In a New York Times article from October 28, Stuart Elliott writes:
There is a riddle from the brave new world of branded entertainment: When is a TV program that is billed as commercial-free not commercial-free? When a six-minute sponsored segment is part of the show.
That is what viewers of "Control Freak" on the MTV2 cable network will see when they watch three of its episodes, scheduled to appear at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time this Sunday and on Nov. 14 and Nov. 28. About two-thirds of the way through each seemingly commercial-free episode, the sponsored segment will appear, courtesy of the Lee Dungarees brand of jeans, sold by a division of the VF Corporation.
The segments, titled "Buddy Lee, Guidance Counselor," feature the venerable Lee Dungarees brand character - a doll named Buddy Lee - dispensing droll advice to high schoolers about potential careers like trapeze artist, ventriloquist and acting in steamy, Spanish-language "telenovela" soap operas. Viewers will be able to vote for one of three endings for each segment on a Web site, just as during the regular segments of "Control Freak" they can vote for one of three music video clips to be shown.
Buddy Lee has also hit the campaign trail, announcing his second run for the White House. He joins the likes of Captain Morgan, After an unsuccessful bid in 2000, when Time Magazine predicted him as the favorite, Buddy Lee re-entered the race this week because of his frustration with the direction of the campaign. A candidate appealing to young Americans and the common man, Buddy Lee boarded the campaign bus to reach the millions of young adults nationwide looking for a strong candidate to support (and a good pair of jeans to wear).
Buddy is not the only spokesperson for Lee Jeans. There's a 90-ft. model named Natalia with an entertaining blog at www.dontflinch.us. In her Lee Jeans commercial, Natalia scribbles her phone number on a wall for the object of her affection. On her blog, she tells the story of how she “accidentally” wrote her own personal phone number. 212-468-2817. Call the number and you get Natalia cooing her request to leave a message about how you look in jeans and promptly referring you back to www.dontflinch.us.
The question to explore: When is branded entertainment simply entertaining and when does it drive the brand message home?