Q & A with Caressa Douglas, SVP of Content at BEN
A new official partnership between industry powerhouses promises a far more integrated future for integrated branded entertainment. Sector leader Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) has struck a deal with the Producers Guild of America (PGA) to, in its words, “access integration opportunities across film, television and new media from some of the most prolific producers in entertainment.”
But there’s something in it for PGA members as well. And, if things go right, audiences too.
The past decade has seen an over 100% increase in product integrations from the script stage. In the distant past—say, 20 years ago—products appeared in entertainment by way of happenstance, last-minute arrangements, or a labyrinth of prop master and set designer relationships.
Today, many of those onscreen placements are established in the script stage. This happens in part because of sophistication and in part because the destruction of the old advertising model meant producers went looking to increase funding sources like product placement. Much of this increase has been gone hand-in-hand with the rise of Over the Top (OTT) streaming networks like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. These OTT networks are more likely to eschew the old TV broadcast ad platform.
Seeing that this new messy reality of entertainment production needed organization, BEN created a opportunity platform, marrying placement openings with brands. Examples of BEN’s work include the Xboxs in The Big Bang Theory, Dunkin’ Donuts in Orange is the New Black and Ant-Man’s Baskin-Robbins job. In a recent interview, Caressa Douglas, BEN’s Vice President of Branded Integration and Content, told brandchannel that BEN had seen a tenfold increase in spending on such integrated opportunities just between 2014 and 2015.
For the PGA, the benefits of the partnership are obvious. The nonprofit trade group of over 7,500 members will get a much smoother path to funding and potentially more input starting earlier in the integration process. “For Producers trying to navigate and fund their productions during this current explosion of media distribution opportunities, the PGA’s partnership with BEN provides unique value and broad access,” said Vance Van Petten, National Executive Director at Producers Guild of America, in a statement.
brandchannel: In the immediate future, what does this mean for BEN?
Caressa Douglas: To combat the challenge of audience fragmentation, global brands are looking to meaningful brand partnerships across verticals, as a critical component of their marketing mix. Having the trust of the members of the Producers Guild of America, and the invitation to participate in engaging entertainment only increases economic wins for both the producer/studio and our BEN brand clients.
brandchannel: How much was the rise of OTT a driver of this agreement?
Douglas: Well before the distribution landscape shake up, the relationship with the producer has always been paramount at BEN. Collaboration is the cornerstone of a successful entertainment marketing campaign—and a program is nothing without the storyteller aboard.
Disruption is the new norm. We will only continue to see new platforms and correlating behavior change with entertainment consumption. But, no matter what, audiences want compelling entertainment. There is no better organization that delivers the suspended reality and emotion, the stories that unify audiences and spark conversations than the members of the Producers Guild of America.
brandchannel: Does the PGA’s partnership also work as a way to protect content makers from integration and product placement overreach?
Douglas: BEN approaches brand campaigns and product placement endeavors with a consensus from all stakeholders, including the producer and the brand. Producers and brands agree to the concept that works best to tell their respective stories and voice. And “No” can always be voiced.