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St. Louis’ Coolfire Studios produces branded entertainment with new burger competition series

"The Next Great Burger"
Courtesy of Coolfire Studios

Coolfire Studios, best known for their local production of “Welcome to Sweetie Pies,” embarked on a new project to boost their place in brand entertainment.

On July 21, the Esquire Network premiered Coolfire’s newest production “The Next Great Burger.” In association with Budweiser, the competition show seeks to discover the best burger chef in the country.

Branded entertainment is a method of advertising, but with a twist. Similar to product placement, it involves promoting a brand by intertwining it with another product. Instead of endorsing the brand through a commercial, for instance, it is promoted as part of a television show.

“Over time, with the advancement of technology (i.e. the DVR), people are able to pay less and less attention to [commercial ads],” said Jim Fisher, marketing professor at St. Louis University. “Marketing at its core is about attention and awareness. As you lose an interruption model (commercial), this opens the door for brand entertainment.”

Fisher wrote a blog post identifying blatant examples of product placement in films.

The idea for “The Next Great Burger” derived from Anheuser-Busch’s “Bud and Burgers” competition and was filmed in St. Louis.

“For us, a good piece of branded entertainment starts with a quality program,” said Jeff Keane, the founder and CEO of Coolfire Studios. “If the program is not entertaining, then I think everything else is unimportant. You start with a great piece of quality entertaining content, and then you find a way to seamlessly integrate a product into that show.”

Not all audiences respond positively to brand entertainment, though. However, if done correctly, Keane said that people are more receptive in comparison to traditional 30-second ads.

The Next Great Burger
Credit Courtesy of Coolfire Studios
The Next Great Burger

“You have to do it right,” Keane said. “You can’t be too heavy-handed about it. It has to fit and feel organic, and you don’t have to be shy about it either. I don’t think you have to try and deceive the audience. I think as long as the brand message lines up with the content properly, I don’t think it’s terribly offensive to everybody.”

Brand entertainment also involves avoiding ethical mishaps. Knowing the agenda of the marketer and being aware of the target audience is important in order to avoid conflicts of interests.

“In our case, we say in the credits of the show, ‘produced by Coolfire in association with Anheuser-Busch,’ so that people know that the brewery is involved,” Keane said. “But at the end of the day, our objective and the objective of the network and brand was to produce an entertaining piece of television. And, I think we achieved that. As long as the audience is being entertained, I think that’s the most important part.”

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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