Dads: a branded documentary by Dove

Brand films that tackle the true values of a brand can make a real impact.

We’ve talked about it here in the past, brand documentaries can be a really interesting and valuable investment for a brand.

More often than not, a documentary project can be leveraged over a very long period of time and if properly produced and planned, can be almost evergreen.

At the 2019 edition of the Toronto Film Festival, Dove premiered “Dads”, a documentary that focuses on what fatherhood means to dads across the globe, including celebrity fathers like Will Smith and Conan O’Brien.

This initiative is part of Dove Men+Care’s campaign advocating for paternity leave.

In an article published by Strategy, Leslie Golts, senior global marketing manager for Dove Men+Care, mentions that for almost 10 years the brand has been reaching out to men to define how care is an important aspect of “being a man”.

Bryce Dallas Howard directed the film, daughter of Ron Howard, who co-produced the film along with Dove.


Would you like to discuss your potential brand documentary? Let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Why you should think like an entertainment company

Entertainment companies are constantly monitoring upcoming content formats. You should do it too.

In the words of a Netflix executive: “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite much more than we do with HBO.”

Netflix has 149 million subscribers. Fortnite has 250 million.

Any entrepreneur will tell you, competition can sometimes come from a blind spot that you hadn’t planned to explore.

The same can happen in the content formats that your brand produces, publishes and distributes.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, Mark Purdy and Gene Reznik explain how companies should look at how the entertainment industry is evolving so that they can keep a constant watch on how consumers’ and customers’ attention is captured and kept.

They highlight the notion of convergence of content, gaming and interactivity.

From Starbucks to L’Oréal and Walmart, many brands are exploring, monitoring and testing new content formats such as virtual reality, augmented reality, haptic technologies, the Internet of Things and the development of in-house content studios.

If the beginning of the 20th century saw the convergence of text, sound and images, the 21st century will be at the heart of a new phase of convergence that will be even more complex and important.

Far be it from me to suggest that your brand should go all-in into virtual reality, but what is happening in this specific stream of production and development (and the others mentioned above) will surely set the stage for the next great advances in content and storytelling.

How do you keep your teams well informed of upcoming content developments? How does your brand ensure that it has a pulse on the next major trends that will capture and maintain the attention of your customers and consumers?

If you want to develop a monitoring strategy for your brand, contact us and schedule a free consultation with our experts at Toast today.

Fortnite + Marshmello

The latest examples of branded content take the model even further.

In your circle of family and friends, you probably know some Fortnite players. This phenomenon of massive online multiplayer gaming is not about to end!

Epic Games, the company behind this success, aims to transform what is currently a game as we know it, into a communication platform, a huge social network. Fortnite is currently the main means of communication for many young people.

For the older ones in the room, Epic Games seem to be working on recreating Second Life, which could very well work this time, without really wanting to do so initially.

The Fortnite brand recently created content for its player base, content that attracted more than 10 million players at the same time for the event.

10. Million. Players.

How did they do it? They invited, in the game environment, a very, very popular EDM (Electronic Dance Music) artist these days: Marshmello.

If only you knew how this excited my 8-and-11-year-old boys…. (However, we could discuss the dimension of advertising to children in another article.)

The artist did a ten-minute concert, live, which is now also (obviously) possible to watch on YouTube. At the time of writing this, the entire concert had accumulated more than 27M views on YouTube alone.



This is an excellent example of a brand that knows its audience very well and uses an influencer as a lever for co-creating content that will enhance it and demonstrate its ability to “connect” with its consumers.

All this in a game where dance is a key attribute of the online experience. So who is the best floss dancer among you? Yes, floss comes from Fortnite.

This example is taken from a very interesting article by David Bloom on Tubefilter that summarizes a recent panel on brand content that took place as part of Digital Entertainment World 2019.

Bloom goes into a little more detail about this Fortnite+Marshmello example, but also describes several recent examples from Microsoft, Fandango, Dollar Shave Club and some others.

So how could you use your own brand as a content lever for your audience?

If you would like to explore the content potential of your brand a little more, contact us and let us know about your current projects and we could assist you in your efforts to implement a new dimension to your content strategy.

Blade Runner 2049: The non-evolution of product placement

The world of Blade Runner has changed between 2019 and 2049. Product placement also has between 1982 and 2017.

