Branded entertainment is here to stay

Written by Peter Gird.

Peter Gird started his career in the late 70’s and has been responsible for some of South Africa’s most iconic TV commercials for two decades. From the iconic Volkswagen TV commercials in the 80’s and 90’s, to the ‘Yebo Gogo’ ads as well as the ‘Today I woke up’ ad featuring our beloved Madiba and hundreds more. He continues his lifelong journey to find new and innovative ways to continue to capture consumers attention by integrating brands into premium entertainment on traditional and on-line platforms.


Marketing strategies are constantly evolving as consumers continue to call for the extermination of TV commercials and advertising messages.


Commercial television advertising has become cheap, unimaginative and tacky in the main, which is even more reason to get rid of the ad break and get on with the show. Consumers are screaming out, “STOP, interrupting what I want to watch!”.


Our motto at Cooked in Africa is to say to brands, “Start being part of something that consumers want to watch.”


Have we not forgotten that in the heyday of Advertising through the 80’s and early 90’s that our standard of TV commercials was not only attracting international attention, but our commercials had a measured impact on our clients brands? Why? Consumers did not have all the channels that are available to them today, but we must not forget that as advertising practitioners, our sole mandate was to entertain the consumer, give them a reward for watching our ads over others. Real creative executions that would make consumers, laugh, cry, become emotional or go crazy.


I think of the VW ‘I remember the days of our lives’ TV ad, where we travel through a father’s life to the point that he hands over his flower power VW Beetle to his son. A good example of touching emotive buttons, taking the viewer on a journey that they themselves had experienced in some way, but all along retaining a strong brand message that had consumers wanting to see the ad over and over again.


I also think of a very simple ad which touched the heart of every Mom in South Africa, where a cute little boy referred to everything he loved as, “Wedwo”, which included his dog and his Mom! This simple brand message that entertained so many people and touched the heart and minds of consumers catapulted the Redro Fish Paste brand to become market leader within months and became a household staple. It was single minded in its messaging, it gave the viewer a reward for watching, and it entertained!


Entertainment is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For the first time since my school days I took a ride on a train and observed what people did for the long commute home. Apart from the few that were on their reading tablets the vast majority were watching things on their smart phones, YouTube clips, movies, series, and the latest craze, Instagram stories. That is where we are heading. Consumers of content can’t get enough, and they want more and more, and they want it free from interruptions.


There has been so much time and money analyzing consumer behavior and how to crack the code of getting advertising messages through the multiple channels that are attracting their attention. Advertising on the Web has become ugly and ineffective. It is so much of the consumer’s life that they have an ability to bypass banner ads, popups and the like. Skipping an ad to get to the content is second nature, as consumers pay no attention to all this activity that tries to attract their attention before he gets to what he wants to consume.


Some advertisers think they have found the next best thing by creating a plethora of branded content properties for television. These TV shows play directly into the Clients ego’s by creating what is basically a very long ad, which is more irritating to the consumer than ever before!


Sadly, the majority of our population does not have the power of choice, so they watch what is served up to them, with Clients patting themselves on the back because they have good viewership.


Our approach is and has always been very different. We focus on creating multi genre premium entertainment, entertainment that would hold its own on any channel, anywhere in the world. Whether it be,game shows, factual drama’s, making delicious cakes, or original food shows. We are consistent in our execution to ensure that we are making world class entertainment first.


Only once we are satisfied with the entertainment property, we look at the possibility of integrating a brand or multiple brands into the thread of that entertainment. We believe that the brand has to be an integral part of the story and the consumer should never question why a brand is receiving so much airtime within the show. A good example of this is our hit TV show, ‘Charly’s Cake Angels’. Once we had decided to make this show, which is being broadcast by every major network in the world today, we approached Premier Foods and their Snowflake Flour brand for funding. There was no hesitation from their part and Snowflake not only gets vast exposure within the show, as flour is the key ingredient and a necessity in order to make delicious cakes. It’s as simple as that. Integrating a naturally fitting brand into the very thread of it.


But it does not end there and if it does, I would consider the brand investment a failure. Leveraging is the key to the Brand Entertainment opportunity. No leveraging, zero effectiveness. Our team takes a multiple pronged approach by creating events, writing books, using PR to the maximum, above the line promotion through TV, radio and traditional print and digital media. We have a dedicated social media team who engage audiences on all social media platforms including Instagram and Pinterest.


Brands these days are obsessed with measurability, research and data about their consumers and yet when it comes to advertising, all that information is forced on their Advertising Agencies to deliver in a 30 second TV commercial that ticks all the boxes. We have even got to the point of analyzing commercial storyboards frame by frame to determine what the frame is that will deliver.


The demise of the traditional broadcaster is upon us. The demise of television as we know it is upon us. As advertising revenue continues to plummet and audience figures dwindle, the broadcasters are scrambling to find a solution, while consumers head for the internet and all the joys that are accessible at a push of a button and at a fraction of the price.


And that, as Producers, is where we are heading. Revelations like Netflix have shown us the way, and in a year from now Netflix will be competing with ten or more similar channels fighting for eyeballs and consumers cash, free of advertising revenue.


Consumers are becoming very picky as to what they want to watch, now that they have the choice. Niche channels are popping up in their hundreds in America today. One such channel for example, is called Outside TV. If you have an adventurous spirit and you long to be on your own and travel, or do something adventurous, then this is the channel for you. For a couple of dollars, you can subscribe and watch lone adventurer travel 24 hours a day! Whether it’s lone walking, cycling, climbing, paddling, it is there waiting for you on Outside TV. And guess what, their subscriptions are sitting at 157-million subscribers to date.


Naturally fitting brand messaging is going to be one of the few options to brands in the future and it doesn’t happen overnight. Investing in properties evolves within the content, and over a period of time. Red Bull made this decision a long time ago now and they now have one of the most exciting and dynamic channels in the world today. “Extreme” was their positioning at the start and it has been fascinating to watch how their channel now offers something for everyone to watch.


Our offering at Cooked in Africa is not a quick fix for clients but is built on solid relationships with brands who are also prepared to put in the hard yards to make it work. I am proud of our association with Suzuki because when we started with them in Ultimate Braai Master, their problem was that consumers had no idea that they made cars! Motorbikes and outboard motors yes, but not cars. I believe that working together, we have definitely changed that notion, and Suzuki, as a result has enjoyed tremendous growth in the South African market.


You can analyze all you want, but if you do not have the ability to cut through the clutter of advertising messaging and the ability to capture the imagination of consumers, you are wasting your time and money.


After all, what we offer is not new, Branded entertainment has been around for years.


Think back to some of the very first TV commercials ever made… live on TV with jingle singers and all. Entertainment at its best.


I also have to look back to one of the biggest brand stories of all time. Guinness in Africa!


The creation of Michael Power, the good looking black superhero styled on James Bond was always there when trouble was lurking and swiftly, with his sharp-witted thinking and ability, jump in to solve the problem, whether people were trapped in a fire or trying to survive flood waters Michael Power was there to the rescue. These 5 to 7-minute TV ads captured the imagination of millions across Africa and is one of the biggest success stories in Guinness history.


Branded entertainment has been with us for decades and it seems that it will be with us for decades to come.