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Leveraging Entertainment to Harness the Power of Pop Culture


As traditional marketing tactics become less effective and ad avoidance continues to rise, brands are turning to all different forms of content to engage with consumers. This was one of the big takeaways from the ANA’s “The State of the Art in Content Marketing Conference”, hosted by AT&T. The conference featured a great line-up of speakers including Microsoft, The American Heart Foundation, CVS, Keurig Dr. Pepper, Mary Kay, and of course, AT&T! Host and Committee Leader of the ANA, Jon Paquin, discussed various different approaches brands are taking to content marketing, highlighting how each brand focused on their ‘why’, first and foremost, when developing a content marketing strategy. Brands need to be sure to stay true to their voice and values. Below are three big takeaways from the conference that brands should keep in mind when creating their content marketing strategy. 

Takeaway #1: Celebrity Appearances Have Impact in Content
AT&T kicked off the day by sharing their creative campaigns over the years. Marc Burns, Vice President of Advertising & Social Media, asked, “Do you think the celebrity made the creative better?” Marc’s presentation showcased several ads and more so than not, the celebrity DID make the ad better. Marc further explained that the celebrities contributed to the success of the ads not just because they are celebrities, but also because the celebrities themselves had stories to tell that aligned with the brands messaging. For example, Demi Moore and Mila Kunis were featured in a Super Bowl ad that poked fun at the duo attending the same high school and dating the same man, playing on the “getting up to speed” pun AT&T used with the Fios campaign. The ad helped Mila and Demi squash rumors of bad blood between them by making fun of their commonalities. This humor in the ad is something that sticks with consumers. The ad went beyond just putting notable names next to a brand campaign – it took a culturally relevant topic, developed a playful narrative, and created a memorable moment that was talked about.

Takeaway #2: Lean Into Entertainment to Tap Into Pop Culture
When you think of content marketing, product placement is not always the first thing that comes to mind and is often overlooked. However, integrating into content is becoming more important than ever as ad avoidance continues to rise and consumers shift their viewing experiences to non-ad-supported platforms. Maral Beylerian, VP of Clients Services at BENlabs, talked through the evolution of the entertainment landscape, and how the decentralization of content has opened even more opportunities for brands to support storylines and characters. Alison Pember, Director of Branded Media & Entertainment at Microsoft, talked about some of the most prominent areas an entertainment strategy can deliver such as deepening engagement, increasing a brand’s cultural relevance, and building an emotional connection with your brand or product. This strategy has given Microsoft the ability to integrate into unskippable content that resonates with an already engaged audience. 

Sindhura Polasanapalli, Senior Director, Brand Marketing, Keurig Dr Pepper also talked about her experience with Core Water, highlighting how important it is to leverage entertainment content to win consumers’ hearts and minds. With the tagline “Find your balance, find your core”, Core Water leaned into influencer marketing specifically on TikTok, to build a fanbase that truly took off. Core Water’s content marketing strategy combined celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing, and coordinated their campaigns with timely and relevant events, such as skateboarding coming to the Olympics. 

Takeaway #3: Create Content with Purpose
An important question to ask yourself when developing content for your target audience is whether to take a “telling approach” or an “educating approach.” CVS wanted to be seen as a source of reliable information for customers making decisions on personal healthcare. To accomplish this goal, Joe Saia, Senior Director of Digital Commerce Marketing Strategy at CVS Health, and Robin Riddle, Chief Strategy Officer at Foundry 360, chose to anchor their strategy in search data. This gave the team a clear path on what needed to be discussed, when it should be brought up, and the tone it needed to be delivered in. CVS focused on creating informational content that ultimately lead consumers to feel confident that they were making the right decisions when it came to healthcare. 

The American Heart Association also reworked their content marketing strategy utilizing an authentic and trustworthy brand voice with a renewed focus on distributing information grounded in empowerment. The organization is driven by impact, storytelling, and education. John McFarland, National VP of Content & Editorial at the AHF, and Crystal King, National VP of Creative & Design, pointed out the importance of tapping into first-class writers to develop first-class content as well as sharing real-life stories from people themselves. 

In summary, consumers want to engage with a moment, video, or a piece of content that is important to them and delivered through an authentic voice. Reflecting on the day’s presentations, many other marketers have tapped into this strategy, producing amazing results. For brands looking to leverage a content marketing strategy, it comes down to budget, goals, and being culturally relevant. Leveraging new strategies in the ever-changing marketing and advertising landscape to connect with audiences is what matters most.

Special thanks to Alison Pember, Director, Branded Media & Entertainment, Microsoft for sharing her insights and expertise in the space alongside Maral Beylerian, VP Client Services at BENlabs.

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