Specialist agency focuses on funded programming
ZOOM ADVERTISING, the Ogilvy group’s retail and “brands at retail” agency, has launched a branded entertainment unit – claimed to be a first for any South African agency.
Branded entertainment is paid-for airtime, which the broadcaster uses as programming content: a TV or radio programme exclusively sponsored by one or more advertisers. For the marketer, says Zoom MD Steve Massey, it’s “having a conversation with your customer as opposed to shouting”.
It’s been widely hailed in the US as the “next big thing” in marketing, though the basic idea doesn’t seem new to people who remember sponsored radio shows on Springbok Radio.
Programmes can be a normal halfhour slot or as short as three minutes. Zoom’s unit has already successfully produced a number of “advertiser funded programmes” for its clients on television. These include the “On Site” programme for Cashbuild, “The Feelgood Challenge” for Pep, “Star for a Day” for Pep (which achieved 19 Audience Ratings for its best episode and an average of 13 across the series).
Another successful production – “Project Home”, also for Cashbuild – attracted an astonishing 2,5m direct visits to the Cashbuild website. The first edition of Pep’s “Wanna Win Big” show, which has just started, has already created massive excitement. The flyer campaign alone attracted more than 300 000 applications from people who want to be on the show and win big.
Massey announced the agency’s new division as many more branded entertainment deals are signed for both existing and new clients. “Branded entertainment is like touch paper. It’s sparking new thinking in the industry – it’s igniting a new communications platform. Once marketers are exposed to the concept their enthusiasm is palpable.”
The reason for the excitement is because “branded entertainment” is less intrusive than traditional advertising and more powerful than mere sponsorship. When handled professionally, creatively and without being perceptibly contrived, branded entertainment is far more credible and convincing.
Sponsorship allows the advertiser to use billboards, stings and minimal product placement, if any. Branded entertainment and advertiser-funded programmes allow a show to be crafted to suit and integrate the brand in a relevant way.
Zoom’s new unit works closely with the broadcaster to ensure that the content integrity is maintained while giving the brand credible and appealing exposure.
“Branded entertainment promotes brand awareness. It can convey any number of complex messages and can build sales promotions around a single programme series – and it’s cost-effective,” says Heather Swart, head of Zoom Branded Entertainment. “We believe branded entertainment is going to be an increasingly important and large part of our business and a good reason for officially declaring our dedicated business unit.”