Why Pepsi Thinks the :30 Spot is Outdated and Long Form is the Future

/ Feb 22, 2016

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Red Bull has done it. GoPro and Marriott are doing it. And for major brands, building a content studio is becoming an integral part of the strategy as they look to attract users for reasons other than product. One such brand — Pepsi — is no exception.

Over four years ago, Pepsi began focusing on entertainment – music, specifically – in an effort to form an emotional connection with listeners that made them think of it as a brand and product woven into the music, concert and party-going atmospheres.

We recently did a global survey about what consumers feel about Pepsi… and it was so fascinating,” said Kristin Patrick, chief marketing officer at Pepsi, in an on-stage interview at Digital Entertainment World earlier this month. “When we asked [the survey participants] what the next product [they] want[ed] from Pepsi, the answer was not another carbonated soft drink. It was we want content from you guys, we want you to curate music for us. They even went as far to say that they would buy apparel from us.” 

It’s a key insight that has been at the core of many of Pepsi’s brands including Mountain Dew, which launched its own stand alone content site. Green Label, with Complex.* More recently, the brand has begun to expand into narrative and unscripted video, following the steps of predecessors such as Red Bull and learning from big media companies like Amazon and Netflix.

For companies such as Amazon and Netflix, the motivator is the desire to get their tentacles deeper into the user’s life. If Netflix or Amazon spends $100 million across multiple series and converts 10% of that into new subscribers, the that takes the valuations of those businesses into the billions of dollars.

For Pepsi, the math looks quite different. Patrick, who is responsible for the Pepsi brands positioning globally, cites Green Label as a solid example of how the company is approaching its content strategy, noting that if brands want to win in the current advertising environment, they need to move away from the 30-second spot and explore longer formats.

“For many years, packaged good companies have relied on 30-second TV spots to convey their message, and as we all know that is still an effective means of getting out to many people and casting a wide net, but we are TiVo-ing through commercials, so [brands] need to find new ways to connect with consumers,” said Patrick. 

So Pepsi is using its content studios to develop a variety of formats from short to long, but with attention on longer formats, citing Green Label as a good example of how Pepsi brands are approaching longer formats. “It’s a very interesting model and opportunity for us to own our own IP and have a say in the marketing strategy of the content and the topics we are covering,” adding, “long-form is one of the opportunities. Long-form let’s us really tell the story of the brand, it’s not about product integration, it’s about connecting with something that consumers are passionate about in their lives.”

Director Ty Evans and professional skateboarder Paul Rodriguez review footage on the set of WE ARE BLOOD, a film produced by Mtn Dew Green Label Films in association with Brain Farm that celebrates the universal bond created by the simple act of skateboarding.Green Label, as pointed out by Patrick in the interview, released a feature length film called “We Are Blood” in summer of 2015, a skateboarding documentary that stars professional street skateboarder and DEW® athlete Paul Rodriguez as he and other top skateboarders travel the world doing skate tricks and challenges — a theme that is core to Green Label, and thus, its Mountain Dew brand, as well.

And Pepsi has been developing a content studio stragegy over the last couple years, initially under the leadership of Frank Cooper, who held the title of CMO of global consumer engagement at Pepsi, but is now at Buzzfeed.

As for its mission of building a more robust content slate and programming agenda, Patrick said, “It’s not about product integration, it’s about becoming curators of cultural information. I think that is the most important place that a brand can sit in a consumer’s life, to be an editor of choices for them.”

*Jocelyn represented Complex via her PR business until Dec. 2015

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