Tag Archives: OgilvyEntertainment


Great minds think alike, right? TWEED Flashback is helping minds connect by scouring the web once-a-week for any and all relevant entertainment, branded content and industry stories. Get a heads up and stay in the know with TWEED Flashback.


AARP Begins an Internet Radio Service, Mixing Familiar Hits with New Artists NYT 07.03.11

With constantly changing technology, and blogs that cover the latest indie bands minute-by-minute, online music is usually considered a young person’s game. But now the AARP, one of the biggest symbols of life in the gray years, is betting that a custom digital player on its Web site will rekindle its members’ love for discovering new music.

Spike Lee on the Spike Lee Brand Adweek 07.05.11

On stage with Charlie Rose on the last day of the PromaxBDA conference, Lee waxed nostalgic about his career and his brand-building efforts. He was there to receive a lifetime achievement award from the entertainment and marketing organization, and in an hour-long interview with Rose before he received his prize, Lee reflected on his film and commercial-making career, the state of the industry, and how went about honing his image.

NBA Lockout Leaves Draft Picks with Plenty of Time to Fill, Minus a Paycheck LA Times 07.04.11

So, what exactly is a locked-out draft pick, one without the protective cushion of past six-figure paychecks, supposed to do in this summer climate of NBA uncertainty.  Craigslist, you say? Have hoop, will travel.  Kidding aside, the serious issue in the early days of the NBA lockout is that the recently selected draft picks are the most immediate and visible victims.


Heineken and Google: From Entrance to Date to Engagement Brand Channel 07.01.11

Heineken’s first worldwide campaign, dubbed “Legends,” centered on YouTube, where the brand’s first spot, “The Entrance,” scored more than 3 million views globally in the first three weeks of its release in December.  The eagerly-awaited second installment in the creative brand campaign, “The Date,” premiered on Heineken’s YouTube channel late last month, and zoomed to more than 4 million hits.  Fast forward to today, when Heineken and YouTube parent Google announced a multi-year global agreement that continues leveraging YouTube and expands to mobile.

News Corp. Sells MySpace for a Song WSJ 06.30.11

News Corp. sold music and entertainment website Myspace to a little-known ad-targeting firm, shedding a onetime Internet success whose steady slide had been a distraction at the media conglomerate for years.  Specific Media, which sells ads on other websites, said it was teaming up with actor and pop star Justin Timberlake to “rebuild and reinvigorate” Myspace by making it a place to consume media and connect with entertainers, a strategy several rounds of Myspace managers have pursued unsuccessfully for years.

Zombie in Aisle 5; A-List Directors Clean Up Pitching Soap and Cookies New York Post 07.05.11

With technology now commonplace that can distribute TV marketing campaigns to larger audiences around the world than some Hollywood feature films, Madison Avenue is chock-a-block with A-List Tinseltown talent looking to spread their wings with a TV commercial or two.  And while Hollywood talent has been working Madison Avenue for decades, the types of work that successful directors and actors are willing to accept is quickly evolving.


At the Movies: Independence Day for Product Placement King Tom Hanks Brand Channel 06.30.11

We’ve already looked at the Chevy tie-in for Transformers 3 and noted how the film is the third installment in a trifecta of films — with Fast Five and Cars 2 — that make automakers squeal with delight.  So let’s look at what else is hitting theaters this Independence Day weekend, including product placement champ Tom Hanks’ new joint, and the Ford viral tie-in that managed to win out despite the timing.

How Commercial Content is Changing Editorial The Business of Fashion 06.28.11

By now, it’s a well-known fact that times are tough for traditional, ad-supported editorial outlets.  But while there’s been a great deal of discussion about the death of old business models, and the emergence of new ones, there has been relatively little said about the impact of this evolution on the actual content itself. In what ways — positively or negatively — will the rise of content created by brands and retailers transform what we call editorial?

