Branded Video Production: A 27 Episode Case Study
Branded Video Production: Background
Branded Video Production, or branded content, is simply a story that features but doesn’t centre a brand.
It’s a bit less ‘in your face’ than straightforward video advertising, particularly in the modern advert-saturated era. You might choose to watch it because it’s interesting and appeals to you, rather than because YouTube won’t let you skip it.
It’s a strategic marketing approach where video content is created to align with a brand’s identity, values, and messaging. Usually, it doesn’t explicitly promote a product or service, but instead, it seeks to engage and captivate audiences by providing valuable and relevant information or by simply telling a compelling and engaging story about the brand.
The primary goal of this kind of video production is to build a stronger connection between the brand and its target audience, fostering brand loyalty and raising awareness. Branded content often takes the shape of articles, social media posts or podcasts that seamlessly integrate the brand’s message into a compelling narrative. Obviously, in this case and as with the vast majority of our work it’s all about video. The key is to entertain, educate, or inspire the audience, while subtly conveying the brand and its values. Successful branded content resonates with consumers and customers on a personal level, making them more receptive to the brand’s offerings.
Branded content is particularly effective in an era where consumers crave authenticity and meaningful interactions with brands. By focusing on storytelling and creating content that adds value to the consumer’s experience, brands can establish themselves as trusted authorities in their respective industries. This approach not only enhances brand visibility but also contributes to a positive brand image, ultimately driving customer engagement and loyalty.
That’s why we were over the moon when AGCO approached us to create a series of branded videos for a competition they were running called Vin to Win. Much of our work for AGCO is to support dealer marketing so this was a brilliant opportunity to produce a video that spoke directly to farmers.
Vin to Win is a Europe-wide competition that would allow the winner to have their tractor completely refurbished. By simply entering the unique VIN number of their machine they had the chance to win a number of prizes but the top ‘total refurb’ prize was a genuinely unbelievable opportunity. The winning machine would be shipped back to the factory, inspected, and stripped down to virtually every last nut and bolt. All worn parts and damaged parts would be replaced as new. The tractor would look pretty much as it did when it rolled off the production line. And whilst their machine was away a brand new, top-of-the-line, courtesy tractor would be provided so work on the farm wasn’t impacted.
Farmers work incredibly hard. It’s a hard job. There are a lot of cliches about farmers and farming but the reality is it’s a high-technology market populated in constant need of cost-saving efficiency. Farmers themselves tend towards a viewpoint fairly described as one of sceptical advocacy. They’re generally in favour of things that make life easier but don’t have a lot of time that can be wasted by fluffy nonsense. Because farmers work hard, tractors (the modern, literal workhorses of the farm) also work incredibly hard. So this competition held a prize that was genuinely worth winning.
AGCO is a large multi-brand PLC that ‘provides farmer-focused solutions to help feed the world’. We’re incredibly proud of being involved in this and have worked on video productions for AGCO for over 10 years now. Our client, AGCO Parts, provides worldwide support for all AGCO brands. The Vin to Win competition was run for three of their brands, which are some of the most well-known and prestigious tractor brands in the world; Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Valtra. So they were actually running three separate competitions. This meant we weren’t doing branded video production for one series of videos; we were doing it for three. Not only was this a large video production, but we actually started in 2019 and due to COVID, it ended up being our longest-running project.
Branded Content Brief
This video production project was a bit of a masterclass in budgeting, both for us and the client. The competition ran all across Europe. We knew where the factories were that would be doing the refurbishment; Valtra’s facility at Suolahti in Finland, the MF factory in Beauvais just outside of Paris and Fendt headquarters at Marktoberdorf in Bavaria. But the winners could be anywhere in Europe.
We worked hard to budget with enough flexibility that we could move the budget around to accommodate any hard-to-reach destinations or anywhere that required a more complex production approach. We’re very experienced at shooting videos in the three countries AGCO has factories (Finland, France and Germany). When we started the project it was common practice for us to transport UK crews to these places, but the scale of this shoot, along with the changing circumstances of COVID meant that increasingly we were using local crews that were sometimes directed by us, and sometimes working remotely and independently following a comprehensive brief. This latter worked so well that we’ve fundamentally changed the way we do overseas shoots now.
How Video Production benefits from Research
This branded video production project was a departure from a lot of the work we do with AGCO and as always they were very open to receiving input on the best approach. The content series was to be released on both YouTube and Facebook so we initially prepared a presentation for the AGCO team to go through some suggested best practices for ongoing video series like this. This was based on our own experience of branded video production as well as running our own YouTube channels and on behalf of clients. Both we and AGCO were keen to make this feel like much more of a TV documentary production than a lot of branded content. We reached out to a few people and had a long and fruitful conversation with the series producer/director of a number of BBC fly-on-the-wall documentaries.
It’s pretty standard for us to involve the whole team in creative discussion around a branded video production. Good ideas can come from anywhere. But we’ve particularly prided ourselves on the role our editors play in post-production. This was to become even more crucial as this project rolled on and Peter, who edited this series, has written about editing multi-language content and the way his role developed here.
