Facebook cashes in on the branded content revolution

Figures released this week by Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild prove the impact that video and film has on the way people consume information and receive brand messages.

Image via Esther Vargas / Flickr; used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Image via Esther Vargas / Flickr; used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Facebook’s Q4 and annual earnings release this week provided a telling reminder of the preeminence of branded video content on marketing and communications.

According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video per day and 500 million people watch a video on the social network every day. In fact, it’s persuaded the company to test the idea of providing a dedicated space on Facebook where users just watch video.

On YouTube, which has more than a billion users, people watch "hundreds of millions of hours of video" every day. And there are more than seven billion views on Snapchat every day. Mobile is, of course, a massive driver of all of this.

Facebook posted revenues of $5.8 billion in Q4 last year, 97% of which came from advertising, or $3.60 per user. At Davos recently, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said his marketing services group spent $4 billion with Google and $1 billion with Facebook in 2015.

It’s difficult to calculate how much of this video gorging is accounted for by branded content, but an analysis of the top 10 campaigns of 2015 on Facebook by internet video analytics outfit Visible Measures showed some extraordinary numbers, with the social network’s own "What’s On Your Mind" film in top spot at over 295 million views.

Here are last year’s top 10 campaigns by views:

1. Facebook "What’s On Your Mind" (295,561,583)
2. Ad Council "Love Has No Labels" (162,105,208)
3. Adidas "Create Your Own Game" (148,356,018)
4. Wrigley’s Extra "The Story of Sarah & Juan" (126,093,427)
5.  Adidas "Take It" (113, 270,038)
6. Purina, Buzzfeed "Puppyhood" (102,664,194)
7. Air France "France Is In The Air" (88,428,160)
8. Samsung "Galaxy Note5 Official Introduction" (86,603,732)
9. Amazon "Amazon App" (77,029,734)
10. Samsung "Assemble" (76,108,853)

These extraordinary numbers speak to trends that are changing the way brands communicate and transmit their messages. The majority of the most effective campaigns now revolve around a film of some sort, whether it is a short-form Vine or Instagram post, a three-minute YouTube video, or a 60-minute brand documentary film. There can be few PR firms that aren’t now including some element of these techniques in most of their client activations.

PRWeek’s Campaign of the Year in 2015 is a great example: Always #LikeAGirl for Procter & Gamble, produced by MSLGroup and Leo Burnett, revolved around a video by filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, capturing how people of all ages interpret the phrase "like a girl."

The hashtag #LikeAGirl became a rallying cry that elicited 133,000 social mentions in the US alone. More than 76 million people viewed the video on YouTube, making it one of the year’s top viral videos. And with 4.5 billion media impressions, the message reached more than half the globe’s population.

Fantastic achievements such as this prompted PRWeek to team up with our sister title Campaign US to launch the Brand Film Festival to specifically celebrate the marketing industry’s finest efforts in cinematic storytelling across 28 compelling categories.

We are delighted to have signed up a creative as celebrated as PJ Pereira, co-founder of ad agency Pereira & O’Dell, to chair our festival jury. Pereira has won four Grand Prix at Cannes, an Emmy, and was last year named the number one chief creative officer in Adweek’s Creative 100 list.

As Pereira says, brands need to "get with the program": "Consumers are no longer at the mercy of TV networks for content. In this on-demand world brands need to stop interrupting the consumer and become the story themselves."

Our high-profile jury includes some of the biggest and most creative names in PR, marketing, advertising, media, digital, film, and production, including NBC’s Al Roker, Bungalow’s Bob Friedman, Casey DePalma from Unilever, Virgin America's Luanne Calvert, Chick-fil-A’s Ashley Callahan, ESPN’s John Dahl, Jamie Byrne from YouTube, Anne Becker from Tribeca Film Institute, and Quinn Kilbury from Heineken.

Agency jurors include Weber Shandwick’s Ian Cohen, Ketchum’s Lori Beecher, Ogilvy's Betsy Stark, Mary Scott from United Entertainment Group, BBDO’s Greg Hahn, W+K’s Colleen DeCourcy, MediaCom’s Archana Kumar, Tiffany Rolfe at Co:Collective, Huge's Kate Watts, and Mike Byrne at Anomaly.

The whole initiative speaks to the integration and convergence that characterizes modern communications and marketing and, frankly, I can’t remember being more excited about a new venture in which PRWeek has been involved.

The Brand Film Festival has clearly caught the attention of top creatives from across the gamut of disciplines, and I can’t wait to review the best work.

* Submissions will be open until February 22, 2016, after which the best work will be selected by the jury and screened at a high-profile gala in New York City on May 4 - full submission details and an entry kit can be found here. Follow the festival on Twitter at #BrandFilmFest.

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