DS: Tell us a little bit about your company.
I founded Storified Hospitality after founding both the Disney/ABC Television Group Digital Studio and Marriott Content Studios, because I believe that great stories can come from anyone — including brands — if told in a way that doesn’t push features and benefits but rather informs and entertains viewers who are ultimately consumers. In today’s multiscreen and connected world, consumers now control when where and how they interact with brands because they can easily avoid or skip traditional advertising. One way for brands to build relationships is to stop interrupting what consumers are interested in and start becoming what they are interested in — a great way to do that is through storytelling. Done right, brand funded content can win the hearts, minds, and wallets of viewers and consumers.
DS: Elaborate on the rising trend of Hollywood storytelling and brand marketing.
I don’t think it’s a trend as much as it is just the way it is today in a world where everyone is a content creator and we’re all competing for each other’s attention with content — which is no longer king — the consumer is. We choose where to spend our time based on what’s most important to us. It’s the same thing with content. If consumers don’t want their entertainment interrupted with traditional advertising then the advertising must become the entertainment. Consumers want stories. They don’t care who it comes from as long as it’s entertaining, informative and it makes them feel. That’s what a great story does isn’t it? It makes you feel. Those who engage consumers with story-driven creative and content will ultimately win the most valuable prize there is - brand loyalty. Hollywood producers and brands working together to develop stories is nothing really new — look at the first soap operas in the US. They were brand supported and produced by P&G. Technology just flipped the script, putting an end to disruptive and interruptive marketing (ads).
DS: Tell us about your experience of filming for Marriott in the UAE?
The Two Bellmen short film is what I call a film franchise because its three different films shot around the world, including Dubai, but it was a global story. You experienced the culture of each destination through the story, so not only was it entertaining, and it drove room bookings and sales, but it changed the perception of the brand and highlighted the best of each destination, which inspired people to travel. The challenge in a brand funded film is to ensure it doesn’t end up as an ad. The brand can never interrupt the story. Viewers must experience the brands features, benefits, etc through the story itself. The brand must play a character alongside the rest of the actors. Too many brand marketers want to make commercials because they don’t think consumer first. As a branded content producer, it’s important that the story flows seamlessly and the brand supports it vs interrupting it.
DS: Are you planning any Middle East productions?
I have several ideas on the table, but not the right project yet, but hopefully in the next year I will package one together with a brand. I think Dubai lends itself to beautiful storytelling within the travel and hospitality sectors, so a different take on tourism would be ideal.