A Lesson From the Branded-Entertainment Front
We run, I’m proud to say given the landscape, a growing branded-entertainment and alternative-marketing agency. That said, we continually face the same challenges as other agencies when looking to work with new clients. In spite of its popularity, no one really knows what branded entertainment actually is — how much it costs, where they can get it or what their expectations should be. Funny really, since it’s been around since about 1950.
Let’s start with the definition.
Branded entertainment is not product placement. It’s not the ability to put a brand’s name on the side of a building. It’s not the excuse for a new challenge in the reality show, or the prize for caller 105 on the radio. It’s not a sporting event, or a mention of your favorite footwear, candy or mode of transport in this week’s top 40. It’s not the ability to finance a TV show or produce a web series. It’s not an article in your favorite rag, and it’s not a mind distractor at the gas pump. It’s all of the above, none of the above and much more. And that’s the problem (or at least one of them). Depending on whom you are talking to, almost everyone has a different definition — primarily based upon their own experience or capabilities.
We believe that entertainment, broadly speaking, is everything that you, or I, spend our hard-earned money on when we are not at work. Hitting the gym or the spa, reading a book (analog or digital), going to the theatre, getting your hair done, watching the game, surfing the net, grabbing a bite, watching the TV — you get the idea. Branded entertainment therefore is the ability to integrate brands into any of those social activities. The trick, however, is to ensure the integration is strategically relevant. If it’s not, the result will be as intrusive as more traditional forms of marketing and far less effective. However, when it is relevant, consumers willingly invite brands into their world and the return is outstanding. Jay Z’s new Life Times site is a great example of good branded entertainment.
Given that the opportunities for branded entertainment are so extensive, it’s not surprising that that the demand is increasing. Every agency has a branded-entertainment executive or department, and every agency, which just five years ago was focused on a single discipline, can now do it all. Some can, but many can’t, and that’s a worry for us small agencies. To complicate matters further, clients often don’t know what they are buying, how much effort and time it takes to move the needle and what success looks like.