Branded content, also known as “branded entertainment” or “advertainment,” is the fusion of entertainment or editorial content with brands and branded information. In the 1930s, soap operas pioneered this space on the radio, with dedicated soap and detergent sponsors courting listening housewives. Today there are three popular forms of branded content: product placement, vignettes and brand integration.
1. Product Placement. Probably the simplest form of branded entertainment, product placement is literally placing a product within a movie or TV show. Products like Coca-Cola, Papa John’s, Starbucks and Apple all find their way into our shows and movies, and onto our screens. What’s that sitting on the judging table in American Idol? Coca-Cola. Where did Anne Hathaway’s character get coffee in The Devil Wears Prada? Starbucks. Although these products are not integral to the storyline—for example you could substitute Caribou, Bigby or Tim Horton’s coffee and it would not affect the story at all—their placement serves as a prop and a subtle way to advertise the brand.
2. Vignettes. Ever heard the phrase “brought to by (insert brand here)?” Several brands are now promoting their products in a different way—through network-based content during advertisement breaks. Instead of a standard brand commercial, a vignette features both brand and network based content.
An example of this would be Discovery Channel and Miller 64’s vignette that aired during Shark Week. This vignette mirrors the entertaining content similar to that in Shark Week programs, however is considered “branded” due to the weaving of Miller 64 into the short storyline. This vignette features both Discovery Channel and Miller 64 crafted content.
3. Brand Integration. This last type of branded entertainment is of complete brand integration. This occurs when a brand completely controls the storyline. A perfect example of this comes from the hit TV show Modern Family. In the episode “Connection Lost,” the family uses every Apple device imaginable.
Hilarity ensues when the cast attempts to track down Hailey’s whereabouts using iPads, iPhones, Google and computers. Throughout the entire episode at least one Apple product is being used. These devices are considered part of the storyline due to the fact that they are relied on almost like the characters themselves. This complete brand integration observed in the Modern Family episode “Connection Lost,” makes for a revolutionary television event that exemplifies the advertising trend – branded entertainment.
To learn more about brands and trends, check out Five brand trends to watch this year.