's Perspectives
Posted on 26 August 2006

FedEx was the real star of the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away and also has a 'special appearance' in the Julia Roberts and Richard Gere starrer Runaway Bride.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones sport matching Ray Bans sunglasses in Men In Black.

Pierce Brosnan vroomed around in swanky BMWs in Bond movies like Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

On the small screen, the ABC Television Network and MindShare North America along with Unilever readied a drama series called The Days.

HBO's Entourage drives away with Ashton Martins.

McDonald's played host to the second runner up of American Idol Jasmin Trias and sponsored her tours.

A never seen and heard before incident took place last year when 276 Pontiacs were given to the audience members of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

A show called Pepsi Musica airs on the TeleFutura channel and is a rage among the US Hispanics.

To cut a long story short, marketing and programming are moving ever closer towards a future where brands need to entertain. As people's attention span levels drop day after day, brands and media owners are looking at various ways of engaging consumers without really interrupting them. Another burgeoning area of concern for marketers is that a large number of people are prepared to pay to avoid watching 'ads' in the future.

However, a ray of hope for advertisers is that consumers are willing to accept advertising in a different format, i.e. branded content, as long as it is entertaining and relevant to them, as per the findings of a survey by Contentworx in the US.

In the light of these revelations, the branded entertainment phenomenon is growing. What's more, marketers are scrambling to effectively engage consumers worldwide via advertiser funded content and / or branded entertainment.

The global paid product placement spending soared 42.2 per cent to $2.21 billion in 2005 with double-digit growth expected to continue in 2006 and beyond, according to the findings of a recent survey conducted by PQ Media.

What's more, global paid product placement spending in television, films and other media is expected to climb another 38.8 per cent to $3.07 billion in 2006. This will be fuelled by the shift in the world's leading markets toward a paid placement structure from a barter and added-value model.

The US is the largest market for product placement at $1.50 billion in 2005 (up 48.7 per cent from 2004) and faces no restrictions whatsoever. However, the law prevents any kind of product placement on television in the European Union.
This may change though since some changes have been proposed to the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers for approval that retain the basic principles in the directive but seek to allow indirect advertising through product placement - where broadcasters can charge for featuring a branded product in a programme.

Nevertheless, it will be another year or so until the issues between consumer advocate groups like The European Consumers' Organization and the EU Commission are sorted out in the UK as far as product placement is concerned. While The European Consumers' Organization want a total ban on product placement, the EU Commission is of the opinion that the ban be applied only to children's shows and news programs.

As far as the biggest markets after the US are concerned in branded entertainment; Brazil ($285.3 million in 2005) and Australia ($104.3 million in 2005) stand second and third due to lax restrictions. France ranks fourth due to placements in its sizeable film output, and Japan stands at the fifth spot.

According to the PQ Media report, majority of spending in the US and other markets is derived from five key product categories:

  1. Transportation and parts
  2. Apparel and accessories
  3. Food and beverage
  4. Travel and leisure
  5. Media and entertainment

Last year the high point in branded entertainment was on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Leo Burnett's client Pontiac wanted to draw attention to its brand-new sport sedan, and Oprah wanted to celebrate the start of her 19th season. The result was Pontiac G6s for 276 surprised audience members on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The client spent $ 7.7 million on the giveaways, which was equivalent to close to $ 40 - 50 million of spends had they taken solace in traditional media. The result was the immense coverage the brand got in the print, television and internet media. The web searches for Pontiac went up by 1000 per cent post this and the event set a new bar for product placements.

In 2004, the ABC Television Network and MindShare in the US inked a unique programming deal and involved Unilever in the project too. They ordered six episodes of The Days from a drama script by John Scott Shepherd. Tollin/Robbins Productions developed the pilot and produced the series with MindShare.

This relationship stemmed from the programming partnership between the network and MindShare. The Days centered on the lives of two-career couple with three kids, filtered through the insights and wit of the cynical 14 year-old son. The first episode culminates in surprising events that affect the entire family and set the series on course at a breakneck pace -- just like real life.

MindShare secured advertising commitments from Unilever, who was a partner in the project, and also another unnamed MindShare client. MindShare clients who signed on had limited advertising exclusivity in certain categories.

MTV in the US got together with Unilever and Publicis' agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty for a new show - The Gamekillers. This was a scripted reality show and the first major marketing push behind the Axe Dry antiperspirant stick. The show did not directly feature the product but the show's characters, visual look and typography were tied to the brand when they appeared in an ad campaign that broke after the show made its debut in February this year. The show made a brand statement without mentioning the brand and while Unilever covered production costs, MTV brought air time and marketing support to the show.

The television show featuring business tycoon Donald Trump The Apprentice is yet another example of branded entertainment. Burger King, Mattel, Gillette, Intel and Nescafé are just some of the brands that have made their presence felt in the show. According to reports, each brand shells out close to $3-5 million per episode.

In one of the episodes, Donald's would-be apprentices, were asked to design a new toy for Mattel. In another, they had to launch a new flavor of Crest toothpaste.

On the other hand, Zeal Television, an independent entertainment production and format licensing company that has operations in London, Miami and Dubai has rolled out branded content with brands like Pepsi (The Pepsi Chart Show and Pepsi Musica) and Nissan (El Reto Final: The Nissan Re-Match). The 60-minute show Pepsi Musica airs on Telefutura and delivers an aggregate 5.0 rating points, making the show the unrivalled market leader among US Hispanics. On the other hand, the reality show El Reto Final: The Nissan Re-Match was developed in response to the advertiser's needs for a soccer related property with promotional extensions and franchising possibilities.

On the films front, the Tom Hanks starrer Cast Away is well-known for its prominent product placement marketing. Two brands that benefited from the movie were FedEx and Wilson Sporting Goods. One of the notable "characters" in the movie is Wilson, a volleyball that Hanks finds in one of the FedEx boxes while deserted on an island.

The examples out there are manifold and increasing by the day. The single reason being - the media environment is getting cluttered and brands have to work that much harder to get consumers' attention. Branded entertainment, if done right, seems to be the answer to every marketers' questions and worries.

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