Last Friday, traditional storytellers and advertisers, including our CEO Lisa Sherman, gathered to discuss the state of advertising and entertainment at Tribeca X. An offshoot of the Tribeca Film Festival, the day-long conference celebrates the intersection of advertising and storytelling. This year’s programming explored the use of branded entertainment for social change.
A few of the highlights included a keynote address by P&G’s Marc Pritchard showcasing some of the year’s best branded content, Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard’s discussion of the company’s new feature-length film, and a panel focused exclusively on the marriage of branded entertainment and social impact. Here are a few key takeaways:
Why are so many companies using branded entertainment to address social issues?
Throughout the day, many were asked a different version of this question. For one, branded entertainment is a less interruptive, indirect form of advertising that’s effective regardless of whether the message you’re imparting is purpose driven. When executed well it offers a way to be heard and remembered in a media environment defined by streaming and mobile use, where traditional ads are muted, ignored or cut out completely. As consumers have come to expect brands to take a stance on social issues, branded entertainment has solidified itself as a natural choice for sharing social good messaging.
When does branded entertainment for social good work? When does it fall short?
So, what does success look like when it comes to branded entertainment’s use for social good? Overwhelmingly, anything that feels opportunistic doesn’t work. Greg Hahn, Chief Creative Officer at BBDO New York, raised the question, “What gives your company the right to have a say in any given cause?” If an issue doesn’t directly apply to your business, interjecting yourself into the larger conversation with an ad can appear inauthentic.
What’s opportunistic or not is still up for debate. Some feel Gillette jumped on the #MeToo bandwagon in creating its recent “We Believe” spot, while others felt the ad rang true due to the brand’s monetary commitment to combatting toxic masculinity.
What’s the optimal length for a branded entertainment spot? 30-seconds? Five minutes? Longer?
Increasingly, branded entertainment spots are subverting the expectation that an ad should last at most 30-seconds. Marc Pritchard showcased a moving film from the cosmetics brand SK-II that lasted four-and-a-half-minutes. Patagonia’s new film Artifishal caps at over an hour. It seems that deeper storytelling in advertising, which is increasingly the norm, may require more time. Anheuser-Busch’s Peter Van Overstraeten voiced that, “If you connect with your audience, they’ll give you more time.” BBDO’s Greg Hahn put it simply in saying, “It’s only too long if it feels too long,” asserting that the length of branded entertainment doesn’t matter so long as you can execute.
Branded entertainment on its own makes for more engaging ads, and when coupled with purpose it packs a powerful punch. As more companies get involved, the rising question they’ll likely have to answer to is, how deep does your commitment to an issue actually go? Are you merely spreading the idea of environmental sustainability, equality or diversity and inclusion or is your company tackling it in measurable ways at every level of your business? In a culture where companies are expected to act for good, it’ll be interesting to see who falls and who rises.