Branded: Five Easy Pieces for 2007
It's the end of another eventful year - time once again for us to consult our enlightened Magic 8-Ball and prognosticate on the state of our business in 2007. But first, if you'll indulge us, a few words on 2006. We hardly knew you, Zed Six. That's right, you went zipping past so fast it's difficult to see you clearly in the rearview. Of course, hindsight mirrors distort images, making objects look larger than they really are, or were. Just how big are YouTube and Google and iPod programming and wireless - that is, for us in Answer from the 8-Ball: Don't know yet.
Marketers are curious; they're sniffing around. Yes, Google has been raking in serious advertising coin through those sponsored links, but will YouTube elevate the offering? It may be high-tech, but Google still smacks of the Yellow Pages. Dove Soap apparently got 1.7 million plus hits for its short film flight on YouTube. That's a start. But the question remains: Will YouTube advance marketing communication as radically as, say, online porn? We shall see, no doubt.our business?
>Our first prediction: Next year will see a crop of brand-supported documentary films. (Full disclosure: We're working on one.) Already these babies have become the bold new fashion statement in our business. All the cool brands have wrapped or are in production - Mountain Dew, Quiksilver, Vans, Nokia, and Burton. Even the stiffs are getting into the act: Fireman's Fund, a division of German insurance giant Allianz, dropped between $3 million and $5 million for a 90-minute History Channel film called "Into the Fire," which celebrates the heroics of smoke-eating firefighters. What's hot about this deal - besides all that dramatic hose-humping - is the complete absence of product integration. How do you product-place an insurance policy, after all? Instead, Fireman's Fund placed four PSA vignettes throughout the broadcast.
>Second prediction: While brands will be lining up for said doc productions, they will be running away from even a whiff of controversy in these flicks. In other words, docs that prod and provoke with any kind of political or antiestablishment agenda won't stand a chance of getting brand support. (The firefighters of "Into the Fire," for example, are miles from the tortured misanthropes in Denis Leary's "RescueMe.") Sorry, Michael Moore.
>Third prediction:Chad and Steve, those clever dudes who just caged $1.65 billion selling YouTube to the Googleheads, will be so busy next year fine-tuning the blueprints on their oceanside manses that they'll have little time to upgrade their servers or pioneering new revenue models for Yoogle or GooTube, or whatever they will call this new thing of theirs.
>Fourth prediction: There will be far fewer new branded entertainment shop launches. Like the real estate market, the bubble has finally burst.
>Our fifth and final prognostication: In 2007, branded entertainment will die - not the practice but the name. Product placement, brand integration, content creation, and sponsorship will be lumped under the category of "entertainment marketing."
Yeah, we know: Entertainment marketing is what people do when they hawk movies, theater, games, DVDs, music. But why not just call it one thing? Just think, we can avoid those glazed looks from people when they ask us what we do for a living. "Brand integration," like "insertion orders," sounds like naughty business to the layman. Only when we say "product placement" do they understand - and yet not to our satisfaction. We don't just do product placement!
After a while one starts to feel a little overly complex and lurid, like that desperate man in the extraordinary movie "Little Children" who tries to explain at a dinner party that he is not in advertising but in branding, which the audience knows is a business that allows him to spend hours cruising porn sites at his desk. (Can you blame him? He has no self-esteem, no identity!)
Just to let you all know, there is a branded entertainment committee of the Four As that has just recently, and officially, adopted the name. It is now called the Entertainment Marketing Committee. So join the parade and get some self-respect.
Until next year.
Hank Kim and Richard Linnett are directors at MPG Entertainment. (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org)