Category Archives: Op-Ed

Brand as Art – Why Red Bull is Leading the Charge in the New Brandscape

I challenge you to put forth a better case in naming THE brand leading the charge on branded content than Red Bull. They’ve been at it for a while, so its fair to say that they’ve got a head start; but as global brands wake up to a new era of content marketing, lessons from the irrefutable leader can be gleaned from the single campaign of Stratos, featuring a death-defying Felix Baumgautner.

On October 14th, 2012, Red Bull launched Felix into the air where he rose to 39km above the Earth’s surface. With one deep breath, he jumped from the stratosphere and plummeted to the ground at 1,342 km/hr, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier without any form of engine power.  Behind the camera, Red Bull Media House brought the entire event to a global audience in real-time through a multi-platform distribution network, delivering the most-watched live stream in history.

Do It Your Way - 

The Stratos Team determined what the perfect conditions and location needed to be for the stunt. It was not influenced by where a physical audience would be (i.e. should Felix land in Times Square), what location was convenient to headquarters, etc. They waited until the weather was right, ensuring that risks of wind or storm interference were minimized. The physical goal of the mission was paramount in all decision making, which kept alignment of all supporting activities laser-focused.

Red Bull has long focused on extreme sports, many of which incorporate the attempt or act of flight. It is the right fit for the brand, a simple A to B to C relationship: Red Bull ‘gives you wings’, wings give you flight. When your team has a straight-forward litmus test asking ‘how does this program support our big ideal?’, you maintain a strategic alignment on the goal of every program.

Hedge Your Risks - 

There is no doubt that Felix’s jump took on an inconceivable number of risks. Every layer of atmosphere presents a new set of challenges, every piece of equipment could change from a protective device to a substantial threat in a matter of milli-seconds. The planning and rehearsing, the attention to detail, no point was too small to ensure it was correct.

As a brand, Red Bull realizes that every campaign should add value. It is great to experiment, but experimental programs should be taken on with some expectation on outcome. You need to build insights by thinking strategically – what do I need this program to do for me and how should I build it in order to achieve that objective? By knowing what success looks like and how we believe we’ll get there, we can minimize risk of failure.

Quality over Quantity - 

I speak for all of us when I say that I would prefer to watch the same Stratos jump 100 times than watch 100 different lesser attempts — and will also remember it long after the event has passed. The quality of the production gave us a multitude of camera-angles, layers, channels, and storylines with which to engage. Yes, this was a significant investment by Red Bull into a single ‘moment-in-time’ stunt, but the preparedness, planning and quality of stunt captured the world’s attention. I personally was quite amused when Horizons on BBC World News – developed independently by BBC World News and based on OgilvyEntertainment’s and DuPont’s original concept – was interrupted for live coverage of the stunt. This moment qualified as legitimate worldwide news!!

In 2012, Red Bull Media House shared that they produced approximately 600 hours of content. When you consider that YouTube’s latest stats boast seventy hours of content uploaded every minute, it makes 600 sound a bit low. When you select the right channels, ensure your content is desirable, inviting, and share-worthy, you reinforce the quality of the brand. It is not how much you say, it is how you say it.

If you’re lucky enough to be attending MIPTV this year, you can catch Felix and Alexander Koppel, Red Bull Media House CCO, in an exclusive MIPTV Media Mastermind Keynote on Tuesday April 9th at the Cannes Majestic Hotel. The session will also be available via MIPBlog’s YouTube channel for those who can’t make it in person.

5 Things Brands Can Learn From NASCAR

This Sunday kicked off the 2013 NASCAR season, with the 55th running of the Daytona 500.  For the better part of a week the fanfare belonged to Danica Patrick.  All eyes were on whether history would be made in the “Great American Race.”  From her start in the pole position to leading a lap in the race and ultimately finishing eighth, she did not disappoint.  There were other storylines leading into the race such as the launch of the new Gen 6 cars, Brad Keselowski’s defense of his 2012 title and the launch of the new NASCAR brand campaign.

Clint Bowyer in Rivals & Tony Stewart in Twist

Many believe NASCAR and FOX will come away from Sunday’s contest as one of the most widely viewed races.  Early overnights indicate FOX earning a 10.0 rating, which is up 30% from 2012’s race (actual ratings will be released later this week). Online, conversation on Twitter alone drove more than 31 million media impressions in just 24 hours.1

Yet as with many sports, NASCAR faces challenges in an ever-fragmented entertainment environment. It is looking to face these head-on: how to reach new audiences, deepen fan engagement via social media, amplify live events and maximize the impact of sponsorship dollars.

So what can brands learn from NASCAR’s approach in 2013?

