The Future. As the entertainment industry prioritizes streaming above all else, advertisers have found themselves with fewer eyeballs… and fewer options. So, in order to get audiences to search for them, brands are investing in long-form narratives and docs that put storytelling before advertising. The results are already interesting and successful, which may inject Hollywood with funds for projects that would have otherwise been earmarked for commercials.
Ads aren’t welcome here
Paywalls for streaming services are keeping advertisers locked out and leaving them with fewer people to advertise to on traditional channels.
- Research firm WARC found that advertisers spent 10% less on broadcast television last year. Meanwhile, overall online video spending went up by 12%.
- Dipanjan Chatterjee, an analyst at Forrester Research, said traditional commercials have “zero credibility” with consumers.
Chatterjee says that the new goal for brands is to now invest in long-form content that “doesn’t come across as an intrusive bit of advertising, [but] feels much more like a natural part of our lives.” These movies and shows could then exist as entertainment on any streaming platform.
Put a story on it
Making long-form content for advertising purposes seems a bit cynical at first, but it has actually been a tried-and-true strategy since General Electric produced the TV show General Electric Theater back in 1954 (fun fact: it hosted by future president Ronald Reagan).
- In 2018, Pepsi co-financed the comedy feature Uncle Drew, which was an expansion of the character from the Pepsi Max commercials. It made $42 million.
- Airbnb produced the doc Gay Chorus Deep South, which played the film festival circuit in 2019.
- The Apple+ hit Ted Lasso started as promotional material for NBC Sports’ acquisition of the broadcast rights to the English Premier League.
Imagine Entertainment launched Imagine Brands in 2018 to connect companies with filmmakers. The company was behind the mockumentary John Bronco (starring Walton Goggins as the title character) for Ford, which aired on Hulu. It’s currently working with Procter & Gamble on a narrative film entitled Mars 2080 that will play in IMAX sometime next year.