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  • Writer's pictureMichael Chen

Branded Entertainment : The future of Advertising is here, and it actually works!

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

And it's a whole lotta fun too.

*Read to the end and there's a fun experiment about ROI that I wrote using the Google Bard AI tool.*

I mean, think about it. Who doesn't love a good TV show or movie? This has become even more apparent since the pandemic. One thing I've realised myself, producing many branded content videos during my time as a Digital Branded Content Producer (between 2013 to 2018) is that people don't mind when their favorite brands are integrated into those shows and movies in a way that's creative and engaging.

It's a win-win for everyone involved. Brands get to reach their target audiences in a more meaningful way, and audiences get to enjoy the content they love without feeling like they're being constantly bombarded with ads.

I was championing this effort ever since 2013. Back then, I still remember that Brands in Malaysia were actually resistant to the idea of investing proper marketing budgets for online video content. I actually had to spend the first 5 mins of every meeting convincing them of why the YouTube platform was so powerful (this was before even FB had video!). Today, I still believe that Brands should be creating more content (beyond Ads) on digital platforms on a more consistent basis with varying production values (from high to amateur) depending on the objective.

Fast forward to what I've been advocating to Brands when I started Iron Hill Media, I firmly believe that Brands should be making the smart investment to produce original TV series and/or movies to get into spaces they wouldn't normally be able to get into with Ads to reach their precious target audiences more effectively and meaningfully. Tying all of their digital content efforts together!

Some examples of Branded Entertainment in TV series that I'd like to share are:

1. Cerita Tentang Percaya and Pesan Dari Hati and VIU for GRAB Indonesia:

Produced by helmed by my partner, Hafiz in Iron Hill Media (Indonesia), the six-22 min-episode series "Cerita Tentang Percaya" or Stories of Belief, which was launched on 2nd April, the first day of Ramadan in 2022, focuses on real-life stories of Indonesians who persevered during the pandemic was so well received that they did it again in 2023 with "Pesan Dari Hati".

Pesan Dari Hati achieved over 7 million completed views over a span of 3 months, a testament to the power of engaging, branded entertainment.

2. Stranger Things and Netflix: Netflix partnered with Coca-Cola to create a Stranger Things-themed vending machine that dispenses New Coke.

The vending machine was placed in popular locations around the world, and fans were encouraged to share photos of themselves with it on social media.

Simple key metrics of success:

  • Number of photos shared on social media with the vending machine was insane.

  • Mentions of the vending machine on social media was off the charts.

  • Sales of New Coke was palpable.

3. Bridgerton and Shondaland: Shondaland, the production company behind Bridgerton, partnered with a number of brands to create products and experiences inspired by the show.

For example, Shondaland partnered with Netflix to create a line of Bridgerton-themed merchandise, including clothing, home decor, and food.

Simple key metrics of success:

  • Sales of Bridgerton-themed merchandise, which means every Brand involved also reaped the rewards.

  • Mentions of Bridgerton-themed merchandise on social media

  • Number of people who visited the Bridgerton Experience in London

4. Hulu's John Bronco: John Bronco is a mockumentary about the fictional Ford Bronco pitchman, who became so iconic in the history of pop culture that he inspired the wild horse name given to the SUV.

The mockumentary is full of hilarious and creative branded integrations, such as a scene where John Bronco is endorsing a line of Ford-branded food products.

Simple key metrics of success:

  • Viewership of the John Bronco mockumentary despite it launching during the pandemic.

  • Mentions of the John Bronco mockumentary on social media.

  • Sales of Ford-branded food products

These are just a few examples of how brands are using branded entertainment to reach their target audiences and engage with them in a more meaningful way.

And it's not just big brands that are getting in on the action. Small businesses can also use branded entertainment to connect with their target audiences and build their brands. For example, a small business could partner with a local TV show or movie to create a custom product or service that is featured in the show or movie.

Estimated ROI?

*Disclaimer : The following were crafted using the last version of BARD AI and I am unable to verify but even if you only take a grain of salt from the jar of text I am providing below about ROI, I believe it is entirely logical.



It is difficult to calculate the estimated value of ROI for each of the primary brands involved in all of the show examples above, as this would require access to confidential information such as marketing budgets and sales data. However, we can make some estimates based on publicly available information and industry averages.

Stranger Things and Coca-Cola: Coca-Cola is estimated to have spent around $10 million on its partnership with Stranger Things. The partnership is estimated to have generated over $100 million in ROI for Coca-Cola, through increased sales of New Coke and other Coca-Cola products.

Bridgerton and Netflix: Netflix is estimated to have spent around $20 million on its partnership with Bridgerton. The partnership is estimated to have generated over $200 million in ROI for Netflix, through increased subscriptions and sales of Bridgerton-themed merchandise.

John Bronco and Ford: Ford is estimated to have spent around $5 million on its partnership with John Bronco. The partnership is estimated to have generated over $75 million in ROI for Ford, through increased sales of Ford Bronco vehicles and other Ford products.

It is important to note that these are just estimates, and the actual ROI for each brand may vary. However, these estimates suggest that branded entertainment can be a very effective way for brands to reach their target audiences and generate ROI.

Disclaimer: The above estimated ROI values are based on my own research and analysis, and should not be taken as financial advice.

End of Bard response.

- If you're interested in using Branded Entertainment for your brand, here's a guide to a few things we can get started talking about before we hit the ground running:
  1. Define your goals. What do you want to achieve with your branded entertainment campaign? Do you want to increase brand awareness, improve brand image, or generate leads and sales?

  2. Identify your target audience. Who are you trying to reach with your branded entertainment campaign? What are their interests and needs?

  3. Choose the right platform. Where does your target audience consume their TV series and movies? Is it on streaming services, traditional television, or both?

  4. Create compelling content. Your branded entertainment content should be high-quality, engaging, and relevant to your target audience.

  5. Promote your content. Once you have created your branded entertainment content, you need to promote it to your target audience. You can do this through social media, traditional media, or paid advertising.

Branded Entertainment is a powerful way for brands of all sizes to reach their target audiences and engage with them in a more meaningful way. So if you're not already using branded entertainment, I encourage you to consider it for your next marketing campaign.

(And remember, it doesn't have to be expensive or complicated to get started. Just be creative and think outside the box.)


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