Splitscreen Short Film Shot Entirely on Nokia N8 PSFK 06.30.11

“Splitscreen: A Love Story” was an entry in the Nokia Shorts 2011 competition, showing off mobile HD filmmaking for a top prize of $10,000. The short film was shot on a Nokia N8 mobile phone and took home the Jury prize after being premiered on the big screen at the Edinburgh Film Festival with seven other finalists.


Zynga Files for $1 Billion IPO Ad Age 07.01.11

Zynga, the social-gaming company known for “FarmVille” and “Texas HoldEm Poker,” is looking to raise $1 billion in an initial public offering, letting investors buy into a new market – virtual goods.

Facebook Pitches Social TV Adweek 06.30.11

Facebook has a message for the television world: social TV is coming. Andy Mitchell, SVP of Strategic Partner Development at Facebook, pitched a crowd of media and branding honchos at the PromaxBDA conference on Wednesday on the various ways in which he thinks his company can help the broadcast media embrace the social world.

Behind Google +’s Stealth March on Foursquare, Instagram, Gaming, Facebook, Your Life FastCompany 07.01.11

With the initial fuss about Google+ dying down, the real potential for the social system to challenge popular net apps is breaking through.


Great minds think alike, right? TWEED Flashback is helping minds connect by scouring the web once-a-week for any and all relevant entertainment, branded content and industry stories. Get a heads up and stay in the know with TWEED Flashback.


Journalists Cash In on WikiLeaks Rights Scramble Financial Times 06.26.11

Newspapers and journalists are cashing in on WikiLeaks’ war on secrecy as Hollywood studios scramble to buy the “life rights” to key characters involved in 2010’s publication of thousands of classified documents. At least five film versions of the WikiLeaks story are in development from groups including DreamWorks, HBO, the BBC and Universal Pictures. This has set off a fight for exclusive adaptation rights to the books and articles published about the saga.

Drama Slump Leaves Networks Scrambling Adweek 06.24.11

As broadcasters cool their heels during the summertime lull, a drama drought threatens to shake up the prime time landscape. Luckily, a few new series look promising, although the shows that could have the biggest impact won’t premiere until mid-season.

For the Producer of ‘Survior’ and ‘The Voice’, There’s No Sitting Still NYT 06.26.11

Mark Burnett, who more or less created the reality programming business in American television, is back in the ratings fast lane.  The Voice” has given Mr. Burnett a third cultural phenomenon, after “Survivor” on CBS, which changed the landscape of the medium 11 years ago, and “The Apprentice” on NBC, which seven years ago gave that network one of its few recent bursts of ratings success.


Banana Republic Reaches Back to the ’60s for That ‘Mad Men’ Look NYT 06.21.11

LAST year, fans of “Mad Men” could buy versions of Barbie and Ken dressed in outfits inspired by the television series. This year, they will be able to dress that way themselves. The Banana Republic unit of Gap Inc., which has teamed up previously with “Mad Men” for marketing promotions, is doing so again this summer with what will be their most extensive joint effort to date.

Consumer Divide Grows Between Haves and Have-Nots AdAge 06.27.11

The rich — and marketers who cater to them — just keep getting richer as everyone else struggles through a so-called recovery. That fact of economics could reshape marketing strategies this year, and for years to come.

Hulu Strikes New Commercial Deal with Disney MediaPost 06.24.11 With speculation of a possible sale of Hulu, the big online video site has struck a new TV program deal with co-owner Walt Disney Co. that will bring more commercials to shows.  According to stories in Bloomberg and Variety, who first reported on the deal, the new agreement will include more commercial time during a typical TV program.


Viral Video Watch: DirecTV Scores with Mannings as Football Cops BrandChannel 06.23.11

Expanding on the clever viral campaign that brought the Petite Lap Giraffe prank earlier this year, DirecTV is having fun with another punk: a faux trailer for an “original” TV series — Football Cops — starring NFL stars/brothers Eli and Peyton Manning, with a cameo from their dad, Archie.

