rp Reacts: Branded Entertainment

Our team's thoughts on branded entertainment as an out-of-the-box advertising strategy.

Coca-Cola recently branched into filmmaking and premiered a 3-part holiday film on Amazon Prime. Other brands have ventured into the holiday film space in the past, like H&M with their 2016 short film “Come Together” and Zara with their 2021 movie “O Divine Night.”

A film might seem like an immense lift when weighed against a traditional ad, but it also has the potential to make a much deeper, lasting impression on a consumer. Should branded entertainment be the new go-to, or is it more like a fix for something that isn’t broken? This is our take on branded entertainment as an alternative to traditional holiday advertising:

Branded entertainment that captures the spirit of the holiday season seems like a no-brainer to me. The most successful brands in the world understand that the emotional connection people have with their brand is a huge aspect of its market value. And the holidays are the perfect time to set aside the sales pitch in favor of content that simply aims to connect with people on a human level.

Nate Fleming, Director of Strategy

Branded entertainment during the holiday season is a clever tactic to “cut through the clutter” in the digital space. Traditional holiday advertising will usually focus on key features of a product or service. Branded entertainment tends to be more immersive and resonates at an emotional level. Emotional connections will typically build brand loyalty over time. 

I believe that more brands will lean into branded entertainment if they intend on reaching the Gen Z audience. As more consumers “cut the cord” on traditional TV, brands will also need to find innovative ways like branded entertainment to get in front of consumers. We’re moving into an era where consumers are seeking new ways to consume content without the disruption of traditional advertising. Branded entertainment is one way to achieve that.

Richard Roberts, Digital Media Buyer

In a world where the holiday season seems to start earlier each year, with an overload of holiday ads all trying to sell you the latest and greatest, it’s refreshing to know that there are still brands out there creating entertaining content to remind us the true reason for the holiday season.

My all-time favorite piece is “Come Together”, released by H&M in 2016. The spot is a masterclass in both storytelling and branded content. The message was simple yet relatable on a global scale. The holiday season is a time to come together with loved ones to celebrate and be positive. Every decision of the campaign was on-point, from partnering with Wes Anderson and Adrien Brody to the music selections, to the multiple storylines within the overall story, and their release strategy and targeting. It is a film that I watch every year and one that I will never get tired of.

This year, Coca-Cola surprised by releasing “Christmas Always Finds Its Way.” Not unlike H&M’s reminder to “Come “Together” during this time of year, Coca-Cola managed to take it a step farther and remind us to enjoy life's moments with the ones that mean the most to us. Creating 3 different stories, in different countries and in different languages, all directed by up and coming filmmakers makes someone like me smile inside and out.

All this to say, I love it when brands use entertainment as an alternative to traditional holiday advertising because they dig deeper, make us feel a little bit more, which hopefully creates a stronger connection with the brand for years to come and that to me is priceless.

Matt Weber, Associate Director of Content Production

I am a big fan of branded entertainment - it is such a great way of connecting on a deeper level with your consumer through shared interests. Some factors that can make or break it for me are distribution, length and quality. Regarding distribution, not every brand can partner with Amazon Prime Video like Coca Cola did, so how do you make sure people see the film? If you aren't on a typical streaming platform, the key would be to distribute in a way that naturally intersects with someone who is interested in taking the time to watch. Timing would be essential— you need to catch people at the right time with the right intent.

The next factor is length—a short film by a well known director like Wes Anderson (like H&M did) is digestible and novel, whereas a 45 minute Zara film by a director I am unfamiliar with is going to be a hard sell. Lastly, quality is key. If you are going to put branded entertainment into your top of funnel mix in lieu of a larger, more traditional ad buy, then the film must be done to the standards that have been set by movie makers. This means good acting, directing, script and visuals - anything less would be a detriment to the brand.

Samara Anderson, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

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