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Brand Integration:
In Depth

The BEN Breakdown: Brand Integration

Branded entertainment receives a lot of attention these days due to shifting media models and changes in how people consume content. In 2017, eMarketer noted average TV viewing fell 3% while digital video consumption rose almost 10%. To make matters worse, massive adoption of adblocking and increases in viewership on streaming platforms has made it difficult for brands to reach the youngest and most desirable audiences.

Branded entertainment helps brands reach these audiences by getting them inside the programming. Our research has shown that audiences prefer integration over interruption, with 64% of consumers stating that they’d rather watch streaming or premium cable over linear TV.

How does branded entertainment work? We’ve answered the top questions we receive from marketers looking to become part of the conversation.

Know Your Terminology

What is Entertainment Marketing, Branded Entertainment, Brand Integration, Product integration, and Product Placement?

Entertainment marketing is the umbrella term used to describe any brand marketing that occurs in or with entertainment. This umbrella category ranges from using licensed characters on packaged goods, celebrity images, or music for advertisements, to integrating products in streaming, TV, film or influencer programming.

Entertainment Marketing has two branches: 1) Branded Entertainment; and, 2) Merchandising and Licensing.

Branded Entertainment is any form of entertainment created by, funded by, or featuring a brand. Example tactics of this include:

Branded Entertainment

Any form of entertainment created by, funded by, or featuring a brand. Example tactics of this include:

Branded/Custom Content

Entertainment IP built specifically for a brand. Think LEGO movies, My Little Pony TV shows, or Red Bull sporting events. Advertorials, sponsored editorial, or custom digital content also fall into this category.

Experiential Entertainment

When consumers get to see, experience, or interact with their favorite characters or entertainment. These range from permanent immersive experiences such as theme parks to smaller events such as concerts or pop ups.

Product Placement

The legacy term for placing a product in film and TV programming. This is where branded entertainment started, and it simply refers to getting products places anywhere on screen.

Brand Integration

Also called product integration. The weaving of a brand into the existing story lines of film, TV, streaming, or influencer programming. James Bond races an Aston Martin, Orange is the New Black characters gobble Dunkin’ Donuts, or Influencers clean up with Dyson vacuums. It’s more involved and impactful as the brand authentically advances story lines or characters, lending a sense of realism to both the story and the brand.

Merchandising and Licensing involves the licensing of music or video for use in advertisements or promotional materials, and the licensing of intellectual property (names, likenesses, images or branding) for use on merchandise such as toys, furniture, décor, or other soft or hard goods.

It’s important to distinguish the umbrella term, its branches, and the specific tactics associated with each branch. You’ll understand what you’re getting or selling as a marketer, not to mention all the knowledge you can drop to impress your peers.

Still confused? Here’s a handy chart we made for you:

How to Make Your Brand a Storytelling Device

Brand integration, also known as product integration, is the process of incorporating brands or products into pre-existing entertainment properties. Getting inside pre-existing programming – rather than interrupting it – has some important benefits: higher engagement rates, no skipping or ad-blocking, no production costs, built in distribution, impressions that continue for the lifetime of the program, and the ability to leverage familiar and beloved characters and stories.

The challenge of effective brand integration is to match your brand’s core attributes to the characters or story itself. Rather than simply placing your product in the background or inelegantly disrupting the entertainment, your brand needs to add to the storyline or experience. It needs to be an authentic part of the entertainment in which it appears.

Here are several examples that highlight the different ways brands can seamlessly integrate into entertainment.

Integrating Your Brand into Entertainment


Camaro in Transformers


Find Easy Fits

General Motors in Transformers

Sometimes the most simple fits result in the most amazing on-screen moments. Transformers, a franchise all about cars with personalities and special abilities, was an easy choice for GM. We presented the script, and GM jumped at the opportunity to integrate their cars across the Transformers’ universe. The result: GM’s fleet of vehicles have driven, fought, and flown through 6 global franchise films and GM’s yellow Camaro became a cultural icon.

Take Risks

Dunkin’ Donuts in Orange is the New Black

Prison doesn’t seem like the ideal environment for a brand. Brand safety alarm bells go off just thinking about it. However, one read of the script for Orange is the New Black presented a massive opportunity. What better way to bribe prisoners than a delicious treat they couldn’t get on the inside? This ongoing integration has shown up throughout multiple seasons of streaming’s biggest show.

Dunkin’ Donuts in Orange is the New Black


Know Your Audience 

Ubisoft The Division Influencer Campaign

Knowing where and what your audience is watching is crucial. That’s why Ubisoft opted to target specific YouTube channels with strong gamer followings to launch Tom Clancy’s The Division: Agent Origins video game. Most importantly, your brand will add to the story when the programming and your brand have the same audience targets.

Brand Integration: The Process Behind It

Scripts, schedules, and talent are moving, living elements in a production that can change from day to day. Don’t get fixated on certain properties. Putting all your brand eggs in a single program basket is at best a one-off, and at worst, a recipe for disappointment.

Our most successful clients use a campaign approach, which integrates their brands into in a portfolio of programming across streaming, television, film, and influencer programming. This is what we call a Cross-Platform Campaign. It allows brands to capitalize on all potential entertainment properties regardless of platform, genre, or mechanism. Putting your marketing dollars against a target audience rather than specific shows is the best way to integrate into entertainment.

Benefits of Cross-Platform Campaigns

There are three main benefits of Cross-Platform Campaigns:

  • Flexibility against show schedules, talent, and script changes
  • Guaranteed views for your dollars rather than relying on a single show’s viewership
  • Broader appeal and wider distribution against your demographic and audience targets

Yet, finding the most success within the cross-platform approach involves considering each entertainment property from a different angle. This is where experience, expertise, and credibility are essential.

There are two methodologies that brands can use to integrate into entertainment:

1. ‘Fee Driven’ opportunities are those that require a fee payment to a production in exchange for a specific, agreed-upon integration. This is the most common and straight forward way for brands to integrate into entertainment. With Fee-Driven opportunities, brands can guarantee criteria such as verbal mentions, time on screen, deliverables, and dates. Those guarantees make it an attractive but more expensive option.

2. Production-driven’ opportunities leverage the various department heads within the production community. This approach has been developed through years of building and relationships within entertainment. The process requires casting a large net, getting product to multiple sets, reading scripts, and leveraging long-standing relationships. Brands have less control with this option, but it opens the door to integrate into many productions that would otherwise be unavailable. This approach has resulted in some of the most memorable integrations in history.

Cross-Platform Campaigns that focus on audience rather than program or platform, and brands that opt for both Fee-Driven and Production-Driven opportunities, reap the best results from their brand integration efforts. Our database of 90% of ongoing productions and 50,000 influencers ensures brands have ample audiences and opportunities to pursue.

Producer Perspectives


The Brand Dilemma and the Value of Branded Entertainment

There’s more programming than ever before. This has created a plethora of consumer options, an abundance of shows, and a lot of noise for advertisers to compete against. It’s heaven for consumers and a confusing landscape with a dizzying amount of options for brands.

The amount of programming available is only likely to increase. In 2017 alone, the major broadcast, streaming and premium cable players invested over $25B in original content, with Netflix leading the way with a $6.5B investment. That total will likely increase in 2018, with Netflix having already announced that it will spend over $7B, Amazon over $6B, and new entrants like Facebook, Apple, YouTube Red, and Snap all spending upwards of $1B.

At the same time, we’re seeing a major shift in the way audiences consume media and entertainment. Streaming and digital media isn’t just emerging, it’s winning.

What’s more, the new and fastest growing media platforms are often cluttered, obscure, or totally ad free. More than 26% of consumers now use digital adblockers, and almost all the additional time spent in TV is on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and or premium cable (HBO, Showtime, Starz).

In addition, the most pronounced and valuable brand targets- teens and young adults -are adopting this trend in droves while cutting the cord faster than originally predicted.

A huge surge in the amount of content produced, coupled with the adoption of ad free platforms and ad blocking, has created a complex challenge for marketers: Audiences are spending more time engaging with media and content, but they are harder to reach than ever.

With ad free platforms and ad blocking on the rise, brands must adapt. As a result, brand integration has emerged as the preeminent solution to the brand dilemma.

Audiences are spending more time engaging with media and content, but they are harder to reach than ever.

The Brand Dilemma

The benefits are clear given the swath of young, valuable consumers that are immune or adverse to traditional advertising models. For example:

  • 64% of consumers prefer streaming or premium cable to traditional TV
  • Bingeing, no interruptions, and seamless platforms were the top three reasons cited by consumers for preferring streaming. Price was the LEAST important. This statistic reveals that people are willing to place a premium on an improved viewing experience.
  • 73% of viewers said integrations were less intrusive than TV ads
  • 63% of viewers said that integrations made brands more relatable
  • Compared to traditional ads – integrations have 100% higher viewability and 35% higher recall

The Wrap Up

Shifting media models, audience preferences, and the ascension of streaming make it an opportune, if not essential, time for brands to enter the branded entertainment space. If you want your brand to BE the Entertainment or would like to learn more on the topic, please reach out,.

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