Bacardi Campaign Using Live Nation Platforms MediaPost 06.24.11

In an extension of its “Bacardi Together” campaign, Bacardi rum has launched a multi-platform effort employing Live Nation Entertainment’s digital, mobile and social media properties.  The “Best Shared Live” campaign is targeting 20-something consumers who enjoy nightlife and music by helping them plan summer activities and connect with one another, according to the brand.

Farmville Meets the Hollywood Tie-In Businessweek 06.23.11

What’s a Hollywood producer to do after selling the rights to the DVDs, TV show, action figures, and apparel tied to a summer blockbuster? It’s 2011, and that means: branded virtual goods.


Facebook Gets New VIP Sections FastCompany 06.23.11

Facebook is throwing up a red velvet rope around a new VIP page. And today Audi and online influence indexer Klout are creating tools to help the web’s savviest users jump it. Brands will be able to give favored treatment to visitors through both a free and paid app created by social media front-end developer Involver.

Hitwise: One Facebook Fan = 20 Site Visits PSFK 06.24.11

In a new study that benchmarked website visits against the number of fans on their respective Facebook pages, Hitwise analyst Robin Goad has revealed that “within retail, each new fan acquired will drive an additional 20 visits to a retailer’s website.”

HBO App Gets 3 Million Downloads in 3 Weeks New York Post 06.26.11

HBO expected to see its 3 millionth download of the HBO Go app — the mobile version of the pay channel — sometime last night, company officials said over the weekend.  The app — which allows people who already subscribed to HBO to watch 1,400 shows in the channel’s library — is only three weeks old.

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YouTube Wants Long-Form Content Variety 06.18.11

Google-owned YouTube is on the hunt for premium longform content, whether movies it can buy or original series it can finance, in hopes of packaging them into a more channel-centric structure than the site currently provides.

Oscars Shakes Up Best Picture Nominees Rules The Washington Post 06.15.11

Putting an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, the Academy Awards shook up the best picture category again.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced late Tuesday night that it had approved a change in the nomination process that will allow between five and 10 best picture nominees. On the recommendation of its Board of Governors, the number of the category’s nominees will be dictated by the voting.

PBS, ‘Bold’ Win Big at Daytime Emmys Variety 06.19.11

CBS soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” won four Daytime Emmys to lead all programs in the ceremony Sunday at the Las Vegas Hilton.  PBS was the overall Daytime Emmy champ with 14 total awards, all of which – including eight for “Sesame Street” – came during Friday’s presentation of craft and other categories. Boosted by eight overall awards for “General Hospital,” ABC was next with 13 total awards (10 on Friday), followed by CBS with 12 overall (five on Friday).


Magazines Host Parties, and Introduce Some Brands NYT 06.16.11

AS traditional media become increasingly willing to try the nontraditional, magazines are exploring ways to promote themselves and brands sold by their advertisers.

HTC Tries on Google Goggles for New Ad Campaign Mashable 06.20.11

HTC is taking a step beyond QR codes with its new ad campaign for the Sensation 4G.  Consumers can interact with the ads using Google Goggles.

With X-Box’s New In-Game Advertising, Engagement is the Goal NYT 06.20.11

Users of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Kinect gaming console will soon be able to use voice and motion commands to interact with advertisements while they are playing their favorite game or watching a video.

Is That Eau de CBS I Smell?  Net Soap Inspires Cosmetics Line AdAge 06.20.11

Jabot Cosmetics has been a bustling concern for years, even though the average person has been unable to sample its wares or buy any of its products. That’s changing, however, as Jabot, a fictional marketer that exists solely in the storylines of CBS’s long-running “Young & the Restless,” turns actual marketer and takes on the likes of L’Oreal and Maybelline.

Splat! Biff! Nike! Product Placement Comes to the Comics Brandchannel 06.17.11

When most people read comic books, it’s an escape from reality. But to those in search of connecting with their own desirable demographic – specifically, guys in their 20s – that doesn’t mean a whole lot. And so, product placements have come to the comics world. And the advertisers involved are not small potatoes.

