Magazine article Marketing

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: Brands Are Now Looking beyond Traditional TV Ad and Sponsorship Work to Connect with Audiences

Magazine article Marketing

LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: Brands Are Now Looking beyond Traditional TV Ad and Sponsorship Work to Connect with Audiences

Article excerpt

There's a new term doing the rounds - 'Madison & Vine'. Coined in the US, it describes the convergence of the advertising and entertainment industries - a marriage of necessity, as each struggles to engage with the restless, media-bloated 21st century consumer.

At the heart of this trend is the concept of brand entertainment, something that sounds suspiciously flaky and meaningless,but describes how marketers are weaving their brands into entertainment properties, even becoming providers of content in their own right. The big thing, say trend-spotters, is that entertainment is the new rule of engagement.

It took a speech earlier this year by new Coca-Cola chief operating officer Steve Heyer to really put the issue on the agenda. Speaking at Advertising Age's Madison & Vine conference in Los Angeles in February, he spelled out how Coca-Cola intended to make entertainment content a central plank of its communications strategy.

As part of his speech, Heyer said: 'We're headed to ideas. Not properties per se, but intellectual property. Ideas that bring entertainment value to our brands and ideas that integrate our brand into entertainment.'

These are not empty pronouncements - Coke has truly thrown itself into the concept, launching entertainment-based initiatives all over the world with different media partners.

In the US, it has joined with Universal Music Group, using some of UMG's up-and-coming artists in its ads. It has also invested dollars 15m (pounds 9.4m) in a TV network for college campuses, called College Sports Television.

In Europe, Coke is carrying out widespread content-led work. The best example is teaming up with BMG Music to turn the soundtrack of Spanish TV ad 'Chihuahua' into a major communications platform. The song is now a huge hit all over the continent and the theme for much of Coke's summer marketing activity.

Penny McIntyre, strategic marketing director, core brands, for Coca-Cola Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East, says a content-led way of thinking now informs all the company's marketing, affecting budgetary and strategic decisions. 'We have to approach our marketing from a new starting point,' she says. 'Not only do we need to think of how we can provide entertainment, but we have to realise that consumers are actively looking to us to entertain them.

'You will definitely see shifts in the way we spend our money. Advertising agencies are not at the forefront in this area,' she adds. 'Most of the content-led things we do are Coca-Coca-led. Some agencies are more advanced, but most are still catching up with the idea and trying to understand how they can extract value from the process.'

So, as clients shift their spend away from traditional interruptive ads into the content arena, will traditional agencies suffer? Or will they evolve to take advantage of the trend?

Multimedia collaborations

Not surprisingly, perhaps, some clients are pursuing the brand entertainment route and circumventing ad agencies altogether. Heinz signalled an interesting direction for the launch of its frozen snack Bite Me, when it struck a deal with Viacom Plus, the recently formed multimedia sales and creative house offering solutions across Viacom's properties, including MTV and Nickelodeon.

The pounds 3.5m campaign has a strong content element, as it is based on four animated characters called the Bite Me Crew. They will appear in a mini soap opera of 26 adventures shown on Viacom's youth TV stations. They will also feature in an online game and be advertised via SMS, outdoor and in Blockbuster video stores.

'This doesn't mean we will be bypassing creative agencies, but we will look harder at the other options available,' says Rebecca Thomas, brand manager for Heinz Frozen Snacks.

Well-placed among ad agencies to benefit from the content trend is TBWA\ Group's Stream\, a brand content specialist set up in 2000 by managing director Mike Falconer. …

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