I was watching my favorite sports team the other night and I saw an ad during the game where the advertiser (brand will remain nameless) stated that “this game is brought to you by” that brand. This is a very popular tactic broadcasters have been using for years to elevate a brands’ presence in a TV or radio program and create for them some exclusivity and competitive separation.
Though it struck me that the phrase "brought to you by" seems a bit archaic. As I thought more about it, I started to get angry because if the advertiser is bringing me this programming, presumably by subsiding the cost of the production, then why do I pay a fortune every month for my satellite TV subscription? In the old days, brands, of course, played a key role in covering the cost of the programming that was delivered for free over the air.
Back in the 1950s and into the 1960s, television programs were regularly sponsored by one or maybe two companies, sometimes with a primary sponsor and a secondary sponsor. These companies paid the production costs for the programs and, in return, were featured exclusively during commercial breaks, though over time, other commercials began showing up as well.
In some cases, the sponsor's name made it into the title of the program such as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom, Texaco Star Theatre, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and Kraft Television Theatre. Soap operas were originally sponsored by laundry detergent aimed at the housewives who used it and watched the shows during the day.
This strategy was also how America became brand conscious. There was an automatic association with every TV and radio program with a single brand.
As the cost of producing television programs rose dramatically, television advertising moved to a participation basis, which allowed multiple companies/advertisers to buy commercial time during a television program, with no involvement in production. Shows were no longer sponsored; they were advertiser-supported.
I started to think about why advertisers still use the phrase "brought to you by…" or "sponsored by…" or "presented by..." What does this really mean other than to give the perception that the brand stands out from the other advertisers in the program? I'm curious if consumers feel that this elevated messaging resonates with them. The networks and stations charge brands extra for this association. In exchange, the advertiser receives enhanced schedules, better pod placements, billboard spots, or live mentions.
But I struggle with what it really means to a consumer today. For me, if a brand is bringing me this program, then why aren't they paying a portion of my satellite TV subscription? That would be compelling as a viewer, and it would no doubt ingratiate me to the brand offering it.
A review of publicly available data by DecisionData.org found the average cable package costs $217.42 per month. That's more than many households pay for other utilities combined, according to the website. So, if you really want to "bring me" the programming I'm watching, cut me a small monthly check, help me pay my satellite bill. Or lose the archaic verbiage and rethink what it means to be a sponsor. A great example that comes to mind, and I don't see it too often anymore, is when a brand sponsors an entire program. By buying exclusivity, they eliminate advertising clutter. What consumer wouldn't enjoy that?
And remember this article was brought to you by me. Or should I say, served up to block out competitive articles!