The Rise Of Live Branded Content At New York Fashion Week

/ Feb 12, 2016


This week is New York Fashion Week, and the legitimacy of the event is being called into question more than ever as consumers don’t want to wait six months for the clothes to be available in stores. Social media allows instant distribution of new looks, which editors and print outlets previously sat on for months, so Fashion Week has now become a live-digital event.

Similar changes are discernible in the live event marketing arena as a whole. Digital video distribution, powerful smart phones with built-in cameras, live broadcasting, the rise of blogger and amateur-created content, along with social sharing, often elevate a branded event from the local to the global stage; from a live moment into the long tail of digital. In response, brands are creating branded events designed to live both in a specific place and time, but also to reverberate through the echo chambers of digital. Branded events have become branded content. PR agencies have become producers.

Nobody gets that better than Kanye West who, at Fashion Week, performed, dropped his new “Wave” album and usual provocative tweets, all on the same day as his fashion show, which was a PT Barnum-style extravaganza. Last season Cadillac partnered with Public School to airlift a new XT5 onto the runway. In each case, live events are sliced up and served in different audiovisual formats for different platforms – two-to-three-minute videos on YouTube, six-second Vines, stills, slow-mo or boomerang on Instagram, programmed “stories” on SnapChat.

Outside the world of fashion, brands are not only extending live events into long-tail digital, but translating that attention into sales (or donations). Brands are doing thismnot only at their own events, but capitalizing on the events of others. Here are a few examples from recent memory:

The Marathon Walker: Water For Africa used the Paris Marathon to showcase the plight of water carrying mothers in Africa. After generating international press, the charity converted that attention by driving viewers to a donation site, where they could watch a video of the same lady walking to her local well in Africa.

Whatever, USA: Bud Light created a new town for the sole purpose of having a big party in it. Over the course of a weekend, live events and celebrity performances went down on Catalina Island and were pushed out on the brand’s social channels with some content even making their Super Bowl spot.

Nazis Against Nazis: Germany’s Center of Democratic Culture turned an annual neo-Nazi march into a multimedia campaign and donation drive for an anti-Nazi educational program.

Dallas Gas Station:  To promote their remake of “Dallas,” TNT opened an actual gas station in New York at cut-rate prices, leading to blocks-long congestion. Characters from the series appeared in videos promoting the station, adding a fictional dimension to the gas station and breaking the fourth wall.

Dismaland: Last but not least, Banksy’s brilliant parody of Disneyland was not only open to visitors, but played out in a hilarious faux ad campaign. His latest painting also contains a barcode to a YouTube video about treatment of refugees.

Like these events, the way Fashion Week plays out in digital is becoming more important than how it plays out in real life under the tent. This will change the nature of Fashion Week from brand marketing to direct sales and will change the tone from insider-centric to interactive theatricality for digital audiences.

Indeed. live street theater is a cultural meme that is being pushed to the forefront of the digital experience. It’s at the center of Donald Trump’s campaign and the rise of the YouTube celebrity. Its in the way news is reported. The other day, you could watch a refugee being pulled from the Aegean from the head-cam of his rescuer. Just like in “Birdman,” the digital sideshow is becoming the main show.

The actual final asset, product, action or deliverable is the last stop on a long tail of viewer consumption and experience. Ben Stiller’s ongoing “Zoolander 2” campaign recalls the true pioneer of this digital street theater himself, Sacha Baron Cohen. The groundbreaking promotion for “Bruno” and “Borat” is the forefather of all of this. We are seeing the marketing industry follow suit and new media technology like Periscope, GoPro Live, live 360 and virtual reality all seem to be pointing towards a big future for this trend.

I know I am not the only one beginning to wonder if breaking news or historical events like finding water on Mars are actually all just clever brand marketing in disguise.

This post was penned by VideoInk publishing partner, a one-stop shop for branded entertainment. features and catalogs the best branded entertainment campaigns from around the world.

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