'X Factor' Sponsors Score Cross-Platform

The-X-FactorFox's "X Factor" may not have hit the ratings heights as promised to advertisers, but from a digital and social media perspective, the singing competition show was a home run.

Although post-analysis data is not complete, Don Wilcox, vice president/GM of brand entertainment for Fox Broadcasting, says "X-Factor" soared on many digital levels.

"We really wanted to rethink digital extensions, marketing and sponsorship," he says. "We tried to embrace an open, distributed, multiplatform approach. Digital became a high priority for us -- much more than in the past."

As it turned out, "the buzz was undeniable," he says. Almost every week since it debuted, "X Factor" regularly shows up in the top-five TV show results when it came to overall social media buzz.

For major brand sponsors of the show, it was a pretty good deal. Sponsors of the show -- including Verizon, Pepsi, and Sony Music -- got a multiplatform ride: traditional TV and online. (General Motors was primarily a sponsor for the traditional TV show). "The good news for the sponsors is that we took them along for the ride," he says. "The brands were so tightly coupled with the content. There was a natural ownership."

A plethora of marketing efforts included deep Facebook and Twitter efforts. Some of the biggest individual sponsors included Pepsi Choice Performance -- where fans could vote on the song choice, wardrobe, dance style, and set style. "Fans designed that spectacle," says Wilcox. "This is not something I've never seen [for a entertainment competition show]."

For Verizon, it employed "touch voting," where customers with an Android-enabled phone could just tap a musical act's visual/photo to vote for them. It proved to be one of the most popular functions, says Wilcox. Verizon also sponsored live views of backstage proceedings.

For Sony Electronics, it sponsored an effort where a popular YouTube personality and fan of the show, Courtney, had all access to the show, filming her in and around the backstage and offscreen activities of the musical acts.

Despite success digitally, reports suggest that Fox did not meet the lofty ratings guarantees promised to advertisers in traditiional TV metrics. Media agency analysts say Fox promised around a 6 rating among 18-49 viewers, with advertisers paying some $400,000 for a 30-second commercial during the upfront market, and less during scatter market activity.

"X-Factor" through December 11 had a 3.9 among 18-49 viewers for its Tuesday performance show and a 3.7 rating among 18-49 viewers for its Wednesday results show.

But the show's numbers have been good enough to give Fox an overall major spike in the fall, versus its usual slow start to the season.  A Fox spokeswoman said sponsors like Verizon and Pepsi have been happy with "X-Factor." On the digital front, Wilcox says, "X Factor" sponsors were enthusiastic: "We are all high five-ing at the moment."

While Wilcox says there has been a lot of learning in season, there has been one strong takeaway for the digital activities show going into season two: "It has a positive effect on loyalty."



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