The Return of the Soap Opera

Why I’m Not Betting Against Branded

It surprises me that CMO’s who understand the value of branded content still hedge against it. Most have it account for less than half their ad spend in the name of diversification, despite knowing it consistently outperforms the ever-changing cornucopia of programmatic choices.

Data source: Nielsen | Photo courtesy of Column Five

The reason is, they think of branded content as just another channel.

If you take two things from this article, take these:

  1. Branded Content IS the channel.
  2. Branded Content isn’t a fad. It’s not going anywhere.

Remember soap operas? Not necessarily the one’s from the 80’s, but the one’s from the 50’s? The one’s with the constant product placement and terrible production value even for the time? Those were like the the first amphibians in the {r}evolution of branded content.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The reason they came about had to do with supply and demand. During that time it wasn’t uncommon to turn on the TV at noon and see… nothing .

Even back in the 50’s nobody wanted to watch a 30 minute soap commercial. So brands created their own programming to fill the broadcasting voids in exchange for exclusive sponsorship of the content.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The medium was so new that there was an excess of distribution. It created the opportunity for brands to produce original branded content and distribute it at a disproportionate value. And while it was a good deal for both parties, it was an unfair advantage for the brands to be sure.

But as TV grew in popularity, the soap operas made broadcasters realize that women watch television during the day and they bought stuff too. Hence the soaps were priced out of the market and forced to fall in line.

The soap operas died because the networks realized the value in owning a growing audience in world of finite distribution… the ultimate unfair advantage.

It’s hard to say when YouTube “exploded” because it’s been exploding from the start and still is. But from it’s beginning, smart creators have recognized that we are rapidly headed into a post-advertising world.

They’ve redefined advertising to make it less intrusive, more interesting and better targeted. And it’s made everyone allergic to everything else.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jonsson

But this isn’t an article about why branded is better; it’s about why branded advertising is the only advertising that’s left.

Just like soap companies in the 50’s, CMOs at brands like RedBull and BMW have understood the power of creating content for their fans. And as we see the dollars begin to flow from broadcast to internet, “Television” as an isolated channel will die.

Courtesy of eMarketer

What replaces it, is a source of unlimited distribution called the internet. Only, the internet has a culture that’s different from the culture of Television. And the internet hates advertising.

But the internet loves stories…

Hence the birth of the modern day soap operas called branded content. And until someone figures out how to disrupt the internet, I wouldn’t hedge against branded.

“Safe is the new dangerous” -Seth Godin

Diversification doesn’t mean tolerating bad bets in the face of overwhelming evidence that they will only get worse. There are a variety of diversification choices within Branded. Subscribe to The Mission today and we’ll notify you when our next article Diversification in Branded comes out.


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