Opinion

To BE or not to BE?

In this guest post, Greg Logan wonders if branded entertainment (BE) is the savior or the devil.

BE is kinda like a shiny new car. Some can’t wait to get in and take it for a run. Some turn their noses up at it, thinking it will destroy the environment. And most people just don’t know how to drive it.

Broadcasters, brands and production companies are all happily jumping in together. But some are worried that TV (and to some extent the internet) is becoming one big long ad with little differentiation between the breaks and the content.

Of course we will always have the good old ad-free ABC. But the other networks are called commercial channels for a reason. But these days they have to be careful to balance commerciality with credibility.

Nobody can blame the networks for wanting to make a buck and lowering production costs. But it can go too far, and you start to lose a viewer’s trust. But it’s not just the media who have to take responsibility here. A bright future in BE relies on the brands making
sure they regulate themselves. They have to remember it’s called branded entertainment, not branded placement.

BE cannot be another way to do an ad.

Hopefully brands understand that consumers are also viewers. Sophisticated ones. They have more choice than ever before and they’ll quickly leave you if you make them sit through a thirty-minute ad.

To me, the answer lies in the difference between advertising and storytelling. Brands that are entering BE need to stop thinking of themselves as advertisers and start thinking of themselves as producers.

Brands can be great storytellers. Brands can be entertaining. For years we’ve had years of programs such World’s Funniest Commercials. Millions of people every day search and share brands such as Old Spice, Volkswagen, Red Bull and Uniqlo just for their
entertainment value.

Look at James Bond. He has been the world’s most successful BE vehicles, and audiences love seeing brands play a part in the action.

History has proven that brands can borrow the equity created through the magic of entertainment; today, brands can actually create that magic themselves.

By 2015, the worldwide entertainment industry is projected to be worth $1.8 trillion. Now’s the time for brands to change the way in which they communicate and engage with consumers and audiences, but by doing so they have the opportunity to create new revenue streams- becoming media owners and publishers.

By creating entertainment authentic to brand ideals and rooted in the logic that drives all elements of the marketing mix, brands can employ the magic of entertainment effectively and profitably.

How can they measure the success? One of the world’s best BE companies, OgilvyEntertainment in the US, has created a new measurement standard, the Ogilvy Branded Entertainment Model (BEAM) so BE can be assessed and measured against a consistent model. It gives the 39% of US companies, who will spend more on
branded content this year, proof of what they already believe- that branded content works.

In the end, people want good entertainment, branded or not. Force- fit brands into good entertainment and it will leave a bad taste in the mouth. It’s not good for the brand, the program or the channel. But good entertainment, where brands increase the entertainment or play a meaningful role, make everyone happy – including the
audience.

Greg Logan is the executive producer at Hatch

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