When it comes to branded entertainment, Claudia Cahill is the ultimate all-star.
As the President/Chief Content Officer of Omnicom Media Group and the Founder of The Content Collective, Cahill has pioneered fresh ways to incorporate brand messaging into scripted, reality, and original content. She has been an integral part of many of the most innovative branded entertainment campaigns in recent years, including Pepsi’s hugely successful integration with Fox’s Empire.
Recently we chatted with Cahill to learn what advice she has for marketers looking to succeed with branded content and to find out which trends in the space she’s watching closely.
Check out the full Q&A below:
Q: What is your background and what is The Content Collective?
A: I started in this business when hanging a banner on a stage at a music concert was the way to communicate brand attribution – so that tells you how long I’ve been doing this. And I’ve never really deviated from that intersection between brands and the entertainment industry. It’s what I’ve done my entire career, and I have evolved as the space has evolved.
The Content Collective is Omnicom Media Group’s entertainment and content marketing practice. We span all three agencies – OMD, PHD, and Hearts & Science – and work with some of the most progressive companies in the space, including ones like Intel, Pepsico and AT&T that are directly involved in the entertainment business.
Q: Starting broadly, what do you think the difference is between bad content and good content?
A: There is so much content in the market now; it’s just overwhelming. And so, put simply: good content is something that consumers want to see.
It cannot be forced. It cannot be inauthentic. It has to make sense for a brand to be participating in content, whether that’s something already popular or something original being created. There must be a reason for the brand to be there.
Q: What major changes are you seeing in 2017? Which content trends stand out so far?
A: That’s what keeps me excited to come to work every day: things change so fast.
Look at all of the of the streaming and OTT services now: Amazon, Netflix, and Google YouTube, etcetera. They’re changing the television industry.
And mobile is transforming content as well. Mobile content – not ad content but scripted, short form, high production quality content for made for mobile specifically – is going have a major impact. Jeffrey Katzenberg recently announced his new company, WndrCo, and if you take a look at what they’re investing in you can see how important content development for mobile is becoming.
Also, there’s data. The more consumer data that we have access to, whether it’s third-party or it’s through our clients, the better it is for developing ideas and determining what will be successful.
Finally, we all need to continue to think hard about cross-platform and how to reach consumers where they are with things that they want.
Take our program with Pepsi and Empire. It’s a great example of what we do. For that brand, which is all about relevance and pop culture, we created a holistic and comprehensive program around the cultural phenomenon that is Empire. The core was about music and music discovery, so one element involved creating a social series that tied into Pepsi’s Sound
Drop platform. There were a number of scripted integrations in the show – supported with executions on Shazam as well as other partners – and it was a huge success. The numbers are incredible: more than 125 million views for the social series and the visual album that was created. That shows that a one-size-fits-all approach is not what is going to move brands forward.
Q: Any learnings from the Pepsi experience? What are the keys to making that sort of program successful?
A: Every year we do a big event called the Final Front, which is basically an idea auction. A number of our media partners present ideas that are exclusive to OMG clients, and our clients bid on the opportunities.
One of the shows that we put up last year was Ron Howard’s and Brian Grazer’s Genius. It was Nat Geo’s first big scripted series and it featured Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein. Our client, GSK, loved the program but it was a challenge: how do you take brands like Excedrin and Sensodyne and integrate them into a period show?
What we did was work with the creators to understand how they wrote the story and how they brought the idea of genius to life. From that we were able to develop beautiful content using CG and animated assets from the show that had the science of these brands at the center of the message. It was amazing work that aligned to the core of the show and also met GSK’s needs.
The learning from both that program as well as the Empire experience is that you have to
have conversations at the right level.
Empire is a great example: the idea of having a scripted story arc around Jamal’s first corporate commercial deal and Pepsi started with the show’s creator, Lee Daniels, and head writer Ilene
Chaiken. The leaders at the network, Fox, were on board early as well. Because of that involvement from the top, because we had conversations at the right level, it was a much easier process.
Q: Finally, as you look a bit further into the future – the next two to five years – how do you see brand content evolving?
A: Data is going to continue to make us smarter and better at what we do. Up until recently a lot of data lived in walled gardens, and there has been a shift to more democratized data. That’s going to drive a lot of the development of content.
VR and AI are also going to have a big impact. And as I mentioned before the effects of mobile are going to be massive. The impact of programmatic is also going to be important.
At Omnicom these are all already part of what we do. One of the beauties of this business is that we have access to all these cutting-edge resources and partners. We don’t need to go out and create our own VR company, we can work with the best in the business.
This year’s Final Front theme is going to be collaboration. To be successful in the media business today the silos have to come down. A lot of interesting partnerships are happening – BuzzFeed and NBC Universal, for example – and that’s what we’re trying to bring forward. We want to be able to use our leverage in the marketplace to build collaborative solutions. Those
partnerships are the future and they’re what make things so exciting.