Leverage your stars’ power – NASCAR is focusing its efforts on the appeal and prowess of its drivers.  Patrick made history multiple times over the last week, intensifying attention not only on the race but the sport itself. Her relationship with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also drives tabloid frenzy off the track.  She is one example of how to leverage star power to raise awareness of the sport. NASCAR is committing to highlighting driver personalities to appeal to broader, younger audiences, allowing them to reveal the real NASCAR through their stories.  The drivers are popular, relatable and authentic, especially when one looks back at 2012 champion Keselowski honoring his partner Miller Lite in Victory Lane.  And, well-known personalities like Jimmy Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rank among the top 10 most influential athletes in the US.  Using existing stars to amplify the brand allows any brand to increase its reach.

Connect with your fans, new and current – NASCAR knows it needs to both excite its core fans and to become relevant to new audiences.  While yesterday’s race made fans out of rappers 50cent  and T.I., as well as New England Patriots’ Wes Welker there’s more to be done in connecting with new audiences.

NASCAR regularly calls out and connects with its fans on digital and social channels, particularly during the actual race itself.  Most of the conversation around the race in social channels is with fans themselves.  And, almost 50% of communication is happening via iPhone and Android devices as evident at Daytona, and conversations around #Daytona500.Yet its current fan base skews older and is primarily Caucasian.  For the sport to evolve, NASCAR knows it needs to reach new audiences such as Gen Y, Hispanics and Youths and is working on connecting with them, on the channels where they live. This year’s race marked another first as FOX Deportes broadcast the Daytona 500 live in Spanish with the first Hispanic spots by NASCAR also being revealed.  This is in tandem with the NASCAR Mexican series race taking place this weekend in Phoenix.  Understanding future and current audiences is key for any brand to maintain and grow their fan base.

Know how your fans engage with you in digital and social – Knowing that 35% of fans engage in second screen viewing while watching races, NASCAR is placing a higher importance on that experience.  Enhancements to the Raceview product this year is one way to engage with fans during the race, ensuring they are up-to-speed on all the action.  But in 2013, NASCAR is going one step beyond in communicating and understanding their fans with the HP Fan Engagement Center, extending the dialogue with fans throughout the week beyond the days leading up to and after race day.  Knowing “where” and “how” to engage consumers is imperative for brands to drive deeper engagement.

Collaborate with your partners – The sport of NASCAR, as with many sports, hinges on partnerships and collaboration.  NASCAR is founded on a tight ecosystem of relationships, from broadcast partners to teams/drivers to tracks and sponsors.  Because of this, the ecosystem needs to bring forth a unifying message to who and what NASCAR is to reach new audiences and drive further growth of the sport.  Brands should focus on ensuring that all parts of their ecosystem are talking with a consistent voice across all channels, in essence assuring  “all ships rise.”

Showcase your unique selling points – NASCAR has many unique attributes. It’s a place where a town swells by more than 100,000 over a given weekend.  Where drivers face G-forces that rival those of astronauts.  And where no other sport can be compared to NASA, by NASA.

It’s behind-the-scenes access to its heroes that is unparalleled in any other sport.  It’s where one second can change everything – going from third to eighth, becoming popular by tweeting from inside a race car, where a friend becomes a rival (think Clint Bowyer-Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart-Matt Kenseth).  It’s not just an event; it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.  NASCAR understands that and is putting these moments and stories front and center in its communications strategy and 2013 brand campaign, being unapologetic and authentic in who they are.  Brands should do the same and celebrate their uniqueness to connect with fans.

What are your thoughts on how brands can learn from NASCAR?


1 Keyhole Real-time Tracker: #Daytona500

Lessons in Branded Entertainment

Coming from a PR background, I thought I knew what branded content was.  But then I was introduced to OgilvyEntertainment.  My first thought:  “I love entertainment!” My second thought:  “Um, what exactly do they do?”

As a member of Ogilvy’s Associates Program, I am awarded the privilege of rotating through four different areas of the agency during my first year here. After just scratching the surface on information about OgilvyEntertainment, I knew I had to satisfy my craving to work with OE while developing an understanding of what this group really does. A sought-after spot among Associates, I was lucky to be placed in the team for my first rotation. After about a month of being a member of the hard-working, hard-playing OE group, here are some insights I’ve gained about branded entertainment.

Something old, something new…  Branded entertainment is not a new phenomenon.  It has been displayed in different forms of advertising.  However, traditional advertisements often lack the innovation, expression and the actual entertainment element to be classified as such.  While strategic brand inserts into larger entertainment channels have been around for decades, branded entertainment is revolutionizing advertising as we know it…which leads me to my next insight.

It’s MUCH more than product placement.  We’ve all seen that box of cereal held at just the right angle or positioned perfectly on the counter in our favorite TV shows, effectively showcasing the brand’s pristine logo. Is that part of branded entertainment? Yes, a small part, but branded entertainment includes so much more. It is content that is interesting, captivating and draws people in to engage with the brand message, rather than bombarding them with sales pitches, while creating positive imprints with the brand involved.  (Doesn’t sound like your typical ad, right?) Hence, the name “branded entertainment.” Or, to make a long story short, product placement entails putting brands into already existing content, while branded entertainment is often original content, focusing on the brand’s key ideals.

