Advertisers, Networks Discuss Nuptials, Remain Wedded To Good Ideas

Good sponsorships and entitlements forged between advertisers and networks are like a long-lasting marriage. It takes a lot of work and communication.

That's one of the messages of a panel held Thursday morning at the PROMAX&BDA conference in midtown Manhattan, which detailed the do's and don'ts of what is becoming a more popular way to deal with a fragmented viewing audience that is increasingly immune to the 30-second commercial.

Ralph Heim, marketing media director at the Coors Brewing Co., estimated that like marriages, perhaps 50 percent of all product integration and promotions fail. He blamed the failure of advertising partnerships to a lack of effective communication, whether in the planning stages or in the long runup between conception and execution.

"It works best if two parties talk really frankly," Heim said, extending the marriage analogy.

A lot of work centers around matching the advertiser's brand with the network, said Tim Spengler, executive vice president and director of broadcast TV at Initiative Media.

"You need to understand the essence of the brand and be enough of a 'media junkie' to know the essence of the media companies," Spengler said in an interview with MediaDailyNews. "If you know the landscape--well, I think you have the opportunity."

Initiative has done that recently with clients like AOL, Victoria's Secret, and Home Depot, finding places where the brands' messages resonate well with the audience and the network brands.

"It's an opportunity to get closer to content," Spengler said.

True to the name of the panel, Hallmark Channel Marketing Senior Vice President Laura Masse told MediaDailyNews that the success of a partnership isn't just about signing the contract.

"A lot of the work comes after you've made the deal. A lot of what makes it a success is what you do together once you decide to move forward," Masse said.

Masse agreed that the brands are key to sponsorships and entitlements.

"The overriding sense is to be true to what your brand stands for and what your brand objectives are for, and be creative as you go along," she said.

Heim described Coors' product placement experiences with "Survivor" and "The Restaurant." He said that Mark Burnett Productions was receptive to product placement on "Survivor," and helped make it a good fit with Coors' brand.

"If we feel that 'Survivor' was good, we feel that 'The Restaurant' was a lot better," Heim said, citing Coors' experience with its agency MAGNA Global and reality series' producers, who allowed people on "The Restaurant" set to find ways to weave the brand deeper into the show.

Hallmark Channel has also done several product integrations and entitlements through its Sponsorship Solutions Unit, with Claritin's full sponsorship of "The Long Shot" original movie and a similar deal with Kraft for "The Parent Trap." Bill Abbott, executive vice president of advertising sales at Hallmark Channel, put a guiding rule this way: Entertain or else.

"Ultimately, these things have to work for the consumer, and entertain," Abbott said.

Spengler agreed.

"It has to be organic, entertaining, or fun ... as opposed to purely an in-your-face branding play," he said.