Cynthia B. Meyers recently attended the 2014 Media Summit NYC conference as a Carsey-Wolf Research Fellow to learn more about how advertisers are using “branded entertainment” to sell products. She incorporated that experience into the following publication, a critical essay that also draws from current research on the integration of advertising and entertainment content.
Brand-produced content seems to be everywhere these days. Rather than interrupt programs with commercials, advertisers (“brands”) seek to integrate their messages into the entertainment itself. The energy drink Red Bull produces popular videos about high risk sporting events. A Hulu series, 4 to 9ers, centers on the fast food chain Subway. AT&T’s teen reality series @summerbreak promotes cell phone usage. Restaurant chain Chipotle’s series Farmed and Dangerous satirizes industrial food production. Brands are also experimenting with short films (Prada) and feature-length films (The Lego Movie). This expanding field has its own trade association, which promotes the integration of advertising, brands, and content.
Branded entertainment is an increasingly important element in the evolving media “ecosystem” that will affect entertainment supply chains and help shape new cultural forms. To develop a critical and nuanced understanding of the diverse phenomena currently covered by the vague term “branded entertainment,” these are a few things to know.
- “Branded entertainment” can be defined either broadly or narrowly; the role of brands in entertainment also varies widely.
- Branded entertainment has a long history.
- Today’s resurgence of branded entertainment is one way that advertisers are responding to connected viewing trends.
- Branded entertainment complicates traditional media metrics, goals, and institutional relationships.
- The advertising and entertainment industries will likely evolve new production modes, distribution platforms, and formats to serve brands’ needs.
1. “Branded entertainment” can be defined either broadly or narrowly; the role of brands in entertainment also varies widely.
Broadly speaking, the strategies for integrating advertising into other forms of content are often referred to as “content marketing” and “branded content”—that is, employing “content” to be associated with a brand. David Lang, the Chief Content Officer at the media agency MindShare, defines “content” as “consumer-focused,” unlike “advertising,” which is “brand focused,” that is, designed for selling. Content marketing and branded content, then, are designed to please audiences while accomplishing brand objectives.
Some forms of branded content are particular to journalism or nonfiction. “Native advertising,” designed to mimic the surrounding publisher’s nonfiction editorial content, increasingly appears on news and information sites (as in The Economist’s collaboration with GE). Informational branded content can include blogs, recipes, news, and documentary videos. Some advertisers are creating “newsrooms” and their own “brand journalism” as in “GE Reports.”
Other forms include branded content videos that don’t push a product but instead build brand image; for example, IBM’s “A Boy and His Atom,” Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” Jean-Claude Van Damme’s gymnastic split between Volvo trucks, and Caterpillar’s giant machines playing a Jenga game. Varietyhas labeled some of these efforts “branded entertainment” because they are longer than typical commercials,or they feature celebrities.
Others restrict the term “branded entertainment” to traditional narrative forms, such as films, scripted series, and unscripted series that are specifically designed “to drive brand engagement and sales.” In this narrower conception, advertisers use multiple strategies in collaboration with producers. Product placement and “brand integration” may involve merely showing products on sets or centering plot lines around brands, as when Project Runway contestants made garments from Subway materials. Cast commercials, in a kind of reversal of product placement, bring a program’s performers into an advertisement so as to keep the audience's attention during the commercial interruption.
“Sponsorship” may allow brands that pay for content some control over it, as in General Mills’ sponsorship of Marlo Thomas’ web program. Full sponsorship may give a brand full content ownership (of its “IP” or intellectual property); however, concerned that audiences might resist overt sponsorship, many brands underplay their controlling role. Some advertisers, such as Toyota, prefer the term “brand partnership” to imply a collaboration of equals in the brand/producer relationship. Other advertisers sponsor “affinity content” in which the brand does not appear but the content fits the “brand image,” as in Red Bull’s Stratos Jump. Ford, for example, hopes to achieve a “halo effect” by its association with content such as “This Built America.”
Read the rest of the article : http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/mip/article/branded-entertainment-reshapes-media-ecosystem