Storytelling is key.  Every brainstorm I’ve participated in, every deck, pitch, and presentation I’ve been a part of, every project I’ve worked on during my time at OgilvyEntertainment has had one fundamental common purpose:  to discover and tell a story.  This does not mean compiling a chronological series of events beginning with “once upon a time.”  Rather, branded entertainment seeks to create content that will entertain people while highlighting a brand’s values through strategic storytelling.

Creativity pervades.  One thing is ever-presently clear working in this group: creative ideas are the launching pad for all projects!  This helps keep branded entertainment fresh and innovative – far from the traditional, formulaic ads of yesterday.  It’s the reason for the evolution of branded entertainment and the solution for annoying, repetitive, interruptive ads.

The avenues are many.  What OgilvyEntertainment is doing for its clients involves a myriad of elements ranging from brand storytelling to special event sequences, yet always showcasing an unexpected and unrecognized side of the brand. Branded content has taken shape as documentaries, short films, web series, and even music videos.  Want an example?  Check out one of the short documentaries that OgilvyEntertainment has created for DuPont.  It can be found here (  (See more here

Essentially, branded content should focus on the message and its significance to the consumer. Storytelling is the future; branded entertainment is the vehicle.


On Target: Content and Commerce

Many brands playing in the branded entertainment space do so in an experimental fashion. With minimal strategic direction or established expectations of outcomes, how is it possible to know when an experiment is successful? Because branded content is designed to reach specific consumer segments, solely relying on impressions to measure ROI just doesn’t cut it. Branded entertainment is about reaching an addressable audience. For some brands, that may be mass, but for many, it’s about real engagement with a focused audience.

We like to argue that branded entertainment can be implemented in a strategic manner, the same way any element of the marketing mix is used as a tool to drive key brand objectives. The struggle with branded entertainment is the inability to measure impact – but this can be addressed by setting goals measured by key performance indicators and strategically designing the elements of a program to capture intermediary measures against those targets.

Along this line of reasoning, it’s clear that branded entertainment can be a real driver of action, even sales. I won’t say, “I told you so”, but I pulled this line directly from our branded entertainment whitepaper launched at MIPTV in April of this year (have you read it yet?

On October 2nd, Target launched Falling for You, a short film cut into three episodes that fully integrates digital commerce into the branded content experience. Directed by Emmy award-winning Director Phil Abraham (Mad Men, Sopranos), the film features Hollywood starlets Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Nia Long (Boiler Room, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and young talent Zachary Abel (Make It or Break It, Awkward.).

A-list talent aside, the content-led program also features a sophisticated digital interface that makes the content fully shopable and shareable – all without interrupting the content experience. That’s right, housed within the same screen, products scroll by as they appear on screen and can be saved, purchased, Tweeted, Pinned and posted to Facebook, all actions triggering an automatic pause of the content. Hello, future.

On the back-end, the brand can also directly tie action, engagement and yes, SALES, to the content with the right data capture. Win-win-win.

While there is much to celebrate in this initiative, there is still some work to be done. Between the talents of Mr. Abraham and the product placement, enlisting the talents of a great product merchandiser would have ensured that screen time for products and shots were a bit friendlier to check out the Target goods (some we never see, but are suggested for the outfits – i.e. nail polish, platform pumps). I realize this is a challenging element and entertainment was prioritized above brand products, but this close to the transaction, I would argue that playing up the brand a bit more is reasonable.

Additionally, many of Target’s products are sold through their ‘Shops’, key brands as collaborative experts for style, home and other departments. It would be great to see this brand-differentiating factor brought through the content. Otherwise, it doesn’t feel like truly “ownable” content, other than the Target logos and subtle references to Minneapolis.

All in all, big kudos to Target, Space150 and Olson.

Why Your Brand Should Be More Like This Kitten

Did the photo catch your attention?

Cute kittens or animals dressed as other animals (points here for hitting both categories) can rake in major views on Buzzfeed, Pinterest, Reddit, and Instagram and they take only a few seconds to enjoy.  Whether you choose to scroll, hover, or click, visual social media sites are cultivating an audience with short attention spans, quick fingers, and a “must-see-it-all” attitude that turns a 5-minute pre-sleep Internet jaunt into hitting the pillow at 4:00am.

In Ekatrina Walter’s Fast Company article, The Rise Of Visual Social Media, she points to these websites as establishing a new set of habits for consumers that few brands have yet to fully embrace. Photographs own the ability to spread the word within seconds and avoid language-barriers, while the ease of upload allows for an increased interactive relationship between viewer and brand. Twitter took the paragraph down to 140 characters, but any Facebook users out there know that a status update isn’t nearly as thrilling (or clickable) as a mobile upload.

Creating visual content is a great way to reach the modern consumer while hitting the ultimate creator’s trifecta; this medium is quick, cheap, and easy. That said, it is a platform that favors “going viral” so a successful campaign must stem from an infallible branding concept that can hold its own no matter where it ends up in the WWW.

Check out how these brands are using visual social media to personalize their images:



Microsoft Bing

Photo credit: