The third annual Marketing to Men 18-34 conference was held today at the Altman Building in New York. Presented by Ripe TV, in association with Massive Inc., Playboy and Snippies -- and hosted by Billboard, Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek and the Hollywood Reporter -- the daylong event focused on the ins and outs of marketing to men in the 18-34 age bracket.

Hands down, the day's hot topic was branded entertainment.

While numerous speakers spoke of brand marketing, no one put it into clearer perspective than Chris Lighty, CEO of Violator Management and Brand Asset Group, who effortlessly addressed the topic in his keynote, Reaching Men Through Pop Culture. He referred to "mass" and "cool" as "the elusive combination" that is necessary for successful band/brand partnerships. Violator's artist roster includes Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Missy Elliott and 50 Cent. For each artist, Lighty provided examples of brand partnerships. The big news was 50 Cent's new, separate partnerships with Pontiac, Absolut Black and GNC.

50 Cent's "360-degree brand immersion" with Pontiac focuses on "gorilla strategic marketing," Lighty said. The business deal encompasses "cooler" product placement in music videos, print and viral ad campaigns and hybrid tour sponsorship/marketing platforms. The latter debuts at the Pontiac Garage Concert in Miami and coincides with the VMAs. The rapper is also helping to design Pontiac's new G6 street edition.

Though 50 Cent doesn't drink alcohol, the new Absolut Black will appear in an upcoming music video. It is one part of a larger arrangement between 50 Cent, the vodka company and Vitaminwater's new Vitamin Energy drink. A new print ad campaign, Absolut Energy, is scheduled to debut in the coming weeks.

With his Formula 50 Vitaminwater a success, the artist is now branching out into vitamin supplements with an as yet unknown manufacturer/distributor. If all goes according to plan, the line of 50-branded protein powders and amino fat burners will be sold exclusively at GNC stores. According to Lighty, the products should hit shelves in September or October.

Fans of LL Cool J will be pleased to learn that the artist is taking his Todd Smith high-end clothing line into big boxes in the coming months. A lower-priced Todd Smith collection is currently being tested at Sam's Club locations nationwide. A full launch arrives at Wal-Mart in time for the holiday season.

"Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer today," Lighty noted. "And no one from hip-hop is speaking to this consumer. We are changing that."

Throughout the one-day event, it became apparent that the multi-tasking 18-35 male demo is not as elusive as one might think. "You just need to be fishing where the fish are," said Ralph Santana, VP of media, sports and Internet entertainment at Pepsi-Cola North America, during the Madison Avenue 2.0 discussion. "This demo is not hard to reach, but the difficulty is in figuring out the media base -- deciding which non-traditional media platforms will work best."

Throughout the conference, most speakers and attendees agreed that passion points for 18-34 men remain sports, gaming and sex. Nothing surprising here.