The best in branded entertainment is celebrated at an all-star event in Los Angeles.

Despite the financial turmoil on Wall Street, the mood was noticeably upbeat at the One Show Entertainment Awards, which kicked off with a gala event in Beverly Hills on October 7, 2008. The inaugural ceremony, honoring the best in branded entertainment, brought together stars from both Madison Avenue and Hollywood, with jurors and special guest presenters including Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, director Brett Ratner and actor Alimi Ballard from the CBS drama Numb3rs.

The event at The Paley Center for Media marked the first time The One Club has held an awards show outside of New York. It was also its first foray into branded entertainment as a separate show from the One Show.

“Brands are now seeking to collaborate with the creators of movies, shows, games and web-based videos to support and, in some appropriate way, become part of the entertainment,” says Mary Warlick, CEO of The One Club. “We saw the opportunity to recognize innovative work in this exciting, new arena. As branded content becomes more prevalent, it is necessary to establish creative standards.”

The 26 Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencil winners included MTV Australia’s “Welcome Snoop” by Lowe & Rivet/Sydney, Nike China’s “Basketball Disciple” by Wieden + Kennedy/Shanghai, “The Key to Reserva” by JWT/Spain and the “Drive and Deliver” film by Fathom Communications. Categories included Unscripted Series such as the Axe “Gamekillers” show on MTV, Online Gaming and Theatrical Releases including Transformers.

While branded entertainment has been recognized for the past several years in the One Show, new technology and improvements in content delivery as well as changes in marketing strategies have resulted in an increase in the number of projects being developed.

“The whole idea of branded content, back in the day of BMW Films and the Chrysler ‘Million Dollar Film Festival’ to where it is today seven years later, it has really expanded,” observes Doug Scott, president of Ogilvy Entertainment and a One Show Entertainment judge. “It has expanded in terms of the quality of work, the platforms that people are looking at to create this kind of work, and the holistic approach brands are using where it’s not just about the content or the story, but rather all the other marketing tactics that surround it to really create an experience for the consumer.”

Another judge, Neil Stiles, president and publisher of Variety, was impressed by the level of creativity. “What struck me was the fantastic integration of multimedia for many of the entrants and how even in the less integrated pieces, the promotion for the product was constant through the ads,” he says. “As is often the case, those with a big dream and/or a big budget tended to do the most notable work.”

But when it comes to branded entertainment, there is a fine line between coming up with a clever solution and overselling a product. “Content is king and has to be focused exclusively on the audience and not the needs of the advertiser,” says Stiles. “Witness F1 racing which is slowly becoming a corporate fest and turning fans off faster and faster and only growing through international expansion.”

While Stiles counts HBO’s “Voyeur” and “Welcome Snoop” among his favorites, another judge, director Brett Ratner, was riveted by Freixenet’s “The Key to Reserva” by JWT/Spain and Transformers.

“I loved the Scorsese film because he put himself in it,” says Ratner, who recently launched his own brand consultancy, Brett Ratner Brands. “I also love how CAA integrated and took Transformers, a toy, and made it into a movie, which was a great, great idea.”

Another presenter, Brendan Harkin, founder and director of X Media Lab, notes how developing countries like China are quickly grasping onto the idea of branded entertainment. Harkin currently resides in Shanghai and has seen advertising change on both sides of globe.

“In China, new media is very strong, it’s one of the biggest businesses in China, and traditional media is disappearing just like in the rest of the world,” says Harkin. “So new strategies and new devices to best exploit interactive media are really pressing issues in China. There’s some great innovation going on there, but they could really benefit from seeing what was [at the show].”

But the spirit of the evening was best summed up by Dennis Liu, one of the most unlikely winners of the night. His music video for Apple, which he created on his own and took four months to finish, was done for the simple reason that people appreciate good work.

“I think people just wanted to see something different and original,” says Liu. “It’s a music video that actually sells music, which is important for me as someone who works in advertising.”

The video was such a hit after he posted it on YouTube that he received hundreds of emails, including some from his favorite directors. And what happened when Apple finally called?

Sounding amused and relieved, says Liu, “They really dug it.”

View the 2008 One Show Entertainment Winners Showcase
See Interviews from the 2008 One Show Entertainment
See Event Photos from the 2008 One Show Entertainment

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