"In an increasingly fragmented media landscape, branded entertainment is a vital tool."

Thus proclaims David Verklin, ceo of media buying and planning agency Carat Americas which has just launched a branded-entertainment division.

Verklin believes product placement and related activities offer advertisers "protection from DVRs and commercial clutter while reinforcing a client's branding before key audiences".

Carat Entertainment is one of a growing list of shops specialising in branded entertainment. Another is Initiative Innovations, which has been operating in Europe and is now opening in the US.

These specialist units claim a wider remit than mere product placement. They also aim to develop and find funding for ideas which are presented to TV companies and studios on behalf of clients.

Reassures Michael Yudin, head of Carat Entertainment: "We're not going to be a production company. We are not going to put our clients' dollars at risk by leveraging or partnering in shows."

But he adds that he will pitch programming ideas and use client dollars to help fund programming to get it on-air.

Innovations is looking to move branded entertainment into less obvious areas such as video-on-demand and video games.

As Alec Gerster, ceo of parent company Initiative Worldwide puts it: "Anything to extend the advertiser's reach to the consumer."

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff