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New branding reality: Off-TV platforms

For NBC's newest reality show "Meet Mister Mom," all four of the show's primary sponsors not only are integrated into the program and running numerous spots throughout the six-episode series, but they also all have launched marketing and promotional campaigns around their involvement in the show.

"Mister Mom" is the latest example of how for many blue-chip advertisers, the integration of products into program content no longer is enough. More and more brands are setting their sights on a loftier goal: building a marketing platform around a brand integration to take full advantage of the equity of the show.

The shining example of such a coordinated TV branding campaign is Sears and its association with ABC's Sunday night feel-good hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." American Express also was a trailblazer in this area with its campaign aimed at small- business operators built around NBC's "The Restaurant" in 2003. Today, as product integration increasingly pervades primetime, marketers are seeking more bang for the bucks they spend on TV.

Clorox, which has four Clorox and Glad products featured in NBC's "Mister Mom," is running footage from the program in one of its TV ads, buying radio spots, hosting an Internet microsite featuring outtakes from the show and placing advertorials in TV Guide and six national women's magazines.

JC Penney, which expects to see some of its back-to-school apparel lines featured in the show about what happens when dads are left in charge of the household after mom is sent off to a spa, is displaying 36-inch promotional floor displays in its more than 1,000 stores — frequented by 3 million people a day during the back-to-school season. It also is featuring an ad for the series on the front page of its Sunday circular, which reaches about 50 million people and is reintroducing its "Where's Your Mother" TV ad campaign because of the ideal fit with the show.

Nissan is running two spots during the series that it reworked to include "Mister Mom" messaging and logos and is promoting the integration of its Quest minivan on a specially created microsite. And State Farm, whose agents will award the $25,000 prize to the family that wins the weekly competition, ran a full-page ad in this week's issue of "Inside TV" and posted ads on Web sites targeted at mothers.

"We don't just look at these as opportunities to integrate brands into the shows," said Robert Riesenberg, CEO of Omnicom's Full Circle Entertainment, which produced "Mister Mom" for NBC as a barter series along with Ben Silverman's Reveille and producer Jamie Bruce.

"It goes well beyond that, and if brands are going to get full value out of their integrations, they're going to take advantage of the kinds of things that can expand their association with the show, like consumer promotions, themed commercials that might make use of subject matter from the show, print, radio and Internet extensions, on-pack communications and in-store communications.

"That's really where this is all headed. To simply invest all that time just to place your product in the show, while that's well and good, you could do so much more."

Silverman said online calls to action also are a key element of the "360-degree" marketing platform, which can succeed even if the TV show upon which it is based does not. So even though "Mister Mom" opened to an unimpressive 4.5 million viewers Tuesday night, the show's sponsors aren't changing their marketing plans. "I think the ratings on shows like this fluctuate quite a bit, so we're staying the course," said Anne Hickey, vp marketing communications at Clorox.

And while these marketing campaigns certainly are a boon for integration partners, networks and producers have taken note of what the advertisers' marketing activities can do to help promote their shows, especially when they're dealing with new programs that need to find an audience.

In fact, ABC said it requires that all brands integrated into its shows provide some form of marketing support as well as buy ad time. NBC said it asks all of its integration partners to provide promotional support, though they don't always comply. CBS said it encourages cross-promotional activity but doesn't require it.

"We like our shows promoted in all possible venues, and client partnership in doing that is a good thing," said George Schweitzer, president of the CBS marketing group, noting that both networks and advertisers are "moving in that direction."

With "Mister Mom," NBC was so aware of the importance of the sponsors' marketing platforms that it even helped them design some of their marketing initiatives, said Julie Kantrowitz, chief marketing officer for Full Circle. As a result of the network interest, the fall season is expected to see a significant surge in cross-promotional activity from integration partners.

The trend toward cross-promotion potentially could alter the financial terms of branded entertainment deals. Media agencies, advertisers and networks acknowledged that promotional dollars could come into play in negotiations, possibly reducing integration fees or network demands for larger ad buys from advertisers.

But so far, the trend toward marketing support from integration partners is so new that no standard has emerged as to how it will affect the other terms of the deal, they said.

Silverman said that though it is reasonable for advertisers to request discounts based on their promotional support of TV shows, the marketing spend and distribution of the networks — both broadcast and cable — so dwarfs the size of any advertiser's contribution up to this point that it is "not yet an equitable conversation." He also noted that networks and producers are giving their integration partners the right to use images from their TV shows without charging additional license fees.

Riesenberg said sponsorships on all of Full Circle's shows are priced to include marketing rights as well as integration and commercial time.

Media agencies, producers specializing in branded content and branded entertainment firms all appear to be pushing their clients toward building marketing campaigns around their product integrations in TV shows.

"Every brand that gets to be a part of a program should also want to see the audience tie in to its own form of branded entertainment outside the show as well as within the program," Madison Road CEO Jak Severson said. The company's first show, "Treasure Hunters," which airs on NBC in the winter, will see brands participating in the program supporting the show by creating off-channel opportunities, Severson said.

The integration partners for "Bound for Glory, another reality show being produced by Full Circle and Reveille as well as R.J. Cutler's Reality Pictures, also plan to launch their own promotional campaigns around the series, which premieres on ESPN in the fall.

To kick off the second season of "Home Edition" last fall, Sears ran an in-store sweepstakes tied to the series and placed ads in its circulars, which reach 52 million people on Sundays. Sears also created 26 custom commercials — one for each episode — that featured footage from the show that week.

In addition, Sears hired "Home Edition" star Ty Pennington to appear in its commercials and be a spokesperson for the department store chain. In April, it launched a line of home fashion goods named Ty Pennington Style. The Sears campaign also included an online call to action, allowing viewers to buy products seen in the show less than 24 hours later via Sears.com and ABC.com.

"Sears wanted to showcase our point of differentiation in the marketplace, and ABC was looking for a marketing and a product partner as well as an advertiser," said Toure Claiborne, Sears director of specialty marketing. "We were able to be an authentic one-stop shop for ABC and 'Extreme Home Makeover.' " He said Sears expects to launch more in-store, online and other cross-promotional activity for the third season of "Home Edition" in the fall.


Gail Schiller, The Hollywood Reporter. August 5, 2005

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