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Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

The other day, I went to this little café. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything fancy… that wasn’t the kind of place it was. I was hoping to get some grub to go, and in a hurry.

They were doing a marketing promotion giving away free food. Well, on the surface, this probably seemed like a great idea. Give something away for free, have the customers pay for the drinks, sides and extras: the proprietor is thrilled because new people are coming to the business, the customers are happy because they get free lunch.

I assure you, this wasn’t the case!

There was a little bit of a line, which should be expected when you’re dealing with free stuff at lunch. We weren’t too far back, so we expected it to go quickly. Sadly, they had run out of sweet potato fries, we were told we couldn’t order our root beer floats at the main window (That was our reward for waiting for an hour. Outside. In July. Did I mention that the heat index was higher than 105 degrees?) and our order would be ready in “a few minutes.” About an hour after arriving, we received our lunch and proceeded to inhale it in the car on our way to our next appointment.

Where did the proprietor go wrong?

  • Not enough product to support the number of customers during the promo
  • Totally overwhelmed staff (they were so stressed out)
  • Poor operational processes

It’s über important to make sure these things are well thought out before rolling out a major advertising promotion. The most important of which would have been to have prepped the staff better. A big smile and cheerful welcome goes a long way.

I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ll go back. I think I’ll give it a second chance. The root beer float was darn good. But, I’ll be watching to see if they learned from this potentially dangerous customer satisfaction situation!

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Girl Scouts Selling  CookiesSales is the active part of directly engaging with your target market. This is a collaboration between your team and your customer. 

Marketing passively communicates your brand message to your audience. The onus for action is on the customer.

Branding is holistic. It encompasses the experience people have with your product/business through every touch point, from how they are greated when they walk in your door, to how they feel when they leave.

 

Feature 

It seems very unlikely to me that marketing professionals define their role as passive communication.

Fred ZimmermanDelete • Feb 16, 2011

The distinction here is more on the impact of engagement. With sales, generally speaking, it is one-on-one with some sort of direct conversation. There is back and forth and give and take with the customer.

With (traditional) marketing, you are providing information, benefits, tools… you name it… to the customer, but you are relying on him or her to make the decision to engage with you.

Think of how often you r an out to buy Oreos because you saw someone licking the double stuffed filling on TV versus buying 10 boxes of Thin Mints from the Girl Scout who knocked on your door with the product in hand. This is what makes marketing, IMO, passive.

~Lorana Price

 

See my answer on Quora.

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For years, advertisers have operated under the fundamental assumption that consumers are stupid. It sounds bad, I know, but consider the practice of traditional advertising: you flash evocative images in front of viewers in an attempt to subliminally influence their purchasing habits by informing them that they are currently inadequate, and the only means of overcoming their inadequacy is to obtain a very specific product or service – the product or service you happen to be selling. It’s not exactly giving them the benefit of the doubt, is it?

Ah, the sixties

Self-made sixties ad executive Don Draper, protagonist of the popular show Mad Men, and all around not very moral guy, once explained the practice of advertising to a client like this: “It’s based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.” This definition, though uttered by a fictional quasi-caricature of callous corporate decision-makers, speaks volumes about the way advertisers have traditionally seen consumers; namely, that they just aren’t smart enough to overcome their basest emotions – their fears and desires – and realize that they’re being totally sold; that consumers are somehow incapable of transcending the commercial experience and recognizing that, above it all, there’s a puppet master somewhere, pulling the strings, trying to influence them for less than altruistic reasons. In the sixties, consumers were considered tabula rasa; lesser entities ad men could uninhibitedly impose their will upon through the power of visual and verbal suggestion. But this is 2010. Why does any of that matter? Advertisers don’t think like that anymore, right? Wrong.

Watch TV without a DVR for an hour or so (a daunting task, I know) and you’re sure to see any number of those tired, unentertaining, run-of-the-mill, market-to-the-gut, disingenuous, old-style ads paraded innocently on screen as if you didn’t know that what you were seeing was a paid promotional piece – as if you aren’t able to discern that the people behind the curtain are trying to make you give them your money, and not just offering you unbiased reassurance or friendly advice on how to better yourself. I don’t know about you, but I find it downright insulting. I also find it exasperating – that experience of being forced into viewing a commercial as something genuine. The only time I want to engage in willing suspension of disbelief nowadays is during things I enjoy – things that actually offer some reward for my strenuous self-delusion… like sci-fi TV shows.

