Branded entertainment: The answer to consumers not watching ads?

I remember having a conversation with an old business partner six years ago about the future of on-demand streaming media - specifically, the ability to watch TV online by connecting to the internet thanks to companies like Netflix.
We marvelled over how this new ability to choose what you want to watch when you want to watch it would change the advertising industry forever. Brands would have to be really clever about how they engaged their target market, because the consumer would be more empowered than ever before.

Although Netflix started in 1997, it was a while before South Africa felt any impact. It wasn't until I purchased a Samsung Smart TV in 2012 that I realised times are changing. I was reminded of this again the other day when I purchased Apple TV. Apple TV gives you iTunes on your TV with access to movies and shows you can buy or rent for as little as R29.00 per rental. The best thing is that I don't need a subscription to use it.

For a lot of South Africans though, there's no need for a Smart TV or iTunes to gain access to the latest content. Thanks to the internet, users download and watch TV shows and movies months before the shows hit local screens.

I spoke recently to Oratile Mokgwetsi, our latest winner on Tropika Island of Treasure 6, about how she found out about the campaign. At the age of 24, Oratile no longer consumes traditional media. She doesn't watch TV on a set or listen to the radio. In fact, her only interaction with any media is downloading and watching TV shows and movies on her laptop. It turns out that she found out about the Tropika competition via the product pack.

While this may pose a problem for brands trying to engage with a higher income target market who have 24/7 internet access, a large portion of our "internetless" population will still watch scheduled TV for their daily dose of entertainment. Even then, how will brands capture the attention of these consumers when SABC launches DTT, eTV launches four new channels and Top TV re enters the market as StarSat?

It seems to me that the only way for TV and brands to succeed in the future is for advertising and entertainment to converge in the form of branded entertainment. This is known as the "Madison-Vine" concept, as coined by Scott Donaton in his 2005 book "Madison And Vine: Why the Entertainment and Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive".

The fight for the target market's attention will end when brands stop competing with what entertains the target market and rather become what entertains the target market by producing branded content - be it online with platforms like YouTube for the higher end, on-demand audience or on television for the scheduled TV viewer.

For consumers like Oratile it's an even tougher job, as she only downloads and then watches TV shows and movies on her laptop. For this reason, any opportunity we have to engage the consumer must be used to its full advantage. The time of separate brand campaigns and sales campaigns are over. Brands need to build advocacy, loyalty and long-term sustainability through branded entertainment and proper consumer engagement that lives on multiple screens with a solid in-store push for sales.

As an example, the new Lego movie is due for release in February 2014. In this full feature movie, Lego will be advertising every single box set they have ever made to a highly captive audience in a highly entertaining way. The big question is: will Lego capitalise on this movie in store? After all, big brand content must be matched with a big brand promotion for it to truly drive R.O.I. For the Lego movie, I hope to see massive in-store activity that takes the movie experience and brings it to life in the consumer's basket.

People will always watch and share great quality content. When this great branded content drives big brand promotions, suddenly you have a business model that makes sense for the channel, the audience and the brand.

For more information contact 7 Different Kinds of Smoke on 011 026 4812 or e-mail

Posted on 27 Feb 2014 11:42

About the author

Ryan started working in mobile telecoms as head of operations for Wizzit Bank 2006. Wizzit bank was SA's first mobile banking solution for the unbanked. Mobile was in its infancy though despite its humble beginnings, Ryan knew it was the next big thing. He quickly positioned himself in the industry by moving into Digital Strategy and Business Development, working for clients like Coca-Cola, Estee Lauder, OUTsurance, Diesel, Friendly Grocer, Santam, Tommy Hilfiger, Kellogg's, Garnier and JD Group to name a few. In 2010 Ryan felt that the digital and mobile industry was synonymous with tech heavy campaigns that cost the client a lot of money and did not deliver the kind of results they were looking for. Digital needed a fresh approach. Early work showed that engagement was key to driving results and that it wasn't only digital that needed to evolve but traditional advertising too. And so 7Different Kinds of Smoke was born - the goal - to approach advertising from the point of view of the consumer, making engagement the main focus and sales the primary objective.

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We develop ideas and creative strategies and follow them to any media platform. We finish every brainstorm with "Would I look for that on YouTube?"