Branded Appeals Must Respect to Connect

NEW YORK Successful branded content must “respect the audience” if it hopes to differentiate itself from traditional advertising clutter, advised Jon Kamen, chairman and CEO of @radical Media, at the Museum of Television and Radio here this morning.

The presentation was the second of a four-part Advertising Week series sponsored by CBS Radio called “Radical Connections.” The series focuses on various ways to interact with audiences in an era of fragmented media.

Using several of his own productions as examples, Kamen illustrated the many ways advertiser-created content could connect with and entertain audiences. The centerpiece of his 90-minute presentation was Battlegrounds: King of the Court, a six-part series @radical produced in conjunction with Nike and Wieden + Kennedy for MTV.

The show, which ultimately ran more than 60 times on MTV networks and attracted more than 7 million viewers, followed the recruitment and training of two amateur basketball teams, one from Chicago and one from New York, culminating in a single-game showdown to determine which city deserved bragging rights on the court. Starring National Basketball Association player LeBron James, the show sold 250,000 DVDs, spawned its own line of Nike “Battlegrounds” products and attracted more than 10,000 fans to the showdown game itself.

“Radically connecting means engaging, not bombarding, not tricking them into watching something,” said Kamen. “If you’re going to produce content, produce something that engages [the audience] to stay with it.”

Kamen said the original concept for the show lacked back-stories for the players and coaches, which rendered it too similar to traditional advertising. It was the players’ backgrounds and struggles that provided a story arc and ultimately made the show a hit, he said.

He said any kind of content that failed to provide such essential elements did not show respect for its audience. “There is a new standard beyond Nielsen,” he said, referring to the ratings company owned by Adweek parent VNU. “Are we entertaining the audience?”

“The concept of respecting the audience is going to become a very critical one,” he said.