Happily, gone are the days when cutting-edge brand integration was demonstrated by the giant Cokes that sat on the desk in front of the American Idol judges. (Like Simon Cowell needed that much sugar.) Clients have become more savvy about their in-show positioning, which makes Shannon Sweeny’s new job as VP of integrated marketing at FremantleMedia that much easier. ‘Nobody is looking to just be part of a television show anymore,’ she observes. ‘They are looking to use their participation as a platform for marketing and communicating with their customers.
‘As much as possible, [brands] need to be a part of the story line. That’s the responsibility of both the brand and the production – to be open to working with the clients to figure out how to best communicate their messaging, or showcase their product.’ And, since clients tend not to approach branding with a hammer anymore, producers might practice some restraint of their own. Sweeny cautions against having too many advertisers in a given episode – better to spread them through a series – and advises against the dreaded product cutaway, if it can be avoided.
Pressed for an example of a well-run placement from her former incarnation at Burnett, Sweeny points to the Pontiac integration on The Apprentice. The car-maker used the show as the launch for an entire multimedia campaign for its new Solstice, essentially using it to create an early lead list of interested buyers before the car was rolled out.
Sweeny asserts that generating a measurable metric, such as a lead list, is the holy grail of integration. ‘It is increasingly important for research companies, agencies, and production companies to be able to figure out how to measure [response] for clients,’ she notes. ‘Television exposure is very, very difficult, especially with the increase in dvrs and people’s ability to consume their content on-demand. It makes it much more difficult for companies to unequivocally state what the return on investment would be.
‘Part of it depends on the show. Part of it depends on the integration into the show. And it depends on what the brand does to activate their integration. There are ways for [brands] to develop metrics within their marketing campaigns to allow them to assess what the success has been.’ Sweeny is confident such metrics will be common enough soon, especially now that clients tend to see in-show integration as part of a larger marketing effort. And that’s good news for producers looking to line up corporate cash to help fund their next production.