How is the hype and bluster surrounding "branded entertainment," "transmedia storytelling," and "product placement" endangering real and meaningful developments in actually making these concepts a real part of the industry?
People who read our blog here regularly know that we are quite keen on these concepts. But, of course, we come at it primarily from a fan-centered perspective, and that fannishness has a lot to do with artistry as well. We are excited to know about how product placement might help escape from the confines of the simple-minded advertising models currently in place; how transmedia storytelling might help media properties better tell their stories without the confines of a particular medium; and so on.
But the over-hyping of some of these ideas cause great problems. See Wayne Friedman's take on product placement. He talks with producers about product integration, and he points out that many of them are sour on it? Why? Because of the instant desire of the industry to turn everything into a stream. You can't just have something appear on a show; it has to take over the show. We still haven't tackled the art of subtlety. And if you can't make a quick and simple metric out of it, what use is it?
Wayne writes, "Producers will say everything needs to be organic. But organic takes time and doesn't happen every day. It happens at its own slow and natural pace."
Quite true, but this to me doesn't mean that product placement isn't worthwhile. It means that it has to be conceived of quite differently. I devote a whole chapter to product placement in my thesis, for anyone who is interested. Soap fans, at least those on the As the World Turns site I looked at, were quite keen for organic product placement, especially in using P&G products on a P&G show in the home, when it makes sense. This isn't the "branded entertainment concept" that takes over a show, but it could prove quite valuable on a smaller scale. It's the hype that run so many people off from the concept altogether.
Meanwhile, take a look at another story from Wayne here, focusing on the battle between producers and writers that we've been covering here. He says, "TV networks are their own worst enemy. In recent announcements, executives have been proudly stating that in a few years they can grab hundreds of millions of dollars - if not billions -- in using theirs (or someone else's) Web sites to run their shows."
I think that this is an astute statement. The problem is that the reaction to new possibilities are either to slow down to a halt debating on how to get the metric down and monetize them to an easy quantity, or else to try and capitalize on them without understanding the cultural implications for fans/consumers.