Brands v Content: Bacardi, Pepsi, Kraft, Kellogg’s

Bacardi v Groove Armada
Six weeks before Groove Armada will be releasing their new EP through traditional download stores, the first track appeared Bacardi B-Live, where registered users can download it for free. They can access the second track as soon once they’ve shared the first with 20 friends. The third MP3 can be heard when the first has been shared 200 times, and the fourth when 2,000 ‘friends’ have hear the first track. Sharing is made easy by supplying users with widgets for their websites and Facebook profiles. The sharing application was launched last week and will be available until 2 March 2009.

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In a move that some viewers considered shocking, cast and crew from the Peacock Network’s venerable “Saturday Night Live” crafted three ads for Pepsi that essentially grafted mentions, cans and logos of the famous soda into three different executions of “MacGruber,” a long-running spoof of the old “MacGyver” TV series. The ads looked just like “SNL” skits but ran during commercial breaks on the Jan. 31 edition of the show. One of the ads also appeared during the recent Super Bowl. Pepsi’s ad agency, Omnicom Group‘s change-resistant TBWA/Chiat/Day, had little if any involvement in the commercials.
Kraft is “getting the b(r)and back together” and building a campaign for Crystal Light around Estelle and her upbeat song, which is centered on a special Web site (upumpitup.com). Site visitors will be able to download free copies of a full-length version of “Star” before it is available for sale in March on Web sites like Amazon and iTunes.

Kellogg’s drops Phelps after bong controversy
Kellogg’s has become the first major sponsor to end an endorsement deal with swimmer Michael Phelps, calling his behaviour “not consistent” with its image, after the News of the World published photographs of the Olympic gold medallist smoking out of a glass pipe. The US cereal manufacturer said it would not renew its contract with Phelps, which expires at the end of the month.

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Rugby v Mills & Boon

What an excellent idea – and untraditional approach. British Rugby is seeking female fans through Mills & Boon novels. The Rugby Football Union has licensed its brand to romance books publisher Mills & Boon, which is publishing eight books with plots linked to the sport. The first book in the series will be published on February 1 to coincide with the RBS Six Nations tournament, followed by another title every month.
The Prince’s Waitress Wife‘ opens at a Six Nations match at Twickenham with a sex scene in the President’s Suite after heroine Holly is seduced by a prince. The RFU hopes the books, which will bear its logo and include an explanation of the rules of the game with tips on what to wear to matches, will help bring more women fans into rugby.
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Clare Somerville, sales and marketing director at Mills & Boon, said the books have familiar ingredients such as “jet set locations, hunky alpha male hero … but in a rugby context”. Somerville added: “The RFU may not seem like a likely partner but it’s an apposite match. About one third of rugby supporters are women and the RFU is obviously keen to widen its female audience.The RFU has been great to work with and hasn’t been so precious about its image, it has let us get on with it. There is quite a bit of naughtiness that goes on, but the RFU has realised that it is all about good wholesome fun.”

Disappointingly this isn’t a brand new idea. Mills & Boon’s parent company Harlequin already has a similar licensing partnership with the American racing car body Nascar.

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Branded Content or Advertising? Kia and Psych.

Kia Motors will take a bigger role on USA Network this year by sponsoring the Jan. 9 opener of TV series Psych. The partners have created a custom car spot that showcases the show’s characters. The spot will air throughout USA Network’s first-quarter schedule to promote the automobile and the quirky comedy/mystery about a guy who uses his observational skills to persuade cops that he’s using psychic powers to solve crimes. Steve Franks, the show’s creator and executive producer, collaborated on the in-house effort. “The character of the Kia car and Shawn and Gus were really a perfect match for each other,” said Chris McCumber, USA Network’s evp of marketing, digital and brand strategy. “That’s the success behind our ‘Characters Welcome’ brand. We can match up our partners’ brand attributes to those of our characters.” McCumber summed up both brands as young, smart, hip and irreverent. The :30 spot highlights the Kia’s features and components. Characters Shawn and Gus star in the ad.

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Product Placement: Audi v Transporter, Mercedes v Slumdog

This morning began fairly inauspiciously, but as I loitered on the Subway platform, I noticed a rather badly art-directed ad for the latest Jason Statham vehicle “Transporter 3“. I was moved to chronicle said design deficit, and snapped a picture with my iPhone (well, its no good for calls, websurfing or emails after all). I do actually dimly recollect watching bits of Transporter 1 on a plane with the sound off, and thinking it resembled a long car ad. (And there was a part 2? Who knew!)

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I have no beef with product placement (quite the contrary), but only if it is done well … that is to say adds value to the production, and is seamless and intuitive. At the most basic level, sadly, I think the way Audi was integrated on to this billboard – and let’s be fair to these guys – looked shit. The car looks grafted on! I fear this may presage the way the car is featured in the film…

A lot of car manufacturers got “BMW Films” envy, and Audi seem to be one of them. I’ll withhold judgment – as I haven’t seen the film, but my initial reaction is that they failed to make the Audi integration seamless and intuitIve, which for me is the measure of success.

