Last year alone, $600 billion was spent on traditional advertising. But there is a new advertising approach happening right now, which is a throwback to a bygone age: Brands are shifting away from traditional TV commercials to funding and sponsoring documentaries, television programs and specials, and films.
Brands will emerge as the film and TV moguls of the future.
Sponsored programs are not new. In the late ’40s, brands like Texaco and Admiral sponsored some of the earliest TV shows starring Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the term “soap opera” was coined because shows were sponsored by soap brands like Procter & Gamble. In the successful TV series “Perry Mason” (1957-1966), the protagonist drove a new car model in every episode, reflecting the different models of cars that the auto sponsor produced at the time. The insurance company Mutual of Omaha sponsored “Wild Kingdom” until they became firmly connected with the title.
The traditional advertising agency art-and-copy creative model was born in the 1930s for print advertising. A copywriter writes an ingenious print advert which is combined with eye-catching images from an art director. In the 1960s, the real “Mad Men” came along and in conjunction with the world-wide explosion of TV sets in every home, they invented the 30-second hard sell spots for the captive TV audience. In other words: They modified their existing methods of advertising to match the trends of the time and made the changing marketplace an opportunity for incredible growth.
Today, every brand and everyone in the advertising and broadcast industries are faced with a similar challenge – and opportunity: Our challenge now is that consumers are no longer watching traditional TV. Most consumers under the age of 40 do not have cable. The future of advertising is transforming, shifting away from television, billboards and magazine ads to platforms like Netflix, HULU and Amazon.
The 30-second commercial is dying. Consumers ignore or fast forward through ads on their smartphones or computers. In order to reach customers, brands are now in the content business.
How do forward-looking brands and advertising agencies adapt to this brave new world?
In 2013, Werner Herzog directed a 35-minute PSA film for AT&T, which was a huge internet and critical success: “Werner Herzog: From One Second to the Next.” The film has now been screened in over 40,000 schools and colleges.
That film worked because it was positioned as a documentary short film and not a commercial. The focus was on the storytelling and the emotional message, not the brand itself.
Many forward-looking brands and advertising agencies are adapting to the same model.
The younger generation of consumers wants innovation and engagement- to be entertained through actual story driven films. Red Bull has long been far ahead of other brands in creative marketing and creating short films that people want to watch. The Red Bull “Stratos Space Jump” not only broke several records, it was watched by millions of people live on YouTube.
Young people (the Millennial generation) have been dubbed an idealistic generation who emphasize social change. They want to support brands that do good. This means, that a brand’s products and services must reflect a young person’s value system. Young people are less likely to support fast food or soft drinks because they know they are unhealthy. The Werner Herzog film “From One Second to the Next” became a marketing success because of, not in spite of, the film’s authentic call for social change.
Forward-looking brands and advertising agencies are partnering with production companies and film makers who can bridge both worlds. In the future, many of the new short films, documentaries and TV that people actually want to watch will be paid for by cutting edge brands and advertisers.
The Millennials are the main consumers of the future. In order for the ad industry to survive the current changes to the marketplace, the $600 billion which is spent annually on selling young people stuff they don’t want, will be funneled into stories and content that they actually do care about.
In the very near future, cutting-edge brands will connect with their consumers by funding or sponsoring the next impactful and socially relevant documentary, independent film or television series.