Consumers go places, and Channel M, based in Los Angeles, brings clients to the places they go. Most recently, the agency has brought Hasbro and its roster of products for tots and tweens into My Gym, a children's fitness center with more than 350 locations worldwide.
"If you look at the evolution of media, [marketers are] moving away from general media and going to specific, selected media," says Chris Gayton, Channel M's vice president/marketing. "Everybody watches television for the most part, but now they're choosing when they want to watch things. They record a program and watch it later. It's getting harder and harder to reach a consumer with traditional means.
"So what's the next place where you can go and reach consumers?" he asked, answering himself: "It's getting them where they are."
And where they are, in Hasbro's case, is at the My Gyms, where Channel M has branded the cubbies and installed kiosks that display Hasbro's Play-Doh and Playskool products.
The agency bills the arrangement as an integrated partnership whose goal is to increase children's hand-eye coordination, dexterity, balance, and agility by joining Play-Doh products with select My Gym classes.
My Gym instructors include product samples for children ages 2 to 5, advancing kids' fine and gross motor, cognitive and sensory development, while playing with Play-Doh. And here you thought it was a toy.
In addition, children ages 3 and up who attend a birthday party at a My Gym Children's Fitness Center receive a booklet showing them how to make My Gym's mascot, Mymo the Monkey, out of Play-Doh. Parents can find a coupon in the booklet good toward Play-Doh's "Make 'n' Display" line of products.
Gayton says the partnership works because it creates an environment in which consumers (kids and their parents) are receptive to advertising messages. "If you're bringing your kid to a trusted environment like a children's fitness center, you trust them enough to support them and to be part of it. We make sure we do the exact same thing.
"Play-Doh and My Gym is a great partnership because both promote the healthy development of skills, dexterity and balance."
Gayton says Channel M creates a "place-based lifestyle retail environment," and it includes branded content in places like EB stores, where lifestyle pieces are integrated into EB games and televised. (Last year, Channel M acquired ScreenPlay In-Store, making it the largest provider of in-store video programming in North America, the company says.)
It also presents an opportunity to reach a demographic that is hard to target: young men. "A lot of [branded content] in EB stores is entertainment based-movies that appeal to young men, video games that are coming out, deodorant sprays and body sprays. The thing is," says Gayton, "it's TiVo-proof."
"Retail in and of itself has become an entertainment experience," he says. "When you go into an environment and you're providing video that's entertaining and engaging the customers, putting products in there that they already have a predisposition to, it's not as startling [to them].
"If I'm watching TV at home and a commercial comes on about an arthritis medication, for example, it has no effect on me. I'm not the one they're trying to talk to."
Founded in 1989, Channel M provides advertising and marketing services to retail locations in two ways. "We can bring advertisers to clients and bring them content to put on the screens in their stores," Gayton says, "or create partnerships that bring another revenue stream in to them.
"It's been slow to come, but people are starting to see that there's a power there."