Secrets of Branded Entertainment

Brands are definitely in the content business nowadays. The “create content, not ads” mantra is old hat by now. But it’s often easier said than done when brands want to do branded entertainment.
In theory, it makes perfect sense. In a time of limited attention spans, brands should underwrite the creation of media that reinforces the benefits of their products. In theory, it’s much messier, as noted at DIGIDAY: VIDEO UPFRONT by Jared Hoffman, managing partner of Generate, the production firm behind such efforts as Play it 4-Ward for Ford and The Allure of Love for Royal Caribbean.
The trick is striking a balancing act. On the one hand, a brand can’t be heavy-handed. On the other, the creators need to be cognizant that brands aren’t underwriting the content out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s to deliver a message. The Allure of Love works, he said, because the action takes place on a cruise ship but isn’t all about cruises. “It’s completely seamless,” Hoffman said. “It could have been Club Med or anywhere.”
Here are Hoffman’s tips for success in the tricky field of branded entertainment:
Get on the same page: A big challenge for branded entertainment producers is getting a seat at the table with the many moving parts of a marketer’s team. This can include the chief marketing officer, the media agency, the creative agency and more partners. “We knew what their goals are and expectations are,” he said.
Set realistic expectations: While Hoffman believes there will be a breakout hit that comes out of branded entertainment, it’s best to set realistic goals, particularly if the content is aimed at a niche audience. “We have to redefine what a hit is,” he said.
Agree on goals: The metrics for success of many branded entertainment exercises — indeed much of brand advertising — isn’t as easy as a sale or a lead generated. But the goal must be set beforehand, with the content shaped to deliver that. A project for Ford, Play It 4-Ward, was created with the goal of linking Ford and its Sync voice-command technology through an interview show about technology and entertainment. It wasn’t to drive people to local dealerships. “We let people say ‘I love my Chevy’ because Ford didn’t care,” Hoffman said. “Had it been the mission we’d have crafted a different show.”
Branded entertainment was also an issue at DIGIDAY’s recent Lunch & Learn video show. Jordan Berman, founder of Office Entertainment Network, discusses in the clip below the challenge of compelling creative that also serves a brand’s purposes.

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