Branded Entertainment – The Fanscape Q&A September 14, 2010

Written by: Digitally Approved
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Fanscape Q&A is a new feature, where CEO Larry Weintraub talks shop with top industry professionals. In our inaugural edition, Larry speaks with Funny Or Die’s, Mitch Galbraith and Davie Brown Entertainment’s, Marc Gilbar.

What is your definition of the term: branded entertainment?

Marc Gilbar: Branded entertainment encompasses any piece of content (scripted or unscripted, comedy or drama, series or one-off) that is made with a brand’s personality, positioning and marketing objectives in mind. Branded entertainment has the brand’s essence baked into the core of the content idea.

Mitch Gilbraith: For Funny Or Die branded entertainment means multi-faceted advertising campaigns built around custom-created videos.  When done right, the resulting videos aren’t commercials, they are funny videos – made by the same team that makes FOD’s original celebrity classics – that happen to contain a brand message.  The videos are supported by comprehensive distribution, promotion, and advertising via Funny or Die, Funny or Die channels (e.g. YouTube), and Funny or Die social media outlets (e.g. our 1.6M user Twitter following).

What is the difference between product placement, product integration and branded entertainment?

Mitch Gilbraith: We think of product placement as inserting a product/brand into a video, or series of videos, without integration into the story line.  This isn’t the approach we take.  We aim to deeply integrate the product / brand, often starting as far back in the process as concept creation.  For instance, we’ve built branded entertainment campaigns around several videos in Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns series.  Even though Between Two Ferns was a pre-existing concept, you can see the products were made a highly integrated centerpiece of the videos – not just the proverbial soda can on the table between the two actors.

Marc Gilbar: Product placement places a product on screen whereas product integration integrates a product into the story. Branded entertainment, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have to include either. The amount of branding and product placement/integration will depend on the idea. Sometimes the branding will be minimal because the content speaks so closely to the brand personality and messaging that the partnership itself is valuable enough.

Please tell us a little bit about how FOD has gone about integrating products into your original comedy videos and what sets you apart from others in your space.

Mitch Gilbraith: We built our first BE campaign for the Major League Baseball Player Association back in early 2008.  Since then we executed dozens of successful campaigns for a bunch of top brands like HBO, Mini, Starter, Paramount, Anheuser Busch, Frito-Lay, Axe, Sony Universal, Quiznos, Pepsi, and many more.  We feel our success comes from a unique combination of assets:  top-notch and highly cost effective in-house Writing & production, a world-class dedicated sales team to walk the brand/agency through the process every step of the way, strong connections to celebrity talent, powerful distribution, and demonstrated expertise in making successful online comedy videos.  If you want to make comedic branded entertainment for the web Funny or Die should be at the top of your list.

From concept to production to uploading the finished product, what is the typical length of time of the whole process?

Marc Gilbar: It always depends on the idea, but assuming we already have a relatively simple concept nailed down the process usually takes 2-3 weeks. Technological advancement in filmmaking has raised the production values while lowering production costs, so everything seems to move faster these days.

What are some of your biggest challenges?

Mitch Gilbraith: At a high level, educating clients about branded entertainment is our biggest challenge.  branded entertainment is still new to most brands and many want to apply what they know about making TV commercials.  Most big brands and their agencies have lots of experience making commercials and very little experience making viral videos and there are some important differences.  Our biggest successes have come when the brand and their agencies allow us to lead the creative process within basic parameters they’ve set.  It can feel like a loss of control compared to making a commercial, but it enables our creative team to do what they do best – make funny videos for the web.

Marc Gilbar: The single biggest challenge is getting brands to experiment on an emerging platform. We don’t have the same measurement infrastructure that TV/Radio/Print media has, so it can be harder to track results. However, by creating original content, brands can tell more engaging narratives, reach their target more effectively and have the ability to become a viral phenomenon.

What do you see as the future of Web content?

Mitch Gilbraith: We think it won’t be too long and there really won’t be such a thing as “web content.”  Instead there will just be content and the web will facilitate its delivery to whatever screen (laptop, mobile, TV) is most convenient to the user.  There will likely be some interesting twists and turns between then and now, but in the meantime, we’re staying focused on producing the best comedy possible whether that be for funnyordie.com, one of our TV shows (Funny or Die Presents on HBO, John Benjamin Has a Van coming to Comedy Central, and others in the works), or feature-films (we are in pre-production on our first).

Marc Gilbar: I believe that it’s our understanding of “the Web” that will change. Content is content no matter how it’s delivered to you or where you watch it. Television and movie studios make content and sell advertising around it, we make content and integrate the brands into the story. Ultimately, what matters to consumers is that the content is entertaining.