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The Emergence of Branded Entertainment

22 Jan, 2006 By: Kurt Indvik

Last week at a conference called “The Next Big Idea” executives from major consumer brands, Hollywood studios and advertising agencies gathered to talk about… well, at least what they thought was the next big idea, “branded entertainment.”

During the conference there was plenty of talk about integrity from both brand managers of car and soft drink companies and production executives; maintaining the integrity of the product brand by ensuring it's in the proper setting in the proper TV show or movie that serves to further its image to the consumer; maintaining the integrity of the story and entertainment value of the movie or TV show.

Perhaps, but let's not kid ourselves. The entertainment industry needs to generate as much revenue as possible up front as movies head in and out of theaters ever more quickly, and network TV sees its audience seeping away to the Internet and video games. And product marketers are seeing their ads Tivo'd and media marketing fractured into countless broadcast, cable, broadband, wireless and satellite channels.

The product placement in movies and TV has evolved over the years to become a key revenue source for Hollywood and a branding technique employed by more and more consumer product companies. Whereas it used to be something of an unspoken, if often clunky and conspicuous practice, it now has become an integral part of the creative process from the very beginning of a film or TV show's development, and a high-profile marketing element of a consumer brand.

As an example, Chrysler employed a double whammy this weekend in branded entertainment. As the title sponsor of the Bob Hope Desert Classic, Chrysler used some its TV time to promote its cars' significant presence in the upcoming Warner Bros. film Firewall, starring Harrison Ford. Nope, no one is shy about product placement anymore, no matter how creative or legitimate its presence might be in the film or TV show.

Certainly, their brand placements live on in DVD, long past the marketing campaign for a particular product. While there has been the odd attempt to monetize the DVD platform with paid-for product messages, these have been few and not well received. However, I think this will all change with the coming next generation of high definition video players. Linked to the Internet, with enormous disc space and enhanced interactivity, I can definitely envision a whole new era of marketing as consumers download additional branded, sponsored entertainment, newly created to fit with the original DVD content.

Let's hope that if branded entertainment is the next big thing, that integrity talk so prominent during the conference holds up as the opportunity to make more money in a tough business could generate a dangerous influence how films and TV shows are made in the future.

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