Turmoil

Now, before you write me off as a total cynic, let me say that I realize there are many companies out there that believe wholeheartedly in the product and/or service they’re advertising, and even some that advertise truthfully. Unfortunately, that no longer matters like it used to. Why? Because most Americans are no longer willing to believe that this is the case with any company. All it takes is a few corporate bad apples to ruin the whole bunch, and America has seen more than a few in the last several decades. Whether it’s companies that advertise environmental friendliness and then dump millions of gallons of oil into the sea (I won’t mention any names), or companies that brag about outstanding customer service to cable customers and then force them to spend seven hours on the phone, never fix their ESPNHD channel, and still bill them twice the amount they owe (again, no names, though that last one may or may not have happened to me last month… just sayin’), American consumers have all had their share of bad experiences, and have every right to their trust issues. With this in mind, doesn’t it seem like kind of a bad idea to continue advertising as though consumers are still as easily influenced as they were when skinny ties and lunchtime martinis were the norm? I’ll answer that for you: yes. Yes it does seem like a bad idea, because it is.

But don’t worry, not all contemporary ads are informed by the colossal misconception that every American consumer is a complete ninny. Somewhere along the line, (some) ad firms realized that maybe a few people were smart enough to see behind the facade a bit, and decided that instead of trying to advertise on the paper-thin pretense that the companies they represent actually have the best interest of consumers in mind, they’d just try to entertain. This enlightening idea gave birth to what we all know now as the popular “funny advertisement.” And some funny ads, regardless of their effectiveness, actually make ten-minute commercial breaks a bit more bearable. But, apparently, effectiveness is kind of important to most companies, and, seriously, no matter how many times I laugh at a Geico commercial (or used to – they’ve been pretty blah lately), I still can’t make myself believe they’re as legit as say, State Farm.

So where does that leave us? I’ll tell you where: in a giant whirlpooling mire of outdated, ineffective, confused, and overused advertising clichés, where the only prevailing philosophy is “bludgeon them over the head with your name enough times and they’ll eventually become so delirious that they break down and buy things from you.”

And then there’s Old Spice™.

To be fair, there are several other companies that advertise well, but Old Spice is a shining paragon of what I’m going to call the New Advertising, because I’m tired of thinking up clever names for things. Seriously, I do it every day. It gets old. Anyway, watch this commercial and tell me it isn’t awesome. I dare you.

This ad, featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa and his chiseled abs, is absolutely great. It’s funny, but it isn’t its absurdist comedy in and of itself that makes it so effective. It’s effective because at its root, beyond all the ridiculousness and faux-machismo, it’s a ruthless parody of old-school advertisements for similar products – advertisements like this:

Or like this:

Yikes. These are funny, but mostly because they’re so corny. Believe it or not, some still adhere to the basic concepts behind this style of advertising.

Consider that Old Spice used to advertise in a similar fashion, and, as a result, was regarded as deodorant for your grandpa. It might be hard to imagine now, but seven years ago, I wouldn’t have used Old Spice if you paid me. It was just… too old. Now, by spoofing exactly what they themselves used to be and how they used to market, the company has totally repositioned their brand, moving it right to the head of the 20-30 year-old male market, without, I’d be willing to bet, alienating older consumers, who, let’s face it, are too set in their ways deodorant-wise to make a switch now.

But there’s another, far more important reason that spoofs in the style of the Old Spice Isaiah Mustafa commercials are better than current run-of-the-mill funny ads. See, ads that successfully parody old advertising clichés actually acknowledge that viewers aren’t blind to the fact that they’re being marketed to. By pointing out how ridiculous and transparent old advertising practices were, ad firms are essentially deferring to the intellect of viewing consumers. In so many words, what Old Spice is saying here is this: “We know you’re savvy, and we know there’s relatively no difference between our product and someone else’s. We also know that you, in all likelihood, are aware of that fact. That’s why we don’t bother to try and beat you over the head with questionable data that you probably won’t believe about why our product is supposedly superior to someone else’s. We treat you like an equal with our ads, and we interact with you under the assumption that you are just as wise to advertising tricks as we are. So if you support our company, you show the world that you are a savvy consumer and an intelligent member of society that scoffs at outdated advertisements and can’t be hoodwinked by their ilk.”

