MTV, Unilever and PepsiCo Executives Speak Out on Branded Entertainment in Exclusive Interview

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The media landscape is changing and content creators, distributors, consumer brands and advertising agencies are trying to adapt, as evidenced during the recent JackMyers Future of Media and Advertising panel discussion as well as Monday's IAB Leadership Forum. While advertisers continue to experiment with digital video advertising in the form of pre rolls and overlays, some brands, such as Dove and Doritos, are using branded entertainment as a means to reach target consumers in an innovative and engaging way. In an exclusive interview with, MTV executives shared their experience.

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"Ideas are not just coming from sales or marketing but from a triangulation of sales, marketing and programming," said Sean Moran, Executive Vice President for MTV, VH1 and Logo 360 Brand Sales. "We’re not force-fitting something. We actually have people on the programming side be a part of the discussion." Moran went on to say that in the new phase of entertainment measurement, MTV feels responsible for the entire length of their programming, not just MTV content but the advertising as well.

"We’ve taken an active role in making sure that marketing initiatives like Dove’s Fresh Takes and Doritos’ When Spicy Meets Sweet engage viewers in what they believe is entertainment," said Moran.

Dan Lovinger, Senior Vice President of Sales for MTV, added "We hear the word convergence all over town. I think the difference with MTV is that we have this bright, shining spotlight, the TV brand, which has 25 years worth of equity and trust with our viewers, that we can shine into different places. In this case, we shined it for our viewers on a specific place to go and do something and, in fact, they did. That, to me, is the true definition of convergence and convergence that works."

Last March, MTV partnered with Dove, a Unilever [NYSE: UL, UN] brand, to create Fresh Takes, a branded micro-series that extended Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Starring Alicia Keys, the three-and-one-half minute episodes aired during the first five original episodes of the third season of The Hills in addition to being available on and The series boasted retention levels in the mid 90’s over the course of a 5-week period with 3-weeks at nearly perfect retention.

John Shea, Executive Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Brand Partnerships for MTVN Music and Logo Group, said the micro-series sought to address common issues that young women confront. Each episode is dedicated to its own storyline. Issues included bad dates, body image and defining success in your 20s.

"We were launching Dove Go Fresh as the latest phase in the Dove campaign for real beauty. It was inspired by today’s real-life twenty-something women, who are more accomplished and more independent than ever before," said Kathy O’Brien, Dove Marketing Director, in an exclusive interview with "We wanted to incorporate the Dove philosophy as well as some subtle Dove product placement." O’Brien also shared that Dove would continue to explore new ways to break through to consumers with some exciting promotions to be unveiled in 2009.

MTV also partnered with Doritos, a PepsiCo [NYSE: PEP] brand, to create When Spicy Meets Sweet, a short-form reality dating series from the producer’s of MTV’s Next and Parental Control. One-minute episodes aired during commercial breaks during MTV’s dating show block from 2pm to 5pm on Fridays. The series boasted retention levels in the mid-nineties in both the adults 18 to 24 and adults 18 to 34 demographics. The website,, which also airs the micro-series in addition to featuring roughly 40,000 dating profiles, received over 25 million page views in just over two months. The average length of visit is currently 24 minutes.

"When you think about 40,000 registered users, what’s important is how deep they’re engagement is in the brand and how they’ve become involved with the brand. Our audience, our users and the people online are becoming the brand ambassadors," said Tim Rosta, Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing for MTVN.

When asked about how comfortable he is giving consumers control of the brands’ advertising and entertainment, Rosta responded, “Sometimes there’s discomfort all over the place. Our producers, three or four years ago, weren’t in the place where they were necessarily comfortable working in that way, collaboratively with a brand.” He went on to say that media agencies such as OMD work to bridge the gap between entertainment producers and consumer brands. Last year, OMD was honored with a Thomas F. Leahy Award for Media Creativity and Innovation.


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