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Next Up: Branded Films
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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As web video has been growing into a bigger deal and creative directors continue to dabble as faux film directors, we are going to see the lines go from blurring to a full-fledged disappearing act. Our society has seen it before, on a smaller screen: soap operas. We have mentioned before the history of the soap opera and how companies like Dove and Proctor & Gamble basically bankrolled these shows on radio and TV. The companies served as the only advertisers. As the media we have access to becomes more a-plenty and segmented, a diverse market will ultimately return to the days of branded entertainment.

The warning signs have been around for years. In the '90s, one could say that You've Got Mail was the first success story of a movie centered around a product (AOL, if you forgot). Who could forget the perfect product placement of Reese's Pieces in ET? Now the signs are getting louder. The outcry of American Idol being an hour-long car commercial. The disappointment of James Bond sending his martini back in exchange for a Heineken. The slew of short films for Heineken online, as well as the videos of the journeys of Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World." People don't like getting sold to, so let's switch it up and not make it a ploy, but intentional. 

Which brand will make the first full, intentional plunge? Will it be a conglomerate like Kimberley-Clark or Proctor & Gamble so they can use a line of products to make a story work? Or will it come from the agency side: a Saatchi & Saatchi or Wieden + Kennedy pitch?

An idea like this will need some inside push first, for it will need an audience already signed on in order to make this successful and scalable. Movie theaters can help with this. For example, there are movie theaters with luxury seating that sell alcohol. They can warm up with partnership idea by having a Heineken special during the Bond movie.

Hollywood could buy in to this. We can finally have the AdLand-Hollywood marriage that seemed almost inevitable. James Franco's film featuring Levi's can rise from IndieLand and hit major screens. Brands can take the place of big-time producers as the main sources of funding. This not-so-new concept can be the answer to the lack of new stories in Hollywood, and a new way for agencies to operate.

Exciting possibilities.

Why stop at movies? Can't branded entertainment hit Broadway? Picture this: "Mike and Ike Break Up: The Musical."

It's not a new concept, but making an intentional branded film, to add this in the agency arsenal, would be a new way to do things. We think it'd be fun.

Entertaining, at least.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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