Companies turn to product-specific soap operas to engage consumers

TakeAway:  I’m not sure if product-specific soap operas or webisodes are aimed at providing work for struggling actors and actresses, creating another way for studios to get advertising revenue, or engaging consumers. 

While I do think there is some benefit offering enhanced versions of commercials online so that consumers that want more info can get it, I think it is farfetched to say that products require actors in order for consumers to engage with the brand. 

And, if that is the case, maybe the brand may need more than a webisode to solve the problem.

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Excerpted from NYTimes, “Shows Online, Brought to You by …,” By Stuart Elliott, November 24, 2009

… Actors are finding new ways to stay in the public eye in the form of Web series, also known as webisodes. Almost all such Web series are being created specifically for advertisers, borrowing a strategy from the early days of radio and television when shows like “The Kraft Music Hall,” “The Bell Telephone Hour” … that entertained Americans while selling cheese, phone service …

Webisodes — part of a trend called branded entertainment — are growing because marketers feel compelled to find new methods to reach consumers in an era when the traditional media are losing eyeballs, ears, hearts, minds and perhaps other body parts to the Internet …

Among the major brands proclaiming “brought to you by … ” online are Maybelline cosmetics, which is sponsoring Ms. Bushnell’s Web series, “The Broadroom,” available at maybelline.com/thebroadroom, and ConAgra Foods, which is sponsoring a daily show, “What’s So Funny?,” on yahoo.com, peddling products like Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s!

The goal is to “extend our reach,” said media director at Clorox, and attain “a higher level of engagement” than is possible through tactics like running 30-second commercials that interrupt episodes of conventional TV series …

When developing branded entertainment, “the entertainment part has to come first” … otherwise consumers will dismiss it as “pushing a product” …

Shows should have an episodic, TV feel but be digestible, in portions sized appropriately for online viewing — typically three to seven minutes each …

Some consider webisodes “the flavor du jour” … but sponsors are signed “before we shoot a frame” of a Web series …

Edit by TJS

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Full Article
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/business/media/24adcol.html?_r=1&ref=media

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