Branded content blurs the line between entertainment and advertising. Traditional marketing tactics are losing effectiveness in engaging contemporary consumers. By crafting emotive content attuned for digital platforms, marketers may reach increasingly hard-to-reach segments of the population. Take Deja View, an interactive campaign for an Infiniti car, which allows consumers to virtually interact with characters of a film.
The consumer is directed to a website that instructs him to enter his phone number in order to proceed further. After gaining access, he views a short clip of a man and woman sitting in a car, unable to remember where they are or how they got there. The woman dials her phone…and the consumer’s phone rings. He picks up, gives the woman advice, and the film continues. Deja View carries on like this, allowing the consumer to dictate the characters’ fate. More like an episode of The X-Files than a traditional television campaign, Deja View is engaging and enigmatic.
Campfire, a marketing agency that specializes in branded content and interactive campaigns, produced “Deja View” in 2014. Steve Coulson, the agency’s creative director, came by our class, Expanding Cinema: New Media, Movies and Beyond to show and discussed Deja View with us.
He described the campaign as a “multi-path movie” that strives to create an immersive experience for consumers. Interactive content, argued Coulson, must be immersive for the consumer, otherwise he becomes hyperaware of the mechanics of advertising. From this notion, Campfire has, over the last several years, built up a repertoire of engaging work that harnesses interactive marketing strategies.
For FX’s American Horror Story, Campfire generated a digital haunted house to build buzz for the series’ first season. For Harley-Davidson, they created a digital campaign to peak younger consumers’ interest in a new line of bikes. For HBO’s True Blood, they orchestrated a digital/IRL(In Real Life) campaign to generate buzz in anticipation of the first season among horror fans. What’s remarkable about Campfire’s body of work is how it deviates from traditional transactional marketing strategies. Campfire sculpts its work for the specificities of today’s rapidly evolving media landscape.
Why does interactive marketing matter in the scope of the advertising industry as a whole? Millennials. They wield immense purchasing power, but are less receptive to traditional forms of advertising than previous generations.
The generation born between 1980 and 2000 are digital natives, having grown up accustomed to digital technology, mobile tools, and the Internet. A 2012 Comscore report found that television advertising is less effective among millennials in comparison with Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Seniors.
“Millennials tend to be less interested and more difficult to connect with, capture attention, impress, convince and entertain,” the report surmises. Having spent innumerable hours plopped in front of the TV, millennials seem to have become resistant to routine commercial appeals. Unsurprisingly, digital advertising performs best among millennials.
If digital advertising is key in appealing to millennials, what do brands need to do in order to increase the effectiveness of their advertising?
1) Be authentic. Social media allows millennials to broadcast their innermost thoughts, feelings, and habits. And in doing so, millennials create online personas. It is essential for millennials to maintain congruence between their online personas and IRL selves. For example, meet Ashley, a 22-year old pumpkin-spice-latte-lover-millennial. Facebook Ashley must resemble Instagram Ashley must resemble Twitter Ashley must resemble IRL Ashley. What kind of content she posts, how often she posts, the tone of her posts, the grammar she employs, must be consistent. Otherwise, she might seem ‘fake.’ Millennials expect the same from brands. They want consistency and continuity.
2) Strong creative. An engaged audience amplifies an ad’s effectiveness. “Over half of a campaign’s impact on sales is due to creative strength,” reports ComScore. Millennials are impatient. Meet Ryan, a 24 year-old man-bun-wearing-millennial. Multitasking is compulsive, for Ryan. He’s on his sixth hour of binge-watching The Walking Dead on Netflix, while in a snapchat convo with his girlfriend, while swiping through Tinder, while scrolling through his Facebook newsfeed, while writing an essay for his graduate English course. For Ryan to stop for thirty-plus seconds to engage with an advertisement, he must have a compelling reason. The ad has to be good.
Hence why interactive marketing may be a solution for brands looking to grab millennials’ attention. Interactive marketing allows a consumer to engage with an ad, thereby building brand equity. Though television commercials still comprise the bulk of ad sales (constituting roughly 40% of all ad spending in 2015), it is impossible to ignore mobile and digital growth. Marketers must appeal to digital natives or risk losing relevancy among the soon-to-be largest segment of the American population.
Laura Divergilio is a student in the NYU/Tisch Undergraduate Film and TV Department from the class of 2017.