Don't interrupt; engage: Srivastava, Jain on branded entertainment

MUMBAI: When one talks about branded entertainment, the first thing that comes to mind is product placement. Consumers are bombarded with hundreds of advertising messages in a day -- be it on television, print or even out-of-home. In this cluttered environment, branded entertainment, if done rightly, is one thing that might grab the attention of the consumer towards a particular brand.

The first day of Ficci Frames 2005, hosted a session on 'Branded Entertainment' which had Group M South Asia CEO Ashutosh Srivastava and Disney India managing director Rajat Jain as speakers.

Srivastava threw light on the branded entertainment content in the US and said that 63 per cent of the top American marketers participate in branded entertainment. Out of this, 85 per cent do it via television programmes, 34 per cent via magazines, 31 per cent through movies and 24 per cent do it through games.

"There is a rapid explosion of brands in the media today and in this fragmented and cluttered environment, the only way for brands to move forward is via engagement and not via interruption. Marketers should look at content, fuse it with the brand and then market it to the consumers," Srivastava said.

Going back in time, Srivastava pointed out that in the 1950s, soap operas, FMCG major P&G funded a variety of entertainment shows to 'showcase' their products. In the last 20 years, marketers have started having dubious arrangements with companies to supply on-screen props and today, branded entertainment is big business for advertising agencies and placement companies alike, Srivastava pointed out.

As far as the advertiser is concerned, product placements offers him high visibility and an opportunity of content syndication. For broadcasters too, branded entertainment provides them a chance of getting additional revenue, saves commercial inventory time and helps overcomes traditional commercial restrictions apart from having a good quality product.

While in Asia there are no rules or restrictions on branded entertainment, in countries like the US, Hong Kong, Portugal and Italy branded entertainment is legal. Whereas, in countries like the UK and Belgium it is illegal.

A research conducted by Group M's MindShare in Canada revealed that via branded entertainment, awareness levels of the product went up by 16 per cent and it did not interfere with the viewers' enjoyment of the programme.

As far as the Indian experience in branded entertainment goes, product placement is even more effective in combination with spot ads. Moreover, the Indian viewer does not get irritated with in-programme placement and 80 per cent of them are likely to use the brands. However, Srivastava also pointed out that in India, product placement is still undervalued.

He also cited some examples of good branded entertainment done internationally, which were: American Express syndication with Seinfeld (NBC); Sears, Roebuck & Company's syndication with Extreme Makeover (NBC) and Unilever's syndication with The Days (ABC). As far as India is concerned, Srivastava pointed out that the tie-up between Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) and Kahiin To Hoga (Star Plus) was an excellent example of branded entertainment wherein HLL's Lux Orchid was seamlessly woven into the storyline via a Lux Orchid Beauty Contest, which carried through the serial for 12 episodes.

Jain, on the other hand, that the time had arrived in India to "unleash advertainment." He pointed out that advertising had always relied on interruptions and it was time now to move away from that into engagement. "The movie Sholay was aired on a television channel recently and it is shocking to know that it had a whopping two hours and 26 minutes of ads," Jain said. (The duration of a normal Hindi movie is that of three hours!) That just goes to show the amount of messages a viewer is bombarded with today.

Giving a few examples of branded entertainment that Walt Disney undertook, Jain said that the company had come up with branded cereals in association with Kellogg's like Mickey Magic cereal, Winnie The Pooh Hunny Bs and Rumbly Tumblys biscuits. Disney has also come up with Mickey Mouse branded computers and cameras.

He concluded by saying that since the viewers'/consumers' expectations were rapidly changing, marketers should get out of ad breaks and get into the world of content, assets and property development.

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