Although branded entertainment isn’t generating as much media and consumer attention as it did a few years ago, there remains no lack of interest from marketers in a tactic that spans product and brand placement, corporations as content producers, and other blurring of the traditional lines between advertisers and media.

Indeed, branded entertainment dealmakers contacted by IEG SR say they are seeing more corporate demand than ever for integrated deals across film, TV, music and other off- and online content.

IEG SR recently spoke with the heads of two firms who are extremely active in the brand integration space: Jarrod Moses, founder, chairman and CEO of United Entertainment Group, and Mark Owens, president of NMA Entertainment & Marketing. Below are edited excerpts from the conversations.

IEG SR: For sponsorship professionals who don’t necessarily keep up with all the developments in branded entertainment–but have a vested interest in knowing what’s happening–can you update us on the latest trends, issues, etc.?

Moses: Branded entertainment has become much bigger, proliferating into categories beyond TV and film. It’s now branded engagement, and lies within pretty much every entertainment medium, including print, TV, film and live events.

The whole world of transmedia is something we’re speaking about at UEG. Transmedia is about building ideas that can live on multiple platforms, be executed in multiple ways and live multiple times, as opposed to a one-off. That’s a space that’s being increasingly frequented by brands.

We’re also seeing more brands have a seat at the incubation table, with a lot of TV, film and music properties being supported by brands from the start. Brands are sitting down with the entertainment community during ideation, as opposed to when something is already baked.

Owens: Branded entertainment is just getting into its heyday as a result of all the changing technology platforms and tremendous amount of content that’s available. There’s a proliferation of cable networks, Web and other types of content that brands can be integrated into. We’re really at the infancy of the branded entertainment life cycle.

The biggest thing I see is content providers embracing branded entertainment. Networks like Lifetime, Bravo and Discovery Channel have integrated marketing solutions teams, and they’re not treating these relationships as below-the-line components of marketing, but part of an above-the-line partnership with a brand.

Those types of efforts have increased tenfold with TV networks over the past three years. They’re talking openly about these types of partnerships as part of a potential ad buy and cross-platform marketing solution.

IEG SR: Is the economy driving interest from networks, producers and other content developers in these types of deals?

Moses: Yes. I’ve been in this business 17 years, and 80 percent of my career has been spent trying to convince content creators that brands could be their partners. Over the past several years, I’ve received incoming calls from content providers that want to partner with the brand community. They know they need brand support to greenlight projects.

Owens: In the past, most production companies looked for companies to provide product as an offset to a P&L item, such as a car, cell phones or other products they typically have to rent or purchase. The dialogue has been elevated to where they are now looking at these partnerships as a marketing tool to expose their content to a broader audience through a brand’s multiple touchpoints.

IEG SR: The economy also has had a major impact on corporate marketing expenditures. How has it impacted spending on branded entertainment?

Moses: Because branded entertainment is much more effective in delivering return on investment than a traditional media buy, and brands are trying to become more efficient in how they spend their money, we’re seeing a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in spending on branded entertainment.

Owens: We have seen an uptick over the last year in the number of people dedicating resources to companies like ours that specialize in product integration.

IEG SR: What’s a great example of a branded entertainment partnership, and what made it great?

Moses: You need to have results to make it great, no matter how cool the fireworks. A deal might look exciting, but the true test is in-store and online, ringing the cash register. That’s how we judge every deal: You have to sell more stuff.

The Tag Records project we worked on for client Tag body spray was very exciting. We took the brand, flipped it over and created a new market and new business. That showed in sales and the brand’s attitude and energy. That wasn’t there before, and it was exciting to see.

I also look at companies like Burger King, which has set itself apart over the past year by not only creating the character of The King, but taking the attitude of The King and making it an engaging entertainment platform using online media, live events and social media.

They are very smart in how they have positioned themselves and kept their eye on the ball. They have continued to run their own race in spite of consumer pressure and criticism, and they’ve succeeded. Burger King has set itself apart by having a different kind of attitude.

Owens: Bravo’s Top Chef and Project Runway are both great examples of full-on surround-sound marketing programs.

To me, what embodies a great partnership is where there is a PR spin to it, an event tied to the integration, and talent connected back to the brand.

We use the word, amplify. You can amplify your placement on TV through surround-around consumer touchpoints, PR, mobile, Web, in-store events and talent. That brings the association between the brand and the content home.

IEG SR: What advice do you have for marketers regarding striking branded entertainment deals?

Owens: Everyone pitches their property as the next Star Wars. You have to do your homework and ask potential partners about their star power, distribution partners and willingness to work together.

Another important thing to keep in mind: Branded entertainment is about giving up some of the creative control that you have in a 30-second ad. You need to be flexible and comfortable enough with your brand to stretch it a little. When you give it to the creative community, it will move a little.

Moses: Be involved from the start. Don’t buy anything you have to retrofit or shoehorn yourself into. In those cases, you’re becoming a financial partner and a marketing partner of a property that isn’t getting enough attention. Go into deals where you can be a partner and influence the outcome.

Don’t commit to anything that doesn’t have distribution. You might love an idea, but it has to reach an audience. Make sure it has a distribution partner or plan.