The win-win of branded entertainment

Greg-Logan HatchBrands benefit, networks benefit and viewers do too when branded entertainment is done well, so why aren’t we seeing more of it asks Greg Logan in an opinion piece that first appeared in Encore.

Often a branded entertainment project works for the brand but not the channel. Or vice-versa. But when you satisfy the viewer, everyone’s happy.

Last year, consumer goods brand P&G needed to make a connection between themselves and the Olympics to maximize their sponsorship.

As Wieden+Kennedy executive producer Bill Davenport said at the recent Real Screen Forum in New York: “These days with Facebook, Twitter and email, it’s important to have emotional connections that feed your soul.”

W+K came up with the idea that behind every great athlete is a wum. That lead to the global format ‘Team Mom: Raising an Olympian’, a series of engaging mini docos that could be localised for different countries and put together to make a global format of scale.

The videos were distributed via Yahoo and placed in contextually relevant sections of the site. The result was a series of inspiring and highly emotional stories for mums, an entertaining offering for Yahoo and a genuine link to the Olympics for the sponsor. Marketing director Carlos Dejesus said: “We’re really starting to model what a true win-win can look like in this space.”

Going into its second season on prime time NBC is Fashion Star, a classic showcase of how commerce and entertainment can fit together. In the series, the big American department stores – Macy’s, H&M and Saks – bid for the collections of budding fashion designers, and viewers can buy them the next day in their stores.

You pull those brands out and you have no show. The brands are happy as they have instant return on investment, and all the clothes sell out. The broadcaster, NBC, is happy because if you don’t watch the show, you’ll miss out on the fashion. And viewers are happy as they can wear the entertainment.

Fashion Star is the perfect example of brands being a natural part of the entertainment. Life involves brands, it makes sense they are in shows – if treated properly.

Remember the film Castaway? After Tom Hanks, Wilson – a soccer ball – was the second most important character. A brand. It not only made sense, it had the audience in tears when it floated away.

There’s another way brands can win over networks and viewers. Take the many shows that are critical successes and have passionate fanbases, but stations struggling to make them succeed. A bank could bring back the Sunday program or Moove milk could keep Puberty Blues going. They retain all the creative people involved, and incorporate the brand or product naturally into the show, or have people watch new episodes on their own online channel.

But you don’t have to pay for a big TV show for a win-win. Rather than make a 30-minute program, why not make a 60-second program? The network will love the media spend and the viewer would much prefer snack-sized entertainment than an ad. It can still have a call to action at the end, but viewers will be far more receptive to it.

Or you can make a cameo appearance. During the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, Volkswagen made a shark cage in the shape of a car. It not only handed the producers a bit of cash, it made for a better show.

So when are these mutually beneficial relationships going to happen here in Australia? It won’t be until both sides of the equation start talking the same language. “We are determined to crack this space,” says Andrew Mulready, head of advertising sales and strategic integration at Foxtel. “For us, it’s all about long-form editorial and entertainment with credibility.” Thankfully, that’s exactly the same thing every good marketer wants.

When people look to be entertained, advertising is the most irrelevant part of the conversation. So unless we make ourselves relevant, we are not going to win. It’s time channels and brands started to give audiences what they want. Then we not only stay in the conversation, we have a much richer and longer one.

Greg Logan is co-founder and managing director of Hatch Entertainment

This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.

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