Parodic ads boost consumers one step up on the evolutionary chain of advertising by crediting them with the awareness level of the advertisers themselves, and consumers, if not always consciously, appreciate that, as well as the collateral entertainment. Everyone likes to be in on a joke.

Which is why Old Spice didn’t stop at static TV ads. After the initial success of the commercials, in which a half-naked Mustafa progresses through a rapidly changing series of constructed film sets (another nod toward the artifice of TV advertising) depicting impossibly manly scenarios, Old Spice decided to get interactive. A team of marketers and videographers crammed into a studio for a solid day and filmed Mustafa in real-time, garbed in his signature bath-towel, responding to comments from high profile twitter users, like Ashton Kutcher and Perez Hilton, in typical ridiculous macho man fashion. The videos were immediately posted to Old Spice’s Youtube channel, which allows for user comments and interactions, where they quickly received hundreds of thousands of hits. It was beautiful.

On every level, Old Spice included their viewers in the advertising experience. They invited consumers to laugh with them at the silliness of old-school advertising. They encouraged their feedback. They even let them shape the course of ads by responding directly to their tweets. And by doing so, they completely sold them.

Yep, when I said ads that successfully spoof old-school advertising move consumers up a notch, I was telling the truth. I just neglected to mention that they also move advertisers further up – right to where they’re always striving to be: one step ahead. That’s why I think The New Advertising is an appropriate – albeit kind of uninspired – name for what Old Spice and similar companies are doing now. It’s the next step on the evolutionary chain, progressing the whole paradigm, putting advertisers back where they need to be in order to effectively drive sales. It’s like the 60’s all over again… except less hallucinogens and free love. Though I hear skinny ties are making a comeback.

The Man

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Hey, remember that time I said, “Seriously, the DVR has completely revolutionized the way the populace watches TV, which is a fact advertisers need to recognize and adapt to.”?

You don’t?

Then you haven’t been reading our blog on a regular basis. Shame on you.

Anyway, someone listened to my suggestion, and that someone was Honda. Well, more accurately, whoever’s in charge of making the ads over there at Honda thought of a way to do what I was suggesting before I suggested it… but whatever, it’s pretty much the same thing.

I was watching a DVR recording of the season premiere of NBC’s super awesome pseudo-spy comedy Chuck (which you should totally be watching if you aren’t already), and during the first commercial break I actually watched a commercial – and I didn’t mean to. They tricked me into watching it. Those wily Honda ad-men beat me and my superhuman DVR commercial avoidance powers (seriously, I can stop that thing on a dime; like, at the precise instance of the fade in from a break).

Check this out: it’s the ad for the new Honda Crosstour that ran during the episode’s first commercial break. It was probably the third commercial in the break, and if you watch Chuck, you’ll instantly recognize three of the show’s major characters: Ellie, Chuck’s sister; Devon, her strapping boyfriend (“Mr. Awesome” to Chuck’s friends); and Morgan, Chuck’s lovably loserish and bearded companion. Thing is, none of the characters had been re-introduced in the first fifteen minutes of the premiere, so as I was mowing through the ad set in x3 light speed fast-forward, I recognized their faces and instantly mashed the play button on my remote. I remember thinking something along the lines of: “Wow that commercial break was way short! Sweet! And Morgan’s back!”

But it wasn’t the show. It was a commercial – a commercial disguised as the show. Like 99.9% of the other viewers watching Chuck on Sunday, I watched almost the whole ad before I realized that I had been duped – duped by what I’ll be calling a “chameleon commercial” from now on… mainly because I think alliteration is super cool. Well done, Honda. You win this round.

On a serious note though, this is a great example of advertisers adapting to new obstacles in visual entertainment media. We should all be taking notes.

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For the past several decades, Hollywood blockbusters have been the primary venue for video-based product placement advertising – and with good reason: product placement, as we’ve mentioned before, can be extremely effective when done properly. When the “next generation” of video gaming began its rise to massive popularity five years ago with the introduction of consoles like the XBOX 360, the Playstation 3, and the Nintendo Wii, forward thinking advertisers began dreaming up fresh and innovative ways to contact target markets through new channels, reaching a steadily growing populace of gamers by placing products and virtual ads right into the games they play every day at home.

