Commentary

Radio One Launching OneX Branded Content Studio

samuelsRadio One, which reaches 82% of the African-American population across platforms that also include television, live events websites and social media, is the latest media company to create a custom content studio — OneX — to work directly with brands and their curators.

“Content is the X factor in today’s on-demand, cross-platform media world,” says Detavio Samuels, the charismatic president, in announcing the formal launch of the studio, which has already created branded content campaigns for Walmart, AARP and the University of Phoenix and recently added Wells Fargo and three other clients who are still under wraps. “I’ve never met a CMO who didn’t want more content.”

Samuels joined Radio One as president of its OneSolution cross-platform sales and integrated marketing arm in May 2014, moving from the multicultural agency GlobalHue-Detroit, where he was president. From the outset of his discussions with Radio One CEO Alfred C. Liggins III, Samuels says he saw a huge opportunity in creating content from within a media company. He had the core of a creative team in place by August, and by the fall it had created a celebrity cooking show for Walmart featuring former Bravo reality star Chef Roblé preparing healthy foods that ran natively on Radio One's HelloBeautiful.com.

Samuels cites a recent PulsePoint study — itself sponsored content — that found 60% of brands and agencies say content marketing is “very significant” to their overall marketing strategy, with a majority expecting content and native ad budgets to outpace the growth of display and search spending over the next couple of years.

“It’s booming in general,” Samuels says, “but specially important for reaching black audiences,” because of two reasons:
African Americans consume more content than any other ethnic group; and, due to budget constraints, brands don’t always have content that’s culturally relevant to black audiences.

There’s one “other X factor” driving the studio: Black culture is crossing over into the mainstream more than ever before. Seventy-three percent of non-Hispanic whites and 67% of Hispanics believe blacks influence mainstream culture, and this is particularly true among the famously elusive but “culturally open” Millennials, Samuels says.

Of course, black culture has had enormous impact on areas such as music, fashion, entertainments and sports for decades. “But
now we’re especially seeing it manifest itself in the content space,” Samuels says, citing blockbuster TV fare such as “Blackish” and “Empire.”

“Depending on the clients and the brand and the brief, there’s going to be an opportunity to create content that is a bull’s-eye around black culture but will pull people of other ethnicities as well,” he believes.

OneX senior team members include creative director Archie Bell II (the answer, for those of a certain age, is “yes, that Archie Bell”), who has both general agency and media experience, and Sherina Florence, director of branded entertainment, who has broad agency experience and “whose portfolio is definitely not one of ads, but of content,” Samuels says. Andre Woolery, formerly digital synthesis director at Media Kitchen, is a visual artist bridging the media and creative disciplines.

Radio One’s in-house platforms include 53 radio stations (hip-hop, R&B, gospel), in 15 DMAs, seven popular syndicated programs through its controlling interest in Reach Media, 80-plus owned and operated websites under the Interactive One umbrella with more than 20 million monthly unique visitors, and TV One, which is available in 57 million homes.  

As an example of how OneX can conduct a branded content campaign across those holdings, Samuels offers the two-and-a-half-minute, single-narrative documentary it produced to boost African-American enrollment at the University of Phoenix. From that piece, which features emotional vignettes of graduates discussing their experiences, it crafted a 90-second version that launched on TV One’s broadcast of “The 46th NAACP Image Awards” in February.

Then, “telling the story a little bit different and a little bit shorter,” it developed :30 versions for both TV One and the Interactive
One ecosytems in pre-roll and banner versions. Whittling still further, :15 spots ran in social media as a sound-bite teaser to the longer-form content. At the same time, :30 audio feeds played across the radio network and syndicated show, with DJs doing live and recorded reads.

“So, one big production,” Samuels says, “but leveraging that to pull out content for different formats and different sizes across those platforms.”

Those platforms will include print, he says. “Just because we don’t have our own [properties], it hasn’t happened yet,”  but he looks forward to taking “culturally relevant” ideas and working with “the Essences, the Ebonys, the Jets,” he says. Which makes sense for the author of “Exist No More: The Art of Squeezing The Most Out of Life.” And, it appears, out of content.

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