In the business of video formerly known as television, advertisers shop the networks for shows during the upfront season, ensuring that their brand is couched in its proper time and context. Ratings points are the primary driver, but true marketing success is achieved when brands and programs become one.
As a result, advertisers are increasingly asking the TV and cable networks for programs with carriage across the when, how and where unknown. But, to the surprise of no one, large media companies are often slow to embrace new methods and even slower to move after the creative divide is overcome.
Trying to seize the opportunity, there are a host of nimble, new media-christened production and distribution companies whose programming lends a degree of ownership to the advertiser. This advertainment goes beyond typical product placement and writes brands in as actual characters. So rather than not so subtly hitting the viewer with occasional product drops, the same brand(s) will consistently enter the storyline. The thinking is more background music than exclamation point, with the desired effect being achieved over 10 or 12 shows.
One of the major automotive companies recently sponsored a made-for-broadband office makeover show in which the main characters drive around in a new model being introduced. In another show, advertisers are lining up to get their products on the kitchen counters in the homes of major celebrities.
Because none of the new-media touch points roll up audiences like television, advertisers can effectively buy full-length shows (five to eight minutes in broadband) for a fraction of the cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad and garner reach over broadband, wireless and VOD. And in many cases, they're getting 15-second pre-rolls and some branded customization as well.
Protecting programming integrity will be a significant challenge for the advertainment producer. But now, as advertising and programming converge in this new age of mobilized video, it becomes all about what is being watched.