Marketers Want More Control of Branded-Entertainment Process

Advertisers Becoming Less Afraid of Creating Own Content

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The event: More than 100 senior-level marketing executives from Volkswagen, Burger King, Mastercard, Apple, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Anheuser-Busch and other companies participated in a survey about branded entertainment and the advertising business, conducted by research firm Bellinson & Co.

The results: Marketers want to flex their muscles in branded-entertainment deals, with 41% of those participating in the survey saying that brands themselves will drive growth in the area over the next few years, and 53% reporting that their own internal groups will direct the projects. They want to create branded entertainment for the Web, which ranked higher than TV in interest level, and 59% said they will shift money out of their existing marketing budgets to make way for brand integrations.

More than 100 senior-level marketing executives say they want to create branded entertainment projects for the Web.
Click to see survey.

Move aside middlemen.

After watching a raft of third-party companies -- from product-placement shops and Hollywood talent agencies to media-buying firms and ad agency executives -- dominate the branded-entertainment biz with ideas, alliances and, of course, bragging rights, marketers say they want more control of the process.

Advertisers in driver's seat

According to a new study conducted by research firm Bellinson & Co., 41% of marketers surveyed said that advertisers will drive growth in the branded-entertainment space in the immediate future. By contrast, only 3% said ad agencies would do so, 3% said talent agencies would push the business forward, and 6% said media-buying firms would be responsible for growing such partnerships.

The survey results are exclusive to Madison & Vine and Advertising Age.

The marketers had gathered recently in Southern California for a conference hosted by the Universal Studios Partnership Group, which marries the marketing community with NBC Universal's entertainment properties, such as feature films "King Kong" and "Curious George" and theme parks Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando.

The advertisers rated studios, networks and media companies slightly higher in the scenario of who will broker branded-entertainment deals in the future, with 19% saying those companies will drive growth. Only 6% said that production companies, the front line in creating content, will do so.

Surprising shift in strategy

Collectively, marketers have been on a hiring spree over the past several years, bringing in talent agencies and other outside firms to help them navigate the complicated world of brand integrations. So, somewhat surprisingly, 53% of marketers said they will take charge of the process internally going forward.

Only 10%, by contrast, said that their advertising agencies would coordinate branded-entertainment projects, 7% said that would be handled by their media-buying agencies and 7% said their talent agencies would do the work.

Media money has been shifting out of traditional channels such as TV for some time, and those surveyed said they would continue to dip into their existing marketing budgets to pay for branded-entertainment projects. While 59% said they will reallocate money to cover such deals, 19% said they will put additional dollars into the space.

Playing it safe with TV

In keeping with marketers' somewhat risk-averse nature, the majority, or 78%, said they want to be integrated into TV content that is created by networks, and 75% said they want to be embedded in films created by studios. But, more significantly, 53% said they want to create their own content, showing that they're increasingly looking to dip into their coffers to finance branded entertainment.

"We're starting to see more marketers who feel this way," said Stephanie Sperber, exec VP, Universal Studios Partnerships. "They want to own the content because there's so much they can do with it across platforms. There are so many efficiencies associated with it."

To no one's surprise, marketers want to be on the Web, with 80% saying they have "high interest" in branded entertainment for that medium, topping the 65% that have "high interest" for TV. As an indicator that feature films are often difficult to work with, 16% of marketers said they have "low interest" in the medium for branded-entertainment deals.

"We still need to be convinced that branded entertainment in film will impact consumer behavior," one marketer wrote in the survey. "We need a push."

Hurdles to face

Branded entertainment is desirable, but it's not without its hurdles. Finding the right content was listed by 78% of the marketers as the top challenge, followed by 34% who said there needs to be better measurement of return on investment. Twenty-eight percent said finding the right talent fit and coming to equitable deal terms are major obstacles. Many were concerned with the long development process, which, in the case of films, can take years.

Marketers are clearly concerned about protecting their interests. "It isn't clear how cost-effective deals will be," one wrote in the survey. "The costs are high and we don't want to be exploited."
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