Diet Coke to Launch Branded Entertainment Site Product Placement News 06.17.11

Diet Coke is launching a fashion channel with the help of Yahoo UK. The site will be hosted under Yahoo Lifestyle. “Style It Light” will feature fashion news, style galleries, reviews, fashion advice, and interactive content. Each segment will be integrated with product placements from Diet Coke.


Long-Awaited Facebook iPad App Close to Launch AdWeek 06.17.11

The New York Times reports that Facebook is finally planning to release an iPad app in the coming weeks. The free app, which has been “carefully designed and optimized for the tablet,” has been in the works for almost a year, going through several design iterations, and is now in the final stages of testing, according to sources.

How ‘The Voice’ Uses Twitter to Raise Ratings The Hollywood Reporter 06.20.11

If The Voice twisted the TV talent show formula, it damn near revolutionized the use of social media in the live viewing experience.

Pose 2.0: Fashion Hauls Meet Crowdsourcing PSFK 06.20.11

Enter Pose 2.0, a new social site which allows users to upload their finds to the site to then be “loved” or shared by others on the network. Free to download for iOS from the iTunes App Store, Pose’s platform allows users to showcase their style finds through photos, geo-tagging, Twitter and Facebook sharing, and also provides a place for brand, price, and store location info.

TWEED Flashback

Great minds think alike, right? TWEED Flashback is helping minds connect by scouring the web once-a-week for any and all relevant entertainment, branded content and industry stories. Get a heads up and stay in the know with TWEED Flashback.

Report Predicts Rebound in Entertainment, Media Spending Over Next Five Years The Hollywood Reporter 06.14.11
In its annual Global Entertainment & Media Outlook, PricewaterhouseCoopers projects a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 percent globally and a 4.6 percent U.S. growth rate to $555 billion with film gains set to outpace video game growth.

USA Network’s Covert Affairs Launches Alternative Plotline on Twitter Mashable 06.14.11
The USA Network show Covert Affairs has launched a new plotline that takes place in Budapest – but don’t look for it on TV. It’s only happening on Twitter.

Hulu Expands Original Programming with Sci-Fi and Comedy Shows Mashable 06.14.11
Following Netflix’s exclusive distribution deal with David Fincher’s forthcoming House of Cards series, Hulu announced Tuesday that it is expanding its own roster of original programming with three new shows.

Commercials on Cablevision Let Viewers Opt In to Receive Online Communication AdAge 06.14.11
Cablevision is offering marketers the chance to email viewers who see their commercials and use their remote controls to ask for more information. The offer follows several other Tv-advertising developments that change TV commercials from weapons of mass seduction to promotional tools that solicit the most granular information from viewers.

Time Lends Cover for Apocalyptic Image NYT 06.12.11
Time agreed to allow Activision to use its signature red-bordered cover and nameplate in a mock poster for the latest version of the [Call of Duty]. It is the first time an authorized Time cover has been created to promote a commercial product.

Sony Pictures and Nikon Try Layar PSFK 06.14.11
Hollywood studio Sony Pictures is using AR to promote the DVD, Blu-ray and iTunes release of its Battle: Los Angeles film. Sony Pictures is the latest brand to experiment with mobile AR as a marketing tool, following Layar’s announcement last week that camera firm Nikon is using its platform in the Netherlands.

A Star Search, With Bing’s Help NYT 06.08.11
A NEW reality competition series that will search for someone to join the cast of the hit show “Glee” is teaming up with a brand that, appropriately enough, helps with searches.

Pakistan’s Image Hits Positive Note Thanks to Coke Studio AdAge 06.13.11
Pakistan has been in the news a lot lately, but the coverage hasn’t exactly been flattering. And that helps explain why “Coke Studio,” now in its fourth season, is a runaway success. “Coke Studio” is attracting viewers in droves and has become a key element of Coca-Cola’s strategy to not only net the youth population in Pakistan but to grab share from PepsiCo, the market leader in the country.

