In 2019, when Netflix released its choose-your-own-adventure interactive film — Black Mirror: Bandersnatch — it was not only a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but also a lightbulb moment for the streaming giant.
With Bandersnatch, a multi-layered content viewing experience, Netflix may have stumbled onto something big.
The film offered a new window into creating a seamless and uninterrupted way to embed branded content into its programming, and in the process, the company may have shown other streaming platforms how to take advantage of an important new revenue stream.
Essentially, Bandersnatch lets viewers navigate their way across the plot themselves, giving them the ability to not only choose from multiple storylines, but also select the brands that characters interact with throughout the course of the film.
While most of the viewers watched the linear version in 90 minutes, it’s actual length estimated at more than 5 hours. That is a considerable swath of behavioral data brands would love to get their hands on.
More than simply allowing their viewers to choose whether their hero takes a dark path or not, the film also offered them a choice between a pack of Sugar Puff cereal and Kellogg’s Frosties.
Even Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings was proud to present the results of the audience’s favorite cereal during his earnings interview last year: 73% preferred Frosties.
This is a big development for a company that needs to find creative new ways to monetize.
Whether you liked the story or not, Netflix made history by launching this first real interactive feature film screened by a major OTT platform, and in the process, demonstrated the broader potential of interactive TV as a viable new tool for brands to reach their target audiences.
Data is clearly the streaming giant’s big advantage here, and given the fact that Netflix has no plans to create revenue from direct ads, it’s easy to see why.
Some in the industry are calling Bandersnatch the company’s secret marketing weapon, as the possibilities around interactive branded content are truly endless in terms of generating rich user data from around the world.
Bandersnatach also showed that Netflix could leverage its platform and features to make product integrations much less intrusive and more curated around the specific content.
In doing so, the company may have pointed the way for other streaming platforms to learn how to segment audiences and develop product integrations that are catered to specific genres and content tastes.
As brands look to enter the ad-free streaming space, interactive content experiences and formats may prove to be a valuable new way to gain a deeper understanding of the purchasing habits and preferences of customers.
And recently, Netflix continued to expand its vision of building an interactive content library with the Bear Grylls’ documentary “You vs. Wild”, in which viewers make decisions like whether the host crosses a river, or the type of survival food he consumes.
Interactive TV has also been around for a long time, but only after Netflix’s recent foray into this new medium did other industry giants start to join in.
Walmart is now on the verge of launching four original scripted series with Eko, a New York-based startup company.
In one of these series, “The Sidequests of Gwendolyn Griffin, a young woman asks the audience for help in decorating her new apartment, or food recommendations from the audience for a party from the Walmart store.
As in TV platforms, interactive media is also a great way for digital publishers to engage their audiences and derive new data, complete the feedback loop on their content, and get better insights about what their audiences are interested in.
And interactive media goes well outside video and TV too, as Spotify’s recent launch shows. It has designed a new network of more personalized, interactive podcasts ads that include a clear call to action, which has already proven to create higher engagement and awareness rates for the company.
As interactive content starts to make its way into other forms of trusted media, including brand web sites, news outlets and publishers, and with the expansion of formats such as Instagram Stories and Tik Tok, interactive content may be today’s fastest growing media experience.
However, as social platforms are getting heavily criticized for their treatment of users’ data and for spreading untrustworthy news, publishers and news outlets are looking for alternatives to build trusted networks of data.
Interactive content experiences are not just for the sake of advertising or entertainment, but for creating a stronger connection between the user and the platform, a kind of direct link brands have always dreamt of since the rise of Facebook.
With Bandersnatch, Netflix may have just given the industry an early glimpse at the future of interactive content marketing.
Moti Cohen is the Co-founder and CEO of Apester, a content management platform that enables the creation, distribution and monetization of interactive digital content for publishers and brands. Since the company’s founding in 2014, Moti has driven the company’s vision, business objectives, and guides its mission, values and strategy. Under Moti’s leadership, Apester has grown in to an international company of over 1,500 brands serving over 100 million engagements monthly.
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