How brand integration can capture culture

What’s the Story? is a storytelling video series dedicated to learning what truly makes a great story, told through the lens of the world’s talent and practitioners of the craft in entertainment, marketing and beyond.

When brand integration makes an impact in entertainment, its effect is undeniable. Savvy brands are those that can capture the zeitgeist of culture at the moment, while working seamlessly in shows, films and more.

To David Friendly, executive producer of the USA drama Queen of the South, there are specific categories — and shows — that are ripe for that kind of high-level opportunity. He points to Mad Men as one place where integration found a fitting home. By leveraging categories like clothing, he saw that the show, in some ways, made an impact well past the storylines.

“You see Jon Hamm wearing that stuff, and you think, ‘That would look great today,’” he says.

Spirits and automotive are other categories that Friendly sees as aspirational, especially when viewers are looking to define their image through characters or shows they find appealing.

In his own, highly regarded show, Friendly sees a great opportunity for a high-end tequila brand (his favorite is La Familia) but, due to rules and regulations, it’s not a simple task and he is forced to “blur out whatever’s on the bottle or create our own label.” With that in mind, he believes that “it hurts the show” and that every great show, including Queen of the South, should have an authentic, real product to help drive the story.

Having worked as a producer on several Hollywood projects including Big Momma’s House, Courage Under Fire, Little Miss Sunshine and My Girl, Friendly, who also directed the compelling shoe documentary Sneakerheadz, is well-versed on what makes a great story in the first place.

To Friendly, there are three critical elements to a strong story: surprise, humor and being relatable — and he points to a famous Don Rickles story about Frank Sinatra that not only carries all three with equal weight but, in his mind, is “the perfect anecdote.”

What's the Story? is sponsored by Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), the first global network for branded product integration in the entertainment industry, across all media, including the influencer space.

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