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The era of the artist: What the next wave of decentralization in media looks like


By Ricky Ray Butler, Chief Executive Officer

February 26, 2021 | 6 min read

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Art has always acted as a time capsule for capturing the human experience. It’s an incredibly powerful driver of culture, and fleshes out our understanding of history with emotionally driven context. I would argue that today’s content ecosystem and the way it operates is reflective of a new era of art — one in which artists and creators are continually finding new ways to express what it means to be human in the digital age.

Download the free guide, 'The rise of product placement and influencer marketing' created in partnership with BEN

Download the free guide, 'The rise of product placement and influencer marketing' created in partnership with BEN

Perhaps this seems dramatic, but stick with me: how many Michelangelos do you think went undiscovered during the Italian Renaissance? The answer is probably more than you can count.

Centralized power has always dictated who was given the opportunity to develop their talents, allowing their art to flourish and go down in history. But today, art is in the hands of the people. Technological advancements in entertainment and media have lowered the barriers to entry and placed the potential for global exposure at everyone’s fingertips. As a result, the way in which artists and creators are able to express themselves has increased exponentially.

If you open Netflix, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify or Disney+ today, you’re flooded with the discovery of art. Sure, it’s not art by traditional definition. It encompasses more than just painting, dance, and music. It also includes generational expressions through memes (yes, memes), influencer content, and short- and long-form video. When we look back on this period of time, these new age art forms will serve as a way to understand how digital culture directly influenced our capacity to learn, create, and interact with one another.

That said, decentralization — or the transfer of power from a few dominant entities, to creators and niche platforms — is just beginning. We’ve already seen the first wave of decentralization in production and distribution, where TV and film studios and record labels are no longer the sole gatekeepers for entertainment production, and major networks and music stores are no longer the gatekeepers for distribution. The next wave will focus on further breaking down the obstacles between content creation and consumption through AI and machine learning and platforms catered to niche genres. And the success of the art produced in these times will be determined by the technology underpinning discovery.

AI in the age of endless art

As decentralization continues to sweep across streaming, television, film, music, and social media, AI will become the compass that guides audiences, brands and creators through the ecosystem. Traditional methods of navigating content ecosystems simply aren’t sustainable or scalable for the rate of content creation; we need technology that can capture and digest the nuance of content in real time. That’s where AI comes in — it can mimic a human’s ability to understand content that primarily consists of unstructured data like audio, images, and text. That kind of technology is what dictates everything from the level of personalization audiences encounter, to a brand’s ability to truly understand and make optimized decisions about what advertising opportunities to invest in.

BEN actually started out as an influencer marketing and product placement agency, but we quickly realized there was no way our team could keep up with the growing rate of content creation and distribution — we needed to leverage our deep repository of entertainment data and evolve into an AI company in order remain effective and the industry leader. That realization is continuing to drive the entertainment ecosystem forward. Ultimately, AI will determine whether the ocean of content out there is approachable and inviting for creation and investment, or whether it becomes so overwhelming that it instead discourages participation altogether.

Another hurdle we must overcome is the emergence of silos and bias. Diversity in exposure is what makes content discovery so exciting and educational. It's critical that we build algorithmic infrastructure that supports a range of viewpoints and content types, to ensure that people don't become pigeonholed into a specific set of genres.

This is where explainable AI becomes extremely important. It can guide decision making while providing rationale for each decision made, so that biases and silos can be tackled right away. When it comes to promoting diversity, there is a balance to be struck — people want to continue to see content that is relevant to their interests. At the same time, we've seen how echo chambers can polarize groups of people and keep them from seeing or understanding other viewpoints.

The same holds true for brands and those looking for investment opportunities in content. Allowing AI to identify new, and perhaps surprising, opportunities for investment can be the difference between a campaign that is good and one that completely exceeds expectations. It's therefore crucial to embed diversity as a core tenet of AI infrastructure, and make sure that what we interact with and support reflects who we are and challenges us to be smarter and think critically.

For brands, decentralization will only make the opportunities for collaboration and investment that much more expansive. AI will undoubtedly be the most important part of navigating that process. Whether you’re a brand looking to support influencers, filmmakers, musicians, artists or production studios — AI will enable you to truly understand the millions of content opportunities out there and identify the ones that are most likely to empower creators and engage audiences in a natural, authentic way.

The future of art looks different today than it did 10, or even 100 years ago. There's more room for expression, more opportunities to capitalize on creation, and more ways for people across the globe to interact with one another and evolve the culture together. If we're able to guide that transformation with AI that balances the interests of stakeholders, we can create an environment that fosters growth and continues to drive society forward.

The rise of product placement and influencer marketing, created in partnership with BEN, explores the latest developments and capabilities available to marketers through brand integration, with insights, tips, and case studies to inspire your next big campaign. Click here to download this critical intelligence today.

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