Dumb TV Math: Supply And Demand Applies To All TV Media

Even those beneficiaries of the DVR-affected television world are complaining about weak TV advertising.

Mark Burnett, creator of "Survivor" and "The Apprentice,"  says network television advertising executives really don't understand branded entertainment/product placement. They don't get the full impact of what reality shows can do for marketers - and don't get firsthand intel about the process, he says. Reading between the lines: not enough branded entertainment money is coming Burnett's way, or that of his fellow reality TV producers.

Marketers have been spending $2 million to $3 million for some big associations with Burnett shows like "The Apprentice" and now "The Celebrity Apprentice." This still seems to drawf your basic $300,000 one-time-only product placement in a network TV show.

This glitch between TV producers and network advertising sales executives is, to use Burnett's reported words, the "dumbest part of the business." Michael Davies, creator of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," joked "remember, we really provide the stuff between commercials."

Ah, yes -- the old advertiser-as-content theory of reality TV production.

The honest truth is that networks like NBC wouldn't allow product placement for the likes of Nissan's Versa model in NBC's "Heroes" iif they didn't also have a multi-million dollar traditional media deal attached to it.

Sure Coca-Cola may spend $50 million to $60 million for a yearly deal to be associated with "American Idol."  But the marketer isn't dumb. Much of this comes in the form of traditional TV commercials on the Fox network. That's the stuff they know works.

The bigger question comes from this weakened economy: Will marketers spend more or less on product placement in this particular upfront?

With networks and other programmers looking to drastically cut production costs, some are worried this means fewer cost-intensive scripted shows and more cheaper-to-produce reality shows. With more reality shows, come more product placement/branded entertainment.

What does that mean? More supply and less demand. Burnett can figure out the dumbest part of this equation: more harried ad sales executives -- and, oh yes, weaker pricing



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