Four Questions We Should All Be Asking Now
By: Dan Goodman, Bill Masterson & Danny Fishman
This year we saw a record number of NewFront presentations from companies of all shapes and sizes, including the likes of Hulu, AOL, Yahoo, PBS, CNE and Time Inc. The IAB reported 22 presentations over seven days with scores of new projects, innovations, supporting ad products and metrics to go with them — everything from The New York Times debuting its new video hub to Hulu making it possible for viewers to order pizza mid-stream. Clearly the theme this year was commitment to the original digital video industry. More companies, more brands and more creators are assigning more resources, more time and more dollars against content as a key vehicle when it comes to engaging the most coveted online audiences. This is great news for everyone vested in the maturation of the digital sector, but with increased momentum, commitment and audience growth comes a range of necessary questions as we ask, “Where do we go from here?”
Here are four questions that everyone in entertainment, media and advertising should be asking themselves now about digital content:
1. How do we act and transact? Now that the NewFronts are becoming more sophisticated, they are more than a strategic exercise in what is new in digital. Consider how to create a new habit of immediately applying what we learn in these presentations to our actions and “transactions” in market now.
2. Are we buying audience or “newness”? Even though they are called the “New”Fronts, resist a preoccupation with “never-been-done-before-out-of-the-box-breakthrough-first-of-its-kind-bitesize-digital innovation.” To get the job done, think about how to focus on what is going to work for the key audiences that you are targeting. That means considering new, breakthrough projects (we’re curious to see Bryan Cranston’s “Tightrope” series) AND ALSO returning projects with proven audiences (just like TV).
3. What is the value of enlisting Branded Entertainment vs. Audience-Driven Content? There is a role for both. Sometimes custom content, purpose-built against a brand brief, makes sense. But as the NewFronts are exposing us to the shift from “webisodes” to true audience-driven programming, there is ever more opportunity to leverage quality content for consumer engagement. Consider how the content works for you, and remember that even though there isn’t TV inventory scarcity, there can only be a limited number of the best opportunities.
4. Are we making bold choices? The more that advertisers and brands see and learn from ideas that work, the more willing they become to take calculated risks. Now that we collectively have a significant number of successful projects in the digital space as examples, the mere act of pushing forward into new ground will often inspire others inside and outside your organization to do the same. While innovation is key, we can occasionally outsmart ourselves and fail to realize that sometimes the best way to be bold and innovative is simply to get started. If you need to find new ways to engage audiences, try them. Learn. Experiment, however you can.
The strides we have made as an industry around “digital programming,” even in just the last seven years since the NewFronts began , have been astounding. It is amazing to think that seven years ago “House of Cards” was a kid’s game, an MCN was probably an acronym for a multi-cultural marketing effort and if you were on Xbox, you were most certainly playing a game! Coming out of this year’s NewFronts, it is clear that with 52 million Americans now watching original digital video each month audiences have fully embraced the new entertainment paradigm*. So only one question remains…will you?
*Source: IAB, 2014
Led by partners Dan Goodman, Bill Masterson and Danny Fishman, Believe Entertainment Group is a New York-based digital entertainment company that produces high-profile content in partnership with elite talent and leading brands through a variety of digital outlets such as web, mobile, VOD and social media. BE’s recent, ongoing projects include the breakthrough animated series “The LeBrons” with two-time NBA champion LeBron James, “In the Booth,” a behind-the-scenes series with world-famous DJ/Producer Tiësto, “Money Where Your Mouth Is” with Jay Mohr on Hulu and Hulu Plus, and “EpicEDM,” the first studio-originated content series designed specifically for the Twitter platform. Believe Entertainment Group’s partners have been called “early movers who have been at the forefront of the digital entertainment industry” by Fast Company. Variety recognized them for having “built up a track record of bringing top talent to the digital space,” and TIME credited the studio for delivering “Hollywood-quality entertainment” direct to digital.
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 Source: IAB, 2014