Branded Video Production – Planning
Working with AGCO we settled on the following structure for the films.
Episode 1 – Meet the Team
An opportunity for each of the technicians working on the refurb to introduce themselves. The audience would get to know who the characters were and what roles they would have in the series. As well as hearing some of the obstacles the team expected to run up against with machines that have spent a significant amount of time in the (literal) fields. As we wouldn’t have the tractor at the refurb site at this stage the team would be shown an inspection video.
Episode 2 – Meet the Winner
This would consist of interviews with the winning farmer, a tour around their farm and an understanding of the kind of work their machine is involved with. We would also be interviewing the local AGCO dealer that supports the farmer to get a sense of that relationship. Plus, vitally, we’d get to see the machine that would get the five-star treatment.
Episode 3 – Update 1
The tractor arrives and they get to see it in person for the first time. This episode would explore the work needed and begin doing it.
Episode 4 – Update 2
Continuing the refurb the team would explain to the audience about the ongoing work, what’s involved, what is proving harder than expected and what may be easier.
Episode 5 – The Reveal
The farmer gets his tractor back. This is intended to be the emotional highlight of the video series and should be a pleasant surprise for the farmer to see the machine restored to its former glory.
Bonus Episode – Timelapse
We also had cameras set up to record the entire refurbishment via timelapse. This really was going to be a major refurbishment with the cabs being removed and the machines undergoing a process where the ‘chassis is broken’. It’s not literally broken but it’s separated in the middle to allow proper access to the drive train. It’s a visually impressive process and basically, we thought it would look cool. We were right.
Like any good plan, this didn’t entirely survive contact with the enemy (I’m not actually referring to the client or the customer here!). As circumstances changed through the filming and with the range and quality of content we were getting, we were able to provide more videos of what had been shot.
Filming AGCO’s Branded Video Production
Vin to Win ran Europe-wide, directing farmers to a micro-site and supported by a PR and advertising campaign. The first winner to be announced was for Massey Ferguson. A farm in Ross-on-Wye and a well-maintained Massey Ferguson that had accumulated 17,000 hours of work was to be the winner. This first machine was perfect and would have the first day of filming in September 2021.
The Valtra winner was in Austria and was a ten-year-old machine in Austria. This commenced on 5th October 2021.
The Fendt competition started much later and was won by a farmer in France. It seemed to be a little fortuitous that each of the winners was a small family farm that would really benefit from the prize. This would be the fastest turnaround of all the projects and the project would benefit as a whole from the experience of completing the other two series first. Even with all the planning in the world, we do learn from experience. The Fendt series would commence in December 2022 and be complete in April 2023.
Each of the winners received a phone call from their local AGCO rep and we asked for the call to be recorded to be included in the film. This kind of branded video content will always benefit from anything that feels really authentic and the winner calls fit that description perfectly.
Between the three separate series, we would film in Ross-on-Wye in the UK, Le Chouan in France midway between Le Mans and Paris, Beauvais near Paris and locations in Austria, Finland and Germany.
We tried three different timelapse camera solutions and learned that in Austria it’s quite unusual for a camera recordist to record their own sound (not the case in the UK or anywhere else we shot for this video series).
We describe ourselves as a creative video agency most of the time. This means we try and offer more value than simply being a film production company that just turns up and shoots. In this case, the key value-add here was having us on board from the conception of the project. In fully interrogating and therefore understanding both the brief and the aims behind it we were able to adapt the entire project as both circumstances changed and the video content changed. We were getting more content than we’d initially hoped for and we were able to shape it in different ways. And the finish on the machines was unbelievable.
The brief for this brand video production project was not only large but also multi-language. We’ve covered the details of multi-language editing here, particularly interesting when you consider that we don’t speak much French or German.
Taking Valtra as an example the series titles “The Ultimate Valtra Refurb” and the full episode list went from what was detailed above to the following:
- Episode 1 – Meet the Team
- Episode 2 – Meet the Winner
- Episode 3 – Diagnosis
- Episode 4 – Parts Ordering
- Episode 5 – Choosing New Tyres
- Episode 6 – Fixing the Cab and Chassis
- Episode 7 – Reflecting on the Refurb
- Episode 8 – The Big Reveal
- Episode 9 – 1 Team, 1 Machine (timelapse film)
For the Fendt series, we also provided an additional episode on the various high-technology upgrades in the machine. The Massey Ferguson had its entire cab replaced. and elsewhere we had video content on tyres and the restoration of a loader arm.
In the end, there were 27 episodes filmed across the 3 series, as well as some additional stand alone pieces and a mountain of content that we’ve been able to re-use in other AGCO work or versions created for other channels. We also provided smaller cut-downs for social media use as well as other uses such as internal comms and other videos.
The 27 episodes were translated into 5 languages so the number of outputs on this was pretty high. Over the past few years, we’ve developed a number of internal systems for checking, cross-checking and quality control on projects with a large amount of video file exports in different languages.
The project was incredibly well-received by both the clients and their customers. We’ll update this with views and conversions as soon as the client gives us permission to!
If you’re looking for a branded video production or branded content then please do get in touch.
BRANDED VIDEO PRODUCTION