What brands should expect in entertainment this year

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From musicals to global hits, advertisers have more entertainment options than ever, writes the head of brand integrations at Branded Entertainment Network.

With the rapidly changing advertising and entertainment landscape, brands must keep up with the plethora of options that have arisen in content trends. We’ve increasingly seen brands using product integration in premium entertainment content, like film and TV, to reach their targeted audience. However, with more content than ever (scripted titles are up a staggering 94 percent since 2009), aligning a brand with key content trends is critical for success.

Some key trends we’ve seen driving entertainment include nostalgia, reboots or franchises, aspirational, strong females and multicultural/LGBTQ. They will continue to be popular themes this year. Here are the top content trends brands should watch for in entertainment in 2017.

Crossover Talent: The New Hollywood
It has been slightly over a decade since YouTube went live and in that time the online video giant has changed the way we consume content. YouTube has sparked innovation in the duration and format of stories, the development of newly optimized screens and the curation of a whole new breed of celebrity. YouTube influencers have gained tremendous awareness in the way of followers and global marketers have taken notice. According to a 2016 IPSOS study, 95 percent of marketing professionals stated it is important for today’s brands to engage with digital influencers on YouTube, Instagram and other digital platforms. Additionally, studios and networks are capitalizing on this breeding ground for talent (and audiences) and have begun developing traditional film and TV content with these new stars in leading roles.

The results? Rachel Bloom, made famous through her series of off-color online music videos, took home both the Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards for best actress last year. Rachel was recognized for her award-winning performance in the CW musical comedy series, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Issa Rae grew to popularity through her online series, "Awkward Black Girl," and has launched the half-hour comedy series "Insecure" on HBO to instant critical success. For these young stars, their digital beginnings only signal greater possibilities, not only for the talent creating in that space, but for those who support them as well.

The reward that comes with the early recognition of trends is first mover access and close affiliation with the story as Chevy did in "Insecure." That same rule applies to talent. Those whom identify the next stars at their nascence have the opportunity to build a lasting relationship on their trajectory upward.

Musicals: The Epic Return
The last few years have seen a resurgence of musicals—first with shows like "Glee" and "Smash," and more recently with live aired productions of "Rocky Horror Film," "Grease Live" and most recently, "Hairspray Live." These live programs are vital to networks for their ability to combat time-delayed viewing and ultimately drive up ratings. NBC has announced the network will be airing a live adaptation of "A Few Good Men" in early 2017, and "Bye Bye Birdie" as its live holiday musical later in the year. This year, musicals will become a major content trend. In fact, we’re already seeing an influx of the phenomenon in hit shows like The CW’s "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," Netflix’s "The Get Down" and Fox’s "Empire." 

Meanwhile in feature films, "La La Land" emerged as the darling of the festival circuit and is set to takeover the upcoming awards season. The film provided a refreshing throwback to the optimism and whimsy of mid-century musicals, delighting a surprisingly wide audience. This trend looks to grow with tentpole properties planned from 20th Century Fox’s "The Greatest Showman" and Disney’s "Mary Poppins Returns."

While musicals provide unique opportunties for brands in-content as a result of their fantastic approach to storytelling, they also come with built-in ancillary channels for partnership. Musicals can broaden brand reach with additions like soundtracks, live concerts and artist partnerships offering more ways to spin an integration into a long-tail relationship with consumers.  

The Global Lens
With the birth and meteoric rise of streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon and their emphasis squarely placed on the expansion of their subscriber bases, the immediate globalization of content is reaching new levels and extending these global eyeballs to episodic television.

The result of this expansion is both the investment in high-quality American content that will translate well internationally as well as the emergence of stories native to smaller markets finding success both at home and with US audiences. Netflix has struck early in this effort with the success of "Narcos," a predominantly Spanish-language property on Pablo Escobar and the Colombian drug trade. Similarly, they have been developing content out of France (Marseille), Mexico (Club de Cuervos) and South Korea (Okja). 

Brands from all around the globe now have far more access to global audiences than ever before through product integration. Whether it is a small company based in Spain, Vietnam looking to reinforce its localized identity while expanding globally or a major brand looking for a shared win for all its markets, product integrations can be leveraged. Integrations now offer an effective way to tell the same brand story to every region worldwide, without the struggle of targeted media buys.

While last year has brought us many content improvements, 2017 will bring a wealth of creativity and product integration in premium film and TV content. The entire visual experience of viewing and enjoying entertainment is continuing to change as technology innovates. As the landscape changes with technology, global brands must adjust their content strategies. With this ever-evolving content landscape, it is critical to "see around the corner" and ride upcoming content trends.

Michael Bertolina is the head of brand integrations at Branded Entertainment Network.