Meet the new players in branded content

Two companies are entering the red-hot branded content arena with new ventures.
BRANDED CONTENT TELEVISION - Canada's Newest Industry Entrant

Could this be the death knell of the 30-second spot? While not a new concept, branded content is hot right now. So hot, in fact, that a few industry heavyweights have taken the plunge and started branded content companies, offering up entertainment concepts to brands that want to be baked right in.

“The current economic model is being challenged,” says Tony Chapman, CEO of Capital C, which is no stranger to branded content, having created programs for clients like Nissan and Pepsi. “The Canadian networks have to fund Canadian content as part of their licensing agreements. They need to create content that is engaging, relevant… Advertising revenue is declining, and filters/fast forwarding make it easier for consumers to bypass ads. It’s not that they don’t like ads. They simply want to watch content uninterrupted.”

So Chapman is dipping his toe further into the branded content pool with a new venture called, fittingly, Branded Content Television (BCT).

Carmen Lago, former director of brand partnerships at Bell Media, will head up the venture, with Chapman on board as a BCT advisor and investor.

BCT, headquartered at the Frantic Films office in downtown Toronto, will create original multi-platform content that incorporates client brands into the storyline. The company will also work with brands to package content and negotiate media deals to increase ROI through non-traditional media buys.

Lago has plenty of experience in the branded content arena, having worked on programs at Chum with Cityline, and more recently at Bell with shows like Grey’s Anatomy by doing on-set vignettes with HomeSense.

She says BCT will have a flexible model and a 360 approach: “It doesn’t have to necessarily start with the network; we can create content [or] we can have a brand come to us. We will satisfy the need with whatever model we feel best suits the brand, network or distributor,” she says. “[It extends to] social media and goes all the way through the chain to retail where you’re at the end of the aisle with a display. It’s the head-heart-hand approach.”

BCT’s first co-development deal is for Totally Disorganized Woman with Out There Productions, starring Melissa DiMarco, with more co-development productions to be announced in the near future.

Also entering the branded content ring is Cue Digital Media’s David U.K., who has launched a branded entertainment venture, Bent, to deliver next-generation content on all platforms, not just digital.

“I’ve been doing branded content for Cue for many years; I really believe it’s past the tipping point,” says U.K. “It’s at the point now that it needs its own hub, its own life, its own entity.”

The company partners U.K. with ex-Chum Television exec and Hercules Media Group’s Stephen Tapp, advertising veteran Christopher Grimston, and writer/director/producer James Hyslop.

Bent aims to produce content across all platforms, whether long or short format, reality, animation, factual or theatrical.
The upstart company will also provide one-stop creative development to production servicing for a range of clients, including ad agencies, brands, broadcasters and publishers.

“We want to talk to media agencies that have clients looking for ideation and innovation,” says U.K. “[and] creative agencies that are already outsourcing this to prodcos – [We] can understand their ideas and take them to fruition and execution – [as well as] brands who don’t have agencies who rep them. And we want to talk to the Canadian industry – the print companies, TV companies – a lot of them are outsourcing their branded content initiatives so they can create environments to sell to their advertisers around, and they’re also looking to develop video, because honestly, it’s in short supply, and Canadian broadcasters and publishers are starving for video.”

With files from Danielle Ng-See-Quan and Etan Vlessing