With the ubiquity of content marketing today, creating new ways to marry brands with creative is essential. For Episode 37 of Insider InSites, showrunner and Executive Producer of I Do to the Venue, Victoria (Tori) Riess, explains how they built brands into the new reality show right from the "jump." In the format of "hunter" shows (think Million Dollar House Hunters), I Do follows a couple touring three wedding venues and ultimately reveals the results of their big decision of where to get married. For this spin, The Knot Worldwide and Bloomingdale's were co-starring brands woven into the content.
The show also delivers against content and distribution goals for A+E's FYI, where the show will premiere this week. The network will explore multiple ways to distribute the show, per Christian Murphy, Head of Enthusiast Brands. "You can no longer solely rely on a strong linear platform and an original show or format -- you have to build a multi-content and multi-platform approach," he says. In addition, Murphy feels the product hits on two fundamental areas for A+E: "the importance of partnership and the need to innovate in this dynamic media landscape.
"A+E has always been strongly committed to being collaborative partners, but it has never been more important as we find new ways to engage audiences with compelling stories across multiple platforms," he adds.
The Knot's Amanda Goetz, Vice President of Marketing, and Nicole Vellucci, Vice President of Shopping Services of Bloomingdale's, joined Riess and me in studio to discuss how the topic and approach enabled seamless and authentic brand integration. The very compelling conversation (from the challenges of retail marketing today to leveraging the customer journey even with video content; from diverse career paths to, yes, bridesmaid dresses!) is available in its entirety via the MediaVillage Insider InSites podcast.
E.B. Moss: Tori, describe how you developed this concept and what it means to brands like The Knot and Bloomingdale's.
Victoria Riess: While I was working on House Hunters International, I helped my sister and her fiancé weigh different wedding venue options [and got the show idea]. My wonderful producing partner at Anyday Collective, Damon Gambuto, enlisted the help of Todd Berger and Andy Marks -- who have long histories in creating branded content. I was very concerned about working in brands because you always want to be telling the most authentic stories you can. But by targeting brands that make sense in this wedding space and including them in the storytelling process from the very beginning, we were actually able to create brands that became intrinsic to the story rather than feeling forced fed.
Moss: So, Amanda, when I Do to the Venue said, "Have we got a show for you!" what happened?
Amanda Goetz: We thought, "This makes sense for The Knot because this is what we do on a daily basis" -- help couples make these big decisions. It was an organic representation of our brand. It was also an opportunity for us to market authentically to Millennials and Gen Z'ers who can call out an ad and know when you're trying to advertise to them, [especially with] our Executive Editor, Lauren Kay, serving as the host of this show.
Moss: And Nicole, what was the offer and opportunity for Bloomingdale's?
Nicole Vellucci: We were looking for a way to reach couples in a natural and authentic way without feeling like we're buying up ad space. And here comes Andy pitching this show. With the Bloomingdale's registry, it ended up playing out perfectly. Maria and Trey [the featured couple] came into the store and our consultants got to ask them personal questions about their lifestyle -- and helped exemplify how Bloomingdale's is there at important moments in your life.
Riess: Normally with branded content, you have your storyline figured out and then there's ad sales aiming to shoehorn a brand into the story, avoid competing brands or you're not allowed to show trademarks on television. With this model, I can put my couple in a place that makes sense, a real life setting because, as Amanda says, Millennials can sniff out an ad! We get to embrace the real role that brands play in our everyday life.
Moss: Let's talk about you all personally. Tori, it's still sadly rare to have a female showrunner, so we love that. Amanda, you came from the finance side. Nicole, you represent a woman who worked her way up through the ranks.
Goetz: I was in financial services and got burned out so I actually became a wedding planner and even did a little stint in reality TV. I saw opportunities in the wedding space that needed to be solved and did my own tech startup to learn how to build a company and product. After 18 months, I was at a female pitch event, trying to raise capital ... and Carly Rodney, the founder of The Knot, was on the panel and the next day she asked if I wanted to come and lead go-to market strategy. I've been there now for five years and lead all marketing worldwide.
Moss: That's a great example for our WomenAdvancing platform on MediaVillage! Nicole, describe your rise up the ladder.
Vellucci: This is my 15th year at Bloomingdale's and it's been a wonderful career. I started as a cosmetics manager at a flagship store. Then I was the general manager in our Soho store and two years ago took over shopping services. In a world with a lot of noise and clutter, shopper services really help differentiate us and keep stores relevant.
Moss: Victoria, I hate to qualify a showrunner as female, but – like with Amanda's path where there just aren't enough women in tech, tell us about your path.
Riess: When I first entered lifestyle television, I was working on a construction show and was the only female. I've had wonderful mentors, both male and female, who have trusted me with projects, creative and storytelling. Throughout my career I have hired -- and seen -- more women on set.
Moss: Amanda, how do you leverage your experience in both tech and marketing to follow the customer on this journey via the video product and bring them back to TheKnot.com?
Goetz: When we think about following our customers along their journey, 60% of couples know about The Knot before they get engaged. [But similar to Bloomingdale's marketing opportunity] we have this storytelling aspect to really illustrate what the brand is today. That awareness effort is really important. As we bring this to digital and track them into the product experience, we do a ton of retargeting to make sure we keep them.
Moss: Going back to an integration example, I Do to the Venue really just showed the couple shopping the registry vs. showing the registry itself.
Vellucci: Yes, and it was used as part of how we learn about their love story, their preferences, and the challenges that they're up against when finding the perfect venue.
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