Brands battle

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Branded entertainment usually falls into two categories: product placement, where a brand is placed into someone else's creative, and content the brands create for themselves. Brand-created content won out at the first annual ANA/AICP Battle of the Brands, part of Advertising Age's Madison & Vine conference. The Association of Independent Commercial Producers and the Association of National Advertisers presented the competition.

Several dozen marketers and their advertising and production partners vied for four slots in a live contest modeled after Fox's hit "American Idol." Burger King's Subservient Chicken campaign from MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky and production company Barbarian Group was one of the finalists. The campaign centered around an actor in a chicken suit responding to commands from consumers over the Internet. Another finalist was Sega's Beta 7, which submitted a viral hoax created using three Web sites, live stunts, e-mail and blogs, developed by independent agency Wieden & Kennedy and production company Chelsea Pictures. A third contestant entered a series of 90-second mini-films, the ESPN Shorts, for Sears and Miller Lite, centering on the love Boston Red Sox fans feel for their team.

The grand prize winner was the under-$500,000 campaign for Pabst's Rainier Beer from WPP Group's Cole & Weber/Red Cell, Seattle. Rainier, for more than 100 years, was as much a part of Seattle's fabric as its famous Space Needle. A red neon "R" was long a familiar part of the cityscape, but the brand had declined precipitously from its 1970s peak. The winning campaign used some old spots the brewer found, coupled with a camp TV show airing at 1 a.m. on Sundays. The effort was helped along when a bear raided a local campground and passed over most of the goodies in favor of almost three dozen cans of Rainier beer, a story which drew news coverage, and inclusion in mock form in further ads.

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