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What is Advertainment?

Advertainment Definition

As the word suggests, advertainment combines advertising and entertainment to produce highly appealing content for target audiences. The term was first coined in 1987, which just goes to show how long this particular format has been used in the advertising industry.

Unlike typical ads that promote specific products, services, or brands upfront, advertainment focuses on producing pieces with strong entertainment value and subtle associations with the target brand. As some experts from the industry put it, advertainment is the production of content to support a brand. By contrast, traditional advertising often uses ad spots or product placements so that the brand can piggyback on certain content.

Advertainment often takes the form of long videos, even short films. Companies can also use other formats like web series, interactive websites, games, and so on. In many cases, the company emphasizes storytelling, immersion, and an enthralling user experience, in the hopes that these methods can cultivate strong emotional reactions that will shape audience preferences and later result in concrete sales.

Advertainment has come into vogue in the world of digital video ads, where the freer hand that advertisers often get lends itself well to novel approaches and new types of content. Various creative directors from the industry also note that advertainment offers more opportunities to stand out in today’s chaotic glut of media and Internet content.

Big names like Red Bull and BMW have helped pioneer the format with successful campaigns from as early as 2002 and 2012. Red Bull’s Stratos space jump, for example, live-streamed the skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s 127,900-foot freefall from space and garnered a 7.1 million-strong audience to break the record for most concurrent viewers of a live video. BMW, meanwhile, kicked off its advertainment push with a popular series of short narrative films featuring the actor Clive Owen, which helped prop BWM’s sales up by over 17 percent.

What Can Advertainment Do For You?

Advertainment offers greater potential for audience appeal and emotional investment in the brand. By delivering quality content that audiences want to consume, advertainment aims to foster stronger, more personal attachments to the brand being pushed.

The typically longer running times for advertainment materials give you more room to develop your chosen concept or aesthetic for audiences to take in. Since most advertainment pieces get released online or on digital streaming platforms, you encounter lower distribution costs than you’d see for commercials of comparable length on broadcast TV. In addition, these digital spaces present opportunities to net greater returns for your effort, since they encourage social media sharing and open up the possibility of going viral.

What should you keep in mind?

With advertainment, content quality is king. The format eschews obvious advertising pushes, and any too-blunt overtures can easily turn off target audiences.

However, this also means you’re likely to end up spending more to produce your ad content. The emphasis on entertainment value often comes with a need for better production values; the subtler approach requires more careful attention to the ad’s concept and messaging. As advertising experts note, advertainment works best when the brand has a story strong enough to support the longer runtime of most advertainment pieces.

That longer format can also translate to higher distribution expenses if you intend to use channels other than the Internet. Average commercial costing for broadcast TV, for example, can prove too expensive for ad content running over a minute long — which most advertainment tends to do. Without proper support from your chosen platforms (e.g., digital content purveyors like Netflix or Hulu), you might run into problems with your distribution’s reach.