There’s something off in the way product placement is done in Blade Runner 2049.

It’s Abe Sauer from Branchannel that piqued my curiosity and made me realize that what seemed so futuristic in the first film, sky-high billboards, the ubiquitous presence of advertising, was very new in 1982 and gave a real feeling of discovery, and even a little craziness on the part of future brands towards consumers. A too-big-for-this-world presence of Pan Am, Sony and others.

This brand presence served two things, on one end it wanted to show a future where brands would be everywhere, 24/7 and in a very interruptive manner, but it also served the production, helping finance it.

In 1982, there was something new about it, both for the future and the present.

Let’s jump to 2017. A very similar recipe was used in Blade Runner 2049. Brands that are really front-and-forward (some are the same ones from the first film, and even one which doesn’t even exist anymore: Pan Am), interruptive and pervasive.

But something’s just a bit off.

In the 2017 film, there’s this impression of bad product placement. An impression that the product placement isn’t integrated well enough into the storytelling. We see it and notice it just a bit too much.

What happened is that we, the consumers, have evolved.

Our advertising radar is sharper than 35 years ago and I often say it, many of us have become allergic to traditional advertising.

Integrating a brand into a story, in 2017, cannot be done the same way it was done in 1982, the consumer has changed too much and his acceptation level for how much a brand should be present in entertainment content also.

I invite you to read Abe Sauer’s article, his analysis of product placement in one of the great films of 2017, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you believe your content strategy might be stuck in the past, with initiatives that might need a reboot.

A New Era of Brand Storytelling with Netflix

Traditionally, brands have taken a cue from entertainment and applied it to its own storytelling. Are we about to see another chapter of this?

Netflix has just released a new type of series that pretty much only them can do, as they are not intimately tied to cable or traditional television formats.

Puss in Book” is leveraging not only the popular character, but also integrating interactive storytelling elements to it, much like what we had in the 80s with the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books.

Why do this? Everyone can be pretty much certain that such an interaction between story and viewer will create deeper engagement, and that is something that will make brand marketers look up and see if they can also leverage this.

Interactive storytelling is not new, but seeing Netflix trying it out is very interesting on multiple levels.

Chris Wren from Branding Strategy Insider wrote a very interesting piece about the series and its implications for brands. It dives into the logic behind it, but also ethics about screen time and artificial intelligence.


How to produce branded films

“A 2016 study by Nielsen revealed that high-quality branded content is far more effective in terms of brand recall and lift than advertising.”

How many branded films have you watched in the past few months? By branded films I mean high-production value content, longer form (let’s say over 5 minutes), that has either that documentary or feature-film feel to it.

Not that many, heh?

Well, there are many that are being released every month but not many end up in your inbox or in one of your feeds.

This is because either the distribution was not thought out properly, or the content and script itself didn’t resonate with the audience. And if it didn’t resonate, it can often be because many of them just feel like longer ads.

PRWeek published a great article on the criteria of success of brand films and what can really make (or kill) a production.

Here is what Manuel Sattig, head of brand strategy and communications at BMW of North America, had to say about their approach to brand films:

“Don’t put your usual brand umbrella over a project like this. When you start briefing directors, script writers, and even actors very specifically about your brand values and how you want everything to be perceived, you’re really moving away from branded content. You’ll just end up with a longer TV spot that you designed by yourself.”

And he added:

“As a brand, you have to get away from the usual rules in terms of what your product has to look like, how it can be treated, and how it can be displaced, if you really want to create authentic branded content.”

Paul Trillo, an award-winning director that has recently worked with Olympus, mentioned the importance of brands being able to “get weird”, not play safe. This is key in creating a viewing experience your audience will remember:

“To some degree, brand films that go viral aren’t safe; there has to be something kind of new, unexpected, and even bizarre about it.”

And then there is the question of the brand’s place in the end result. How front-and-center should it be, how should its products be featured? In the end, the production’s goal is to be able to create a brand recall between the film (the experience) and the brand. So how should we do it?

Well, this can vary a lot. And I think P.J. Pereira, chief creative officer and cofounder of Periera & O’Dell, says it well:

“For a brand film to be successful, the audience needs to feel that this is a legitimate and honest attempt to entertain or inform. Because if you overplay your hand as a brand, you kill the content and people start to say, ‘This is just an ad.’”

