Advertainment: When Worlds Collide

Be engaging. Grab attention. Play on emotions. Touch on human truths. When the advice for advertisers is the same advice for artists and performers, it’s no wonder that the line between advertising and entertainment is razor-thin. And as time goes on, and advertisers find creative ways to compete for consumer attention, that line becomes ever blurrier. Enter "advertainment."

This portmanteau is (you guessed it), used to describe the intertwined relationship between advertising and entertainment. And as basic the term, the tactic itself can vary greatly. Sure, we're all used to the simple product placement, which laid the foundation for advertainment in the 50's.

But, nowadays it's not uncommon to see something much more elaborate for engaging an audience; an entire original TV series might be created for the sake of a brand's awareness. Whichever side of the spectrum you lean towards—the fact remains: advertainment is a proven form of marketing communication and its effect on our industry is more potent than ever.

Flipping the Script with Brand Television

“Commercial break” has often been synonymous with “snack time” or “bathroom break”—reminding us that the audience is there solely for their scheduled content. How do brands compete? Well, as some brands take on the task of producing their own original series, they also take on the attitude of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Nike is one recent example, with “Margot vs. Lily,” its eight-episode scripted series offered on YouTube. Following the lives of two young women involved in a fitness competition like no other, the series promises plenty of opportunities for Nike product placement.

Optimum also offers its own original content in the form of webisodes. The series, titled “The Unmovers,” takes us for a ride with Three Brothers Moving, a comically inept moving company that makes moving much harder than it has to be. While the connection to the brand may at first glance seem unclear, it falls perfectly in line with Optimum’s positioning that they make moving to a new place as easy as possible with a seamless transition to Optimum TV, Internet and phone—leaving plenty of room in the script for a few Optimum plugs.

By taking a non-traditional advertising path, brands like Nike and Optimum are able to pitch their content to audiences in a way that’s more engaging and less sell-y. Being a more palatable approach, this method can be effective at raising brand awareness and, ultimately, conversions. Under this light, Copyblogger’s description of content marketing is quite apt, defining the process as one that turns “strangers into fans and fans into customers.”

Print Ads Fit for an Art Gallery

Of course, it’s not just video content that attempts to capture consumer attention. Print advertisers compete for just as much, if not more, attention as digital takes main stage. According to Forbes' writer Steffan Postaer, “Social media demands that advertising function as art (or entertainment) in order for it to be shared and go viral.”

This means that, in order to touch audiences and reach the masses, print ads must be visually intriguing and thought-provoking, just like successful art. In fact, print ads that come across as art are often the ones that win advertising awards. Digital Synopsis’ compilation of such advertisements, demonstrates the strength and efficacy of visual ad artistry.

A Line is Drawn

Not everyone believes that advertisement can be considered purely art or entertainment. As David Ogilvy said: “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

In this way, a distinction is made. Advertising, according to Ogilvy, shouldn’t be about entertaining the masses, but instead about getting people to take an action. In other words, entertainment is passive, advertisement is active.

This debate is both old and ongoing, as the term “art” has always been subjective. According to Adweek, while some believe that some advertising belongs in museums, “it can never be considered on the same level as Monet’s ‘Woman With a Parasol.’”

Ad/Art Crossover

Whether or not advertisement can or should be called art or entertainment, the intermingling of the two forms is undeniable. While you consider your own stance on the matter, we’ll leave you with some relevant ad/art crossover fun facts:

  • “Soap operas” are so-called because sponsors of these televised dramas in the 1950s were mainly soap manufacturers.
  • A popular advertising tactic in South Korea is to design full-length music videos around the marketing of one product.
  • Oreo so closely followed Super Bowl XLVII, that when the now-infamous blackout hit, they immediately produced a relevant “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” ad.
  • It seems advertising has always had a tight relationship with music, but did you know the first official radio jingle was written for Wheaties in 1926?
  • From poetry to short stories, Chipotle has incorporated the art of storytelling into much of its marketing.
  • In 2007, Anheuser-Busch launched its online entertainment network, tv, which was shut down two years later due to cost and lack of interest.
  • McDonald’s first official Happy Meal toy was a Star Trek video communicator. Since then, toys have ranged from Pokemon to Spongebob to Transformers and beyond.
Published on February 23, 2016