Content marketing: when retailers and brands become media companies

We recently had the pleasure to welcome IMRG members and other brands for a session focusing on content marketing. As retailers and brands continue to face challenging times, they naturally turn to new ways to engage with their customers and build better brand recognition. Content marketing is a powerful tool to achieve these objectives as it offers more effective means to tell a story. More and more brands are starting to use videos on their websites and as part of other marketing campaigns. Brands are becoming media companies, a move that comes with specific compliance and regulatory issues that lay outside of the traditional retail space. From production to distribution, it is therefore important to have robust processes in place to avoid pitfalls. The key is to ensure that they have the appropriate rights, clearances and releases in place to create and publish any content. And a strong editorial process will also flag up and avoid traps such as defamation privacy and IP issues. The regulatory landscape is such that publishers of video might find themselves categorised as ‘like television’. OFCOM and ATVOD (Authority for Television on Demand) are responsible for regulation and become relevant to retailers when their video content becomes ‘TV like’. Whilst the parameters for this description are still being challenged, calling a video portal ‘brandTV’ would attract attention as would content that is obviously edited, scripted, includes credits and enables instant viewing of follow-on pieces or other ‘programming’. The provision of an on-demand service containing video content is likely to require due diligence checks for regulatory requirements. The provision of ‘TV like’ content also requires a retailer to register with ATVOD and pay the appropriate fees, currently capped at £25,000. When it comes to distribution of content, for example via social media or other third party outlets, the Cap Code and Consumer Protection Regulations require that marketing communications are clearly identifiable as such, whilst the use of ‘personalities’ to promote a brand through social media should also be made clear. This concept follows through to the use of consumer champions, bloggers and other content distribution mechanisms and channels such as YouTube, web, apps and social media.  A recent example of this pitfall came to the public eyes this morning when Oreo’s YouTube ads were banned for not being clearly labelled as a promotion. Content production and distribution needs careful management. The complexities of the production, regulatory and compliance frameworks mean that just publishing content is no longer an option. The tone, style, format and placement of the content, and the editorial and legal checks behind that, is now just as important as the actual commercial drivers.