Calling All Aspiring Artists: Louis Vuitton Launches Just the Site for You The Telegraph 06.09.11
Louis Vuitton’s Young Arts Project launches a ground-breaking website to inspire, inform and give a voice to aspiring young artists: ReCreative

Hearst Opens App Lab Adweek 06.08.11
Fresh from closing on the Hachette Filipacchi Media deal, Hearst Corp. this week opened the Hearst App Lab, a “think tank” for digital apps. David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, said the idea was to have a place where employees can learn about the tablet market, develop apps, and brainstorm ideas with advertisers and ad buyers.

Why Permitting Comments Boosts Facebook and Brands BrandChannel 06.13.11
How to use social media is still a mystery for some brands, especially luxury brands. As one recent study reveals, one in five luxury brands on Facebook still don’t allow their fans to comment on their Wall. That’s all scheduled to change this August when Facebook says it will require branded FB pages to allow comments.

Social Media: The Second Generation Women’s Wear Daily 06.08.11
Forget those who “like” you. Go after the ones who don’t. That’s the new strategy emerging in the ever-evolving world of social media.

Brand New Havana: On The Set of Cuba’s First Branded Film

By: Dan Levy

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Branded entertainment may be hot these days, but the last place you’d expect to find it is sunny, socialist Cuba. In this month’s feature article, our editor travels to Havana to find out what happens when a Franco-Cuban rum brand makes a movie.

Landing at Havana’s José Martí airport it dawns on me that I may be the only person in Cuba who’s come to do a story about branding. Ever.

And as I follow the flock of package vacationers through the terminal it becomes obvious why: in this sunny time warp of an island, there is no branding. No ads for business-friendly hotels or glitzy casinos. No HSBC-stamped jet bridges or Visa-sponsored airport lounge. You don’t realize how many messages are vying for your attention until the messages stop and you’re left looking at off-white walls and fading airport signage.

We make our way down the escalator to customs and I start to wonder if I should just follow my fellow Canadians to some sandy all-inclusive; throw in the proverbial towel and fold out the beach towel. And that’s when I see it: the only ad in the airport. It’s a picture of a dark, handsome bottle with a red circle and two words written on it in white: “Havana Club.” The same brand that invited me to Havana and, as it turns out, pretty much the only brand in town.

Brand history, brand culture

The words “Havana Club” mean something different depending on where you are in the world. They were first stamped on a bottle of rum in 1878 by a 31-year-old Spanish immigrant named José Arechabala. After the 1959 revolution, Arechebala’s distillery was seized and nationalized by Fidel Castro’s new government. The family was exiled to Spain and eventually settled in the United States.

In 1994, the Cuban government relaunched the brand under a joint venture with French spirit conglomerate Pernod Ricard (there are stories of Castro keeping Pernod’s general manager waiting in his office into the wee hours of the morning). Shortly after, rival rum distiller Bacardi partnered with the Arechabala family and began distributing its own “Havana Club” label.

For more than a decade the two companies have been entangled in a protracted trademark dispute, complicated by international law and the United States embargo against Cuban products. As it stands, both brands sell rum under the “Havana Club” name: Bacardi in the U.S. and Pernod everywhere else.

Since reviving the brand in 1994, the Franco-Cuban company has positioned itself as “Cuba’s cultural ambassador,” says François Renié, Havana Club’s global communications director and my tour guide for the trip. In 2007 Renié launched Havana Cultura, a multimedia website dedicated to showcasing contemporary Cuban culture. Eventually the site was spun out into a series of international events, a trilogy of jazz-fusion recordings produced by British DJ Gilles Peterson, and a grants program that supports young artists around the capital.

Havana Club’s latest project – and the reason they flew me down here – is a film called Seven Days in Havana. It consists of seven interwoven shorts directed by a gaggle of Spanish-speaking filmmakers, including Puerto Rican movie star Benicio Del Toro in his directorial debut. The film was written by Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura and, given Havana Club’s hands-on role in its development, represents a unique experiment in branded entertainment.

