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A few months ago, Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing at Pepsi Cola declared: “This concept of interrupting content with your message has serious limitations. As fans are consuming, they don’t want to be interrupted”. In a few words – and with a properly British understatement – Kaplan set off the crisis of the traditional model of advertisement. It is not a chance that he made this statement on the occasion of the launch on Fox of Cherries Wild, a Branded Entertainment show financed by Pepsi.

 The crisis of the traditional advertisement model is not only limited to TV. It involves any form of annoyance while people are consuming contents: let it be while watching a TV series, a web video or reading a piece of news on an online newspaper (and an annoying popup appears). Continuing on this path, shall we also consider a poorly designed product placement as an undesirable interruption – or at least an “interference” within a narration?

 Technology is not helping traditional advertisement either. We may consider the example of the more and more popular phenomena of time shifted viewing: viewers can watch a television content at deferred time with respect to the on-air, either days after it goes on air or even with an earlier on-demand preview. Among the reasons that leads people to snob live-viewing there is not only the lack of time or willingness – but also the possibility to skip advertisement when watching in time shifted viewing. The same holds for the ad-blocking: the percentage of mobile devices with such an option is increasing exponentially.

 From a strategy perspective, brands more and more often find themselves facing an existential dilemma: being what people are seeking or being what people are seeking to avoid. In other words, to create emotions or to interrupt them.

 Many brands are giving a clear answer to this dilemma by becoming content creators and embracing Branded Entertainment. This path has some extremely positive sides: it is scalable and flexible, it can be mono or multi-platform and it can respond to very specific and articulated communication needs. It is not a chance that investments in Branded Entertainment are growing all over the world and are slowly replacing other forms of content marketing, first of all the product placement. The advantages are getting more and more obvious to everyone: Branded Entertainment is an engine of stories and narration. Stories build relationships, relationships are build on trust, and trust generates value.

 However, let us take a step back. What is Branded Entertainment? According to the OBE – the Observatory on Branded Entertainment – the definition is the following: “Branded Entertainment is editorial product which is created, made and financed by a brand. It is completely original (original production) more than being integrated in a pre-existing project (brand integration). It is conveyed through media platforms and its aim is to entertain a target public coherently with a brand’s values and objectives – and also coherently with the platform’s characteristics”.

 Thus, Branded Entertainment is not at all like traditional advertisement. But it is not either as a sponsorship or a product placement. It is a content which has been created for and with a brand – or in which a brand integrates naturally, without forcing. The first modality is called Original Production, while the second is named Brand Integration.

 To make some examples, Shop Cook & Win, a show that YAM112003 has produced together with LIDL and Discovery is an original production: a TV format, in this case an international one, built “around” the LIDL Brand – making it the true protagonist of the show. Without the presence of a supermarket or its products, the format would not make any sense, it just wouldn’t work. Branded Integration represents a different thing. Considering the example of X Factor, the Format is an already existing one, and the products are included within the show in an extremely fluid way, with articulated on/off screen operations – tailored and designed to fit each brand.

 All well and good, but one may object: what about the KPI (Key Performance Indicators)?

Well, the myth that Branded Entertainment is difficult – if not impossible – to measure is a false myth. While it is true that this kind of operations acts mainly on the upper part of the funnel, it is however possible to measure its effects, see the changes it produces and monitor its tangible results. The OBE has recently proposed some new models and a tracking activity both for Branded Entertainment on TV and on digital channels.

 Certainly, Branded Entertainment can be complicated: there are many players involved (the brand, the creative agency, the media agency, the publisher, the production house etc.). However, by starting with a clear strategic framework, it can lead to an extremely neat execution in terms of content, distribution and audience.

 In this framework, “strategy” is the keyword. Branded Entertainment is not a tool to use in a purely tactical mean or a “nice to have” tool to be added last-minute within a strategy. It requires time, minds and constancy. It is a medium-term investment that surely generates its ROI – intended both as a Return on Investment and, more specifically, as a Return in Involvement.


by Alberto Rossini 

Branded Entertainment and TV Director