FEATURED: Astronauts Wanted + Ripple Entertainment Seek Diverse Female Voices in Branded Content Par
Astronauts Wanted is a youth content production powerhouse, producing popular online series like For The Win, WEGOTISSUES, Summer Break, Tawk, and H8rs on platforms like YouTube, Go90, and Fullscreen. Astronauts Wanted is teaming up with digital media company Ripple Entertainment and their online video destination for progressive young women, SNARLED (one of the fastest-growing video networks for Gen Z and Millennial females), to introduce an incubator program inviting female creators to have their voices heard. The two companies will identify the best scripts from submissions and produce a collection of pilots that will lead to multi-episode series that will live on SNARLED in 2018. Brand Storytelling connected with Christine Murphy (SVP, Head of Branded Entertainment at Astronauts Wanted) to discuss the partnership with Ripple, the importance of seeking out new female voices, and AW’s position on why brands should involve themselves in new media.
We here at Brand Storytelling are familiar with Astronauts Wanted and we’re big fans of the modern content you create. We’re less familiar with SNARLED, though. What can you tell us about the channel?
SNARLED has really differentiated themselves in the market with a unique point of view that overlaps quite a bit with the Astronauts Wanted ethos. Similar to early MTV (our CEO Judy McGrath’s former post), SNARLED has a great combination of relevant personalities, unique formats and a bit of a renegade attitude that sets them apart from a lot of the female-focused video out there. We think that combination aligns really well with the type of high quality, relevant content AW wants to produce for our partners.
What motivated this idea to partner with a distribution platform and seek out new female creators?
So many programs are driven by pure media these days. Ripple Entertainment wanted to find a hybrid approach that taps into an existing consumer brand with an existing audience, but creates an elevated, premium level of content that you don’t consistently see with other similar initiatives. It's less about a pure distribution platform play, and more about a high quality brand with an existing audience who has high demand from advertisers and a lot of influence in world of young women. We see SNARLED providing that combination of distribution and brand equity. On the female creator front, we are passionate about being a strong contributor to the identification and development of new and emerging female creators. It’s a really important time in our culture to celebrate and empower girls. There is a ton of untapped talent out there and we think this is a perfect opportunity for a group of new and unique female voices to be given a massive stage.
This endeavor seems to have a lot of energy behind it. Why do you think it’s important to offer burgeoning young female creatives an opportunity like this one?
It’s a crazy time in our culture to be girl. There are a lot of mixed messages out there in the media, and coming from public figures/sources in society that should be trusted beacons of hope and empowerment. Unfortunately, some aren’t living up to the responsibility that such positions of power/prominence hold. Pair that with the massive pressure on young people today as a result of social media and it’s bound to result in uncertainty, insecurity, confusion. So we’re passionate about contributing to the positive voices and the empowered rally cry for women and girls, hopefully doing our small part to reach them in a constructive way. Finally, from an entertainment industry standpoint, AW and Ripple both feel we can do our part to ensure equal and positive female representation both onscreen and behind the camera, a ratio which is still not balanced despite the great strides women have made in this space.
You’ve previously produced successful videos and series with brands like AT&T and Hilton. Is there an opportunity for brand involvement here?
100%. We designed this program with brands in mind. We’re currently seeking brand partners for both the incubator as well as the eventual series development, and feel that the right brand partner’s involvement will only make the content better. AW is committed to telling stories where a brand actually elevates the narrative through its involvement, and plays a real, authentic role in the story. We’re lucky to have found partners like the gang at Ripple Entertainment who share the same values.
Why is it important for brands to think differently about how they reach their consumers?
When we are talking about the digital content space specifically, it’s critical to acknowledge that the ecosystem looks more and more like TV these days. The quality of the shows, the massive volume of choices and the huge amount of time spent with the medium all sort of require that the role of the brand come to life in ways that consumers expect from premium TV programming. Expectations are high because the lines have become so blurred; “TV” viewing doesn’t necessarily happen on a TV. This shift means that the relationship between brands and consumers is higher-stakes. Young consumers are especially savvy and recognize when a brand goes out of their way to provide them with something they value. Recently I was chatting with a close friend of mine who has a tween son, and he literally told his father, verbatim, that when brands are in his favorite videos on YouTube he likes the content better. He even understood the economics of it! These young consumers won’t stand for groan-worthy sponsorships or product placements, but they for sure know when a brand spends the money to tastefully power the things they enjoy, and find it favorable.