Backlashes, blending at Big Idea confab

Execs discuss branding challenges

An entertainment marketing exec argued for branded entertainment to become "branded experience" and an ad agency chief contended that branded content should be so tightly integrated as to be viewed simply as content during presentations Tuesday at the Next Big Idea conference at the Beverly Hilton.

Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of the independent marketing agency Deep Focus, said that in his early work with Disney and Miramax Films he was frustrated to discover that there were communications strategies that couldn't be executed within the studio marketing model.

Citing the dramatically steeper rate of adoption for mobile and Internet compared to television and other media, Schafer warned that the industry really hasn't grasped the impact of the rapid adoption and exaggerated consumption and new technology platforms.

He said branded entertainment's first phase of integration and product placement has already reaped a backlash. "We're turning consumers into skeptics," he said. "Branded entertainment 2.0 will mean conversation, engagement and chaotic creativity."

He cited an ANA survey of brand advertisers given their reasons for resisting branded content. 40% said that brand itself doesn't lend itself to meaningful integration, polling ahead of "lack of measurable results" (37%), "regulation" (27%) and "branded entertainment is too new."

Meanwhile, Eric Hirshberg, chief creative officer and president of ad agency Deutsch/LA, said that marketers had to tightly integrate marketing messages in content so that it is indistinguishable. "Don't let them feel the money changing hands," he said, showing the Hirshberg-directed music video for Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" as part of a brand relaunch of the band itself.

Hirshberg said the behavior demonstrated in the video, with youth using mobile phones to share the "angry pissed-off smiley face" and slapping stickers on unsuspecting pedestrians, was imitated in real life during the tour when the agency created stage designs, T-shirts, tattoos and bumper stickers with the common logo.

Hirshberg said some branded content is not working, showing webisodes of a "Melrose Place" takeoff called "Crescent Heights" sponsored by Tide, and saying the Pringles promotion on"Survivor" made him thirsty. "There's a difference between branded content and brand loitering," Hirshberg said. "Branded content has to be brand appropriate."

Distinguishing between "branded entertainment and branded engagement," Hirshberg said that because consumer "don't make the distinction between branded content and content, neither should we." He said branded entertainment needed to compete on a level playing field with everything else on the market.

In a panel that closed the morning session, HP director of entertainment marketing Doug Cole, MindShare Entertainment managing partner David Lang and Davie Brown Entertainment president Tom Meyer discussed the pros and cons of product integration in movies and television in a panel moderated by Hamet Watt, founder and chairman of NextMedium. The panel was introduced by Alan Klein, senior vp partnerships and licensing and IFC Television.

Gregory Solman is West Coast editor of Adweek.
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