As SVP, Branded Entertainment, Kaaren Whitney-Vernon charges her team to produce original content for television, film and digital brands designed to drive revenue. She is one of the Executive Producers of the highly successful digital series Carmilla, with U by Kotex® as Executive Producer. The award-winning show has racked up over 70 million views.
We spoke with Kaaren this week about the latest show she's been working on, The Motorcycle Project, which will star one of the actresses from the Carmilla series and already has nearly 100,000 views of the trailer just released this month. Leveraging what Kaaren and her team have accomplished and learned from the Carmilla series, The Motorcycle Project could be another roaring success!
The Carmilla Series has been a multi-year success story for branded content. What are the key metrics of that success that the sponsor, Kimberly-Clark, has considered when re-upping for new seasons?
KWV: We did pre and post research after the first season. We were tracking unaided brand recall, intent to purchase, brand advocacy and net promoter score. The results were amazing, with over 90% brand recall and over 66% saying they tried U by Kotex® for the first time because of the series. The brand also saw their social channel engagement increase dramatically whenever they posted content from the show.
Tell us about The Motorcycle Project - how did this show concept develop?
KWV: The story idea was based on a popular website about Van Life. It is a site where people post their stories of hitting the road and living out a van. This wanderlust was our inspiration, but it is Shaftesbury's understanding of creating interesting characters with stories involving tension and mystery that builds fandoms and fans of the brand. Two half sisters are unlikely travel mates as they look for their missing sister, driven by clues found on social media. The travel component is important as more and more people are in search of their roots and the meaning of their family.
Half-sisters Jazz and Beth go searching for their missing sister in “The Motorcycle Project”
Who is the target audience?
KWV: The adventurous, or want to be adventurous, woman who loves travel.
What is duration of the shows and how many in a series?
KWV: While Carmilla was shot in one room with the adventure happening outside the room, The Motorcycle project will be shot on location to bring the beauty of Central America and the openness of the road. A total of 10 episodes of 8 minutes in length each.
Who is the writer?
KWV: TBD. It’s important that we include the brand in this process. I like the idea of the brand being part of the writer’s room. It's a rewarding process.
What about the actors? Will their social media following help drive viewership?
KWV: Yes - Carmilla created influencers out of the actors, but again, once we have a brand involved, it may change the direction of the talent.
Humberly Gonzales and Elise Bauman play Jazz and Beth in “The Motorcycle Project”
What type of brands would be best fit for this series?
KWV: Hero brands, Explorer brands, even an Outlaw brand like Harley Davidson would fit this story world of strong empowered females. I like the idea of traditionally male targeted brands embracing this type of story. Imagine how this could work for Red Bull or REI!?
Is this a one-brand opportunity or could multiple category-exclusive brands sign on?
KWV: We have done both funding scenarios and find that if the brands already work together it can work really well.
How would you work with a sponsor in terms of creative involvement? Is it hands-off or some limited input?
KWV: Very hands on. This is a partnership. We want the brands to feel ownership with the story and the characters. To use the content including behind the scenes on all their channels. Once we find an engaged audience, our role is to drive it forward, not treat it like a 4 week campaign. It could become a TV series, a movie, even a book. This is why brands benefit from working with us. We put our heart into the story just as much as the brand.
What are the tangible brand benefits being offered?
KWV: Ongoing engagement with a desired audience who appreciate the brand for entertaining them and not just selling them. This type of story will ensure the long term health of a brand and to continue to build brand awareness. -
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About Kaaren Whitney-Vernon:
Kaaren Whitney-Vernon is SVP, Branded Entertainment of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury is in the business of storytelling and creating deep, dynamic fandoms. She is a sought after speaker and a visionary for the future of marketing.
Before this position, and while on the road to becoming one of the best known experts in the branded content space, she was CEO and founder of shift2, a Branded Entertainment agency and is the founder of Youthculture Inc., a youth-focused media company specializing in creating branded programs. Kaaren now heads up the North American chapter of the Branded Content Marketing Association as their president and is working towards a new model for measurement while providing a voice for industry experts.
Shaftesbury is an award-winning creator and producer of original content for television, film, digital, and brands. Shaftesbury's current slate includes 12 seasons of Murdoch Mysteries for CBC, UKTV, and ITV STUDIOS Global Entertainment, detective drama Frankie Drake Mysteries for CBC and UKTV, and two seasons of critically acclaimed thriller series Slasher for Netflix.
Shaftesbury's digital arm produces original digital, convergent, and branded entertainment projects including the global phenomenon Carmilla, scripted comedy Upstairs Amy for Walmart and Interac®, supernatural drama Inhuman Condition, and the Slasher VR app for iOS, Android, and Oculus Rift. Shaftesbury’s branded entertainment division drives profitable engagement with millennials using scripted series, turning brands into executive producers. Recent brand partners include Walmart, Interac®, U by Kotex®, and RBC.
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