“Many careers have been launched by new media that was discovered on the web.”
Editor in Chief, Script magazine
Were you one of the first people to get rid of your landline in favor of just having a cell phone? If so then you may have already cut your cable TV cord in favor of getting your traditional television entertainment not on a television, but via the Internet. “Is television dead?” ask Robert Gustafson & Alec McNayer in an article in Script magazine (Sept./Oct. 2010) titled The Branding of Online Entertainment.
But it’s not only that you can watch your favorite TV shows on the Internet with sponsors putting a tag and the beginning and end of the show, now sponsors are creating their own shows. The brand produces the entertainment, hence the phrase branding entertainment. If you aren’t familiar with what that looks like check out the Ikea sponsored show Easy to Assemble.
“(Branding Entertainment) has to become about the actual experience with the brand. It’s not about trying to sell a product, it’s about making the audience feel good about the brand and its message.”
Producer, Easy to Assemble
I’m not sure when this all started but in its modern form I’d point to the Superman webisodes that Jerry Seinfeld did for American Express in 2004-2005 that were directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, The Natural).
Of course, if actors, writers and filmmakers are uncomfortable with product placement they sure aren’t going to like branding entertainment. But it is a trend that is going to grow and provide a lot of creative opportunities for actors, writers and filmmakers. And since the majority of actors, writers and filmmakers are unemployed at any given time it seems like a positive thing. Sure it’s a dance between art and commerce, but what isn’t?
Two weeks ago I shot my first project that I would call branding entertainment. It’s for an economic development group and has been a great opportunity to work on the project as a producer, director, cameraman, editor as well as write the script and work with the actors. Even if the idea of branding entertainment doesn’t thrill you think of the experience you can gain. Writing words one week, and seeing actors say those words the next week, and people watching them online soon afterwards has its own benefits in a field where you can go years without seeing any fruit to your work.
“Like with television, we’re always looking for strong writers with a point of view and fresh concepts that offer some sort of ‘wow’ factor.”
Supervising producer, NBC’s In Gayle We Trust (sponsored by American Family Trust)
In the article by Gusafson and McNayer they point out a Orbit gum sponsored online show called “Orbit Dirty Shoes” featuring Jason Bateman; “The writing is superb, the acting is excellent, and the gum itself was successfully incorporated in the story.”
Not every writer’s cup of tea, but as I think of all the businesses and groups out there and the potential for branding entertainment— for the first time in my life I can honestly say I don’t think there are enough qualified producers and writers to handle all the work that I see coming down the pike.
Scott W. Smith
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