|Showethica’s Lorenzo De Stefani: pioneering branded-content formats|
THE INTERSECTION of TV, marketing and branding is the focus of new FRAPA member Showethica, which develops and distributes multimedia content for TV and corporate clients.
The Lisbon, Portugal-based company, which opened a branch office in Milan this month, was founded in 2010 by director Lorenzo De Stefani, whose 20-year career has taken him from TV to marketing to branding — and back again. Three years ago, De Stefani devised a format called The Bidding Society: Making The Good Happen, an experience, he says, that led him back to the formats market, where he had cut his teeth producing new shows for the Italian broadcast giant Mediaset.
“The Bidding Society is an interactive, partly-scripted, partly improvised sitcom with a charity/fundraising goal,” De Stefani says. He cheerfully admits that the format, for which Showethica financed a 50-minute broadcast-quality pilot, remains unsold. “I like to think because it’s too forward-looking,” he adds. With a biog that contains the words ‘passionate about innovation’, it is clearly not the first time that De Stefani has found himself one step ahead of the market.
Undaunted, De Stefani widened his brief to include the international distribution of Portuguese-originated formats and the development of branded-content projects and formats. In the first area, he has already had success with Son Of A Brief (Filho da Pub), produced by Lisbon-based prodco Quioto, which was nominated at this year’s C21/FRAPA Awards. The make-over format, which airs on Portuguese cablenet Sic Radical Network, sees top Portuguese adman turned TV presenter Goncalo Morais attempt to turn round small family businesses by the power of advertising.
But it is the nascent branded-content business that truly excites De Stefani. “Branded content is currently a niche segment of the market,” he says — and, as such, is the natural habitat of a small, specialist agency such as Showethica. De Stefani’s approach is to invite brand managers, content creators and broadcasters “to speak to each other”, with the aim of creating content that is able to entertain and engage viewers while communicating product values and hitting the market goals of both the brand and the content distributor.
“At the moment, scouting and developing branded-content formats is the most innovative area of our work,” De Stefani says, citing Mercedes-Benz’ Celebrity Games, an original TV show that aired in September on youth-skewed Italia1. Showethica acted as consultant on the format, in which comedians and celebrities competed in a series of track and field events for the Mercedes-Benz New A Class Award. In addition to good ratings, Celebrity Games also raised a considerable amount of money for charity through ticket sales and other donations.
De Stefani, who is now working on the branded-content sitcom Out Of The (Set-Top) Box, originally developed for Portugal Telecom, believes FRAPA membership will help Showethica not only to protect its original IP from “over-enthusiastic young production houses that know little about format trading and ethics”, but also to give credibility to the concept of branded-content formats, often viewed with suspicion by the mainstream TV industry. Indeed, this is a subject close to De Stefani’s heart: in April last year, he founded the Branded Content Network to serve as a knowledge hub and format exchange for independent agencies involved in the sector.
It is, he concludes, vital in today’s brutal economic climate to keep innovating, both in terms of content and the ways in which formats are traded and exploited. “We at Showethica will do our part of expand the format market on the branded-content side,” he promises.