Brands: How to Program in Culture | V by Viacom


Brands: How to Program in Culture

The VMAs show how collaborations between marketers, brands, and publishers can drive culture.

Aug 21, 2018

Advertising on TV right now is a constant lesson in being caught in two realities. We still have to operate within the confines of pre-existing formats and measurements of linear TV, yet our industry and the consumers we want to engage are moving beyond the passive linear viewing experience. At Velocity, Viacom’s in-house branded content studio, many conversations with our Madison Avenue partners have transformed in kind, progressing from an advertising deal with added value or “sponsorships” and into collaborations that create cultural moments.

On the day after of one of our biggest, culture-defining tentpole events, MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMAs), it’s a perfect moment to reflect on the evolution of both this program and our partner communications. The VMAs are a singular show, but it’s also one of many moments in the media world that illustrates how the notion of events have become experiences—for audiences and advertisers alike.

“The content and experiences that we’re delivering with our partners are the most “native” to date.”

Over the last year or so, Velocity, as part of Viacom’s Marketing and Partner Solutions team has focused on culture and creative insights to fuel ideation for our branded content campaigns on behalf of our partners. In our study/film, The Culture of Proximity, we touch on the notion that there are four lanes of culture (Deep, Close, Crowd and Mass). The study revealed that brands are people and people are brands, and as a result, brands should start thinking about programming in culture…just like people do for themselves every day.

A series created with Extra® and Lauv for young pop music fans was distributed across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Spotify.

When it comes to TV tentpoles like the VMAs, it’s clear that they are no longer just programs that advertisers want to buy 30-second ads within. Instead, these are properties that define the cultural conversation and marketers now see the VMAs as a platform to publish on. It’s become an all screens plus social experience, that lasts for at least the 72 hours before, during and after the amazing performances, awards, and star-studded moments the VMAs are known for in closing out every summer.

Geico’s custom ad spot created to ties in for the award for best choreography.


As a result, we can honestly say, the content and experiences that we’re delivering with our partners are the most “native” to date.  We’ve created over 125 pieces of content, which adds up to over 5 hours of branded programming in and around this mass cultural event. Everything from co-branded native spots (on linear, digital and social), to Twitter Bot voting for our Best New Artist category, to pod takeovers with added music performances from up and coming artists, to blowing out a Video Vanguard honoring of Jennifer Lopez all over NYC… all happens with partners who want to create a cultural conversation.

We want to continue furthering collaborations with marketers, to publish and program in culture. The VMAs is an event that allows us to paint within a mass palette and have partners deliver co-branded cultural moments to our mutual audiences. It’s early days, but we believe that providing creative content solutions for brands will allow them to elevate sponsorships, so that our IP and ideas can be a part of their cultural programming strategy.



Dario Spina is Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer of Viacom Velocity, a full-service integrated marketing and creative content group.