Sixty-three percent of bigtime marketers surveyed by the US Association of National Advertisers say their company has participated in branded entertainment projects - Coca-Cola and Fox's American Idol, for example - during the past year.

The survey report, which sampled 118 senior marketers, was unveiled last week during the ANA's annual Television Advertising Forum in New York.

The ANA claims the survey results indicate a convergence of the advertising and entertainment industries, and that branded entertainment now extends beyond mere product placement. States the ANA: "It is the integration of a product within an appropriate context."

Or as some critics see it: the blurring of the nomansland between touting and editorial integrity.

Forty-two percent of the marketers surveyed say the prime benefit of incorporating branded entertainment into their marketing mix is to make a stronger emotional connection with the consumer. This belief outranks by a factor of almost two the other benefits chosen by respondents.

Says ANA president/ceo Bob Liodice: "With accountability and targeted audience messaging on the tips of marketers tongues, branded entertainment is clearly turning out to be a viable option to help break through the marketing clutter.

"The partnerships formed by American Idol with Coke and Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Sears are examples of how marketers can communicate a product message through entertainment programming."

The survey also revealed that 85% of the marketers who participated in branded entertainment do so via commercial TV programming. Other media similarly harnessed are magazines (34%), movies (31%) and video games (24%).

And the survey sees continued growth for the melding of marketing and media content. While 60% of respondents have used the mix to date, eighty percent claim they will do so in the future - an increase of one third.

As to funding branded entertainment, most of the investment (82%) is diverted from other forms of marketing - a mere 18% of respondents claiming to increase their overall marketing budget to exploit the trend.

However, 79% of respondents felt that entertainment media deals are overpriced.

Data sourced from Association of National Advertisers (USA); additional content by WARC staff