Cannes Lions 2022: Is There a Future for Sustainable Brand Entertainment?

Carlijn Postma, Speaker and Author of 'Binge Marketing'

In this miniseries of three articles, Carlijn Postma reports from Cannes Lions 2022 looking at how brands are transforming into entities with a focus on sustainability and what that means for advertisers and entertainment creators.
In this miniseries of three articles, Carlijn Postma reports from Cannes Lions 2022 looking at how brands are transforming into entities with a focus on sustainability and what that means for advertisers and entertainment creators.


What’s Next?


Netflix stock has fallen, the growth of subscribers is declining, they’re now working on an advertising model, the one thing they promised never to do. Was this an unforeseen future of Netflix? Or does it only mark the point that everything turns back to the way it was for marketers: buying the way to reach targeted audiences?


Ted Sarandos, co-CEO and Chief Content Officer at Netflix, was rather laconic about it, as he stated on the Cannes Lions stage: “The original Top Gun video from the ‘80’s had a Pepsi ad in it and that video cost $39.95 at the time.” Although Tom Cruise (aka Maverick) can still fly an F14 (spoiler, sorry), the audience has changed and expects new jets and experiences. Is getting back to adding more commercials the way to go? Or are there other options?



Don’t Interrupt, Engage


The fact that Netflix declined advertisement on its platform originates from the idea that viewers want to watch their favorite series undisturbed and are willing to pay for it. From a company based on subscriptions, this makes sense. They have more control over keeping viewers involved and have them binge the content they offer.


Turning this around, what if brands are like subscription-based companies? Would interruption be their only option here? Or do brands also want to create engaging content that people choose to watch, having them subscribe for the next episode and keeping them involved for next season? Will brands start creating (more) ‘Brand Originals’? Another interesting question: Will more brands enter the market of buying content too? I believe we have arrived in a very interesting era where many, many companies are searching for their gold… something valuable to attract and retain audiences. For creators in (brand funded) film, this means the cake is growing.



The Difference Between a Target Group and an Audience


First of all, brands must realize that viewers have evolved in the experience of binging undisturbed. This means, if you want to reach these rather spoiled streaming viewers, make sure you do it right and engage with the current audience’s mindset, instead of interrupting them with your message.


A first step is to realize you’re not trying to reach your target group, but you are in it to attract and engage an audience. A target group and an audience are two different things. Focusing on a target group is a rather selfish approach of brands. They decide who they want to reach with what message and they pay other companies to get it done. However, an audience decides for itself if it wants to be your audience. When you’re in brand film you don’t want reach, you want an audience. Having an audience is worth much more than reach within your target group.


Don’t worry, you can still use your persona, target group or other description for the media buy and distribution of your trailers. But the actual content, the film or series, should be focused on your audience.



Examples of Audience-Based Content


At Cannes Lions I’ve seen the best of the best in brand film. Still, only a few really reach the Hollywood level of engagement with its audiences. Most of them are great short films that are made to interrupt and surprise. Still great films, but, apart from the award shows, most of these films don’t survive the campaign period. If we really want to change the industry, we’d want to focus on the sustainable approach. That is where I believe the future of brand entertainment lays. So, what are the options here?