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Fremantle boss warns brands over old fashioned approach to content: ‘I don’t buy a Coke just because a TV judge drinks it’

Ian Hogg

Hogg: ‘The definition of success is a show that travels to 10-15 territories’

The regional head of Fremantle Media, the production company behind killer TV formats such as Pop Idol, The X Factor, and Asia’s Got Talent, has questioned the involvement of brands in content creation, saying that some advertisers in Asia are still taking a “cookie cutter approach” as they attempt to build credibility as in the entertainment space.

Talking at the Content Asia Summit in Singapore, Ian Hogg, the CEO of Fremantle Media for Australia and Asia Pacific, said that brands decreasingly want “the old spots and dots” and are buying into what he called “referred media,” particularly in short form content that works well in social media and on mobile devices.

In response to a question from Content Asia editorial director Janine Stein on whether brands were getting too involved in crafting the content, Hogg said some advertisers were stuck with an old fashioned view of the industry.

“I think some advertisers can get far too obsessed with a cookie cutter approach,” he said. “They say, ‘I want to see a logo, I want to see a bottle of Coca-Cola in front of a judging panel.’ Sorry, but I don’t buy a can of Coke because I see a [game show] judge drinking out of it. That’s very yesterday.”

There is a premium on “engaging storytelling” by brands that can cut through, he said.

“Brands are now coming [into the entertainment space], and they don’t want the old spots and dots, they want activations based on referred media. It’s hugely important for brands.”

“We see a lot of it around the world, we see a lot of it here as advertisers want to get closer to great storytelling. As we know, a 30-second spot on [Mediacorp’s] Channel 5 or Channel 8 in Singapore doesn’t cut through like it used to. It’s a simple as that,” he said.

Asked by Stein to reveal what sort of content has proved to be the most successful for Fremantle, Hogg shared that the most powerful TV format was still the game show, which he called “the currency of non-scripted television globally”.

The company is increasingly bent on producing more local shows rather than regional, and Hogg shared that the made-in-Indonesia programme ‘Just Do It’ is one of Fremantle’s first shows born in Asia that will be taken globally.

“The general definition of success is a show that travels to 10-15 territories around the world,” he said.

China, India and Indonesia are the big three priorities for Fremantle, with the move away from making regional productions a result of the need to “focus,” Hogg said.

“Asia is stonking for opportunity, but you need to focus and place your bets. We took some tough decisions, and we focused on where we need to organise better,” he said.

China is the biggest of the company’s bets, but is Hogg concerned by the country’s complicated regulatory environment, Stein asked.

“China is a country governed by policies not laws, and that’s difficult, certainly if you work for a Western company. But it’s an enormous marketplace and the government has said, ‘we don’t even want formats actually, we want local,'” he said.

Lots of red tape means that his company, and others operating in China, need to be flexible, Hogg advised.

“You have to be far more nimble [in China], and certainly in this region you have to be nimble. Australia is not as nimble as this part of the world, it just isn’t. China is just ‘go!’” he said.

“[Chinese content buyers] They’ve asked for more local content and more local creation. That’s what they’ve gone for, and are forcefully enacting that. We jump to another branch and get on with it. And now we’re seeing dividends from a policy that hasn’t even been in place for three months.”

Hogg was also happy to draw attention to Fremantle’s lucrative relationship with YouTube, a platform that brands increasingly use through influencers.

“Fremantle is the biggest customer of YouTube in the world. We took the decision to actively engage with YouTube when a lot of people were scared of it. We have a very close relationship with them. We understand each other, we have a great partnership and as a result we’ve been able to monetise it very effectively – as have they.”

“A lot of the hits that we monetise come out of this region,” Hogg noted, saying that short form versions of formats such as Idol, Got Talent and X Factor work very well in “snackable” 6-7 minute clips.

“It’s perfect for the [YouTube] environment. And Facebook too, by the way. You’re going to see a lot more of that from us,” he said.

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