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A Promising Future For Branded Entertainment

If there is one sign of hope for the marketing industry as a whole, it is that no one really wants boring, one-way, shout-oriented interruptive marketing to survive. Social media is a natural ally in this fight, given its focus on fostering conversations and creating content, but what about the role of marketing as entertainment? It isn't necessarily the first word anyone might choose to describe effective marketing, but this week at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in Las Vegas it was the featured topic in a panel I moderated at an event focused on the intersection of broadcast, marketing, social media and entertainment.

What Is Branded Entertainment?

The focus on the panel was on branded entertainment through online video – though on several occasions it was raised that this content can increasingly find its way onto other platforms as well such as broadcast TV or mobile. There were three core models of branded entertainment being used by brands today that panelists shared:

  1. IMB_LisaKudrowWebTherapy Product Placement – The most simplistic form, some would argue that this barely qualifies to be called branded entertainment … yet it is increasingly popular for brands to use as a way of inserting their brand or products into existing content.
  2. Brand Sponsorship/Integration – This category had the most varying descriptions, incorporating everything from a brand simply adding a "sponsored by" slate to a video to inserting a pre-roll or post-roll ad.
  3. Branded Content Creation – The "purest" form of branded entertainment, this area was clearly the focus of the panel. Included in this category were examples like Royal Carribean's recent Ocean Views campaign, as well as Lexus' popular LStudio online video channel that spawned the popular series Web Therapy with Lisa Kudrow which was recently picked up by Showtime as a pilot.

What Will The Future Of Branded Entertainment Look Like?

IMB_morgan-spurlock-s-the-greatest-movie-ever-sold Ultimately, the premise behind branded entertainment is that great content will provide an entertainment value and there is a role of marketing to play in trying to create or support more of that type of content. The ongoing challenge will be one of setting the boundaries between what is reasonable underwriting or brand sponsorship of a message, and what is over the top. This is the real question at the heart of the growth of branded entertainment – and one that several filmmakers have recently tackled – including The Joneses (a film about a fictional family planted in the surburbs to create demand for new products by flaunting them to neighbors) and Morgan Spurlock's new documentary – "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" or as it is "officially" meant to be called "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."

Despite these cautionary notes, however, the powerful premise of branded entertainment is that brands need to get better at telling a story instead of merely hawking product benefits or service descriptions. People engage with entertainment, and they tend to share it if they like it. In a world where consumers have more ways to ignore and filter out brand messages than ever before, engagement is the new and necessary metric because it means more than empty measures of reach or frequency.

Branded entertainment today is still a strategy for marketers and organizations who are ahead of the curve. It won't be long, however, before the followers and later adopters in the mainstream start to join the party.  After all, no one wants to miss out on a good show.

9 thoughts on “A Promising Future For Branded Entertainment”

  1. Interesting how things come full circle – in the early days of radio advertising there was Ovaltine’s sponsorship of the radio show “Little Orphan Annie” who knows, in the next year or so we’ll probably be watching “Grey’s Anatomy” sponsored by Xanax…

  2. In a world where we find ourselves bombarded with subtle and not-so-subtle advertisements everywhere we turn, I actually like the idea of an advertisement that tells a story about the product and what its benefits may be to the consumer. At least I like that idea better than them shamelessly attempting to force their products into regular TV shows and movies, like your example of “Nissan Rogueâ€￾ being repeated constantly by the character on “Heroesâ€￾.

    Coca-Cola’s latest “happinessâ€￾ campaign is another great example of brand entertainment. While not every consumer may come across one of the “happinessâ€￾ trucks or vending machines, just watching the videos of those that do are entertaining and engaging. I also like the fact that they are advertisements consumers can choose to watch, rather than it being “meshed intoâ€￾ or “bannered onâ€￾ regular entertainment like inside TV shows or video games. I will watch multiple You Tube videos about a product or service and prefer that to a banner ad or their name dropped in my favorite show.

  3. Excellent post – and this is so true.

    Notice you have used a picture of Lisa Kudrow (we all know from Friends) in your post.

    Morgan Freeman has been used to sell (cannot remember what now – but remember his voice over/profile from the TV advert).

    Touching on what Tracy says about Coca Cola – have you noticed McDonalds adverts have a lot of very happy smiling multi racial people in their adverts eating salads?

  4. Thanks for sharing the ways on how to do it. I have a small business and I use social media. I’m the only one who maintains it, I do the blogging, the articles, etc. And I always seek for an online advise and tips. And I find your blog so useful and helpful.


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Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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