One thing brands are not known for is agility. But ITN is selling its expertise — and library of news footage — to help brands communicate their message in the context of real-world events as they happen.
The media company’s commercial production arm ITN Productions,made £24 million ($32 million) in revenue in 2015 and produces shows like the critically acclaimed Channel 4 documentary “Dispatches.” It also produces more than 1,800 Football League matches each season and syndicates tens of thousands of breaking-news digital assets like video clips and images to publishers.
Now it can slot that kind of breaking-news footage into brands’ own content marketing for a professional news feel. It began selling its services last year when it created a “real-time” digital studio, which sits within the branded-content division that makes sponsored TV shows and TV ads. Deals made with the real-time digital studio now account for half of all branded-content revenue the company makes, and it aims to double that next year.
“Brands can be quite slow at content production, and it’s resource-heavy,” said ITN Productions head of branded content Simon Baker. “Although we’ve already worked in more traditional TV-like video, we looked at the publisher model and thought we need to start applying the digital news publishing workflow for brands. We’ve done it for publishers; now we can do the same for brands.”
It draws from resources like its footage archive, ITN Source, for breaking-news footage that will resonate within client content. For bank NatWest, ITN made sure it was the first bank to react to the British government’s latest budget announcement, with its “Money Clip” video series. This included pulling in ITN Source assets including shots of 10 Downing Street that brands wouldn’t ever have access to, to pull into the footage. The brand then organized its own Twitter Q&As alongside the videos.
It also uses the ITN Studios to create professional video clips within a few hours, if brands want to respond to something fast. During the Euro 2016 Championships, it jumped on the social buzz around an Icelandic commentator who went berserk when the country won against England. They superimposed their own subtitles over the recording of the commentator to create a mock version of what the English translation was on behalf of betting brand William Hill. It created 100 videos for the brand throughout the championships.
“Taking a brand that’s worked with a big traditional agency and telling them we can produce video content within two days, even a TV commercial, to get them to move from A to B takes a lot of set-up work,” said Baker. “But once you’re up and running, it’s scalable.”
Travel giant and airline Thomas Cook was the first brand on board, and it’s now into the second year of its deal. Before the partnership Thomas Cook had published 10 videos. ITN Productions creates 170 short films for the brand a year, which have been published on its own site as well as its Facebook and YouTube pages. The content is geared at appealing to young people who like clubbing and would likely be interested in buying the brand’s package holidays for clubbers, called Club 18-30, a type of deal that had been on the wane until last year.
“It’s hard as a brand to break news. They can add a viewpoint on the news and be reactive, but you don’t always want to be doing that,” said Baker. Some of the goals with the Club 18-34 content is to seek out deals with music labels so it can find out key dates for gig tours or album releases, the kind of information it can then break on the Club 28-34 channels.
It creates around three videos a week for the brand, which get recut for different social platforms: two-minute clips for YouTube (where it’s built more than 6,000 subscribers for the brand form a zero base, with plans to grow it to 10,000) and 30-second clips with subtitles added for Facebook, where most people watch with the sound off.
Shows consist of user-generated content, footage filmed by holiday reps, topical content around fashion, local legends, and music access. “This type of audience is always connected, and we tap into their fear of missing out by showing them all of the fun of the holiday in real time,” added Baker. Its average view time on YouTube is one minute 10 seconds, and in total they’ve been viewed 15 million times across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, according to Baker.
ITN will launch a new series of regular digital shows for a brand in the next few weeks, he added.