Brands including KitchenAid, Verizon, and Procter & Gamble are producing more documentaries than ever.

Their popularity is due to streaming’s growing popularity, the rise of purpose-driven marketing, and viewers’ growing dislike of interruptive ads.

Filmmakers, directors, and streaming platforms have also become more receptive to working with brands.

The trend has accelerated during the pandemic and could pose another threat to traditional TV ads and ad agencies as some brands bypass them to work directly with platforms and production companies.

Last month, KitchenAid released its first documentary, “A Woman’s Place,” a 30-minute film that follows three female chefs who overcome bias in the male-dominated culinary industry.

“We looked at a plethora of issues and landed on this because it ties really well to our brand purpose of creating possibility in the kitchen,” said Robert Sundy, head of brand and creative at KitchenAid’s parent company Whirlpool. “There’s an increasing expectation [from consumers] that brands have shared values and purpose —that’s what drives loyalty and engagement.”

KitchenAid isn’t alone. The rising adoption of over-the-top streaming, growth of purpose-driven marketing, and increase in ad-skipping had led more brands to get on the documentary bandwagon. For instance:

  • Brands including Nike, Johnson & Johnson, HP, and 23andMehave made documentaries in the past few years.
  • Verizon started making its first documentaries in 2017, and has produced four, including two this year.
  • P&G has prioritized long-form content in recent years, producing films such as “The Talk” and “The Look.”

Documentaries can help brands reach — and gain legitimacy — among hard-to-reach consumers

The trend has accelerated in recent months as people stream more video the pandemic. The time spent with subscription OTT video in the US is set to surpass an hour per day this year, up 23% from 2019, according to Insider Intelligence’s eMarketer.

“There are more eyeballs shifting there, but they also tend to have valuable audiences who are paying a premium for subscriptions,” said Brendan Gaul, global chief content officer at UM. “These are likely the people that brands are trying to reach with their messages anyway.”

Also, documentaries also can be a way for brands to show they’re taking a position on social issues, as research has found people are more likely to buy products from companies that stand for something.

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