Inside Story – What is Branded Content?


This year I was asked many times the question “What is branded content”? And today I thought – why not telling the story of my team at Shell. Many would call us PR guys or marketing people. The truth is, we are all former TV journalists just by incident now sitting in a company and it is even an energy company…

The story starts in Dubai. Have a look at the BBC video and ask yourself if this is branded content:

BBC VIDEO

Here is the link to the BBC article. The film was published today and it was produced by Shell. It shows the preparations for the sail of the world’s biggest turret from Dubai to South Korea for Shell’s Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas Facility (FLNG) – yes, sounds difficult, but this is the name of the thing. And yes, you might ask yourself: Really – a story about a “turret”? And it was taken and published by the BBC?

Here are some facts for background before I begin the full story: Prelude will be the largest floating facility every built, 488 metres long and 74 meters wide. It will weigh more than 600,000 tonnes with the cargo tanks full. The turret is part of a mooring system designed to ensure Prelude FLNG can operate safely in the most extreme weather conditions. At almost 100 metres high, it is the largest in the world. And as the BBC rightly states, the turret is currently in six pieces, but when fully-assembled will stand almost 100m (328ft) tall – as high as the Statue of Liberty – and weigh 10,500 tonnes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A world’s first approach, the largest FLNG ever, bigger than any existing aircraft carrier, built by some of the greatest engineers and on top amazing visuals. Wouldn’t this make a wonderful TV story? Probably not you might say – it is “branded content” and it is Shell.

Let me bring you to South Korea where Prelude sits right now and where the story begun mid 2013 with some blocks and our first film:

At this point of time the project was at an early stage and our film got mostly traction in trade media publications, e.g. HeavyLiftSpecialist, WN.com, SWZonline, Metacafe but was also picked up by the India Times in a large article.

We came then back to South Korea with our cameras at the moment of truth for Prelude. After months of construction the project team faced its greatest challenge yet. The two giant sections of the hull were completed; now they had to join together. An operation that had been years in the planning. We joined the team as they shifted over 100,000 tonnes of steel to make it happen:

At this point of time, mass media publishers showed first interest in the story and included our material with their own coverage, e.g. The Telegraph, The Australian,News.Com Australia (Australia’s No.1 news site).

Measuring nearly half a kilometre in length, the facility’s enormous hull was taken to the water for the first time in December 2013 and our producers were again covering the story from start to finish, fully embedded with the project team:

The story made news around the world and again broadcaster and print outlets used our material for their coverage, e.g. Wired.com BBC The Telegraph The Australian DailymailKTVU News

In April this year our camera teams followed the project team to a little town one hour south of France. Cris Moreno had a big job on his hands. His task was to make sure Shell’s Prelude FLNG project can transfer its liquid cargo in one of the loneliest places on the planet; 200km’s off the north-west coast of Australia.It took thousands of hours to develop the technology needed to deliver the challenge, but Cris was finally ready to test these ‘arms of innovation’ for the first time and this was our story:

This time, amongst many others, the film was also featured by The Daily Telegraph in Sydney.

Our next production led the crews to Spain. We have not yet published the film as it will be part of a larger coverage. Here is a sneak preview: Again, think of the size of Prelude – the hull is nearly at the limit of what the biggest shipyards can build in their dry docks today. It will be moored by 28 mooring lines, representing more than 25,000 tonnes of anchor chain. And that’s were our next story began, at Vicinay in Bilbao, Spain. The highly specialized factory will supply the anchor chains for the mooring lines, together with an additional 15,000 tonnes of anchor chain for the Project’s floating production storage and offloading vessel. The total represents more than the yearly worldwide production of large-scale anchor chains.

Bilbao-20140206-00148Bilbao-20140206-00154

Then in June the next trip brought us back to the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje. Not only is Shell’s Prelude FLNG team building one of the largest floating structures ever seen, but they are also taking the energy industry to a whole new level of innovation. This time we wanted to find out, how living will be on Prelude. Once complete, the facility will have decks measuring 488m by 74m. Our June film: “Built To Last” – from five star living in one of the most remote locations on the planet, to paint that will last 25 years at sea.

Amongst other stations, this story was picked up by CNN IBN in India.

We will continue to follow the construction of Prelude with our cameras, capturing all key moments of this exciting project. Right now another production team is already filming the next milestone in the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje. It is also planned to distribute a long-form documentary when Prelude has arrived at its destination in the Browse Basin, approximately 475km north-northeast of Broome and over 200 km from the nearest point on the coast of the remote Kimberley region, in Western Australia.

Now back to the question “What is branded content”? Is our content “branded” because it involves Shell? Or is it “branded” because it comes from a multi-billion company and always tries to sell something? I believe neither is true, times have changed. It is about people, great stories. As long as these stories are told the same way as journalists would tell them, it should not matter where the content comes from.

It would be great to hear your feedback and comments.

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Filed under News, TV market trends, TV Media Relations

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