The Right Way For Brands To Leverage 'Event Television' Now

08 Sep 2014|Helen Firth

How much did you enjoy Monday night’s Emmys? Did you watch? Seth Meyers brought in the ratings, but are brands really maximizing the opportunities presented by “event television” to really build engagement with their audiences?

We’re all familiar with how the marketing landscape is changing and what this means for how brands should connect with us. It’s no longer just about manufacturing products or providing services and trusting people to like you. Brands now have to create inspiring content and experiences to draw audiences into their world, moving away from one-off, “push” communication to ongoing, multi-channel storylines across a multitude of touchpoints. The more generous a brand – creating content so entertaining or informative we might actually choose to watch it, rather than churning out something resembling a thinly-disguised “brandvertorial” – the more kudos it will garner.

So our question is: Does an event like the Emmys provide a compelling platform around which brands can build relevant, generous content?
Surely the first step is for the show itself to maximize relevance to TV audiences. At times, last night’s ceremony did itself no favors. It began with a round of in-jokes and industry jibes, apparently aimed more at those in the room than those on whom the fate of small screen shows ultimately depends – the viewers. And whoever thought it would be a great idea to have Sofia Vergara pose on a pedestal? This move was closer to the bad old days of “entertainment” than to winner Julianna Margulies’ enthusiasm for “a wonderful time for women on television.”

That being said, for some brands, the answer to the above question is a resounding “yes.” These brands have understood that people will always care about certain fundamentals: Powerful tales well told, the characters that inhabit them – and the chance to see those characters dress up in lovely gowns. It is an understanding of how these human obsessions can be best harnessed that has the potential to make events like the Emmys and the stories they celebrate a prime platform around which to create content.

Let’s take Audi. The brand is obviously an official sponsor, but its digital short released in the run-up to the Emmys was spot-on. “Barely Legal Pawn,” starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, leveraged the buzz around “Breaking Bad” and “Veep”’s Emmy nominations, allowing Audi to insert itself into the cultural conversation by parodying the reality TV paradigm – in this case in a fake pawn-shop scenario. The brand has clearly understood its audience and created vibrant content likely to score with them. This, in glaring contrast to rival Mercedes, whose ads during the Emmys – akin to the Sofia Vergara stunt – harked back to a time when the world was otherwise; pushing product with no attempt to leverage the platform or tie into the event through other channels.

Also making a success of the event-television opportunity was L’Oréal Paris, maximizing the red-carpet buzz around celebrity looks through a partnership with StyleHaul that was designed to drive views to Destination Beauty, L’Oréal’s YouTube channel. There, celeb vlogger Dulce Candy gives make-up tutorials on how to recreate stars’ gala glamour, not only providing relevant content that is hugely sought after by the brand’s audience, but also giving the lie to recent concerns that mainstream beauty players are losing out to niche brands and haul girls when it comes desirable video content.

The campaign from L’Oréal Paris contrasts sharply with a half-hearted effort from TRESemmé, whose instantly forgettable ad did not constitute enough presence to create news, let alone generous, engaging content. It’s true (and rather ironic) that the brand has chosen Mercedes Fashion Week as its platform.

So even as the marketing paradigm shifts, it seems event television such as the Emmys can still present a viable way for brands to engage. However, it’s vital they grasp that it’s about so much more than just placing an ad during the ceremony: Success comes when they also plan a pre- and after-party for their audiences.

This article is by Helen Firth, senior VP at Added Value, a global marketing consultancy, and was originally published by Forbes.

Image credits: Emmy Awards

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