media effects: dissemination, discourse and engagement

Branded entertainment for the young and restless

“Branded entertainment marks a fundamental shift in consumer engagement. It involves different viewer behaviour and perception of the content across multiple devices.” Chris Gorell Barnes

So, breaking news today – Sydney will be the host of the Festival of Branded Entertainment in November (source: Nice timing, advertising- powers -that- be – this announcement has queue-jumped the list of ‘things to write about on my blog’ (ever-growing and untended though it may be).

Branded entertainment. Once associated with the melodramatic cries of Brooke, Massimo, Ridge, and every actor who played Rick (I’m a little surprised by the sheer number of soap-opera names I can drop), it’s now enjoying a bit of a renaissance in an age of hyper-reality and open dialogue. Does it fall under the banner of subtle, effective advertising? Or is it parasitical product placement and clunky advertorials? Whatever your opinion (which I value very highly-  comment!), the causal relationship between branded entertainment, media effects theory and, more recently, social media, is an interesting one.

When discussing media effects theory, one of the integral investigations is the People’s Choice study of 1940 – specifically, the 1940 presidential election in the US of A. Conducted by Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet of Columbia University, the People’s Choice study ultimately concluded (after eight years of data collation, synthesis and analysis- phew!) that mass messages didn’t necessarily change anyone’s minds, and that advertising was, in effect, preaching to the converted. However, what they did find was that positively framed advertising – or reinforcement – ensured loyalty by imbuing the voters (or in this case, viewers) with the notion ‘that their current intention was worthwhile and correct’ (Sparkes 2010).

So, 72 years later, where does branded entertainment fit into this? Similar to my post about transmedia, it’s the delivery and the strength of the brand story that matter. Conversation over content, or the medium to McLuhan’s message. And with social media permeating a range of business practices, the cheesy soap opera brand entertainment hallmarks don’t have to be what advertisers fall back on. Indeed, bringing branded entertainment into the social media marketing mix has potential to go beyond clumsy product placement. Examples of the new, revamped branded entertainment include: Lady Gaga’s Telephone video, the entire concept of Victoria’s Secret Angels, or the new James Bond & Heineken campaign (actually, Ian Fleming was something of an unwitting advertiser himself) – playing with a mixed bag of formats like transmedia, microblogging, experiential and social.

So, over to you – can you think of a branded entertainment campaign you’ve liked or responded to? Or is all Forresters vs. Spectras in your head?


7 comments on “Branded entertainment for the young and restless

  1. MareeEllen
    September 28, 2012

    Hi Tabitha. Well, I’ve racked by brain but can’t think of any branded entertainment I’ve *noticed* let alone like or responded to – apart from ‘clumsy product placement’ in movies, which doesn’t generally spoil (or enhance) the entertainment value.

    But I did find this article about branded entertainment that works – which, among other things, says “Viewing branded entertainment solely through the lens of its failures is akin to defining the history of film by screening Ishtar and Porkie’s 2: The Next Day. It’s neither accurate, nor fair.”

    I liked that .. .

  2. tabithaacl
    September 29, 2012

    Hello again Maree! That’s a great quote – I’m really interested in seeing how the trend continues to develop with the new arsenal of social media under its belt. Particularly as a whole festival is being run in it’s honour, I’d be keen to see how valuable this resurgence in interest around it is.

  3. Sarah Hanniffy
    October 6, 2012

    Like Maree I hadn’t really thought about branded entertainment before I started this thought so really worthwhile discussion. I found this special media watch clip looking at ‘Branding Entertainment.’ It has a funny clip from 30 Rock at the beginning – well worth a watch!

  4. tabithaacl
    October 8, 2012

    Great clip Sarah! It’s definitely an area that’s fallen out of favour for a good long while, and in an age of in-built cynicism towards media and a drive towards ethical marketing rather than outright profit generation I think it’s a really interesting how it can potentially absorb this shift.

  5. brandnumber1
    October 14, 2012

    Hi Tabitha like Maree I can’t think really of any branded entertainment I’ve responded to but then maybe it was so good I didn’t even realise its effect! When I think branded entertainment I think first any American TV sitcom of the 50s .I’m not sure they even had a term called product placement then but the number of scenes with the family sitting around watching TV on the latest TV set or Mum in the kitchen using the latest in high tech 1950s appliance is extraordinary…or in the movie “Truman” which was so obviously one big product placement. McLuhan does say “We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror. We march backwards into the future.” maybe that is why it is easier and more powerful for me at least to see branded entertainment for what it when I view it in the past not the present.

  6. Katee Donnelly
    October 14, 2012

    Hi Tabitha, first of all what a great blog!

    When I hear the words branded entertainment, I immediately think of the movie The Truman show. I know it’s not an actual example but it does depict the going ons of what I believe occurs in the entertainment industry. I fear however that we may not be able to recall them as fast as a say, our favourite ad, because of their high level of sophistication and yet, I feel it would be pointless if we were consciously think about it.

  7. tabithaacl
    October 14, 2012

    Hi Roxanne and Kate, I think you’ve both touched on the main obstacle facing branded entertainment – it works best when delivered subconsciously, and unlike other methods of advertising being noticeable equates to a lack of success. It’s definitely a catch-22. I do like McLuhan’s line of ‘march(ing) backwards into the future’ – it really does seem to capture the essence of this particular trajectory of advertising. If you’re interested in seeing the clip Sarah referred to for some light relief, here’s the link:

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This entry was posted on September 27, 2012 by in Branded entertainment, Media effects theory, Social media and tagged , , .

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