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Inching Toward a Global Brand Content Economy

  |  December 1, 2009   |  Comments

Online video is going global. Here are some steps to take and companies that can help you shape your brand strategy.

Last week, YouTube executed its first ever long-form content deal with the U.K.'s Channel 4, which will bring hours of free programming to Web audiences next year. Whether this is a trial run for one big broadcaster, or a potential future move for other global broadcasters is yet to be seen. However, one thing is certain: the world of online video content (and brand content) is going transatlantic.

Every week it seems that a new announcement is being made about U.S. digital video companies expanding abroad. At the same time, brands themselves are looking for more streamlined ways to reach their global audiences.

With the latest research showing that video has outperformed rich media by 60 percent for the last three and a half years, the need to broaden content's reach across different cultures is, imminently, in the next phase for both content creators and brands. Similar to current TV practices, if a show is popular in one country, why not franchise it to another?

Unfortunately, there aren't as many standards or companies around that make globalizing online content an easy task. However, there are some steps to consider and a few established and emerging companies that can help you shape your strategy. Here are a couple of tips to get started:

Create Global Friendly Content

When considering what type of project and content to develop for a global client, the first thing to consider is content type. While scripted content and reality/live-action content will both require either heavy re-dubbing and/or subtitle captions, animated series and voice-over driven ideas will be much easier to reshape and translate across different cultures.

No longer just for a younger demographic, animated shows geared to adults, like "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," have been paving the way in TV. This format not only allows for easier language dubbing, but it also lets a brand create a face and character that can transcend cultures and ethnic stereotypes.

Lean on Global Production Partners

While most production companies that have established international headquarters are from a more traditional production TV background, a number of the bigger players are developing digital-specific expertise. Here are some to keep in mind:

  • Endemol: With internationally launched brand content shows, like The Gap Year and Get Close To, Endemol and its U.K. brand content arm, New State, have a proven track record in producing and distributing content with brands. With a global presence that spans six offices and network connections across almost every continent, it's set up to support any brand looking to go big.

  • Fremantle: Fremantle's latest creative network, FMX, is exclusively dedicated to "reaching new audiences by creating non-linear new media experiences across a variety of emerging platforms." Its most recent Internet drama, Freak, launched this past summer on MySpace and has built a nice following. While perhaps not present in as many countries as Endemol, its success at franchising hit programs makes it one to watch closely in the digital space (and partner with).

  • Filmaka: While most of the new U.S. digital studios have yet to expand overseas, the digital focused studio Filmaka launched back in 2006 as a global enterprise from the start, and continues to expand and get stronger. While its method of generating content might not be traditional, like this recent Snickers competition, the pool of talent it pulls from touches almost every part of the world. With reach like that, a brand can take one message and story and have multiple visions realized in multiple languages and cultures. Now, that's global content streamlined.

Utilize the Newest Online Tools and Services

YouTube, this past week, announced its new closed captions functionality for users. While this might be an inexpensive way to quickly broaden your reach (and is an easy add on), most projects need more than rough translations to connect with foreign audiences. But don't fret, there are even companies like the U.K.'s Mother Tongue that can take translation to the next level. Its worldwide group of writers can work with you to not just translate the text of your video spot or Webisode, but more importantly, to actually understand the culture you're writing for and what changes you might need to make to be more relevant. While this service might take more time and money, in the end the consultation and partnership can save you those "lost in translation" moments.

Consider the Platform

In addition to finding partners and services that can help you produce and stay culturally relevant, the destination and ultimate platforms your content sits across should be considered from one country to another.

For example, while India may only have a total broadband penetration of 6 percent, the total penetration of mobile devices is over 30 percent, with a projection of reaching 50 percent by 2012. In turn, a piece of content that might be right for YouTube in the U.S., or Bebo in the U.K., might actually be best served up and repurposed exclusively through a mobile partnership elsewhere.

Lastly, on the content distribution front, while the U.S. continues to lead the way on content seeding, syndication, and hyper-distribution methods, companies like GoViral and Adconion are starting to pave the way across the U.K. and Europe. It's only a matter of time before other countries start building the proper pipelines (and publisher relationships), and follow.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Beardsell

As vice president, group creative director of Digitas's brand content group, The Third Act, Christine works across all brand teams to lead the creative innovation of motion media content. She has a unique and varied set of skills that weaves media, tech, and channel smarts to inform deep interactive experiences for clients such as American Express, Samsung, and IHG. At the advent of the digital revolution, she established Digitas' Final Cut Pro media lab and has since scaled it across offices.

Christine has a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where she focused her studies on motion media, interactive design, and photography. Her work in the industry has contributed to top honors including silver and bronze Cyber Lions, a Caples Award, an OMMA Award, New York Festivals Awards, ECHO Awards, and The One Show Awards.

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