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Future of TV Brand Strategy Branded Content

Advertisers want Emily in Paris-style branded content – this talent agent plans to help

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

May 30, 2023 | 8 min read

Sam Glynne is an agent for brands, an established role in the US but a relatively new concept in Europe. Her agency, UTA, is ramping up its EMEA operations following demand from brands and creative agencies helped by the hit show Emily in Paris.

Peloton bikes featuring in Emily in Paris

Peloton bikes featuring in Emily in Paris / Netflix

Emily in Paris was a “watershed moment” for branded entertainment in Europe, according to the head of the EMEA UTA’s entertainment and culture marketing division Sam Glynne. “After its season two series launch I had 11 brands and their agencies calling up to ask how they could get in an Emily in Paris equivalent,” she recalls.

European advertisers watched shows like Emily in Paris, or The White Lotus and saw how well brands could be integrated and now want to do it locally, Glynne explained.

For example, in Emily in Paris when McDonald’s weaved in the real-life McBaguette campaign into the storyline. And in The White Lotus when a Piaggio Vespa was front and center in an iconic scene. In that example, the show’s creators Mike White and Jennifer Coolidge were both UTA clients and then the entertainment and culture marketing team also represented Piaggio.

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UTA is one of America’s biggest talent agencies that has historically had a small presence in Europe, its entertainment and culture marketing division has been operating for seven years in the US and has about 40 agents working for US-centric brands. Nine months ago, the agency appointed Glynne after spotting an opportunity to replicate the model in Europe.

Europe, and especially the UK, has traditionally had tighter restrictions on branded entertainment compared to the US making viewers and brands weary. But now Glynne says European advertisers are ready. Research from UTA IQ, the agency’s data division, found 90% of British viewers were unbothered seeing brands prominently visible in entertainment and 60% were open to some version of branded entertainment. Nearly 60% polled said they had looked up buying a product after seeing it a in show.

Along with landing local brands as clients, part of Glynne’s remit is to find European cultural products to plug UTA’s US clients into such as Coca-Cola, Delta, General Motors, and American Express. For example, General Motors is rolling out electric vehicles in Europe next year, so Glynne has been tasked with finding local shows to embed the cars into.

Unlike in the US, demand for UTA’s services has come from creative agencies. Glynne explains, often the smaller agencies have “promised their clients X, Y and Z, but can’t deliver the entertainment strategy around it.” So, UTA partners with the agency to figure out the entertainment part, and then the creative agencies can activate around it. “It’s a creative way of coming up with a project because the agency knows the brand and their point of view. It’s almost like the missing piece and we [UTA] slot in organically into that ecosystem,” she says.

Glynne previously headed up the global branded entertainment team at Fremantle where she helped integrate brands into Fremantle IP. At UTA though Glynne is not just restricted to TV, across the “UTA empire” there is music, literature, web 3, photographers, creators and esports. “Suddenly there are all these different areas of culture that you could plug a brand into,” she adds.

Another reason benefit for setting up shop in London is to take advantage of the UK’s TV rights system which allows the brand and producers to keep the international intellectual property to export and adapt in global markets. The family tree service Ancestry, for example, has rights to the UKTV series The Secrets in My Family, which means it is able to benefit from international format sales. “It’s that cultural exchange between Europe and the US which makes so much sense,” Glynne says.

So how does a brand talent agency work?

Through its network UTA is aware of basically all TV, film, and documentaries projects in development, often a long time before others, then its agents can start laying the groundwork to get brand coverage at the script stage. For example, when trying to get the taxi-app Lyft featured on screen UTA sent Lyft gift vouchers to writers’ rooms.

For Stranger Things, UTA did a co-marketing stunt on Halloween by taking over the Lyft app. “Smart co-marketing exercise that tied in a brand to a series even though the series was set in a completely different period that captured the imagination of those audiences, to drive audiences back to the show but got people excited about using a Lyft,” she says.

When Delta Airlines wanted to be closer to the entertainment community so one was a strategy to get them close to the producers and the decision makers in Hollywood by throwing events and dinners and scheduling special charter flights to events like Sundance, and making sure the media industry was part of that and that has made them the number one airline for Hollywood.

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When it’s a really expensive global series of films, like Emily in Paris or The White Lotus, and a brand only exists in one market Glynne says it’s often “not worth the value to be placed in the show”. That’s when UTA will arrange for a co-marketing solution. “That will be much better value and more targeted for you as a brand that we'll be putting into the show and reaching a whole load of people that are never going to care about your brand outside say, France or Spain,” she says.

“The way to think of it is how, how can they touch Hollywood or the entertainment industry and how can they be part of those watercooler moments,” Glynne adds.

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