From Berlin to Havana

I didn’t expect to spend my first night in Havana touring the city with a movie star. I’m seated at the bar at El Floridita, the birthplace of the frozen daiquiri and one of Ernest Hemingway’s many “favourite haunts” (a bronze statue of the writer leans an elbow on one end of the bar). On the stool next to me is Daniel Brühl, a German-Spanish actor who starred in the nostalgic Cold War comedy Good Bye Lenin! and played a Nazi sniper in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Brühl, diminutive and charming, starts work on Seven Days in Havana tomorrow and is spending the evening hitting up several of Havana’s iconic spots for a German GQ photo shoot. I’ve been invited to tag along.

Between sips of his daiquiri, Brühl tells me how excited he is to work in Cuba, having made his name in a film about communism but being too young to have experienced the Berlin Wall himself. He describes the bar, with its uniformed barmen and colonial air, as a “time warp” and later tells me that he “didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the country now because it might change very soon.” This desire to bear witness to the city before it becomes unrecognizable seems to be shared by tourists and locals alike. With a fading Fidel, an influx of foreign money and a growing tolerance for private enterprise (plus a relatively dovish president in the White House) the smell of spring is in the air. There’s also the cruel notion that the crumbling art deco mansions and 60-year-old American cars that lend the city its colour can’t evade the scrap yard forever.

Old Havana, new Havana

The next morning I stop by the film set at the Riviera Hotel, one of those colourful art deco buildings built by American mobster Meyer Lansky. It’s the production’s final week and they’re shooting the first scene of “The Temptation,” Spanish director Julio Médem’s contribution to Seven Days in Havana. The film involves a love triangle between a Cuban singer (played by local musician Melvis Santa), her Cuban boyfriend, and a Spanish record producer (played by Spanish-born Brühl) who offers her a shot at a European singing career. The scene begins with Santa and Brühl’s characters meeting at the hotel bar. After some whispered flirting he kisses her and hands her a plane ticket along with the key to his room. Between takes, Brühl admits that “it’s not so bad kissing those lips over and over,” but says the characters’ relationship “doesn’t go any farther,” suggesting Santa’s character ultimately decides to stay put.

Like previous Havana Cultura projects, the film’s creators seem to be struggling with an impulse to reinforce our romantic, but not entirely healthy, notions of Havana, and a desire to refresh the city’s brand. Based on a classic Cuban novel, “The Temptation” is a “metaphor for the Cuban dilemma,” according to Médem. “Does she stay here where she is from, or does she pursue money and success elsewhere?” Médem says that the fact that this century-old story works in a contemporary context demonstrates that the city’s present is inextricably linked to its past. Fabien Pisani, one of Seven Days in Havana‘s Cuban producers, describes the film as a “love letter to Cuba” and a chance to “make a film about Havana in Havana instead of Miami or Santa Cruz.” But while self-consciously avoiding Havana’s cultural and physical clichés (Buena Vista Social Club, vintage cars), the filmmakers are also trying to “capture the city before it goes away, before buildings change or crumble,” says Pisani.

In this sense, Havana Club may be an even better ambassador than it realizes. By shining a spotlight on the present, both city and brand can’t help illuminate its own complicated past.

A branded film

Havana Club was involved with Seven Days in Havana from the beginning, Renié tells me in the Riviera lobby after we’ve watched the actors shoot the kissing scene at least a dozen times (I may never again be able to watch a Spanish film without imagining a curly-haired director yelling the words “actiones” and “corta” between scenes). The company commissioned Padura to write the script and leveraged its Havana Cultura relationships to get the city’s young talent on board. “What’s great about Cuba is we have access to any artist we want,” Renié says. “Everyone is a free agent.

