Wheresoever there are people, there shall be advertising.
It’s practically a universal law. With few notable exceptions, wherever an audience can be reached via sight or sound or a combination of both, you can be sure brands, agencies and media owners will have cooked up creative ways to grab and hold the attention.
Naturally, some media are more successful than others and deliver different results. And that -- along with horse-trading, underlying costs, scarcity of inventory etc. -- is what ultimately drives differences in price.
TV has long sat at the top of the media hierarchy for the majority of brand categories when it comes to delivering messages to mass audiences at the same time. It is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. As digital channels continue to grow, there are relatively few opportunities to reach millions with the same content and in the same context at the same time.
TV does this day in day out.
However, as services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have gained ground, and as many TV networks have seen ratings decline, an obvious question arises: How do brands connect with the seemingly growing number of consumers spending more and more time discovering and watching shows in those ad-free environments?
Though Hulu and some other players provide advertising opportunities within the mix, the lion’s share of attention goes to Netflix and others that do not. And they are highly unlikely to do so in the future.
To date, discussion has mostly focused on the impact such services are having on viewer behavior and upon the fortunes of networks. While the impact on network audiences inevitably comes home to roost with regard to advertising, there has been little consideration to the steps brands may take to leverage that time given to viewing on, for example, Netflix.
To my mind, there are a handful of approaches we may see evolve in the future. Some are on-screen and some are not. Some involve collaboration directly with Netflix et al, others with content producers and networks. Such as:
Brand Integrations – nothing new here, but when the option of spot air-time goes away, successful integrations become more important. Different content will require different approaches and in some cases, Erwin Ephron’s famous Paradox of Product Placement will still need to be navigated. “If you notice, it’s bad. But if you don’t notice, it’s worthless.” Arguably more true of drama than unscripted shows.
Sponsoring Content Themes – brands could associate themselves with curated programming threads that reflect aspects of their brand (Iconic Comedies, Classic Movies, Best of … Seasons etc.). How the brands sponsorship (or underwriting to use PBS-speak) manifests itself here will be critical in this most ad-free of worlds. My guess is that the more it looks like an ad, the less welcome -- and possibly effective -- it will be.
Original Content – more brands will “do a Red Bull,” which is a masterful example of a brand giving life to itself through content that says more about a brand than a string of ad campaigns ever could. If indelibly associated with the brand, streaming services provide a natural home.
On-Pack Promotions – For brands that sponsor content themes, movie seasons or produce their own content, I can see on-pack promotions being used to drive people to the content. They could be a discount for new Netflix subscribers or even a rebate for the duration of the season, as long as you view that content among whatever else you choose.
Of course, none of this will deliver the scale that TV currently does. There will be much need for experimentation and testing along the way.
But the fact remains. With so many eyeballs spending so much time on ad-free streaming services, there is no way brands can afford to allow themselves to be wholly excluded.
No doubt there are more ways brands will experiment than I’ve listed above. Maybe the comments will throw out more ideas.