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Interview

Crane.tv's Constantin Bjerke on why ‘make it go viral’ is the worst possible content brief

19 August 2015
Crane.tv's Constantin Bjerke on why ‘make it go viral’ is the worst possible content brief

Advertisers the world over are turning to content to better connect with consumers ignoring digital advertising – but it is not a strategy that will work for every brand.

That is the message of Constantin Bjerke, founder and chief executive at UK-based fashion and arts publisher and content marketing agency Crane.tv.

Bjerke warns that, while some early adoptees will benefit from “first mover advantage”, the steep increase in content marketing will lead to the kind of “noise” which has afflicted traditional media channels.

“A lot of brands have asked us if they should start their own branded content channel, and our answer is almost always no,” says Bjerke, who will be speaking at next month’s Festival of Media LatAm in Miami.

“If every brand wants to become a publisher or entertainment channel, how much time do consumers have to watch your channel? Probably none. Looking five or 10 years ahead you will end up with the same noise that you have now [with advertising].”

Unless brands go “all in” and create a media division, as Red Bull did, most ought to be “realistic” about their expectations for content marketing. “The phrase, ‘We want it to go viral,’ is the worst briefing anyone can give you,” he jokes.

Video magazine

Crane.tv started life as a “video magazine”, offering consumers a series of short-form documentaries about art, design, fashion and film. It boasts contributors all around the world, and its content is also distributed through partners such as The Guardian and The New York Times.

The company’s founder Bjerke realised the potential to share these contacts and skills with brands, setting up a content marketing and branded entertainment division.

“We help brands be more relevant to their consumers at a time when most consumers can skip ads. We do that by focusing on the audience and telling compelling stories, whether that is on an Instagram post or a multi-episode TV show,” he says.

“We always start with who we are trying to reach, and what matters to them. Unless you can do that, no one cares. We bring access to trends, know-how, access to talent and access to production resource.

“When an ad agency calls a fashion designer, everybody thinks ‘Ooh, payday,’ but if we call, as a part of the global creative family, the conversations are totally different. We have creative credibility as a publisher.”

Content projects

Bjerke will take to the stage at Festival of Media LatAm to discuss recent content projects for Burger King and Havaianas in Brazil.

In the case of Burger King, Crane.tv teamed up with David the Agency – an offshoot of WPP’s Ogilvy – to deliver awareness about a topic to which most consumers would greet with a shrug of indifference: a new burger launch.

To mark the arrival of the Big King in Brazil, Crane.tv sought out burger fanatics so devoted to beef patties that they possessed Big Mac tattoos. The result was a content campaign boasting “full-on authenticity”, claims Bjerke.

“When was the last time anybody cared about a new hamburger launch? My instinct is that most people don’t give a shit. It is about taking what a brand wants to say, and making it relevant to what consumers want to hear,” he says.

The upcoming project for Havaianas, meanwhile, will show how a mass-market flip-flop brand that is “part of Brazilian DNA” is using content to increase market share. The campaign, which kicks off on 17 September, will shine a light on the various groups using Ipanema and Copacabana beaches – and Bjerke will reveal all the details in Miami.

Unique challenge

Brazil provides a unique challenge for advertisers, given the near-total dominance of local media giant Globo. Bjerke believes the social media “craze” characterising the market is encouraging brands to take the content route as an alternative method of reaching consumers.

“You are competing with the tried-and-tested logic of, ‘If I spend this much on Globo, I know I’m reaching 80 million people tonight, and I know exactly what that does for my sales.’ That is unique in the world,” he says.

“There is an incredibly traditional media supply side, with one big owner, Globo, and one of the youngest, most dynamic demand sides on the other hand. There is a huge opportunity to capitalise on that. Brazil is a land of opportunity and rife for disruption.”

However, Bjerke reiterates his warning about brands devoting too much time to becoming broadcasters or publishers, arguing they would be better served ensuring their own consumer proposition is as strong as possible.

“I’m not sure if [brands] need to learn more about storytelling, because they are very good at what they do – making shoes, or burgers, or cars, or phones,” he adds.

“They are not publishers, or broadcasters, or entertainers. They should focus on doing that really well, and they can come and work with us to tell stories for them.”

Festival of Media LatAm will take place at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami, from 23 to 25 September. Click here for more information on how to attend.

Alex Brownsell, London

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