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WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson Gives Writers’ Perspective on Branded Entertainment

December 3, 2008

On  December 2nd , WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson participated In a panel entitled “That’s Advertainment: The Rapid Growth Of The Branded Content Business” as part of the OnScreen Media Summit sponsored by Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News magazines. Peterson urged attendees to think more carefully about “branded entertainment” strategies that go beyond sponsorship of programs on multiple platforms and involve tinkering with program content.  While acknowledging that writers’ struggles for creative control in commercial television and big-budget film have often been uphill, Peterson noted that viewers are interested in compelling stories, solid drama, well-crafted comedy – programs written by Guild members – not glorified infomercials. 

One of the panelists enthusiastically described a co-branded program on MTV involving a well-known musician.  Peterson said he couldn’t imagine a writer trying to script a three-minute piece in which Alicia Keys talked about Dove soap.  He said one approach that actually got viewers’ attention was an intentionally ham-handed product placement on 30 Rock that closed with Tina Fey looking at the camera and asking, “Can we get paid now?”  Perhaps ironic notoriety is better than none. 

By contrast, branded entertainment that pretends not to be is the most problematic, Peterson said.  This is why the Guild has supported strengthening FCC regulations that require disclosure of these branding arrangements.

Click here for the Broadcasting & Cable article on the panel.