Suddenly, covert-ops agent Sam Fisher, protagonist of the tactical espionage-based video game Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, no longer received his clandestine messages from headquarters via nonspecific “com-link” technology, but on a Sony Ericsson mobile phone. Similarly, video game characters in professional sports simulators got the upgrade from generic athletic equipment to brand name gloves, shoes, and golf clubs.  Gamers playing in free roaming “reality-based” action games saw billboards and posters promoting real products pop up throughout their virtual environments. The marketing potential seemed so immense that even political campaign promoters for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama gave in-game ads a shot, footing the bill for virtual voting reminders in titles like the XBOX 360’s Burnout Paradise.  The next-gen video game market seemed set on an inevitable collision course with shrewd advertisers poised to connect in a very personal way with a very large target audience.

 

Obama campaign ad in Burnout Paradise, a racing title for the XBOX 360. There you have it, folks: video games can put you in the White House.

Obama campaign ad in Burnout Paradise, a racing title for the XBOX 360. There you have it, folks: video games can put you in the White House.

 

But here it is, 2010, I’m playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a title which sold nearly five million global copies in its first 24 hours, and for some reason I’m dodging a hail of bullets and exploding shrapnel in front of a Burgertown, reconning with alpha squad atop a Taco Shack, and chucking grenades into a room full of Kona soda vending machines and posters billing a movie entitled Porter Justice: Justice Is Served. In case you’re wondering, those are all fictitious.

So what happened between the advent of next-gen gaming and now?  What’s holding back the floodgates?  Sure, product-based advertisement in games still occurs from time to time, but it’s not increasing at a rate proportionate to the rapid swell in the number of gamers worldwide. The already substantial popularity of next-gen gaming is doing nothing but expanding by leaps and bounds as console prices progressively drop, so why aren’t advertising execs clamoring to get their products strategically inserted into any video game with a shot at popularity?  It seems strange, especially given the fact that traditional methods of televised advertising are taking a hit from the recent implementation of technology like the DVR, which often prevents standard commercials from even reaching the viewing public.

 

A prime example of in-game advertising gone awry: State Farm’s ad in Wipeout HD made the load time for the game almost twice as long!! As you can see, this makes gamers unhappy.

 

The answer is simple: many ad companies still believe that video gaming is an industry solely geared toward adolescent males. So while a virtual billboard advertising Axe deodorant in a stealth-based action game like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell makes perfect sense to most advertisers, the marketing of other products intended primarily for adult or female demographics seems best left out of the gaming world. Let me be perfectly clear: nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Daedalus Project, a website that studies demographics for online video games, the median age for players of the online role-playing game World of Warcraft is 28. In case you haven’t seen the commercials, advertising personalities for the game, which has captivated more than 10 million players since 2004, include Ozzy Ozbourne, William Shatner, and, most recently, Mr. T – not exactly an instantly recognizable trio to most 13-year-olds. What’s more, most researchers estimate that nearly 22% of the game’s North American participants are female. Nintendo is actively marketing its Wii console to parents as a system that will promote family togetherness, and its recent fitness title, Wii Fit, is aimed directly at adults who prefer exercising in the comfort and solitude of their own living room to working out in a crowded gym. All in all, it’s pretty clear that gaming isn’t just for teenage boys any more, and though males age 10 to 17 still account for a healthy portion of the video game market, the diversity of gamers worldwide is already substantial, and is growing each day. Advertisers need to realize this rapidly expanding trend, and focus on developing new and innovative ways to connect “in-game” with consumers.

 

My first encounter with in-game advertising: virtual billboards in the classic 1997 console RPG Final Fantasy VII promoting the album Loveless from British shoegaze rockers My Bloody Valentine.

My first encounter with in-game advertising: virtual billboards in the classic 1997 console RPG Final Fantasy VII promoting the album Loveless from British shoegaze rockers My Bloody Valentine.

