You might remember the old commercials for Reese’s peanut butter cups: a guy walks along, enjoying a chocolate bar while another guy joyfully consumes a jar of peanut butter. Then, someone stumbles and-whammo!-a profound combination of chocolate and peanut butter occurs, and candy is never the same.
The guy with the chocolate bar is the entertainment business. The guy with the peanut butter is the corporate advertiser. Both stumble along on their own, but when the worlds collide, something great can happen.
There is nothing new about advertising being crossed with entertainment. Music has been used in TV and radio commercials for decades, and corporations have long provided backing to TV and radio programming and sponsored live concerts.
But the new era of “advertainment” represents a dramatic shift in the ways that these two areas can support one another. The line between entertainment and advertisement is increasingly blurring, and some great art has been created under corporate auspices.
With the advent of TiVo and similar devices, TV audiences are able to ignore commercials. Consumers have other ways to spend their free time, and corporations constantly seek ways to reach consumers that are not unduly intrusive but at the same time get their attention.
Today, CD sales are falling, the major record companies are consolidating, and recording artists are experience a precipitious drop in their traditional income streams.
Similar changes are occurring in the world of TV with the proliferation of channels and competitive devices for distributing content. Even the movie business, while still vibrant, is bracing itself for the onset of piracy against the backdrop of increasing budgets.
As these changes lead to the abandonment of many of the traditional models, win/win combinations of entertainment and advertising are emerging, ranging from corporate advertiser sponsorship of, and product placement in, reality TV programs, to the career renaissance of artists like Michael McDonald, Sting and James Taylor through creative commercials that use their music.
Many artists now realize that there is nothing evil about having their music associated with a particular product. Similarly, many advertisers are striving to set up deals that provide artists with the promotional push they need in their careers.
As record companies become increasingly hesitant to sign new acts, new artists are achieving initial buzz by appearing in ads or other promotions. The availability of advertising tie-ins provides much-needed exposure for artists.
Similar changes are occurring in the world of live events, as tours have remained strong as an independent profit center.
Corporations are increasingly looking to have their brands more substantively associated with live events, and, in return, artists are receiving bigger pay-outs and more promotional tie-ins that boost their profiles. The success of Celine Dion’s relationship with Chrysler (including Chrysler’s support for Dion’s shows in Las Vegas) illustrates this model.
Where there is an advertiser/artist match, the joint marketing possibilities are virtually endless, and can result in the creation of great art.
In many cases, artists and advertisers fail to recognize how much they actually can help one another. In some cases, the deals between them can be structured so that relatively little cash changes hands, but promotional benefits are instead exchanged. When it works, advertainment offers tremendous win-win possibilities.
Laurie Soriano is a partner and co-chair of the entertainment law group with Manatt Phelps & Phillips in Los Angeles.