In a world of skippable formats, ad blockers and fake news, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing a surge in consumer demand for quality content – so much so that the growth of content advertising is set to outpace the growth of digital marketing by a factor of 2:1 and is slated to develop into a multi-billion-dollar industry by 2020 (The Drum).

Snapchat, Netflix, Amazon and, more recently, Facebook are all peddling out ‘original series’ and publishers are rapidly growing their creative solution and production teams. Licensing and usage rights are being bought and sold, and these are no longer just the domain of big broadcasters. These all represent opportunities for brands to get closer to quality content and go beyond the realms of traditional advertising. Content partnerships executed correctly can elevate a brand and help differentiate it from the competition – something that is becoming harder to achieve in a fragmented marketplace.

Here at the7stars, we’ve seen the power or partnerships first hand with Suzuki. We know that Suzuki resonates with people who don’t take themselves or their cars too seriously. Owners are more likely to be ‘the fun one in the group’, yet fun was rarely used when marketing to the affordable car market.

Our idea was that ‘You can’t tell people you’re fun, you have to make them laugh’. We distinguished Suzuki by partnering with ITV and their crown jewels, Ant and Dec, to give the brand a fun tone of voice that taps into the best of British humour. In a partnership deal that spans talent, licensing, broadcast, content creation and production, we took the IP of Saturday Night Takeaway and injected it into one-off TV ad spots. Extended versions were released across social channels and the fun was brought to life on the shop floor in dealerships.

A content-led approach was used more recently to launch a new model, the Suzuki Ignis, to a younger audience Suzuki had little to no existing relationship with. We approached this by tapping into the right of passage that all young drivers go through in Britain, creating the ‘Ignis Adventure’ – a content-led campaign that highlights the fun you can have in a first-time car.

Social influencers were used to spread the word as content started to appear from their channels. We then dropped two high-profile E4 faces in Dartmoor and released instalments of their journey home across cherry picked ad spots and social extensions. Working in partnership with E4, we then helped Suzuki to release ‘All Star Driving School’, a peak-time adventure-based driving show that features nine celebs learning to drive, all filmed in a Suzuki Ignis.

The lines of editorial and commercial have been well and truly blurred and it’s an approach that’s paying off. Suzuki is growing at a rate of 9% versus a wider market decline of 2%. These are our three rules of engagement to working with stakeholders to deliver content-driven campaigns:

1). Balance your brand. Partnerships allow you to leverage favourable associations with others, but it often means relinquishing an element of control. It’s essential to understand when to dial your brand message up/down in the story you tell.
2). Don’t just collaborate, look for opportunities to co-create. This isn’t limited to media partners; involve your audience.
3). Keep it insightfully simple. By nature, integrated partnerships can be complex. Having a single insight that unites all elements will help deliver a message that’s stronger than the sum of its parts.