And this is where, at Toast, we believe that your branded content production should not be put directly in the hands of your advertising agency. So many variables differ from the traditional production process of advertising that different creatives and producers are required to create the experience your brand deserves.

So until you give us a call (why not today?), I will let you read this great article over at PRWeek.

Unbranded content: Chipotle produces a series for kids

Chipotle promotes its core values to 7-to-10-years old in a 6-episode series.

The brand has been known for making bold branded content moves in the past. They were applauded for their “Scarecrow” film in 2013, and then with “Farmed and Dangerous” in 2014.

Both these previous efforts were focused on promoting the importance of fresh ingredients, responsible farming, etc.

This new series, “RAD Lands”, targets a younger demographic, an audience they haven’t advertised to directly in the past: preteens.

The story takes place in space with a team called the Cultivators, whose aim is to save the galaxy’s animals and plants. It also includes segments with musicians and celebrity chefs.

It is all about promoting the brand’s core values: fresh food, fresh ingredients, responsible farming.

Chipotle will be promoting the series through a paid advertising campaign, aimed at families, and will not promote the series in its restaurants.

What do you think about this campaign/series? Any brand’s marketing aimed at kids always raises an eyebrow, but is it done properly this time?

I invite you to read Advertising Age’s article on the project.

Popeye, the symbol of accidental content marketing

Scott Aughtmon is a writer, business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist and speaker. In an article published on, he explains how the character, Popeye, has become the emblem of accidental content marketing.

Popeye gave the urge to eat spinach

Created in 1929 by the American Elzie Crisler Segar, Popeye has been a favorite for several generations. The character has the characteristic superhuman strength when eating spinach. Moreover, he uses and abuses this vegetable champion in vitamins and iron to get out of delicate, but humorous, situations. The first time Popeye made his appearance, America was in a state of depression.

Amazingly told by the author, watching old episodes of Popeye has given him the urge to eat spinach. Better still, after a few searches, he realized that he was not the only one to have craved spinach after watching an episode of this old cartoon.

Sales of spinach increased by 33% across the United States

This phenomenon is intriguing enough to take a close look at it. We soon learned that sales of spinach had increased by 33%, while the whole of America suffered from a crisis. Aware that Popeye was no stranger to this impact, Crystal City in Texas, and Alma in Arkansas, each erected a statue of the sailor. These two communities are specialists in the cultivation of spinach.

Even more incredibly, the Popeye image continues to work for this vegetable today, as sales are still going strong, and companies are surfing the tidal wave of popularity. The cannery, Allen Canning, produces and decorates its canned spinach with the image of Popeye. Another example is Pope Fresh Foods, whose fresh spinach bags feature the photo of the pipe-toting sailor.

Is it a coincidence, or a disguised attempt to manipulate consumers?

Faced with such a situation, it is wondered in some circles whether the increasing consumption of Popeye spinach is not a perfectly timed marketing blow. Surprising as it may seem, it is not, and the character was not created by the spinach industry. It was not created either to help sell spinach. In fact, the tinned sustenance was chosen a little by chance, perhaps because it is a source of vitamins and iron. Finally, it can be plainly seen that the fall in prices of spinach at the time did not in any way favor the economic crisis of 1929.

Popeye had an accidental but happy impact on the spinach industry

Since his appearance, Popeye has increased the popularity and sales of spinach in the United States, albeit, not intentionally. Nevertheless, the phenomenon exists, and it is explainable. It is not a matter of advertising, but of content.

The creators of Popeye have created extraordinary content, in which spinach restores strength in every episode. Without knowing it, they accidentally generated entertaining content, a particularly powerful element in content marketing.

How to create content marketing that impacts your niche?

Content marketing is a powerful tool used to reach a specific market. In order to benefit from its effectiveness, several essential factors must be taken into account:

  • Quality of Content
  • Its innovative and entertaining character
  • Its self-sufficiency
  • The subtlety of the message when it comes to selling your product or service

Quality of Content

By leveraging quality when you create your content, you allow it to self-sustain.

Innovative and entertaining content

Your content should attract and entertain your targets. Take the time to create something new, which has never been seen before.

