From News to Advertising, Documentary-style Production Catches Viewers' Attention

Sarah Steimer
AMA Podcast
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Key Takeaways

​What? ITN Productions' Mark Browning makes the case for applying video production skills from news, documentaries and elsewhere to marketing.

So what? The same storytelling used in news or other video formats can help authenticate marketing or branded content.

Now what? If it benefits the story, use live or documentary-style production in video marketing.

Feb. 23, 2017

ITN Productions in the U.K. crosses a slew of platforms and media, from live video and documentary shorts to sports broadcasts and branded content. While the companies are separate, the video expertise is shared

ITN Productions recently produced a documentary short, Watani: My Homeland, that has been nominated for an Academy Award. Mark Browning, group managing director of ITN Productions, says this ability to tell real, sensitive stories has crossed into the organization’s advertising and branded content. 

Listen to the podcast with Browning.

Browning spoke with Marketing News about ITN’s video expertise across its various fields that have produced authentic and fresh stories.


"That’s absolutely a spot we’re seeing a lot of interest in and a lot of activity. There are a number of reasons for that: There are some brands that want to be first to market and do something that gets a lot of pick-up and a lot of talkability. You can be very adventurous with it. It has jeopardy, which is all good for noise and PR and general interest.

"We did a live ad for Virgin Holidays, so it was a really ambitious piece of TV commercial production, branded content. They wanted to take over a big commercial break in the big U.K. commercial broadcaster ITV and, in effect, say to everybody watching television, 'This is the holiday you could be on right now,' and do it in the real, live TV world. 

"We were in 18 different locations across the world in multiple time zones, and over the course of this 90-second or 2-minute ad, we were able to say to everybody, 'Right now, here’s what you could be doing in Dubai. Here’s what you could be doing in Australia. Here’s what you could be doing diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s what you could be doing on a camel trek. Here’s what you could be doing on a river cruise. Here’s what you could be doing at DIsneyland.' This was all happening simultaneously and live on the television. That’s pretty powerful in terms of branded content." 


 Seize The Holiday



"Does a story benefit from being told live? It’s less about the industry or sector, more about the subject matter. We’ve done a live ad for the MOD (Ministry of Defense) here... directly from what was Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

"You can do a recruitment ad or an ad for any sort of industry in a traditional way with high creative storytelling and so forth, but when you actually see what you could be doing ... in the location that it’s actually happening in real time, that is a really compelling use of live video, live TV.

"Live for the sake of live is pointless. Live when the story is told better, told in a more authentic fashion or brought to life in a more exhilarating, interesting way, that’s when people should use live. In all those previous illustrations, the fact that it was live made it a more compelling piece of content from a marketing perspective, in terms of getting the audience to engage, which is ultimately what we are here for."


 TA Live



"There’re a few core principles to successful live video. One of them is a technical capability. There are not many production companies in this country that have this capability or who can confidently do live video multiple times a day from multiple parts of the world in multiple time zones and consistently deliver all the hours of output that we do. There’s a technical bar that’s set very high for that.

"The second part that’s very key is access. If you’re in the news business, you can get access to pretty much anyone you want. And you’re trusted to manage the access in a sensitive manner. ... That’s one of the areas, one of the skills we bring to marketers and CEOs and CMOs when they’re trying to tell complicated stories and they need people to trust them.

"It’s the DNA of the news organization that helps. Why is a news organization in the business of branded content, TV commercials, marketing B-to-B, corporate communications? The answer is because we have these skills."


"Take the Oscar nomination for Watani. This is a brilliant piece of authentic, high-impact storytelling. ... How do you then take that skill set and that particular discipline and make sure the same thing is happening in our sports environment? Or in our branded content environment or in our corporate environment?

"If we go back to the illustration of the live advert from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, that is a pure commercial piece of content, yet it has high production values, the risky environment, the sensitive access, the authentic storytelling—all done through a commercial advert. But it shares an awful lot of the DNA, doesn’t it?"


 "Watani: My Homeland"



"Brands and marketers need to consider how to keep the narrative fresh in a way that constantly invites people to reappraise their brand but increasingly does it in an authentic fashion because consumers are getting more savvy about marketing messages. They’re getting more demanding about quality, and there’s an increasing move toward real stories and real-time stories.

"We have a national lottery [in the U.K.] that is played by millions and millions of people, and part of the cost of your ticket goes into charitable causes. The organization that runs the lottery here was very keen to get the story out that while the lottery is fun to play and it makes millionaires, the spin-off value of the price of the ticket funds a lot of social causes and good work. That’s a marketing need. That’s a brand that needs to get its marketing message out and become known for something that it wouldn’t naturally be top-of-mind for in the consumer's mind.

"For a marketer, that is the perfect alliance of their needs with a production company’s skill set to get to tell the consumer: This is the real story. This isn’t a marketing, glossy story. This is a high-impact story of how your money is being spent."

Browning discusses much more about authenticity and the “Watani” film on our Answers in Action podcast.


 Episode No. 7


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Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
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