What’s Your Brand Story?

According the the WSJ, advertisers in China are becoming entertainment producers. Seems they are building series and films around their products – I guess if you have to pay someone for product placement, it may as well be yourself.

Pernot Richard SA is promoting its Martell Noblige cognac through a web film called “Style, Experience.” In the 8-18 minute film, a James Bond-esque bachelor, played by a popular talk-show host, shows viewers a day in his life of executive meetings and techno-gadgets. The film’s lengths depends on choices the viewers make. Viewers get to interact and make decisions for our heero, that wil either leave him with the girl and the corner office – or alone and unemployed..

The product placement is very subtle, with just background shots of the cognac in glasses or bottle, so the film is much more focused on entertainment and on building a community. They are banking on the “halo effect” of associating the brand with this high-flying young, handsome bachelor.

China is a more receptive market for this type of “brand-ertainment” since the audience has less options for entertainment in general. As long as they are entertained, they don’t mind it so much. Other companies have done similar concepts in the market, with an “Ugly Betty” clone and a copycat of an Portuguese Web series. Brands to have tried this include Dove, Sony, and Clinique.

While the levels of engagement and length of visits to their website have been great signs, the Martell folks still need to see if the gamble pays off in people pulling out their wallets and buying – the ultimate test of any ad-related venture, no matter how hip or cool it may be.

What do you think? Is product placement okay but has manufactured content crossed the line? If it’s good entertainment and content, does it matter? Or do you prefer keeping content and ads in separate silos?

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