By Tom Bannister
This week, Ubisoft launched a 30-minute scripted action film in support of their upcoming game, “Tom Clancy’s The Division.” The film is broken into four pieces. Three were produced by YouTube creators Corridor Digital, Rocket Jump and Devon Super Tramp, and the fourth was made in-house by Ubisoft. The films take you into the backstories of epidemic-stricken New York and the games’ cast of characters. They are well-produced and have received favorable reviews in the often hard-to-please digital gaming community.
Here’s a look at why “The Division” stands out from the crowd as a piece of branded entertainment:
Even in the gaming vertical, branded content moved to shorter form, one- or two-minute ‘trailers’ in 2015. A 30-minute production is a significant allocation of resources, not necessarily money, but certainly time. An, indeed, Ubisoft and Corridor were working on “The Division” for a year proceeding its release. Long-form branded entertainment pieces are often tougher to fit within a brand’s marketing/product launch timeline. Long-form films and series based on games haven’t fared as well as those based on toys or comic book characters. User generated content based on game IP is exceptionally popular, however, whether it’s a vlogger’s commentary while playing games or people watching live games in play. This perhaps underscores Ubisoft’s decision to collaborate with Corridor Digital to oversee the project. In “The Division,” Ubisoft has produced a long-form, professional content without offending fan boy and game community sensibilities.
Action and violence are rarely used in brand-funded content, which tends to skew towards comedy and more and more towards information gathering. Games can get away with risque content, as its built into their value propositions and their consumer base is usually more receptive. Still, much brand-funded content can come across as overly sanitized, focusing on the conveyance of information rather than an entertaining story. Cannes Lions has a new entertainment category launching this year, and it will be interesting to see their demarcation between entertainment and other forms of communication. That’s not to say that infotainment isn’t effective, its just that it has different effects and occupies a different place in the purchasing cycle to entertainment.
Distribution/Customer Touch Points:
The series is distributed on YouTube (on both brand and influencer platforms) and on Amazon Prime. This is an usual instance of an SVOD platform running brand-funded programming — although not unprecedented as Netflix has run some of Patagonia’s documentaries — and it’s a testament to the entertainment qualities of Ubisoft’s content. It will be interesting to see if the film is also featured on the e-commerce side of Amazon’s platform when the game launches. If so, this means that “The Division” is functioning for Ubisoft at a variety of purchase cycle phases, including driving awareness by being breaking news and community-driven, bringing context to the game and its characters in the qualification and post-purchases phases and, in the case Amazon, also featured heavily at point of sale. There is strong potential for this kind-of branded entertainment to help align with e-commerce sites at point of sale along with competing with traditional media in driving initial awareness.
All in all, congratulations to Ubisoft for taking a risk and standing out.
This post was penned by VideoInk publishing partner Branded.tv, a one-stop shop for branded entertainment. Branded.tv features and catalogs the best branded entertainment campaigns from around the world.