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The Branded Content Pool Party is a Rager!

The lanes have come down. The high-dive is open. The water is alluring. Everyone wants in the pool!

I was talking with a friend last week who had just come off a multi-day shoot for a brand-funded scripted show. “It’s like a pool party gone wild,” he told me. “There are no lanes, everyone thinks they can direct and the brand team is splashing water everywhere. I’m just glad it’s over.”

“Pool parties are supposed to be fun,” I reminded him.

“Not when everyone is misbehaving,” He bemoaned. “It makes it really difficult when there are no boundaries and no filters between the brand and the production. Agencies have a big role to play here and they are being silenced and sometimes not even invited.”

As marketers continue to shift budgets towards funding the production of content, their media and agency partners are scurrying to meet those needs. Seemingly, everyone wants in the brand-funded content pool:

Publishers/Media Companies – They are launching in-house studios to help their traditional advertisers create and distribute content, ie: Yahoo Storytellers, CNN Courageous, NY Times T-Brand Studio, Washington Post WP Brand Studio, AOL Partner Studio, Viacom Velocity, USA Today GET Creative, Meredith’s MXM, NBCU Content Studio and everyone else in the media world!

Advertising Agencies – The groups that have traditionally conceived and created content for their brand clients, but that content was advertising. Now, ad agencies need to add pure content creation (not advertising creative) to their repertoire. So, along come the storytelling/content agencies, ie: The Dentsu Aegis Network’s StoryLab, Starcom’s Liquid Thread, DigitasLBI, UM Studios and more.

PR Agencies – These folks are claiming they know the client best and their job has always been telling their stories. Well, that’s sort of true, but the leap from news release to scripted show seems like a wide one. Nonetheless, PR agencies are diving in and doing great work, ie: Ketchum Entertainment, Edelman’s partnership with United Entertainment group, Starling, Weber Shandwick’s MediaCo… should I go on?

Talent Agents – The ultimate party-goers and they have done a cannonball into this pool. CAA, UTA, WME and more are all at the center of this action, putting together deals with brands, talent, publishers, influencers.

Production Companies - There are a TON of them, both large and small, digital and traditional. They are all hiring business development teams to go straight after content deals with brands. New Form, Endemol Shine, AllDayEveryDay, Saville, Philo Media, Astronauts Wanted…on and on.

Brands - Establishing their own in-house content teams/studios, i.e.: Pepsi Creators League, Marriott, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Unilever, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Intel. If they haven’t established a whole in-house studio, they are building teams that are charged with content creation, including Content Officers, Chief Creative Officers, Chief Storytellers, etc.

So, here at Brand Storytelling, we are sitting on the deck watching this party rage on. It looks like a lot of fun, but, as water polo players will tell you, the kicking that goes on unseen underwater can be ruthless! What’s your take on this party? Are you in the pool? Drop us a line and let us know how you are enjoying it.


When hunting for examples of brands getting their fair share of real estate at the content pool party, look no further than this upcoming series from Dove. The brand, whose focus has been on portraying “real stories and real women” for some time, has added a big-ticket name to their roster in the tapping of Shonda Rimes, who’s using her production prowess and vast social network to get in touch with real women who have stories to tell. Brands like Dove aren’t joking around about the kind of work they want to do after bringing creative in-house.


Johnsonville is taking the idea of content creation to heart with its new “Dinner is Served” series. Check out the touching trailer for the series, which honors the employees at the Johnsonville plant in Watertown, Wisconsin. The concept is a tender example of putting a brand and a product at the center of an emotional and human story.


An evolution is occurring in the world of branded video – and Marriott's Snapchat campaign is no exception… in fact, it may be the rule. Check out the first episode of their series, “Six Days, Seven Nights”, which features influencer Jen Levinson trying döner kebab and frog legs for the first time while in Berlin. She is, of course, staying at a Marriott hotel, which is nearly as in focus as the influencer herself. This comes at a time when brands are still trying to figure out how to reach audiences on snapchat. Other brands take note, this is a good start.


Mercedes-Benz is taking the artistic approach to their largest foray into original content. Watch the first film in their “Grow Up” series, and you’ll see for yourself. Cars function as a place where a scene plays out or as a piece of window dressing more than as the focus of the films, which instead focus on capturing the plight and attention of a younger generation. With this effort the brand is looking to cultivate a younger, hipper audience and, as such, cultivate a new generation of Mercedes owners.


-- 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, We'd love to hear from you. Email us!

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