Branded entertainment is nothing new. As far back as the early days of radio and television, sponsors were unabashedly front and center on serial dramas like Little Orphan Annie (with Ovaltine) and variety shows like the Texaco Star Theater. And soap operas earned their moniker thanks to the financial backing of soap companies, not the squeaky clean lifestyles of their characters.
Branded online entertainment experiences can be a very effective way of promoting a product, especially online, where producers can leverage interactivity and social sharing. But, as with any other medium, success is far from guaranteed without the effort of a talented team of producers, developers, writers and actors.
Branded online entertainment examples that have stood out for me include:
- BMW’s The Hire, starring Clive Owen, featured eight short-films directed by filmmakers such as Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee, John Woo and John Frankenheimer. Each episode displayed the handling and performance aspects of various BMW models as part of the storyline.
- Untitled Jersey City Project, an eight-part drama played out on the web and TV. The story was told in fragments, revealing a larger narrative of corruption and murder around a building project on the Jersey waterfront.
Another recent success in this area is Denny’s Always Open starring comedian David Koechner (you’ll recognize him as the sportscaster in Anchorman). Always Open features Koechner conducting irreverent interviews over meals in a booth at a real Denny’s Restaurant. The brand is barely acknowledged during the show, it simply serves as a natural environment for the conversation of that kind to take place. The series was created in 2011 by Denny’s ad agency Gotham and developed by Will Arnett and Jason Bateman’s digital content and production studio, DumbDumb.com, along with digital studio Electus.
Season 1 episodes, featuring interviews with celebs like Sarah Silverman, Jason Bateman and Amy Poehler, were viewed more than six million times and were a huge hit with the 18-25 crowd. Season 2 launched this past week with Koechner speaking with Jessica Biel about being trapped on Mount Kilimanjaro and how to flirt with a Yeti. This season features interviews with folks like Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph and Christina Applegate. Episodes can be found on CollegeHumor.com, and YouTube and Facebook.