are working with individual suppliers who are claiming they need every cent of the budget but are likely to be self serving at best, even if they genuinely believe they are helping you. You are likely working with a production company or film director directly.
Currently advertising agencies have been working with clients to negotiate production and industry providers however clients are going direct more often these days, in search of ways to stretch the budget further. What they don’t know is that just because they are finding providers to meet their budgets doesn’t mean it is the best value for what you’re buying! Be very careful that you are getting value for money and are protected against overcharging, inappropriate licence fees and overages. I know that having an experienced production expert on board can save around 25% of the budget and even cover their own fees in the process. That kind of saving can even go to other media to fully leverage your activity if you come under budget.
5. Is the idea on strategy and on brand?
YES: You are sure that the production solution will reflect your brand, not just judging the concept on paper but the team that is proposed can deliver the quality of work that properly reflects your brand. The idea of the show is an integral and natural fit with your business strategy and anyone who comes in contact with the entertainment piece will feel it is a congruent fit with your brand.
NO: You have been consumed by the medium, or the idea without actually considering the bigger picture. You have been thinking all about this one project and getting a sale without really considering the wider business and brand objectives.
If your production communications do not have sound strategy for the specific campaign and secondly that there is no consideration to the wider business and brand objectives then nothing fails a business faster than your marketing communications regardless of the format.
6. Do you have expectations about plastering your branding all over it to maximise your recall?
YES: Sorry to tell you, but this will work against you. Brands that are too overt at pushing their sales message have otherwise good content backfire on them. Likeability goes way down.
NO: You are giving good content of value to your customer, with their needs in mind and not yours. You deliver your message in a thoughtful way and it is relevant to an entertaining program.
There is no exact science as to what is the right amount of branding. Audiences are very switched on and turn off – even turn against a brand if there is overt selling and branding messages in your content. Ideally this is something that would be tested and researched to seek the ‘sweet spot’ to ensure brand or product likeability.
7. Do you expect a single media solution to work for you?
YES: Well, a single media source could work for you, yes. It is unlikely to work as well for you as a totally integrated solution might though.
NO: So, you’re obviously thinking about a multiple channel strategy that has a lead platform and a wide range of methodologies to amplify it. First pick the leading platform and then determine how you could amplify it.
- Live Experience
- Second screen
- Supporting TVC’s
- Live Experience
- Social Media
- EDMs to existing Lists
- YouTube/Vimeo additional content (eg. making of, behind the scenes, additional scenes, outtakes, follow up stories)
- On Pack
- In Store/Dealers
- Sales Activity
See also the blog for a longer list ‘Branded Entertainment Amplification Brainstorm‘.
8. Do you have a gut feel for how the content will work for you?
YES: A certain amount of industry experience allows you to have a good feel for a successful project when you see one. As Malcolm Gladwell explores in his book Blink, there is a certain amount of understanding an expert can have from a gut feel or first glance and it is to be respected as a viable knowing. Some creatives argue that they just ‘know’ and get frustrated by those that need numbers to support it. However, there is a certain amount of good sense needed, and the application of data can help you figure out if the project is viable. Data alone probably wont tell you if this is sure fire hit however – that’s where your producer will help you.
NO: Here’s a formula for calculating the cost per lead to see if you have the right combination of spend, the right amplification and the right production solution. I’m one for keeping things simple as you’ll see, but for more detailed analysis you’ll need your media audience measurement providers for paid and unpaid media (list available here). Yes, your unpaid activities improve the cost per lead ratio and I realise not everyone wants to measure the cost per lead and measure conversion rates, website visits or some other measure instead. For me the cost of getting in front of people is a great place to start and you can compare between different combinations of solutions to get the ‘sweet spot’ for you.
Also check out the statistics on what content has the best engagement as published by the Content Marketing Institute here.
Balance the cost per lead against your results for other activities and you’ll know if it is a viable solution. Likewise after running the work you’ll have a conversion rate (leads that turn into a sale) to compare as well.
$ – Cost of media and production across the combined campaign
A – Target market within the total television viewership expected for the exact time slot planned
B – Target market within the total amplification activities (expected sets of eyeballs!)