To go beyond the standard commercial, Viacom launches branded content agency

Viacom believes it has the creative expertise and distribution footprint to help advertisers go beyond the standard commercial. So today, it’s launching the Velocity Content Network, a 20-person, in-house unit that will create and distribute branded content across social and digital platforms as well as TV.

Velocity Content Network is part of Viacom Velocity, the media giant’s in-house integrated marketing agency. The staff dedicated to VCN were among the 200 people who work at Viacom Velocity. Nearly all of them are producers with expertise in creating branded and social content, said Jeff Lucas, head of sales for Viacom.

“We’re not limiting ourselves,” said Lucas. “We are large enough to handle as much as possible, and we’re looking for this to be a major product in our arsenal.”

Viacom will officially unveil VCN during its Nickelodeon upfront, scheduled for Wednesday evening in New York City. But the company has already been pitching the offering to clients and created a few programs. “We already attach custom creative in one form or another to 85 percent of the deals we do,” said Lucas. “This is a natural progression of that.”

For 20th Century Fox, VCN developed a weeklong TV and social takeover campaign for the studio’s superhero hit, “Deadpool.” In the ads, which included 10-second intros as well as 30-second and 90-second spots, the title character played by Ryan Reynolds broke the fourth wall to deliver sage advice and other funny monologues. The ads appeared during commercial pods across MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Logo and Spike and on networks’ social platforms, including Comedy Central’s Snapchat Discover channel.

For VCN, the idea is to be a full-service content agency that uses data to determine everything from what type of content to create to where it should be distributed, Lucas said. For instance, the agency will use Viacom’s product called Viewprint, which tracks viewership and sentiment social, digital and linear to help shape the tone of a campaign as well as what type of talent to hire.

“Every VCN campaign will be customized to the client and the goals they’re trying to achieve,” said Lucas.

In creating VCN, Viacom was inspired by the success YouTube networks were having with influencer-led branded content. Rather than create yet another multi-channel network on YouTube, though, Viacom wanted to build an agency that could create and spread content across all social platforms. Here, Viacom’s reach is especially wide: The company claims its social media accounts for its networks and shows reach more than 760 million followers.

“MCNs were pretty much limited to YouTube — we don’t need to be,” said Lucas. “We are on all of the social networks; we have the TV screen. We can bring advertisers closer to our audience in a voice that’s authentic to our brands.”