While a bottle of aged Havana Club rum may show up in a scene or two, Renié tells me that the brand’s involvement with the film isn’t about product placement. Like other Havana Cultura projects, it’s about supporting Havana’s young artists and reinforcing the brand’s status as the city’s unofficial cultural curator. “We’re hoping the movie will make people fall in love with the city,” Renié says, “and we are the city’s ambassadors.”

Branded films have been made before. Douglas Scott, president of branded entertainment agency OgilvyEntertainment, points to Gatorade’s 2007 teen soccer drama Gracie. The film pretty much broke even, Scott says, though it was criticized by one reviewer as playing out “like an extended television commercial…given the very suspicious prominence of Gatorade bottles throughout.” Scott also points to Eurostar’s Somers Town as an example of a successful branded film because the train company was incorporated into the film in a way that felt organic to the story. But Havana Club’s project may be unique in its emphasis on the brand’s values, rather than its rum. “What they’re doing is really the holy grail,” Scott says. “It’s not about the product or even the brand, but about what the brand stands for.”

In a press package sent out before the trip, the film’s producers state that “Usually, we wouldn’t have thought about such a partnership. Brand [sic] and independent movie producers’ universes don’t meet that often.” But when I ask the film’s Cuban producer, Spanish director and German star how they feel about working on a “branded film,” they all seem perplexed by the question. “For me Havana Club is an investor,” says Pisani. “It’s very difficult to raise money for a film in Cuba.” Médem describes Havana Club’s involvement as a “natural collaboration,” saying that he had “no obligation to put a bottle in the film” and “no problem with the brand’s involvement.” As for Brühl, he says he thinks it’s a “great thing” if a brand wants to support local films. Besides, he adds with a smile, “they put a bottle of rum in my room.”

I’ve come here to do a story about branded entertainment but it becomes apparent that these three men don’t see Seven Days in Havana as branded entertainment at all. That’s because the film couldn’t credibly be made without having the rum brand on board. Havana Cultura has been so successful that brand Havana and brand Havana Club and have effectively become inseparable. This sort of “branded curation,” where a company makes itself indispensable to an existing culture or community, is what good advertising is all about, says Gunther Sonnenfeld, an expert in branded storytelling. “It’s not about shoehorning a brand into a story, but using story to develop a brand, Sonnenfeld says. “It’s about putting the narrative before the brand and seeing what comes out of that.” In Havana Club’s case, what has come out of Havana Cultura is a situation where the brand is shaping the city’s story as much as the other way around. The question is whether this case represents a uniquely Cuban throwback to a less competitive time, or a glimpse into the future of branding.

The only brand in town

On my last night in Havana I meet Renié for dinner at a foreign-run restaurant overlooking the Malecón, the seaside esplanade that locals call their “outdoor sofa.” Internationally, Havana Club is aimed at 25- to 35-year-old “cultural mavens,” he tells me between bites of lemon chicken. These are “young people who like to have fun but aren’t just looking to get drunk,” he says, alluding to archrival Bacardi’s customers. In Renié’s view, the two schools of rum drinkers can be distinguished by their musical tastes as well. In Europe, a “Havana Club bar” will tend to play jazz, soul, reggae or hip-hop while a “Bacardi bar” would favour lounge or house music, according to Renié. That’s why Bacardi’s main competitors are vodka brands such as Absolut (another Pernod Ricard property) while Havana Club “competes with beer” for the attention of more refined bar-goers.

But that’s everywhere else. In Havana, it’s hard to see how any brand can compete with Havana Club, which appears to anchor every mojito I drink during my five days in the city (and that’s quite a few). When we leave the restaurant Renié hands a tip to a parking attendant whom I notice is sporting a red Havana Club vest. I point it out to Renié who proudly states that the uniforms “may be the only advertisements in the city.” Except for the airport, of course. As I head to my gate the next morning I spot another Havana Club banner hanging from the rafters and decide to snap a photo. Then, out of nowhere, two official-looking men in suits approach me and point to the camera. I show them the picture, and after a moment, they wave me off with a smile.

Original Post: SparkSheet.com.