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Guest Post: Brand and Entertainment – The Shift

At the end of last year, I commented on what the recent deregulation of product placement within UK commercial radio (coined by the Radio Advertising Bureau as Brand Integration) would mean for advertisers and brands.  With that in mind, today’s guest post article comes from industry expert Sam Zniber, Vice President at Radio Intelligence. Sam shares some previous examples of Brand Integration across various stations that Sam has led across the world, as well as how media owners and brands need to shift and adapt with digital tools and content plus the ability for branded entertainment to go viral.

Brand and Entertainment: THE SHIFT
Sam Zniber

There’s a lot of talk today about Branded entertainment. In fact Radio Program Directors have been in the Branded entertainment business for decades now. A huge amount of the P.D’s work has always been to find ways of linking the station format’s artists and DJ’s to the relevant brands and sponsors.

However artist association is nothing new, back “in the ‘50s, Coca-Cola commissioned artists like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to create the brand’s music jingles,”recalls Emmanuel Seuge, Group Director, Worldwide Sports & Entertainment Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company. “Music raises so much passion around the world and it represents, for The Coca-Cola Company, a fantastic opportunity to build emotional connections with our targets while driving our business”.

The equation for music radio has always been to mix brands into a consistent environment designed for a specific target with distinct tastes and a precise lifestyle.

Every week throughout my career I’ve had to find solutions for the sales team encouraging clients to create branded entertainment, like special shows and features to suit a client’s strategy, or special content and on-air contesting around a client’s product.

In 2000, we had a blast at FUN RADIO France for the launch of the Matrix DVD. We designed the entire station around Matrix for a month with interviews, special features, special on-air imaging, and an amazing on-air contest where a listener wins a role in Matrix 2. Essentially for one month we created one of the first branded radio stations, which could have been called “Matrix Radio”.
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In 2006, Absolut Vodka did a great job with exclusive content made in partnership with Lenny Kravitz. The Lenny Kravitz video and single Breathe were available only from the global Absolut website.

Today with all the new digital tools and screens available everywhere, branded entertainment is the best way for brands to reach a specific target, while aligning itself with appropriate artists/celebrities/bloggers or even a pop or sub culture’s “scene” and at the same time delivering great content.

The Hours a special branded entertainment agency is a great example of how much the world of brands and media has changed.

The Hours had success creating a new business model that incorporates its record label, publishing, publicity, and music marketing agency activities into Euro RSCG’s New York, Paris, and London offices.

David Jones, Global CEO of Havas Worldwide and Euro RSCG Worldwide said “The music and communications industries have both gone through dramatic revolutions as digital technology has made CDs and 30-second TV commercials less and less relevant. The success of The Hours is proof that this new decade will belong to those companies that understand both the world of music and the world of brands and that can leverage the power of digital content”.

The Hours Entertainment has been producing branded entertainment around music for brands like Cartier, Michael Kors, Estee Lauder, and DKNY. Tommy Hilfiger has partnered with THE HOURSENTERTAINMENT to launch its first worldwide digital radio in HD sound only a few months ago, available on its official website and Facebook page.

A recent interview of one member of The Hours on Blomberg says a lot about the interconnections between music, content and brands.

And their approach called The Trinity Appoach says also a lot.

This kind of branded entertainment also lends itself to the sports arena. Fans dedicated to sports teams are willing to paint logos on their faces at games and proudly wear the team brands on every available piece of clothing. Sports fans are probably the most hungry for content from their favorite “brand” or team.

Sport branded radio stations available on Sirius XM for the NBA, Nascar, and NFL are only a small beginning. There is definitely more room for specific team orientated online radio, distributed through official team websites but also shared or embedded on fans blogs, and through phone apps, as the smart phone has become the new portable transistor. In the way past sports fans would carry small radios with them everywhere. Now apps allow much more information and interaction to that same crazy, rabid fan.

In 2010, Fast Company has published some very interesting comments from key players in today’s online video world to share their point of view on what’s next. Here is the point of view of Dan Fietsam, chief creative officer at Energy BBDO: “With our little Internet machines here, you can share a joke on a much broader scale. On the playground you just used to tell jokes, and now you can spread it faster to a lot more people. Content spreads farther faster. I think narrative is going to become more interactive. And what I mean by that is storytelling is starting to become a little bit more participatory. You can start jumping in on stuff. For instance, that’s why I liked the Old Spice Twitter response videos this summer. Now you’re interacting and participating with the storytelling as opposed to just sharing a funny spot. Now you’re able to jump in and ask the joke questions. Those kinds of things, to me as a writer and a content director and a creative director, are super exicitng, because it lets the life of something that’s successful and creative keep growing and expanding.”

Sam’s personal website is

If you have examples of great branded entertainment, feel free to post them here.

Images: Sam Zniber  Neuenschwander.

Disclaimer – All posts and views are my own, and are not endorsed or representative of any current or previous employer.