While speaking at this year’s Cristal Festival, our CEO and founder Rob Donnell did an interview with French news publication, L’ADN, to discuss the evolution of branded entertainment, Brand Arc, and his thoughts on why collaboration is the key to creating relevant branded content.

The interview has been translated to English below, however, if you happen to be fluent in French, you can read the original interview, here .



Published on 12/19/2014 By Mélanie Roosen

A speaker at the Cristal Festival, Rob Donnell, CEO and founder of Brand Arc, a Brand[ed] Entertainment agency, reviews the success and best practices of Brand Content.

Rob Donnell is an advertiser. He began [his career] at BBDO in New York as a copywriter before joining Leo Burnett and then JWT. In becoming familiar with the digital world, he realized that content creation allows a connection between brands and consumers never experienced before. He then chose to found Brand Arc in 2004.

For him, there is no need to debate the difference between brand content and branded content.  And while there exists a plethora of definitions, he chose to keep it simple: “content, is pretty much all there is. Video, prints, radio, digital… all of these, are content. And by adding a brand, you get brand content. And that’s pretty much all there is”.

Thus, the line between it and advertising is very fine. “Advertising, at least when it’s done well, forms an integral part of popular culture”. According to him, advertising and brand content are part of the same family: the one of marketing. “And all the discussions that can be had around that are nothing more than shop talk”.

What is different is that with brand content, the targets are more precise, more defined. “We are appealing to an audience which is already captive”. One of the strengths of brand content is that it’s touching consumers who are already in their minds in love with the content, “which is hardly the case when we speak of traditional advertising”.

But one should not think of brand content as simply becoming or replacing product placement: it is important to understand [the difference between] brands and content. That is why he considers it important to have a foot in both worlds: advertising and brands and entertainment.

For Rob Donnell, the opportunities for the evolution of brand content observed over two years look promising for the future. Sectors which, in the past, attracted few to no consumers can, thanks to brand content, offer new experiences. #LikeAGirl, by Always, is for him one of the best examples. “It is always easier to create content for products that people love: cars, food… For soap or personal hygiene products, it’s immediately a new challenge.”

Finally, the keyword to success is collaboration. By combining the talents both within and outside the agency is when content becomes most relevant. “What makes YouTube campaigns strong is also the fact that people coming from television are in charge of the projects”. If up to him, he would strive for inter-agency collaboration as much as possible. While collaboration is not involved in creating the content itself, it is important to have a global vision of the plan for the brand. For its biggest client, Toyota, Brand Arc works with 5 other agencies.

Today, everybody prefers to work on content rather than on advertising, according to him. “It’s not a trend, it’s a fact”.

This is also why Rob Donnell’s own agency concentrates on various areas: media, production, creation, television…  It’s great to bring them all together in the same room”. The objective is clear: to create good ideas, well executed, with good results, whether for a business or a brand.

But you can in no way do this without the consent of the consumer, who needs to be aware that the content is being offered by a brand. “If the consumer feels duped, it’s the end of your credibility”. The controversy surrounding bloggers paid by Oreo, without this being clearly stated ( is an example of what can happen when there is a lack of clarity…


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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Media, Now & Then, Social, Work and tagged Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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