What makes great branded entertainment content?

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It’s hard to comment on the state of branded content and entertainment as it’s evolving so quickly that the state is more fluid than solid. As a category, branded content and entertainment is a relatively new one – there’s no long history of awarded work to use as a benchmark. The positive side of this is that we’re able to continually push the definition of the category into new areas, while the negative is that there isn’t a lot of outstanding work to look to for precedents of greatness.

When you look across the award show landscape, you may have noticed that very few top awards have been given out in these categories. Rather, the judges have decided not to honour anything. So, as an industry, that’s the challenge we have to rise to – we have to produce inspired work that creates our collective history of branded entertainment worthy of winning any award, especially one shaped like a pencil.

What is and what isn’t branded entertainment content?

First and foremost it must be entertaining. Not just ‘haha’ funny entertaining, but something you would actually choose to watch – and then watch again. EXIT-Deutschland created a campaign called Nazis Against Nazis – Germany’s Most Involuntary Charity Walk. On paper, I think it would be hard to understand the power of this as entertainment. But it is smart, powerful and very engaging – a perfect embodiment of the definition.

Second, it must be aligned to the brand’s marketing message. If I produce a heartwarming video of my dogs’ morning stretch routine and Gucci puts their logo at the end, that’s brand-sponsored content. It will be entertaining (I promise), but have nothing to do with Gucci’s marketing message. I’ve seen several well-produced short film campaigns that didn’t win awards because the brand’s connection wasn’t felt in the film.

Ogilvy Germany created one of the most brilliant campaigns I’ve seen to date: Rabbit Race for Media Markt. It’s an extraordinary example of weaving the brand through the entire experience and doing every extension of it very well. This campaign sets the bar higher in my opinion.

In terms of what makes branded entertainment content great, I think we’re falling into some traps in this space where the number of online hits is seen by some as the deciding metric. Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ video has over 85 million hits on YouTube – does that make the song or the video great? No and no.

Really great work can (and should) be shared and can also have huge success. The LEGO Movie is a perfect example. But don’t think that just because a project hasn’t grossed almost US$500 million, it can’t be great. It can.

Entertainment is subjective, as we know. Virtual Reality porn might be really entertaining to some, while others would disagree. Speaking of which, a great example of outstanding branded content is Testicular Cancer Awareness sticking a prostate cancer PSA in the middle of a ‘Game of Thrones’ pornady called Game of Balls. There were quite a few men who were not only surprised, but also pleasantly entertained by this quick demo on how to check yourself.

The most exciting thing to me in this category is that we’re seeing work come from all over the place. Agencies, brands, filmmakers, technologists are finding each other in both traditional and non-traditional ways. I believe that this openness to creative partnerships will be the strongest force in the evolution of this category and lead to the best work.

Hey Gucci, don’t you think you need to make some dog beds and blankets!?!

Kerstin Emhoff is the Co-Founder & President, Executive Producer, PRETTYBIRD and was Jury Foreman of the 2016 D&AD Awards Branded Film Content & Entertainment category. This article originally published in the 2015 BOBCM D&AD Special Edition, co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.

About the author

Co-Founder & President, Executive Producer, PRETTYBIRD; Jury Foreman of the 2016 D&AD Awards Branded Film Content & Entertainment category