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Branded entertainment: Marketers’ new best friend

In another sign of the digital times, a recent survey* finds Americans spend 14 percent of their total video-viewing time online – averaging 42 minutes per day. Although consumers may be embracing new entertainment channels, this shift in viewing habits turns out to be another thorn in advertisers’ sides. Thanks to Internet-connected televisions, tablet computers, smartphones and DVRs, it’s suddenly much easier to escape brand advertisements. As a result, companies are looking for new ways to reach today’s sophisticated and technologically savvy consumers with their messages.
With all of the media clutter out there, consumers want more control over what, where and when they are marketed to, which has paved a shiny, new path for branded entertainment – a fusion of advertising, entertainment and marketing. This marketing buzz word, which has become ever-so-popular on the web, is a cheaper and more diversified way of reaching consumers (some say, even more effective) than the traditional 30-second TV spot, and companies are racing to jump onboard.


The expense of TV broadcast, combined with consumers spending more and more time online, makes branded entertainment an attractive option for marketers. According to a report from PQ Media, branded entertainment marketing is quickly becoming a staple for marketers and is expected to be a $38 billion industry by 2014 – growing at 9.2 percent annually.
The web has emerged as the biggest platform for this type of content, which allows consumers to “opt in” to brand messaging and allows brands to extensively track and monitor engagement. Mattel’s successful series “Genuine Ken: The Search for the Great American Boyfriend” aired on Hulu, which reported each new episode was one of its highest rated videos.
Branded entertainment can come to life in many ways: as a vehicle to launch a new product like Ford’s Rally America, which helped showcase the automaker’s newest line of vehicles; as an opportunity to bring back relevance to a mature brand like Mattel’s iconic Barbie franchise; or as a way to reach new consumers, as with the case of Denny’s ”Always Open,”’ an effort to appeal to a younger group of consumers and to lose its “old fashioned” diner reputation.
As brands explore this new world of branded web entertainment, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Be Authentic: Branded entertainment shouldn’t come off as product placement. Consumers will know the difference (think “American Idol” and Coca-Cola). Make sure the opportunity is authentic to the brand and that there is a high level of transparency with consumers. The best way to do this is by being part of the overall storyline and showcasing brands as they would appear in the real world.
  • Go Social: Social media are an integral part of branded entertainment – not an afterthought. Branded entertainment is one of the best opportunities to really engage consumers and keep them coming back for more. Ask consumers to vote on a webisode finale, give them incentives for “checking in” to view content or offer exclusive content for paying attention. The options are endless.
  • Inform/Educate:Use this as an opportunity to communicate something new about the brand that consumers didn’t already know or reinforce brand positioning. Remember your target consumer is choosing to engage with the brand,
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