Sell, but subtly

Many marketers prefer the product or service to sell, to the detriment of the entertaining facet. But entertainment is essential, even more so than marketing. Balance your content subtly, as has been the case with Popeye and his spinach.

Entertainment giants practice this form of content marketing

Did you know that Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Universal Vivendi, Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and Sony are all practicing this subtle form of content marketing? Moreover, we are talking about 7 rules of content marketing. It is by privileging their audience, but also their content, that these magnates of entertainment place their products, all smoothly.

Communication leaders diversify the channels through which they broadcast their content, as well as the format of the content. To quote the example of Viacom, it was thanks to exceptionally effective content marketing that the company managed to take advantage of Howard Stern.

Viacom and Howard Stern

  • Howard Stern’s audio program features 50 Infinity radio stations owned by Viacom
  • The Howard Stern television show is broadcast weekly on a channel owned by Viacom, CBS
  • The autobiography of the self-proclaimed “King of all Media” was published by Simon and Schuster, owned by Viacom,
  • Paramount Pictures, owned by Viacom, produced the film based on this autobiography,
  • The DVD of the film is distributed by Blockbuster Video, a subsidiary of Viacom

How to make your content entertaining?

Since it is a question of privileging its audience and its contents, Scott Aughtmon drew up a list. It includes the types of content that are generally the focus of consumers. This content must be calibrated for:

  • Push to enjoy life, remember that nothing is impossible
  • Make us want to surpass ourselves, remember that every person counts
  • Emphasize the importance of forgotten or neglected elementary notions
  • Tell a story and that ends unexpectedly
  • Make people dream, and encourage them to take action
  • Make them laugh or smile in surprise; provoke tears of sadness or joy
  • Reveal secrets; encourage; remember that each is unique in its own way
  • Say that there is always better; confirm our aspirations; challenge them
  • Educate through entertainment
  • Show that the physically weaker can beat the stronger
  • To give an innovative perspective on banal things

Take into account any of the above, and your content will be quality, self-sufficient, entertaining and innovative.


Image : Shutterstock

Beyonce goes all in on video with new album

Beyonce’s new album launch is all about a 60-minute film. 

I’m not teaching you anything when telling you video is all the rage at the moment. Brands, media, sports stars, music celebrities are all considering how to integrate a video component into their approach.

One of the recent big hits in video and storytelling is Beyonce’s new album “Lemonade”.

Of course, she was all over social media to tease her fans about the album (back in February, she posted a trailer for the album on Instagram), but the big reveal, at the end of April, was a 60-minute film that combines music, dance and storytelling. A visual album.

It has a story, it has a narrative arc, it is all about the experience of black womanhood. It is not a sequence of music videos. True storytelling.

Is the album a film? Is the film an album? Is the film video marketing for the music? Is the music supporting the film? This is where things get intertwined into intellectual property bigger than any of its platforms.

One article about “Lemonade” I enjoyed was published over at Vox. It details the publishing platforms on which the film was made available (and then not, you’ll see why).

When reading this article with the angle of a video marketer, it gets really interesting as you can see how Beyonce’s marketing team is trying to steer fans from one platform to others through exclusivity deals and such.

This is a one-hour-long film, available pretty much only through streaming, aimed at a younger crowd who is without doubt keen in watching long-form video content on mobile devices. Think about it.

In my book, Beyonce gets “it” with “Lemonade”.


Saturday Night Live to cut 30% of ad time

SNL cutting two commercial breaks and creating branding opportunities in its content.

The show is preparing to enter its 42nd season. Clearly an IP that has demonstrated it can reinvent and adapt itself throughout all those years.

This year, part of this renewal will be done through a 30% cut of ad time, replacing it with content. In that wake, NBC will offer marketers the possibility to produce content to be integrated into SNL, but only 6 times a year.

There is currently a joint effort by the TV industry to make the viewing experience more pleasant to viewers by reducing interruptions and integrating brand messaging into the content.

It is directly in this trend that Toast acts as a television producer. How can we, in a concerted effort with broadcasters, improve the experience for consumers?

AdWeek sums up the situation very well in an article where they discuss with Lorne Michaels, executive producer of SNL, and Linda Yaccarino of NBC Universal.