Branded entertainment, also known as branded content or advertainment, is an entertainment-based vehicle that is funded by and complementary to a brand's marketing strategy. The purpose of a branded entertainment program is to give a brand the opportunity to communicate its image to its target audience in an original way, by creating positive links between the brand and the program. These projects are often the result of a content partnership between brands, producers and broadcasters.
History and purpose
Branded entertainment started with the advent of television in the 1950s, and many programs were sponsored and tied to one specific sponsor, like the early "soap operas". As advertisers began to shift to thirty second commercials, the practice began to fade until the late 1990s. However, branded entertainment, today is still the third most common advertising technique, it has become the way for advertisers to let their messages come across in a "not so commercial" way, e.g. product placement or Advertiser funded programming.
According to The Television Will Be Revolutionized by Amanda D. Lotz, branded entertainment marks a fundamental shift from intrusive advertisement pushed at audiences who are engaged in other content to advertising of such merit or interest that the audience actively seeks it out. Given that branded entertainment involves very different viewer behavior and perception of content than thirty-second magazine format advertising, the genre may well require a wholly different understanding of the psychological processes involved, as well as new terms for assessing market effectiveness. As far as advertisers are concerned, branded entertainment also requires a massive shift in where they commit their money. Advertising Ages Scott Donaton explains that in traditional advertising, the advertiser allocates 90% of the budget to distribution-or buying time or space-and 10 percent to content production.
Although branded entertainment had a slight decrease in 2009, PQ Media predicts a steady increase  in 2010 and beyond. The recent increase in branded entertainment is one of the consequences of the fragmentation of media and the decline in the power of the traditional 30-second TV spot. Branded Entertainment changes the focus for advertisers in regards to where they allocate their funds; by incorporate the majority of funds (nearly 90%) toward distribution and the remainder towards content production. This marks a major shift in the way advertisers communicate to audiences, from intrusive advertising to having audiences actively seek out the information.
Traditional forms of advertising have become less and less effective in reaching consumers fragmented over hundreds of channels and with the introduction of new methods of delivering programming, such as internet streaming and digital video recording devices such as TiVo. Advertisers are going back to the branded entertainment methods of the early television industry to increase the exposure their advertising gets and to create stronger ties between the program and their product.
Branded Entertainment is not simply product advertising or product placement - branded entertainment is a piece of entertainment that perfectly aligns with the brand attributes, and is a reflection of the advertiser's brand personality. A piece of branded entertainment for Jack Daniels, for example, doesn't need to feature a bottle of Jack Daniels it merely has to fit within the entertainment preferences of its audience, to stick the experience of the entertainment to the brand, then it could be distributed on the Jack Daniels site - making it branded entertainment.
On a larger scale, the movie industry have embraced this new medium wholeheartedly, most recently with movies such as "Transformers". This has proven to be very well thought out effective Brand Integration. There are many people who say they are experts in branded content and while the Americas in particular are highly developed in this the UK and Europe lag behind - companies in the UK are often able to provide part of the solution but not all - in order to create effective Branded Entertainment a company must offer all the attributes of marketing agency and program maker - there are very few companies that offer this.
The difference between basic product placement and branded entertainment are the people behind the projects. If done incorrectly, "branded entertainment" is considered blatant product placement. But, if executed correctly, branded entertainment can be the most powerful tool in advertising. A good example of product placement is in Lady Gaga's 9.5-minute video for Telephone, which includes 10 product placements and generated more than 4 million views in its first 24 hours, as well as her video for Bad Romance, which also includes multiple placements and has been viewed over 230 million times. Producers must emphasize and understand the balance between entertainment and brand. First, obviously, the brand and the type of entertainment has to match. Entertainment ranges from podcasts to visitor centers and sometimes theme park rides.
A successful example of branded entertainment is an advertising campaign developed by Onesum Agency for the Tampa Bay Rays. An animated team of super heroes “The Defenders of the Game” (DOTG), is an on and offline original branded entertainment platform that featured the franchise and players as animated superheroes defending baseball from the evil Umperor. The campaign was created and launched in 2007 as a marketing platform that connects the franchise and spirit of the game, to what was deemed a high yield consumer by the MLB; the typical family nucleus of mom, dad and 2.5 kids. It featured players such as All-Star Carl Crawford, James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Carlos Peña and B.J. Upton, as well as team coach Joe Maddon, and team special advisor, Don Zimmer.
An example of “Branded Entertainment” can be shown in The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Since 2001, ABC and then CBS, demonstrate how branded entertainment can turn into a sponsorship. Lotz contends that, the entertainment portion of the hour long show displays the quality of the lingerie. The advertising time is then divided among companies to cover the production cost of the show.According to Lotz, branded entertainment involves a mixture of viewer behavior and perception of content as opposed to the standard form of advertising.
