Unbranded content – a new form of advertising or a fad?

Sarah Van Praagh is Head of PR at Euro RSCG London, the creative agency which recently won the global TED award for the top ‘ads worth spreading’ 2011, following their work with Dulux ‘Let’s colour’

Unbranded’ content seems to be gaining momentum in the UK amongst marketers and agencies alike, she writes. This is content that is visually powerful, entertaining and therefore viral but that doesn’t contain any reference to the brand or the product that it is representing.  One of the strongest examples of unbranded content is the Eurostar film, ‘Somers Town’,  created by Mother and directed by Shane Meadows.  

The film, Somers Town has no overt Eurostar branding.  The film only mentions Eurostar in small print; there are no logos on display in the opening credits of the movie and no signage of the station. Yet the station and the train form an integral part of the story, a very human story which encourages empathy from the audience.  User research conducted by Eurostar around the release of the film highlighted that people did not make any connection between the film and the Eurostar brand BUT they were unanimously inspired to go to Paris by train. 

So, did this film and the ad agency who came up with the idea fulfill its duties to Eurostar? In my view ‘NO’.  Did it sell train tickets? Who knows? Did it increase brand loyalty? Perhaps within a small group who recognised that the film was promoting the relocation of Eurostar from Waterloo to St Pancras.

The job of advertising hasn’t changed – has it?  We are hired to sell a brand’s products and services and communicate its values and ambitions through great creative.  As soon as a brand becomes seemingly ashamed of itself and deletes its logo then its intentions become unclear.  At that point you could argue that the brand actually becomes deceptive and therefore unbelievable.  On the other hand something that is worth sharing will be spread regardless of having a logo or a product in it. 

The new breed of consumer will feel trust towards an open and honest brand.  The hardest and most stimulating challenge for an ad is indeed creating content that is not only useful and entertaining but centers around a brand or product or message.

 Advertising has changed.   Ronda Carnegie, the head of global partnerships for TED said that now “Advertising is just not about selling you something. It really has to give you something back in order to reward the attention you give it.”  The web allows a brand to tell a more complex story, provide a rich brand experience and not one restricted by the 30 second TV slot, which can be used to actually humanize a brand.  This is such a great opportunity for any brand – by creating brand loyalty it enables a brand to enter into a cemented relationship with a consumer.

 Here, at Euro RSCG London we created one of the most accoladed AND unashamedly  branded films of  last year for Dulux, called, ‘Let’s colour’ .  The film became the most popular and spreadable viral on youtube and created a powerful social movement encouraging people to ‘Let’s Colour’ and brighten up grey areas with paint thus regenerating public and private areas.  Its success has been unbounded and it was of course branded ‘DULUX’. 

Euro RSCG London are sponsors of this year’s Social Media World Forum Europe 2011 Social Soiree, arguably the most exclusive and hottest-ticket social media party of the year. From 8pm on 29 March, we’ll be throwing open the bar in the chic, sophisticated surroundings of the Amika Chandelier bar, for a top-notch evening of networking, mingling and general party shenanigans.

The Official SMWF Soiree, In association with EURO RSCG London, is open to delegates, sponsors & exhibitors with a EURO RSCG LONDON  Invite, available during SMWF, 29-30 March, London.