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One of the commercials running on the streaming-video site Pluto is big enough to look just like one of its many content selections.

Rather than break up a streaming show with a selection of traditional commercials, Ancestry decided to create a short film that its executives hoped would be as enticing as anything else consumers tried to binge. As part of a pact with Paramount Global, the vignette streamed on Pluto as well as CBS News’ streaming-video properties.

Before Juneteenth, the online genealogy service released “A Dream Delivered: The Lost Letters of Hawkins Wilson,” which follows one family’s effort to find relatives of an ancestor, Hawkins Wilson, who was born into slavery. Freed after a quarter-century as a slave, Wilson sent letters to the Freedmen’s Bureau seeking assistance locating his siblings, but unfortunately, the letters were never delivered.

“We believe this film will inspire an entire generation to explore what they didn’t believe was possible. The more we uncover our history as a society, the more we can recognize our shared humanity” said Paige Grossman, vice president of global brand creative and media at Ancestry, in a statement.

The short Ancestry film, created with Omnicom Group’s OMD and Content Collective, offers further proof of the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them mentality being expressed by Madison Avenue: With so many streaming outlets only running a few ads, and in some cases none at all, advertisers are starting to place more effort on creating content that can stream, rather than commercials that might interrupt it.

“Viewers’ habits have just changed, and we are now really looking for media real estate,” says Caragh McGrath, executive director at The Content Collective.

A new study from Interpublic Group’s Magna media-research unit and Amazon Ads found that consumers don’t seem overly concerned whether a TV show they watch is created by an advertiser or a more traditional production studio, so long as the content is entertaining. When asked why they chose to watch brand-funded entertainment, 59% of respondents said they found the show “fun to watch” while 45% “enjoyed the content” and 34% “‘earned something new.”

Some marketers have already found a path to streaming venues. In February, tech player HP Inc. released “Unlocked,” a “mini-movie” made for Peacock that was centered around a team of data scientists trying to unlock great mysteries of the world.  Nike helped produce “The Day Sports Stood Still,” a film about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on sports, for HBO and HBO Max that debuted last year.

More could be on the way. “I do see an uptick in requests for more long form storytelling,” says Dario Spina, chief marketing officer of Velocity, the internal Paramount Global unit that helped create and distribute the Ancestry film.

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