What Does Branded Content Even Mean Anymore?!

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say if I have to hear that “insert content type here” is king just one more time, I might just have to get all Game of Thrones on the industry. We get it! Content is powerful. We have seen the power of content and at the same time have also seen how miserably it can fail.

But what is branded content nowadays? Is it content that wreaks of your brand essence?! Is it content that brings to life the mythology of the brand?! Or is that you got enough of your brand’s colors and identity in the backdrop and set pieces so it gets that brand feeling across to the consumer?! Let’s get real and stop kidding ourselves with all this buzzword bingo.

Instead let’s define what it’s not. It’s not a paid ad, a sponsorship or product placement.

And that’s what I think of when I hear “branded content”. It’s not a paid ad, it’s not a sponsorship and it’s not product placement. It’s more than just an interstitial; a YouTube grouping of mini-docs, an interactive short “social” film or an episodic online series inspired by the brand’s messaging structure and identity.

Think deep content experiences when you hear branded content.

Not, “…we could totally just make a video content series because it serves my consumer utility and buy up all the key search words so our content pops to the top of said consumer’s Google search results.” No, no, no.

Deep content experiences. Deep content experiences. Deep content experiences.

When we think branded content we should be thinking of content in the broadest sense of the word. Creating branded content is creating many different types of content that all live in an interconnected digital ecosystem, exactly where our consumers live. Each piece of content we create must have an implication for the brand, the viewer and contribute to the further expansion and connectedness of the brand’s digital ecosystem.

The Horizons Project in association with DuPont is a prime example of a deep a content experience produced by OgilvyEntertainment. The Horizons Project’s content ecosystem reinforced DuPont as a scientific thought leader amongst business decision makers. DuPont has embraced the power of deep content to spark dialogue around the world to address and find solutions to the most crucial challenges facing humanity.

The Horizons Project is made up of a number of different deep content types that expand the ecosystem in which it lives. At Horizons’ heart is a 20-episode TV series broadcasted by BBC World News and syndicated on Bloomgberg Television and multiple airlines. During commercial breaks each episode was paired with a series of short documentary-style interstitials. These 14 short films highlighted DuPont’s scientific capabilities and collaborations. The short form content also lived on The Horizons Project’s digital hub that supported a social community and weekly LIVE web chats with the TV show’s host.

Further extensions of The Horizons Project’s ecosystem included editorial components, 2 international summits that brought together over 350 executives and officials relevant to DuPont’s business reach, over 4,500 co-branded and episode specific 25-second trailers on BBC World News in support of the program and The Horizons Project deep content assets were able to be leveraged as internal tools for DuPont employees to use in press, meetings, business pitches and DuPont events.

Deep content experiences, like The Horizons Project, are less about tactics and more about investments of content overtime that all contribute to the growth of a content ecosystem. The more related content that is produced enables an immersive experience for consumers. So call branded content whatever you want just make sure to always think about how deep content can grow your content ecosystem for you.


Matt Doherty