Musings from GroupM: Marketers Should Build, Not Abandon, Their Branded Entertainment Efforts - Margaret Clerkin - MediaBizBloggers

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The time has come for advertisers to embrace what I call "Always-On Branded Entertainment."

Branded entertainment has won its stripes over the past few years by achieving major successes for marketers like BMW, Ford, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, American Express, MasterCard, Johnson & Johnson, Jet Blue, British Airways, Sprint and many others. These companies have seen their branded entertainment marketing efforts drive traffic, lift brand metrics and increase sales.

Yet time and again many clients eliminate branded entertainment as an ongoing part of their marketing mix after only a few weeks (or months) in the marketplace even after investing substantial sums to create powerful user experiences that resonate with consumers. Why?

Clients and their agencies need to start planning for "Always-On Branded Entertainment." What that means is they should actively develop a go-to-market strategy for clients that include ongoing support of branded entertainment marketing solutions.

Advertisers invest considerable resources to create content that will attract audiences. If a branded entertainment program is successful and attracts large numbers of consumers, they should never just walk away when it runs its course. Instead they need to make plans that will allow them to maintain a continued presence in the marketplace and leverage the value created by this engaged audience.

There are at least three ways "Always-On" can be achieved:

· A single advertiser can create content properties that can be used across multiple brands in their individual portfolio.

· An agency can facilitate multiple clients joining together to support a branded entertainment content property over time, thereby allowing the property and the audience base to live on as the brand support shifts from one advertiser to another. This option mitigates the need for long-term financial support.

· A publisher can help by creating create content franchises that are attractive to key target audiences.

Each option allows for shared risk, budget flexibility and most importantly, the ability to continue to tap into powerful bases of engaged consumers.

Sprint and P&G represent two shining examples of how an advertiser can successfully engage in "Always-On Branded Entertainment."

Sprint has built a community of interest for small businesses to support their entrepreneurial efforts through its Business on Main branded entertainment initiative. This effort delivers multiple original content shows, expert articles commissioned to meet the needs of small businesses, as well as tools and networking opportunities for this growing and resource-challenged target segment. With Business on Main, Sprint has created the perfect avenue to build affinity and have an ongoing dialogue with specifically targeted consumers while marketing its products and services to them. Business on Main went to market in March 2009 and continues to be supported, illustrating the company's dedication to the small business sector as well as recognition of the value of branded entertainment to create and deliver highly engaged audiences.

Procter & Gamble created branded entertainment webisodes in late 2008 called "The Thread." The online video series provides viewers with beauty and fashion tips with an emphasis on affordable clothes that celebrities wore on the red carpet while highlighting various P&G brands such as Cover Girl, Crest, and Olay. P&G is extending its engagement with an additional fashion show called "De Moda," which is filmed entirely in Spanish.

Both of these advertisers have recognized the value of audience creation and have committed to support these properties for over one year. Are you doing this for your company and brands?

Margaret Clerkin is Director of Digital Assets for GroupM. Margaret can be reached at margaret.clerkin@mediacom.com

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