Animated cakes, wine-flavoured ice blocks and a colourful cycleway: Microsoft Surface and TVNZ show the benefits of collaboration

In September, around the time of its new season launch, TVNZ announced OnDemand Shorts, an extension of its on-demand offering dedicated entirely to short-form content.

This platform has now officially launched, and TVNZ has been promoting it via a 30-second spot that explains the proposition to viewers and gives a series of teasers of the inaugural shows. 

Short shows, big stories. From real laughs to real life, enjoy some of the best shorts from NZ and overseas.: http://tvnz.co.nz/shorts

Posted by TVNZ OnDemand on Monday, 30 November 2015


From the outset, TVNZ outlined an important commercial component that would allow brands to collaborate in the production of content. And the state broadcaster has already attracted its first client in this space. 

The three-part series Better Together, currently available on Shorts, was developed by TVNZ Blacksand in conjunction with Microsoft Surface and its media agency Carat. 

“Microsoft came to us with a brief that we thought was absolutely perfect for a content marketing piece, so we went away together and thought with the TVNZ Blacksand team about what type of content would be good for the launch and we came up with this idea that was about local creative pairings of people coming together and creating something that’s greater than the sum of its parts,” says TVNZ content strategist Robbie Spargo.

The opening of the Nelson Street cycleway, a story about a cakemaker working with an animator and a segment on Nice Blocks conspiring with a wine maker have each been given the short-form treatment for the series.

Spargo says that Microsoft understood from the beginning that this was not a TVC.

“Microsoft was completely with us when we told them that the most important thing was telling the story. And that story should align with your brand’s themes and messages, but it’s not about showing as much product as possible. Where it’s natural we’ll feature the product, but where it’s not natural we won’t feature the product.”

In explaining his point, Spargo refers to the videos in the MS Surface series, saying that that the product featured more prominently in the clip featuring the animator and cakemaker, as the pair passed the tablet between each other during the process. He says the amount of product placement will vary depending on the story and product being promoted.

Microsoft Surface marketing manager Jordanna Murray says that from the outset they were looking for a different way to promote the new product. 

“Our goal was to create engaging content,” says Murray.

She points to the previous work Microsoft Surface has done with street artists BMD, saying that the company prefers non-traditional executions that stand out.

Murray says she was involved in the creative process and sometimes sat in during the editing process, contributing her ideas to the final touch. This collaboration between TVNZ Blacksand and the marketing manager is also another example of media companies starting to encroach on the territory traditionally occupied by agencies.    

But creating bespoke content for brands isn’t new for TVNZ. 

Digital commissioner Tina McLaren, who recently transitioned from drama commissioning, says the core principles of commissioning and producing short-form content are very similar to those used in longer-form pieces.    

“The same rules would apply in any commission. We find the right content for either a brand Robbie’s working with, or the correct slot or demographic, and we then work with the producers and quality-control it all the way through. The rules are the same. We’re still just trying to tell a story that’s a little bit shorter than the Sunday features I’ve become used to,” she says.

Spargo concurs with these sentiments and points to Kiwi Living and Purina Pound Pups as examples of the content partnerships that TVNZ has established over the last few years.   

“I don’t think it’s a brand new thing – it’s just a new iteration of something we’ve been doing for some time,” he says.

As things stand, Microsoft is the only brand to have paid for content to appear in Shorts, but Spargo says TVNZ is currently throwing ideas around with a few brands.

“We’re in discussions with a number of different brands at the moment. Nothing is 100 percent confirmed, but we have lots and lots of interest. We’re working through the ideas that we have together with those brands to shape them into something. So, you’ll see a lot more in the new year.”

The release of TVNZ’s first batch of shows comes shortly after the launch of NZME’s short-form platform, WatchMe, which could also potentially host branded content.  

And as local brands start to dabble in content creation, we can only hope for the emergence of the Kiwi version of Johnnie Walker’s The Gentleman’s Wager

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