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Conversely,  Mercedes had their cars removed from the new movie ‘Slumdog’. Evidently, “Slumdog” presented an entertainment marketing conundrum: Only a handful of companies have the global presence to benefit from the worldwide exposure that a motion picture generates, but they also have widely divergent customer tastes to meet — and often divergent business priorities.

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Branded Entertainment: McDonalds, Showtime

  • McDonald’s has recently released the latest installment for the McDonald’s Dollar Menunaire campaign with the Reality House Show. This time, the fast food giant jumps into cyber space with an animated web series about a slacker named Paul. Paul is a young man who decides to move out of his folk’s home, to participate in a reality show. Often times Paul treats himself to a McDonald’s cheeseburger and a couple of apple pies. The parody is a fact-paced, edgy comedy. The webisodes are aimed at the 18-34 age demographic. An accountant from McDonald’s claimed that this is the age wherein individuals are looking to save money. That’s where the “McDonald’s Dollar Menunaire” comes in –you can turn your dollar into something tasty.
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  • In an unusual cross-promotion that has created a house of branded entertainment, Showtime and Metropolitan Home magazine teamed up for a designer showcase makeover in a New York brownstone. Each room of the project takes its inspiration from one of six Showtime shows. The show home will be open to the public and the project was filmed to become its own TV program.

Obama Delivers, McDonalds Delivers on Promise, Twiller, Greener Meetings, Honeyshed

  • Obama’s big speech pulls 38.4 million Obama’s Thursday speech, in which he accepted the Democratic nomination for president, drew the biggest audience for a Democratic speech in at least 12 years and perhaps ever, since Nielsen only began keeping detailed nightly records in 1996.Some 38.4 million total viewers tuned in across 10 networks for the speech, in which Obama became the first major-party black presidential nominee in U.S. history. Certainly the historic nature of his speech, delivered 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” drew in more viewers than would have usually tuned in for the convention.
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  • Customer: Can I have five barbecue sauces?
    Cashier: No. This is not Burger King. You cannot have it your way.
    –McDonald’s
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  • New York Times journalist Matt Richtel has invented a storytelling format called the Twiller. The idea is for Twitter users to follow fictional characters — which many already do anyway — as they progress though a plot. Richtel’s Twitter serial is “about a man who wakes up in the mountains of Colorado, suffering from amnesia, with a haunting feeling he is a murderer,” the author wrote. “In possession of only a cellphone that lets him Twitter, he uses the phone to tell his story of self-discovery, 140 characters at a time.” The main character is also accompanied by a hooker, who occasionally appropriates his phone and Twitters conflicting messages — warning people that he is a killer, for example. The narrative boasts multiple opportunities for interactivity. It weaves in and out of current events and occasionally solicits other Twitter users for help or advice — an outreach Adrants called “disingenuous” because Richtel does not “follow” other Twitter members.
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  • ProtonMedia announced today that it would be funding a non-profit “Go Green, Go Virtual” to promote virtual worlds as a carbon-saving alternative to constant travel for distributed workforces, promote virtual events and training over physical, advocate telecommuting, and encourage networked collaboration. The foundation will be funded through a percentage of ProtonMedia’s profits from licensing ProtoSphere with the money going “to support worthy organizations dedicated to promoting environmental responsibility through energy conservation and alternative energy use.” A worthy effort … although as we know Avatars have their own carbon footprint…
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  • Almost a year after the ad world first heard of Dave Droga’s plans to launch Honeyshed (and gave it very – shall we say – “mixed” reviees, the branded entertainment-meets-online shopping venture has named a CEO and is preparing to make the jump from beta to reality. Honeyshed’s premise is to make the online shopping experience entertaining and more social. Aimed squarely at Generation Y (the 18- to 35-year-old set), the goal of the website is to promote brands online, not by using banner ads, but via “Saturday Night Live”-esque themed vignettes that are paid for by the brands. Users can digitally window-shop products on channels such as “girl fashion” and “tech and toys,” then place their choices on a wish list of online purchases that Honeyshed dubs “my stash.”

Facebook: The Movie

  • Aaron Sorkin, who co-created The West Wing and films like Charlie Wilson’s War, has agreed to produce a screenplay about the birth of Facebook. To facilitate the project — and hopefully draw feedback from the site’s vocal userbase — Sorkin’s researcher Ian Reichbach started a Facebook group called Aaron Sorkin & the Facebook Movie. In the group’s description, Sorkin writes:”I’ve just agreed to write a movie for Sony and producer Scott Rudin about how Facebook was invented. I figured a good first step in my preparation would be finding out what Facebook is, so I’ve started this page.” Sorkin’s kids. meantime, are mortified…
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