It started right off questioning a key assertion made by Michael Davies of Embassy Row in the day's opening panel: that there has never been a true branded-entertainment hit. "Well, we may have had a hit but how do we know?" asked Shapiro. "What does success look like? If it's going to compete in the media landscape, don't we need a more consistent, uniform way to measure what success looks like?
The panelists -- Bart Flaherty, CEO of Group M's Success Sciences division, Christie Kawada, SVP of strategic marketing science at Nielsen, and Carolyn Everson, corporate VP global advertising sales and trade marketing at Microsoft -- agreed that, yes, there needs to be a way to measure.
"The reality is the definition of a hit has evolved," said Everson. "Ten years ago in traditional TV, [a hit] was a 10-or-above rating. Now we don't have a definition." She said, however, that while "we don't know what a hit is," marketers can look to sales.
"Branded entertainment needs the same judging criteria as any marketing effort: what did it do to sales." For instance, Procter & Gamble and Walmart's joint effort at stand-alone movies has garnered direct sales results. "They are directly correlating the evening's broadcast to next day in-store sales. That, to me, is the model we need to get to: the idea that you can do one thing and the next day move products off shelves."
That's fine for product volume, but what about marketers who say they want programs that build awareness and engagement, not necessarily sales volume the next day? "I love those assignments," Everson said. "Because our tools are quite good for measuring brand affiliation, awareness, attribution, pre- and post-studies, and search-behavior tendencies. I can solve for someone who says, 'I want brand awareness.' What's hard is 'Prove to me this thing works.' And the level of scrutiny by marketers is getting higher."
Kawada argued that you can't measure branded entertainment and brand integration the way you measure ads. "It's not an ad model. It's about relevance; the consumer brand has to be relevant from the network-brand standpoint. Brand perception and attributes have to be hand-in-hand with content. So the question should be, 'Does my product fit here?'"
She said measurement, therefore, has to begin from knowing who the consumer is and how they are engaged with both the consumer brand and the media brand with which it is integrated. "What's that association coming up for consumers when they watch the show? What's the association with the brand imagery when they see those products?"
"Start with the consumer," said Flaherty, who argued that since branded entertainment must be part of a holistic program, the brand manager is the ultimate arbiter of strategic objective. "We look at how consumers view the brand, then work our way back. So we view branded entertainment as a tactic that should be embedded in overall go-to-market strategy. But the brand manager is concerned about the 360-degree view."
Later, Flaherty told Marketing Daily that NASCAR, because of its low sponsorship prices, is a good example of some odd brand integrations. "It's the ones that you see and go, 'Huh?'" An example? Crown Royal on the hood of Jamie McMurray's #26 Ford. "I see that and say, 'I don't get it.' What are they doing here?'"
During the panel discussion, Everson said that Microsoft plans a branded entertainment program in January (possibly for Unilever or Kimberly-Clark, though she wouldn't say). "It came as a consumer insight about what working moms are doing in the digital environment these days. When we dug deeper, we saw how they multitask, what they do online. We are building a branded entertainment hub because Unilever and Kimberly-Clark asked what these consumers are doing in the digital space. 'What is the consumer insight we can build content around and who will develop content with us?'" She said the "the dirty secret in branded entertainment" is the challenge of building a real audience.
Everson echoed other panelists' argument for "de-siloing" marketing functions. "We have lots of data on what moms are doing online. And when you sit with Unilever and Kimberly-Clark and P&G with their 100 years of building brands, they also have unique data sets. Those 'ah-ha!' insights will only come from all of us sitting at the table together and sharing what we know. So I like the collaborative approach. What astounds me is how much is being done but not shared." She concluded by wondering out loud what the benefits would be if agencies and marketers stopped doing research for 30 days, "and instead spent 30 days sharing. It would be amazing."