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Space Jump Gets Viewers. But Does Branded Content Really Fly?

Posted by Doug Garnett October - 15 - 2012 - Monday

Wave Goodbye to Branded Content Myths

Humanity loves watching the truly daring. From NASA projects to high altitude ballooning and trips around the world, my adult life has been paced by some fascinating events.

So it was with tremendous awe, excitement and fun on Sunday that my family watched the TiVO playback of Discovery Channel coverage of the space jump – where Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, lost control in a tumble, fell at more than the speed of sound, then opened a parachute and landed on his feet. (And, tested a possible high altitude emergency escape for astronauts.)

This morning we find that apparently around 8 million YouTube viewers watched the event. (Link here.) (As always…we’re not really certain what a YouTube viewer means since I can count as 15 YouTube viewers given all the devices I use.)

True to form the online advertising enthusiasts are ready to jump on these numbers as “proof” of the power of branded content. Branded content? Articles I read today remind me that Red Bull sponsored the jumper (I’d forgotten already). So, enthusiasts are taking “sponsored” and deciding that it is clearly “branded content”. Whatever.

Anyway, when it comes to numbers we need to be more skeptical.

What the Space Jump Really Proves is That Traditional Media Remains the Best Driver of Demand. After all…

We wouldn’t have known about this happening if it hadn’t been covered so thoroughly in offline sources.

The amazing uniqueness of this jump drove tremendous coverage in the news as well as online. Think about it: a normal person’s stomach turns at the mere thought of being at 128,000 feet in a small capsule hooked to balloon. Then add the idea of opening the door to that capsule, stepping outside and letting go… Real life drama beyond belief.

That drama drove an amazing amount of news coverage. That coverage was amplified by the reality that they had to scrub the attempt once and delayed everything for nearly a week – during which media hype built even further.

So Let’s All Take a Deep Breath and Step Away from the Hyperbole. What marketers need are reliable methods for getting out messages that drive demand. Is branded content one of those?

This event and its high viewership are impressive – but not for reasons of sponsorship. Red Bull grabbed a one time opportunity consistent with other activities their brand already sponsored. Oh, and from what I can tell Red Bull didn’t cut back other promotional efforts to do this.

Does This Event Lead to a Reliable “Brand Content” Strategy? Can Cutex nail polish remover (for example) learn anything from this to identify an opportunity to change everything for an online event based strategy? It boggles the mind trying to imagine an event that would garner the full-force media attention of the Space Jump and that fits with their strategy. (Please, don’t suggest they should have asked Mr. Baumgartner to remove his nail polish on the way down.)

Could Cutex build their marketing around a “branded content” strategy? Certainly with hard work and a big investment they could do some things. But, to have a reliable solution for marketing, they would need to reach the masses and remind them on a regular basis to consider Cutex. In truth, nothing suggests that they could do this reliably enough to base their future revenue stream on it.

So let’s accept this jump for the exciting once in a lifetime event it was. (He broke records that haven’t even been challenged since the 1960′s).

At the same time let’s acknowledge the truth hidden in these online viewer numbers: the opportunity to drive high online viewership (even with the support of traditional media) is extraordinarily limited.

And then, let’s go back to work – delivering solid advertising strategies leveraging a combination of offline and online methodologies. And let’s deliver reliable revenue increase for clients year after year. That’s what really makes businesses thrive.

Copyright 2012 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved


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Doug Garnett, DRTV and Technology Industry Expert

Doug Garnett is founder and CEO of DRTV agency Atomic Direct and a leading expert on innovative uses of DRTV, infomercials and other in-depth TV and non-TV messages to build brand and drive sales.

Doug has been working in and around the technology field for 27 years. After starting in aerospace, he spent 5 years selling and marketing supercomputers. Since shifting to advertising, his clients have included AT&T, IBM, Apple, Disney Mobile, Ugobe, Presto, and Netpliance.

Doug sits on the editorial board of Response Magazine, is an adjunct professor of general advertising at Portland State University, and is a member of the Jordan-Whitney Greensheet Panel.

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