Ads As Entertainment

All digital marketers hope that their ads will be entertaining. Naturally, they’re more at liberty to infuse some campaigns with interesting storylines and content ideas than others, but most every media strategist secretly hopes that a brand won’t just want the same old, same old. They want to build a story – to make the ads as much about a group of characters or a narrative that relates to the differentiating features of a product, as about the product itself.

Increasingly, developing online ads that are built to entertain is a necessity rather than an agency preference. The handful of brands that are currently making the effort are setting the bar high, and setting a standard all others will soon be expected to meet.

From a Web-only branded video series to a Facebook page, there are many ways in which this challenge can be approached. What follows are three options that have produced some of our most memorable campaigns of late.

1. Brands can entertain through a YouTube video channel by transforming it into a video campaign.

Consider the popular Old Spice campaign, whereby the brand put out an open call for questions posed to its iconic Old Spice Guy through social sites and created personalized video responses for everyone to see. Evian also used YouTube to launch its breed of branded entertainment: a video of skating babies that was exclusive to the site. It ultimately entered the Guinness Book of World Records with 45,166,109 overall views worldwide.


A combination of technology and reach makes YouTube an ideal forum through which to entertain consumers with branded videos and clever viral campaigns. There’s no question these ads were made to entertain, but they’ve also managed something more: to seep into our culture in an endearing, enduring way.

2. Brands can entertain through a microsite designed to have a viral effect.

When digital marketers want to tell a story, they often turn first to microsites. They are perhaps the most flexible of options, and although they don’t have the kind of built-in viral mechanism that YouTube does, they can be made to facilitate online sharing for a similar result.

With its focus on all things clean and bright, Wrigley’s Orbit brand of gum has been represented online by numerous microsites, each one offering a different take on the product benefits in an entertaining way. Among the most unforgettable is the “Friends of Bright” site, which presented the gum in the setting of a cult-like community where “Brightness is not a destination, it’s a way of life.” The site provided entertainment in the form of videos, downloadable mobile applications, and the ability to create a custom “membership card” indicating that the user has been enlightened by the gum, and by the group. It was a comprehensive effort that presented the product in an interesting and unexpected context.

3. Brands can entertain through banner ads that are transformed into self-contained video channels.

They may not be the most obvious choice due to size limitations, but banners are capable of supporting some incredibly entertaining ad content. What matters most isn’t the degree to which the content engulfs the site page, but that it tells an engaging story while somehow highlighting the key benefits of the brand or product. New Zealand Internet and broadband provider Orcon (also known for its award-winning participation marketing campaign) recently launched a banner ad developed by Eyeblaster that tells four different video stories, all of them relating to the brand message, “Freedom to change as your business does.”


The user can click to see what would happen to the office environment under different scenarios, for example, if a new receptionist was hired or the company scored a big new business win. The banner is as entertaining as any TV spot – it’s a bit like watching improv theatre online – but more than that it’s interactive, and that makes it instantly more memorable. Better still, the company is getting all it can out of the ad by also featuring it on the appropriate product section of its website – an approach that makes good sense no matter what kind of ad you’re planning to entertain with.

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