Why brands like L’Oreal are creating their own TV shows

The Drum 25 May 2021 07:00

L’Oreal is the latest brand to experiment with producing a TV series – but can they convince commercial broadcasters and streaming platforms to air it?

L’Oreal has created its own TV show that it hopes, by season two, may be picked up by the likes of Netflix or Amazon. Pepsi, AB InBev and Nike have also been exploring their potential as production companies in recent months. Ambitious marketers have tried similar experiments in the past, but experts say the battle for original content between streaming services might finally mean brands have the chance to make it a success.

Created by the L’Oreal’s Professional Products division, the seven-episode series – called Run Le Hair Show – will predominantly target hairdressers and stylists, though the beauty company hopes it will be just as appealing to non-professionals with an interest in haircare. It’s fronted by fashion journalist Peggy Frey alongside designer Charlie le Mindu and celebrity hairdresser Min Kim, who will discuss trends, conduct interviews with people in the industry and perform ‘masterclasses’ of different styling techniques in each 45-minute episode.

“The brand’s goal is to support hair professionals with the right products and services, but at the same time help them shine by driving more clients to their salons. [It’s] a tricky balance that a TV ad wouldn’t solve,” explains Christine Milan, chief strategy officer at Publicis Luxe, the ad agency which worked with L’Oreal on the series.

After landing on the format, Milan says L’Oreal explored the idea of designing the show specifically for a streaming platform like Netflix or Amazon. It hasn’t ruled it out for the future, but for the first season it wanted to have full control of the writing and be able to highlight the brand and its e-commerce channels in a way a commercial broadcaster may have written out. For now the series will live on YouTube, while L’Oreal will also air shorter segments directly onto social platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

“The format can – and will – evolve according to these metrics, new segments can appear. It’s not set in stone. We’ll also look at business metrics, like how many direct leads were generated and e-commerce conversions,” continues Milan.

Elsewhere, Anheuser-Busch has tapped the talent of Lil Rel Howery to front a show called ‘Not a Sports Show’, which will run on streaming platform Ficto TV. In the UK, Nike partnered with Channel 4 for a documentary following a young Londoner as he’s trained by professional sportspeople to improve his confidence.

“There’s no going back to commercial breaks being the norm. There is a permanent effect of how dramas and comedies are being written without ‘act-outs’ for ad breaks,” says Mike Ferry, executive vice-president of development at global production company The Story Lab.

“Bidding for authentic, creative integration for already popular shows becomes as expensive or more expensive for brands than just financing an original show on their own to connect with a viewer on their own terms. It’s often compared to renting v owning. Why rent someone else’s space where you have little control when you can invest in bespoke content for your audience and own your place in culture?” continues Ferry.

“There’s massive competition between all of these emerging streaming platforms whose success lives and dies with splashy content. There’s a huge demand for content of all genres, and if a brand comes to the table with a great show or film, they now have something an ad-free platform needs,” Ferry adds.

“It might be true that a brand knows how to create good advertising content, but making entertainment is not the same as creating a brand campaign,” says Wattpad’s head of brand partnerships Chris Stefanyk.

“Commercial broadcasters are appreciative when brands and partners bring marketing power to the table to support the success of the series or film. For example, Wattpad markets and promotes all adaptations back to the existing built-in audience on our platform – a community made up of 90 million people worldwide.”

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