Wattpad is inviting brands into the producer chair of its original content

The content-creation platform introduces Wattpad Brand Originals to develop branded TV, film, audio and digital media projects.

This story originally appeared on Media in Canada.

As consumers spend more time in ad-free environments, Wattpad is providing brands and advertisers with the opportunity to get in on its increasingly successful content production ventures.

The content creation-cum-multi-platform entertainment company announced the launch of Wattpad Brand Originals today. A division of Wattpad Brand Partnerships, Brand Originals will develop branded TV series, films, podcasts and digital media projects based on hit Wattpad stories.

The new initiative matches brands with Wattpad creators and their Gen Z audiences, putting brands “in the producer seat next to us,” Aron Levitz, GM of Wattpad Studios in Toronto tells MiC.

Since 2016, Wattpad launched Wattpad Studios as a way to further monetize the content on its site and turn its most popular stories into new IP. Levitz points to some its most successful, non-branded initiatives like After (2019) and its sequel After We Collided (2020), which were both released theatrically globally, on VOD and Netflix, and after its 2020 fall theatrical run, After We Collided is on now available on Netflix Canada (with third and fourth sequels reportedly greenlit). Over 1,000 Wattpad stories have been published as books or adapted for TV or film to date.

With the launch of Wattpad Brand Originals, brands are partners in the productions, he says, noting that while being able to reach Wattpad’s Canadian audience (1.6 million people, largely in the Gen Z demo) is appealing to brands here, that’s not where the real value lies.

“What’s the ROI of The LEGO Movie?” Levitz asks. “There is no doubt that being part of pop culture has a different ROI than simply buying TV ads.”

In other words, CTRs and like-minded conversion rates, along with other ROI/ROAS discussions should consider the revenue a Wattpad Brand Original project could generate on its own merits, outside of being a branded content initiative. Chris Stefanyk, head of brand partnerships at Wattpad, adds that while Hollywood-level film and TV projects seem to be what they’re striving for, the scope of branded content opportunities span audio, podcasts, shorter digital video formats, all the way up to feature films and TV series.

Levitz and Stefanyk both acknowledge how difficult it can be to navigate attempts to develop content with brands that tell a story, versus more overt branded content that comes across too much like an ad. But the two work together, Stefanyk says, to help brands figure out what story they want to tell, and how.

“That’s where we play the biggest role,” Levitz says. “One of the biggest things we have to understand is why do you want to tell stories? And once we’ve figured that out, we can work together as brilliant creative partners.”

Wattpad Brand Originals also works with brands and their agencies to provide distribution and broadcast amplification support for all of its projects on top of the platform’s built-in audience, including on- and off-platform advertising, publicity, engagement with entertainment press, and more.