Isn’t it Better to be Entertained Than Sold To?

News by Laura Bowman

If the advertising industry were a family, branded content would be the overbearing mother-in-law.

It’s always been there, popping up uninvited, offering unwanted advice. We suck it up because we know that it’ll never fully disappear, but as time goes on we’ve learned to tune out more and more.

I don’t believe we’ll ever see a day when thirty-second promos don’t exist, but they are quickly being dominated by other options. The majority of these traditional spots simply fail to engage audiences and don’t attempt to create a connection that lasts any longer than the commercial. The technique has become overused and completely unoriginal, and consumers have been trained to resist it all.

Brands spend billions of dollars on these and even longer-form versions of branded content, but the approach is all wrong. Unless it’s the Super Bowl, most consumers, broadcasters and movie studios don’t find branded content as interesting as brands would like to think. Yet the brands’ media agencies actually pay enormous amounts of shareholder money to get the “branded content” on a broadcast channel, and millions more to promote it. So not only is this content expensive to produce, it’s enormously expensive to get on air and promote.

With agencies and brands struggling to find relevance and even attention, advertisers are now forced to come up with a new strategy. Recently, a lot of success has come with the technique of “branded entertainment.” The practice simply takes existing content that people are already seeking out, and incorporates a brand in a relevant and authentic way. In the old days it was called product placement. It has now become a consumer demand generation science. Recent examples such as “Transformers 4” and “The Voice” have effectively pushed products in ways that feel organic and unobtrusive to the viewer.


Ultimately, we like to be entertained, not sold to. With this format consumers no longer resist the message, but enjoy the experience.  Alex Csergo, the founder of Branded Entertainment Artists & Industries, describes why the technique is so successful: “Well executed branded entertainment delivers everything an advertiser wants in one package, from product awareness to desire to purchase. The advent of technology has seen consumers transcend from watching to simply clicking and buying what they are watching. This convergence of technology and media means that branded entertainment is now the most powerful communication platform a brand could have. The fact is that traditional agencies are not able to move fast enough. And in most cases media agencies are intentionally slowing their clients down in an effort to protect their ecosystems.”

A perfect example is the development of the new show partnering with MGI, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. Scheduled to air on Beijing Satellite this fall, the reality show explores the emotional drinksrelationship of celebrities within dining occasions, all with an interactive twist. The reality format features online video shorts and social media campaigns that connect the audience with both the storyline and its sponsors. The show uses the very first format designed for transmedia storytelling, enabling audiences to connect with brands in richer, more relevant ways than traditional media. Viewers are encouraged to find complementary clips online, explore the sponsors’ products, and talk to the stars on social media – all at the same time. This is about as interactive as a brand can get, with consumers searching out content every step of the way.

With this level of constant interaction, the brand’s relationship with the viewer goes much further than the living room couch. The audience will stay connected with the products and will look forward to seeing them every week on their favorite show. We can all guess who’s coming to dinner, but this time we know it won’t be the overbearing mother-in-law.

Disclosure: Please contact MGI for more information on branded entertainment or on exciting formats such as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”