“The one simple truth about branded entertainment: there is no one simple truth about branded entertainment. More than anything, this is a time of experimentation and exploration. Some initiatives are going to capture public imagination, while some are going to fall by the wayside. This scattered marketplace makes it almost impossible to say with any certainty just exactly how things are going to play out,” says Mark Pytlik from Contagious Communications, a leading digital and experimental media communications agency in London.
Branded entertainment is an unconventional brand initiated and owned endurable contact point that provides unique, compelling and meaningful content that imbues authentic narrative in order to resonate with consumers and therefore strategically builds the brand.
We all remember Jude Law’s tap dance in the Johnnie Walker Blue Label’s ‘Gentleman’s Wager’ short film, the reality TV show Girls of the Playboy Mansion and TNT Belgium’s much loved ‘Push to Add Drama’ – that dramatic surprise on a quiet square?
With its birth in the soap opera of the 1950s it seems that this comeback kid only reached puberty in 2012 – the year that Cannes and the One Show Entertainment Awards officially recognised a branded entertainment category. 2012 was also the birth of the Australasian Branded Entertainment Awards. More industry awards now start recognising branded entertainment or content creation as a category.
Kieran Antill, executive creative director at Leo Burnett New York, explains the need for branded entertainment as result of the explosion of media channels and the subsequent fragmentation and proliferation forcing brands to plough resources into content creation. This content creation is imperative to create captive audiences that allow a deeper sense of engagement with the consumer – in their chosen space and in their chosen time. This deeper sense of engagement has the ability not only to resonate with consumers on an emotional level, but also to affect behaviour a business objective outcome.
The three biggest challenges branded entertainment is facing, as identified by iMedia, are clients wanting attainable metrics for branded entertainment success; brand decision makers not wanting to take chances on branded entertainment; and the quality or integrity of the content often ruining the end result.
Plenty in industry is being done to create effective branded entertainment measurement tools. In 2012 Nielson’s lson Company, IFC TV and the Sundance Channel created new measurement techniques using various branded entertainment measurement factors including “relevance”, “engagement” (strength of emotion), “exposure”, “transference” and “need states”. Companies like @Radical Media uses cost per member acquired to measure campaign success and also in 2012 Ogilvy & Mather introduced the Branded Entertainment Assessment Model which is endorsed by leading production and broadcast companies who adapted the approach to support measurement of their branded entertainment properties. It seems that there are many more to follow, meaning that this mountain is being conquered with metric intelligent conviction.
Reluctant brand decision makers
A key reason provided in the iMedia study for clients not believing in branded entertainment, bar industry recognised metrics, was that clients “… do not recognise the strategic importance of engagement and building authenticity”. Another reason provided by Kevin Gray from the USA-based branded entertainment and alternative-marketing agency Pomegranate, may be the following: “In spite of its (branded entertainment) popularity, no one really knows what branded entertainment actually is … how much it costs, where they (clients) can get it or what their expectations should be,” he says.
This means that clients would not believe in something that poses to be unfamiliar. Gray is also adamant that clients ought to be educated on the strategic role and value of branded entertainment in building brands.
Quality of the content
Mike Wiese, director of branded entertainment at J Walter Thompson New York, warns that too often in branded entertainment, the actual entertainment value becomes secondary to “making the deal” or just being a once-off tactic within a campaign. The focus should be on longer term strategies and building brands. The focus, he feels, should be on creating entertainment brands instead of creating branded entertainment.
The focus should be on the story and the entertainment rather than thrusting towards a “sell” as consumers want a brand who genuinely want to entertain and add value over the long term more so than connecting with them temporality to make a “sell”. It could thus be reasoned that perceived sincerity on the part of the brand is important, meaning that it is always in the best interest of the consumer.
The sour milk in the wanna-be purple cow’s udders: creative executions in branded entertainment communication still resemble a traditional advertising mindset with a sometimes inauthentic and sales mentality. Consumers are brand savvy and pushing a brand’s product or service in their face when they want to enjoy their chosen entertainment or absorb the relevant content is like mixing glass in the cake batter.
Irene Steyger, senior copywriter at Ogilvy Johannesburg who worked on the multi-award winning branded entertainment campaign for KFC’s Add Hope initiative, advises that good branded entertainment starts with a story inherent to the brand’s identity, which is then delicately woven into the content.
Strategically developed branded entertainment initiatives create content that is not instantly disposable. The story or content ought to be the main pulling factor and should be placed first and foremost, with the brand taking a back seat otherwise the credibility of the communication effort could be compromised.
And there it is. Why? Because anybody can.
Well – not really. It seems that few really can create successful branded entertainment campaigns at present. Hopefully branded entertainment is growing up – and its value recognised as imperative meaningful alternative consumer-brand contact point.
Marthinus van Loggerenberg is a brand strategist and lecturer at the Vega School of Brand Leadership.
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