Integrating Brands Into Pop Culture

Senior Vice President and Director of Starcom Entertainment

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As a link between marketers and the entertainment industry, Laura Caraccioli-Davis creates exclusive opportunities that integrate brands into popular culture. She recently enhanced a client’s strategic vision when she began exclusive dealings with the packaging agents of “American Idol.” She quickly identified a suitable strategic partner: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, secured a corporate sponsorship for a 10-week, nationwide concert tour and built a complete program that leveraged the association with the brand’s audience. Producer Lee Huang spoke with Caraccioli-Davis to get the inside scoop on the inner workings of creating successful branded entertainment campaigns.

She provides insights on the following:

  • What is Branded Entertainment
  • Innovative Brand and Celebrity Integrations
  • Campaign Upsides and Downsides
  • Working With Cients to Develop a Branded Entertainment Strategy
  • Key New Players That are Involved with Making Deals and Establishing Partnerships
  • Common Client Questions and Concerns
  • Identifying the Right Celebrity
  • New Celebrity Trends
  • Favorite Success Stories
  • Surprises and Lessons Learned
  • Measurement and ROI
  • Campaign Costs and Who Pays Who
  • Future Trends for Branded Entertainment

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Highlights of Interview

About Starcom Entertainment

  • Starcom Enterainment is a full service entertainment division that specializes in entertainment marketing.
  • Entertainment marketing is defined as marketing a brand through content, characters, intellectual property that are related to music, films, music, television shows, fashion, celebrities, trends, publishing and theater across all platforms.
  • Product placement is a brand exposure that has a simple visual or audio presence in a program. Usually, it isn’t paid for and there are no guarantees of how a product will be featured.
  • Brand integration is participation in a program’s story where the brand is a device to enhance the plot, or the character interactions — or to provide a sense of realism. It’s a much more meaningful connection to the property.

Celebrities and Brands

  • When integrating brands and celebrities correctly, you can create a meaningful connection between the brand, consumer and the property.
  • Good example: In “Sex and the City”, even though there were product placements that were not integrated into the story, there was a connection for Macintosh, TIVO, certain cosmopolitan Vodka brands and the whole restaurant scene in NYC.
  • Once you zero in on passions and behaviors, you can make a deeper connection through aligning with the right property, which can lead to increase sales.
  • The hip-hop world was on the forefront for realizing that brands can be a good thing. They paved this path and proved that if you start working with brands, it can pay off.
  • Celebrities now see the potential for working with brands, as they can develop a tangible asset that can help in case their career falters.

Making the Deal

  • When creating a campaign, cross-departmental collaboration is essential. Need to have representatives from many departments including brand management, marketing, public relations, finance and legal.
  • Since branded entertainment campaigns are so new, clients are much more involved than they would be in traditional campaigns.
  • Important tip: When moving into new platforms and emerging/digital media, it is critical that you know who controls the rights to these assets and properties.

Hollywood Versus Madison Avenue

  • The most common question or concern clients have is about process and procedure. Clients are used to having control over planning, however since Hollywood works on a different schedule, clients need to be willing to release some of that control. For example, a film’s release date may be changed.
  • With Reality TV, there is no way to guarantee to a client that the audience is going to love their brand. Reality television is less predictable, but scripted programs offer more control since actors are reading lines.

Best Work

  • Starcom Entertainment is very proud of its campaign that brought Kellogg’s Pop Tarts and “American Idol” together. Their campaign contributed to Kellogg’s Pop Tarts increased success.
  • They also are proud of the work they have done for U.S. Army. They helped launch the History channel’s “Band of Brothers” program where soldiers were hosts on the show. They have done work with the Discover Channel’s “Monster Garage”, where soldiers invented new tools for the host Jesse James. And an army master was integrated into the show “Bound for Glory” on ESPN.
  • Another client Allstate is on the Discovery Channel’s “It Takes a Thief” program, where Allstate agents are interacting with the host in all 40 episodes.

Costs and Budgets

  • Mark Burnett has the bar set when it comes to high-cost deals. Burnett’s costs can start at anywhere from 2 million and continue to go up. The show “The Contender” was bandied at about 15 million per certain car company.
  • It is difficult to find full costs per deal because people are leveraging dollars in the space to get access to the opportunity. In some cases, a brand might make a media commitment on a TV or cable network in return for placements.
  • Some deals have been as low as costing zero dollars to costing 4 million. BMW film had a budget value in the 20 million dollar range.
  • Currently, it is recommend that clients put aside 10% of their budget into an engagement budget.


  • Each project is different when it comes to measurement. Starcom Entertainment builds in measurement that is specific to each deal.
  • There is really no measurement process to fully say that a consumer has been engaged. A lot of times, they work on return and objectives and look at traditional metrix like sales.
  • One good way to measure success is to build in an internet or sweepstakes component. This is a great way to judge a campaign because results are measured immediately.

What’s Next?

  • Networks think that branded entertainment is a great revenue generator and are continuing to increase staffs to handle it.
  • P&G;, Coke and American Express are forward thinking in the branded entertainment space. Branded entertainment becomes part of their overall messaging all the time and is not a one-off. In the future, you will see this become the DNA of many other marketing campaigns.

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