The relationship between advertising and hip-hop music and its artists has proven to be invaluable over the years. A rap verse in an automobile ad, a bass-thudding beat in a fast food ad, an award-winning rapper in a beverage ad — all par for the course — it’s always clear that it’s advertising. So what happens when advertising masquerades itself as hip-hop entertainment, and the line between advertising and entertainment gets blurry? Thanks to YouTube, we have the perfect case study.
In recent months, hip-hop impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs began posting home video clips to YouTube and promoting his upcoming CD — his first in five years — Press Play. These videos are also publicized on his MySpace profile page. Videos of the artist urinating or getting a hair cut had become fodder for bloggers and entertainment websites.
But last week, the entertaining novelty of Diddy’s home videos took a turn when the artist partnered with Burger King to launch a branded channel — Diddy TV — on YouTube and launched with a video of Diddy going into his local Burger King, ordering food, and announcing the partnership. A branded channel like Diddy TV is YouTube’s attempt to promote a user-friendly advertising model. It worked in August when the Paris Hilton channel launched. Not so with Diddy TV.
The official Diddy TV launch resulted in some backlash for YouTube, with users posting parody videos and leaving comments about their dissatisfaction with YouTube enabling celebrities and brands to buy their way into the community, as well as calling Diddy a sellout.
Perhaps the site’s users should calm down and accept branded channels. They could have to deal with preroll advertising, short spots that are immune to fast-forwarding, or video ads interspersed through each clip they watch on YouTube. The video community site is a business after all.