I know, the word branding brings to mind red hot steel and the smell of burning cowhide, but I assure you, the branding of online video is, generally, less painful or gross smelling. This type of branding can help you make that original web series you have been writing.

Branding Original Web Series

Now, to some, it might sound like selling out, while to others it sounds like the economics of business. Let’s face it, all the people, gear, permits and other requirements of making a web series add up. If you can find a way to offset some of it and maybe turn a profit as you go, well, that’s kind of the point isn’t it?

This is where ZoomTilt comes in.  ZoomTilt matches brands large and small with independent filmmakers who want to tell their story in authentic and engaging ways. It sort of works like you’d expect. Sign up, give them your pitch and hope it clicks with them.

Well, it needs to click with them and with others, like a brand that would be willing to sponsor, and an audience that is willing to watch. ZoomTilt already has two web series so apparently, it’s a viable model.

The two series that they have funded were supported by two separate brands, the first was Equal Exchange Fair Trade Coffee & Chocolate and Dead Man’s Trigger, the latter was funded by MINISTRY OF SUPPLY, a fashion and tech company.

The branding is “light” from what I’m told. Well, you can check it out for yourself. Below is Episode 1 of Dead Man’s Trigger.

Did you see the branding? No? It was the shirts. At the end of the episode, you see this:

Hey, if it gets money to shoot a pilot, I’m down with it. In fact, I already submitted my pitch for Not So Super.

What’s ZoomTilt All About?

I spoke with ZoomTilt about what they’re doing and Anna Callahan offered me some insight.

CR: So all of the ZoomTilt productions are branded content with product placements?

AC: We aim to do both branded and unbranded entertainment.  Both our series are very lightly branded, and our second series has not come out yet.

CR: Can you give me some idea about brand uplift and audience sizes?AC: Our goals with Equal Exchange included a viewership of 100K views by the end of 2012, and we reached 150K views the first week — the week of Valentine’s day.  We had a really fun campaign with them where we incorporated a coupon code directly into the footage of the series, and fans who found it won two free chocolate bars.

CR: Any idea as to how effective things have been or could be?

AC: We are talking to a number of brands and agencies about branded video series, so in the near future we should have some more analytical data for you.

In regards to Dead Man’s Trigger, and how they were hooked up with Ministry of Supply.

Ministry of Supply started with a Kickstarter campaign to build a company that makes dress shirts from space suit material (no joke!) and moved on to using branded video for marketing now with ZoomTilt. So it seems like new companies, Kickstarter-era startups, are more willing to take a chance on new media, branded online video in particular.

ZoomTilt also has an IndieGoGo project going on called TV Reset:

The TV Reset Project is to enabling 5 up-and-coming, independent filmmakers to create and put their best work in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers. Longer-term, our success will build the foundation for independent filmmakers to create financially sustainable work through the awesomeness of the internet .

They’re trying to raise $40K to launch and market 5 show pilots. Why so little?

…a single episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad costs about $3 million.  Even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which initially debuted as one of the lowest-budget shows in the history of modern TV, originally cost $55,000 per 30 minute show…

By those numbers, $40K would make 21.8 minutes of low-budget TV quality content. Since we all know it’s cheaper to shoot digital video for online (something like $300 a minute I think I read once) it could make more like 100 minutes of content. That’s five twenty-minute pilots, or five ten-minute pilots and money left over for marketing, etc.

My Thoughts

It’s some pretty interesting stuff. First off, I personally had no idea how to go about finding a potential sponsor for my own web series. I mean I could have probably looked around and found some eventually, but it would have been a whole lot of work and time I think. With ZoomTilt, brands have a place to go (to sponsor my web series, heh) and filmmakers have a place to go to find sponsors and money for their series. It’s not an open marketplace. It’s more like a tightly curated process. Filmmakers pitch to ZoomTilt. ZoomTilt looks at the efficacy of the pitch and then determines if they’ve got a brand or know of a brand that might work for it, I think. On their website the process is Pitch -> Pilot -> Series, which is very much like TV is I believe.

Like Anna said in the interview above, they try to guarantee some level of interaction, or size of audience, etc. That means there’s a measurable ROI on the branded content and often, that’s not the case with online video. Many times, I think, brands might have some video content they put together but never really solidify what they want to measure or achieve. Sure there are terms like brand uplift, reach, conversions, etc. But you don’t always know what it will be when you start making the content. With ZoomTilt they’re turning it around, they’re offering you a guaranteed basis of ROI prior to you putting money out for some branded video content.

Will it work? I guess we’ll wait and see. If you’re interested in sponsoring my dark dramedy superhero web series, let me know or hook up with ZoomTilt and let them know! What? We all know I’m not above shameless self promotion…