Branded Entertainment Is Back

Company-sponsored entertainment has existed since the hey-day of radio and the dawn of television. Although blatant underwriting took a backseat to subtle product placement for a while, it’s making a full-force return in a variety of ways.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition hit the air in 2003 and it was clear that Sears was a large contributor – the shout outs to Sears for supplying the appliances and the filmed trips of the design team shopping at the retailer made it undeniable. Ancestry.com-sponsored Who Do You Think You Are? had a three-season run on NBC from 2010-2012, with each episode’s celebrity researching his or her genealogy using the service.

Web-only, corporation-produced entertainment series also are gaining in popularity. IKEA’s Easy to Assemble, which features guest appearances by celebrities, has become an award winning, online-only hit since its debut in 2009. The company also sponsors the A&E show Fix This Kitchen. According to a Sept. 7, 2012, article in Wall Street Journal IKEA dedicates up to three percent of its global marketing budget solely to branded entertainment.

Ford Motor Company’s Random Acts of Fusion and Escape My Life, KFC’s Growing Up and Getting Out, and Denny’s The Skillet Whisperer have also joined the online “airwaves.”

And, it’s not just big brands that can consider this type of advertising or product placement. Look toward local network affiliates that may desire increasing local content. We recently discussed a home improvement-style, 30-minute television show with a network affiliate for a client. Costs for copywriting, production and promotion of the show would be shared by the station, which makes it an attractive and affordable option. Not to mention the online webisode possibilities for extended reach and longevity.

But remember, the key to branded entertainment is definitely the entertainment part.