The world of branded content has changed. Suddenly branded movies and TV shows are competing for the same marketing dollar and chunk of free time as everything else in the entertainment world. Advertising, in many cases, is no longer a toll you pay to watch content but is taking the form of content itself.
“Brands are realizing you have to hire experts” if you want to compete with pure entertainment companies, said Maker Studios’ Jason Krebs, who has worked all over the digital media ad world. “Procter & Gamble isn’t necessarily going to do some of these things themselves.”
And branded entertainment is vital. “If you want to reach millennials in the next five years, they’re going to be looking at this a lot more than at the spots and dots,” said Discovery Digital’s group operating officer Colin Decker, who notes that integrations are now the majority of the ads his company sells. These aren’t freebies that sneak in branding—they’re competing for brain share in the golden age of television. So what does this marketing look like, and is it any good?
1. Dunkin’ Love
Funny or Die’s parody of the uber-popular Beyoncé video features a dude in a manky wig (Reggie D. White) and his non-Jay-Z-looking pal (Adrian Anchondo) gyrating to the strains of “Drunk in Love,” except the lyrics are now about donuts. It’s kind of a one-note concept, but White and Anchondo are funny. A solid B.
Video camera manufacturer GoPro films people falling out of the sky, kayaking across New Zealand and ice skating, but its Stratos skydiving project was a sponsorship within a sponsorship, partnering with Red Bull, which has made itself into an energy drink brand in addition to flogging its energy drink product. A cool multi-brand thing, though with limited replay value. B+
3. Farmed and Dangerous
Hulu airs this Chipotle-sponsored scripted comedy about industrial espionage in the food lobbying industry, and it’s surprisingly crude, clichéd and filled with agitprop wedged into the (vast, gaping) holes in the teleplay. There’s a good central performance from Ray Wise, and its heart is in the right place, at least if you buy Chipotle’s sustainability pitch. We’re calling it a C.
4. The Lego Movie
Hey, want to go see a children’s movie the studio released during the notorious doldrums of February? Actually, you do. Granted, some of the positive buzz may be due to surprise, but it’s unexpectedly funny, cute and smart—hence a worldwide gross of $363 million (so far). Big fat A.