The power of ‘advertainment’ in brand communications: where entertainment meets advertising

In an era of sensory overload, where consumers are faced with a barrage of content at every waking moment, standing out is becoming an increasingly difficult task for brands. But there is a solution to capturing the attention of the distracted generation. Back in my TV production days in Paris, about 15 years ago, we were already exploring the concept of ‘advertainment’. We pitched innovative mini-series ideas to brands like McDonald’s and Club Med.

While the vision was clear and ahead of its time, the concepts failed to see fruition. The evolving priorities and dynamic goals of marketing departments at the time made it difficult to sell the concept of long-term promotions.

But now, with consumer scepticism on the rise, we’re seeing a backlash against traditional advertising. Today’s marketers are crying out for new ways to capture hearts, minds, and most importantly — attention.

As the lines between content and commercials blur, the brands riding this wave are rewriting the rules of engagement.

Welcome to the future of brand communications.

What is ‘advertainment’?

‘Advertainment’, a portmanteau of advertising and entertainment, is a creative strategy that seamlessly weaves marketing messages into pure entertainment content.

Modern ‘advertainment’ subtly incorporates promotional messages into forms of content, including video, games, podcasts, virtual reality experiences, and interactive web series.

Rather than interrupting the flow of the content with an ad, the brand becomes the storyteller, engaging viewers with content that feels organic, authentic, and relevant. The content is the ad.

In a landscape where consumers are quick to skip, mute, or block ads, ‘advertainment’ offers an enticing promise: an audience willingly engaged, emotionally invested, and, ultimately, more receptive to the brand’s message.

One of the first notable examples of ‘advertainment’ was the 8-minute short film for Pirelli, Mission Zero, starring Uma Thurman back in 2007 – there is even an IMDb page for it.  

But it’s not necessary to hire Hollywood stars and invest months of production to create impactful ‘advertainment’. At its heart, it’s about understanding the audience and crafting a narrative that resonates with them, irrespective of budget or star power.

The benefits of ‘advertainment’

The average human attention span is shrinking, with a study from Microsoft suggesting that most adults have shorter attention spans than goldfish.

This communal decline in our ability to focus is why apps like TikTok and YouTube shorts have become so popular. 

‘Advertainment’, by its very nature, can slip seamlessly into these bite-sized content slots, making brands not just a part of the conversation, but the main act. Another significant advantage is its ability to create a two-way dialogue between brands and consumers.

While traditional ads talk at consumers, ‘advertainment’ invites them into the conversation. This interactive element not only helps the brand to be more memorable but can also foster brand loyalty and consumer trust.

Moreover, in an age where authenticity is highly valued, ‘advertainment’ provides an avenue for brands to showcase values and ethos in a genuine manner.

Instead of blatantly pushing a product, brands can share stories that resonate with an audience’s values and aspirations, further deepening the bond between consumer and brand.

The marketing power of the box office hit

Take the recent Barbie movie, for example. Already being touted as one of the most successful marketing campaigns of recent years, the most hyped movie of 2023 goes to show how powerful ‘advertainment’ can be.

My own 7-year-old daughter, for one, had almost sidelined her Barbie collection until the movie came out. But the Barbie movie, wrapped in entertainment but subtly promoting the brand, has reignited her imagination and shifted her focus away from her other dolls.

But the influence of the movie has gone way beyond toys, as it seems the nation has been overcome with their need for branded merch and all that is pink.

Collaborations with brands spanning clothing, luggage, makeup, and accessories have been hugely successful, not to mention the filters and trends that have been making the rounds in social media. 

Advertainment

Mattel has essentially created a masterclass in ‘advertainment’, influencing purchasing decisions and capturing the attention of a startlingly wide market.

Navigating the ‘advertainment’ revolution

As the advertising landscape evolves, the potential of ‘advertainment’ continues to grow.

With the rise of immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), brands have even more opportunities to create unique and memorable ‘advertainment’ experiences.

As we continue to witness the rapid evolution of media consumption habits, it’s imperative for brands and marketers to adapt and innovate.

‘Advertainment’ isn’t just a fleeting trend; it’s a force reshaping the entire landscape of marketing as we know it. The future belongs to the brands that understand and harness its power.

Amaury Treguer is the co-founder at Bread Agency.

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