Is online branded entertainment too ‘branded’?

Online branded entertainment is growing.

More often than not, online videos involve brands in their production. As opposed to sponsored programs (which feature ads), branded videos integrate products into the plotline. That begs the question: is it alright if brands dictate content direction?

Writing for, Troy Dreir explored the topic. He posed the question: “Is branding creating long commercials dressed as entertainment, or are marketers using a lighter touch?”

In the article, Dreir took a look at “Burning Love,” a series created by Yahoo! in coordination with brand participation. According to Anna Robertson—head of Yahoo! Studios, PHD purchased the exclusive rights to the show’s second season and third season for its clients. The marketing agency has an extensive clientele, which includes Tums Freshers and Breathe Right strips.

“Most of the time, the products were simply visible on a nightstand,” describes Dreir. He also said that products were integrated into some scenes, which made them funnier.

Yahoo! has numerous online branded entertainment programs, including The Thread (Procter & Gamble) and Ram Country (Chrysler). AOL, GMC, and Verizon have—likewise—entered into branded entertainment agreements to create online content.

Creating branded content depends on many factors—the brand, the plot, and their seamless (or not so seamless) integration.

“For the moment, brand involvement is light, and it feels more honest than product placement in broadcast TV or movies,” concludes Dreir. “If it ever gets to the point that brand messaging is turning series into commercials, I don’t think I’ll need to protest. Instead, I think notoriously fickle online video viewers will click away in droves.”