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3 Examples of Branded Entertainment’s Inevitable Future
Ad Council Ad Council
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York , NY
Friday, December 14, 2018


Authenticity, compassion fatigue, content. All words that through arguable overuse seem to have lost a bit of their flair or significance. Another I might add to the list? Branded entertainment. It’s a word that has invariably become an advertising buzzword of the day but if you asked me what it means I wouldn’t be entirely sure.

What is Branded Entertainment?

Though there’s no hard or fast definition, as its name suggests “branded entertainment” refers to the blurring lines between traditional entertainment (think television shows and movies) and advertising. Often considered an umbrella term online films, video games, books, comics, music and podcasts can all be branded entertainment.
Some also refer to it as a more advanced form of product placement, in which consumers receive branded messaging in an indirect or non-interruptive way. Products don’t just appear but are, “…instead woven into the story line of entertainment content to make a stronger emotional connection with the viewer.” A guiding rule of thumb? If you’re questioning whether what you’re watching, reading or playing is an ad, it’s more than likely branded entertainment.  
In a country where 45% of teens are online on a “near constant basis” and most of us see between 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day, advertisers need to win our attention and hold it long enough to make a lasting impression. And the answer is increasingly advertising that doesn’t look like advertising. Brands and nonprofits alike are using a branded entertainment model to cut through the incessant noise of ads as we know them and seeking to offer something of greater value.
What does the convergence of advertising and entertainment look like? Below are three branded entertainment examples, both short and long form, that have turned the heads of consumers and the advertising press.

Apple’s 2018 Holiday Ad Appeals to the Hidden Creative in All of Us

Ah it’s that time of year again. The time for Apple’s annual holiday ad. The brand’s 2018 spot is a three-minute long animated short following a young professional, Sophia, who pursues but hides creative endeavors in her free time. From a branded entertainment perspective, the spot integrates Apple products into a compelling story line. Sophia uses a MacBook as her tool to create, though we never see what she’s working on. And she’s a figure many milliennials or Gen-Zers can relate to: the multi-hyphenate who pursues a number of jobs, passions and side hustles. 
In a mix of entertainment and non-verbal messaging, the ad fuels the ethos that Apple products are made by and for creatives, differentiating the brand from drier, less hip competitors. Branded messaging is delivered subtly in the context of a larger story, leaving viewers with a film that’s memorable and charming in a way that many ads aren’t.

3 of the World’s Best Runners Aim to Break the 2-Hour Marathon

Apart from creating animated shorts, full blown long-form films have become another popular form of branded entertainment. Take Nike and National Geographic’s Breaking2, a 55-minute long documentary following three of the world’s most elite runners as they try to break the 2-hour marathon. The three athletes wear Nike apparel throughout the film but at no point are National Geographic or Nike explicitly mentioned. Similar to Apple’s much shorter ad, the film offers value beyond product information. It also gives us a new reason to buy from Nike and National Geographic by fostering a new form of brand loyalty not explicitly attached to a physical product.

The Ad Council Releases its First-Ever Short Film, Rising

Original short films are another budding form of branded entertainment. The Ad Council’s Rising, a part of the Love Has No Labels campaign, falls under this category. The 11-minute long film captures the poignant story of a diverse neighborhood coming together in a flood and setting aside their differences to support each other in a time of need. Created in partnership with creative agency R/GA, director David Nutter (Game of Thrones) and screenwriter Lena Waithe (The Chi), Rising offers the production value of a traditional film. Branded messaging appears in the form of a single end card featuring the Love Has No Labels logo.
When asked why the campaign chose to create a short film as opposed to a video PSA like the campaign’s previous iterations Eric Jannon, VP, Executive Creative Director at R/GA, said, “The three-minute films we previously produced have been shared widely, but we believe that the longer people commit to watching a piece of content, the bigger the impact it will have on them.” As a form of branded entertainment the film transports viewers and gives them a reason to watch that’s arguably more compelling than your typical social good ad.
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