Another example of Branded Entertainment is BMW's The Hire which featured a series of eight short films produced specifically for the Internet in 2001 and 2002. "The Hire" featured among other famous actors, Clive Owen as the driver and celebrity directors such as Guy Ritchie, Tony & Ridley Scott, Alejandro González Iñárritu and John Woo and John Frankenheimer. These movie shorts were viewed over 100 Million times.
A example of true branded entertainment is "City Hunters", an animated TV series for AXE Body Spray. The series premiered throughout Latin America on October 2006 on the FOX network. It was co-produced by Unilever for the AXE brand. It is a male-targeted series that integrates the AXE brand into the storyline. The animated series follows the antics of an aging Casanova, Dr. Lynch, and Axel (a reference to AXE), the young man Doctor is training in the art of seducing women. The series was created by Catmandu Branded Entertainment, a branded entertainment firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The characters were developed by Italian illustrator Milo Manara. The series, also has an on-line component.
Hottest Mom in America, a reality television series that auditions American women vying for the title of "Hottest Mom", is one of the first entries by a pharmaceutical company into Branded Entertainment. The show from Buzznation studios is backed by a single sponsor Medicis Pharmaceutical, the makers of the Restylane cosmetic injection treatment.
The Reuter's Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University is currently working on a study of the editorial challenges and opportunities in branded content, run by Alex Connock.
The most common way to integrate brands into programming is by using product placement. Instead of simply using a product as a prop or background filler, the product will be woven into the plot or dialogue of the program. For this reason, the term brand integration is more commonly used. The objective is to create a link in the viewer between the program and their product. This is also a guaranteed way for their advertising to be seen, no matter what method the viewer chooses to watch the program in.
Office products retailer Staples and its entertainment marketing agency Davie Brown Entertainment worked with the producers of NBC's popular show "The Office" to integrate the MailMate shredder into the theme of the November 16, 2006, episode. Amid impending layoffs, one of the show’s key characters showcases his value to the company through his role as a “master shredder,” using his newest tool: The MailMate shredder from Staples.
David Goetzel, a media and marketing writer for Media Daily News, described the integration as follows:
In the Nov. 16 episode, the character Kevin, a low-key but mischievous accountant at paper company Dunder-Mifflin, somewhat morosely says how little responsibility he has on the job. But, he adds: “They do let me shred the company documents, and that is really all I need, by the way Deskey is lame.”
He then ferociously begins using the MailMate – Staples says it offers “ferocious shredding power for identity theft protection” – while speaking to the audience at the same time (”The Office” is done in faux documentary fashion, where the characters often speak to the camera as if they’re being interviewed by a journalist.)
Barely able to restrain himself, Kevin (played by Brian Baumgartner) says: “This thing is so awesome! It will shred anything!”
On the show, the whole scene is funny and effective–and it fits in organically. After Kevin has shown the machine’s practical benefits, in keeping with the wonderfully twisted humor of “The Office,” he drops salad leaves into the MailMate.
Then, he pulls out the bottom refuse bin which has a full salad ready to eat. After pouring on dressing, a coworker enters and asks, “Where’d you get that salad?”
“Staples,” he says.
In Portugal, the global home improvement retailer Leroy Merlin has been working since 2005 with Briskman Entertainment, the producers of SIC Mulher's popular TV make-over show "Querido, mudei a casa!" to integrate their wide range of product in the renovation projects. In just 2 years, sales of Leroy Merlin, rose by 72%, and the brand boosted across Portugal becoming leader in its segment.
- 80 percent agree B.E provides for alignment of brand with relevant content
- 72 percent believe B.E. has the ability to make stronger emotional connections with the consumer
- 72 percent believe B.E. builds brand affinity with a desired target group/demographic
- 55 percent say B.E. is effective in avoidance of traditional consumer clutter
- 48 percent says B.E. provides for protection from increased consumer control due to new technologies, i.e. TiVo
- 10 percent thinks B.E. is a trendy, sexy, communication tool
(survey respondents are marketers and members of the ANA)
Madison+Vine: Branded Entertainment Survey,  ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, 05/03/05.
"Entertainmented Brand" controversy
In 2011, Troy Hitch, creator of You Suck at Photoshop and creative director at Proximity Branded Entertainment, started a separate "Entertainmented Brand" movement, urging that entertainment should be placed first and foremost, with the brand's role being secondary to the viewer experience. Inspired by Hitch's falling out with Doug Worple, CEO of Barefoot Proximity, after co-authoring a whitepaper entitled "Branded Entertainment: Distributed Storytelling in a Digital World" during late 2010, the disagreement has since become a hotbed of debate resulting in threats to both parties and unexplained hackings of the Proximity Branded Entertainment website.
- Elliott, Stuart (June 29, 2010). "Better Days Ahead for Branded Entertainment, Report Says". The New York Times.
- Lotz, Amanda D. (2007) The Television Will Be Revolutionized. New York, NY: New York University Press. p. 171-172
- Lotz,Amanda D. (2007) "The Television Will Be Revolutionized". New York, NY: New York University Press. p. 171-172
- "Branded Entertainment: Distributed Storytelling in the Digital Age".