2008. nov. 15.

The Filler is dead: long live the Discovery-Shorts!

by Claudio Scotto di Carlo & Federico Gaggio
October 2006 (but in 2008 it's still stunning )

With the multiplication of channels and programme schedules, the necessity to fill gaps of air-time is providing a unique opportunity to support our channels’ on-air messages beyond traditional branding and promotion practices. At Discovery we have seized this opportunity to create a new kind of interstitial: the brand-building short.

Compelling stories which build network brands

These elements are also called “fillers”, a name which reflects their functional role: to fill a gap between two programmes. They are needed but not particularly desired by broadcasters. We would rather use the precious air time for content, advertising, promotions or branding, so they are generally made by recycling and repackaging available programme material.

Programme lengths vary, as do advertising sales slots, but schedules need to maintain a coherent pattern - so the filler is here to stay. But what do they mean to the viewer? By their very nature fillers are not ‘programmable’, but used tactically as and when they’re needed. A viewer could see one at any point in the day or night, and then see it again, and again... for a very long time in the future.

The filler is not a programme and it is not a marketing message. So what is it? How does it affect the viewer’s experience and perception of the channel?

How we started

Last year Discovery Networks launched a new lifestyle channel in the Italian market: Discovery Real Time. As part of its on-air launch campaign, we took the decision to create 50 ad-hoc ‘fillers’. The objective was to tell short stories that communicated the positioning of the channel, to provide practical advice for good living, delivered without pretence, and with good humour thrown in for good measure.

After a selection process, 50 short films were commissioned from a small number of directors and producers within Italy and the UK. The shorts extended and complemented our key marketing message, while also providing compelling content to watch.

This experiment proved very successful and audience feedback was very positive: the shorts proved to be memorable and served the brand extremely well. Only a few months after launch, Discovery Real Time was performing well above expectations.

Encouraged by this initial success, we decided to repeat the experiment with Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Travel & Living.

In February 2006 Discovery Channel in Europe signalled a turning point by introducing a new identity package across on-air and off-air marketing. The guiding principle of the new identity is “True to Life”. It means that we no longer focus primarily on technical knowledge and facts, but we dig deeper into the stories of the people behind the facts. This was an irresistible brief. We promptly briefed our growing network of writers and directors and commissioned 35 new “true to life” shorts for Discovery.

They are the extraordinary stories of what you might call ordinary people. The enthusiasm of the people involved was amazing and the results are outstanding. These films were produced on shoe-string budgets (carved out of the channel’s on-air budget) but the passion, creativity and dedication of those making them managed to overcome the limitations and exceed all expectations.

Animal Planet in Italy is squarely aimed at younger audiences. It is competing for the attention of 4 to 14 year olds alongside families, with all of the traditional children’s channels, whose output is largely based on cartoons and animation.

Our brief for these shorts was to create stories of bonds between children and animals. Fun or moving, live action or cartoon, our main selection criteria were based on compelling stories and creative excellence.

The shorts for Discovery Channel and Animal Planet were originally commissioned for our Italian networks but they have since also been distributed across all of the EMEA region.

Discovery’s latest European venture was to launch DMAX in Germany, our very first free-to-air channel. DMAX is the only “fact tv” channel that offers new way of looking at life and the world through stimulating entertainment and provocative ideas. It is aimed at a young upscale male demographic. Following the success of our previous commissions, we are now in the process of producing 35 short films for DMAX. The focus is on men, their passions, interests and aspirations. DMAX launched on the German airwaves on September 1st 2006.


Gaps in the schedule can be used very effectively to build and evolve a channel’s brand by creating shorts that combine compelling content with brand values. These can provide multiple opportunities to connect with an audience. They are interesting to watch; they celebrate the channel’s core values; they speak directly to the target audience; they support the brand positioning; they bridge the gap between programmes and marketing messages; they provide a fertile ground for the incubation of new ideas; they give new talent an opportunity to reach a wider audience; and all in all they are really good fun to make!

Nincsenek megjegyzések:

Megjegyzés küldése