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Helping Brands Tell their Story

Last June, CNN announced the launch of Courageous, their in-house branded content studio designed to leverage the storytelling skills and distribution capabilities of CNN and HLN news brands. Otto Bell, previously Creative Director for Ogilvy Entertainment was pegged to run the studio, reporting to Michal Shapira, Senior Vice President and Head of Integrated Marketing for CNN. We caught up with Otto and Michal at the CNN Lounge at Sundance back in January, and they shared their thoughts on how Courageous will support brands seeking to engage audiences with great content, versus interruptive messages. Check out the interviews with Otto and Michal here. CNN is certainly not alone when it comes to media companies launching branded content efforts to help advertisers who are increasingly seeking alternatives to the 30 second spot, pre-roll, post-roll, interstitials, and other interruptive ad units. Afterall, who better to help brands imagine, find, and produce content that will resonate with target audiences than media companies? I mean…like, that is their business! They are trained storytellers, journalists, and producers of compelling content. It all begs the question, now more than ever; who does what in this media world of blurred lines? Whereas agencies once were the crafters of brand messaging and creators of content, advertisers are realizing that when it comes to branded content, media companies may be the best solution. At least some of the time…

Case in point; Saturday Night Live just announced that it would cut back on commercial time by 30% while offering advertisers the opportunity to partner with "SNL" to create original branded content. 'Saturday Night Live' Will Cut Ads by 30% Next Season ‘Saturday Night Live’ To Run With Fewer Ads Next Season And, as reported by ADWEEK, “The company has launched The NBCU Content Studio. It will develop and produce content for advertising clients utilizing NBCU's creative talent, data, distribution, and scale (including its partners BuzzFeed, Vox, and AOL)” NBCU's New Studio Is Creating Branded Content for Viewers Beyond Its Own Platforms This trend of media companies partnering with advertisers to create content that is not advertising, is only going to gain speed and further blur the generations-old roles of agency-client- media company. Here are more examples of some notable brand content studios: USA Today Scripps Lifestyle Studio Meredith Excelerated Marketing – MXM BBC Storyworks Viacom Velocity AOL Partner Studio Time Inc. Foundry -- Watch for weekly news updates from Brand Storytelling in your inbox, and share this with other storytellers in your network. Of course, if you’d like to contribute to the story, I'd love to hear from you. Email me:

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