 

But let’s not place all the blame for the currently stagnant state of in-game product marketing on the end of the promoters. Much of the difficulty in putting product-based advertising in video games lies in the hesitancy of the game developers themselves. See, developers are an eccentric lot; although the cost of game production has skyrocketed with the advent of high definition gaming graphics, many of them are extremely wary of anything that might be construed as “tampering with the authenticity” of their projects, which they tend to feel quite personally attached to. For example, the developers of a fantasy role-playing game featuring knights and dragons and quests to save princesses might feel that having their main character quaff a Five Hour Energy drink in place of the traditional “elixir of health” for a quick pick-me-up could alienate the large portion of their fan base that values immersion in a fantasy atmosphere and storyline – and I tend to agree.

No developer wants to be labeled a “sell-out,” and for good reason: reputation means a lot in the game development industry. It’s up to advertisers to create strategies for product placement that not only choose appropriate virtual environments, but that mesh seamlessly with those environments to provide the most realistic gaming experience possible, and in doing so, put developers at ease. If in-game product advertisement is implemented properly, it can actually enhance the feel of a game’s realism – and if that becomes a trend, developers will be hard pressed to turn down a little ad revenue.

But why choose video gaming as a marketing arena? Why not just throw your product into a scene from the next summer blockbuster or cut a snazzy commercial? Well, repetition for one. Many gamers will invest up to 60 hours in your average console game, and if that game is of the non-linear online persuasion, often that’s an extremely low estimate. As far as commercials go, if you’re like me, you now prerecord your favorite TV shows and intentionally avoid watching them in real-time just so you can fast forward through the ads. Seriously, the DVR has completely revolutionized the way the populace watches TV, which is a fact advertisers need to recognize and adapt to. Truth be told, the entire face of entertainment media is rapidly changing on a global scale; old marketing channels are drying up and new ones are emerging. Video gaming is a fresh marketing resource that caters to an audience steadily growing in number and diversity, and it’s just waiting to be tapped into.

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Nearly everyone has heard the buzz about HBO’s new hit series True Blood, now in its second season. The show is based on the idea that vampires, living in secrecy until now, have “come out of the coffin” after the invention of a synthetic blood beverage makes it possible for them to live among humans peacefully. The show boasted an impressive 7.8 million viewers in its first season, and 12.1 million viewers tuned in for the start of the second season, spurring critics to project that this may just be the most-watched show on HBO since The Sopranos and Sex and the City. But how did HBO, a network that rivals such as Showtime had started referring to as “HB-Over,” manage to draw so many viewers for True Blood? The answer lies in the innovative, extensive, and bizarre advertising campaign that HBO launched to promote the show.

Beginning in May of 2008, HBO started working with six different creative agencies on a massive launch of ads across every sector of the media, making this the most extensive advertising project HBO has ever undertaken. The twist is these ads are directed not to viewers, but to vampires. Print ads from big-name brands such as Ecko, BMW’s Mini Cooper, Harley-Davidson, Gillette, Geico, and Monster feature popular “human” products marketed toward a vampire audience, such as cologne with the tagline “attract a human” or a motorcycle that claims to “outrun the sun.” Viral videos posted to YouTube and designed to look like newscasts cover current events involving vampires while a blog, BloodCopy.com, discusses the challenges and successes of the vampire/human integration via discussions, user comments, and videos all seemingly posted by vampires. HBO has also set up extremely realistic websites for the show’s conceptual anchor product, TruBlood; the American Vampire League (AVL), a national vampire organization featured on the show; and a dating site, LoveBitten.net, that matches vampires and human for dating compatibility. All three sites are interactive—web users can purchase a case of the TruBlood beverage online, click a button to add themselves to the number of AVL supporters, or fill out a dating profile replete with odd fields such as “blood type” and “nighttime availability.”

This type of highly realistic, interactive, and convincing ad campaign is what is known as an A.R.G., or Alternate Reality Game.  The point of an A.R.G. is to create a fictional, but seemingly realistic scenario (in this case, the idea that vampires live among us), and then immerse the target audience into this “game” by having them follow ‘updates’, solve a ‘mystery’, or contribute and interact in some way with the advertising. The planners behind the A.R.G., by releasing a series of curiosity-piquing and meticulously plotted interactive advertising techniques, turn advertising into a form of entertainment for the audience. This particular A.R.G., engineered by the creative agency Campfire, is designed to play along “that fine line of fully disrupting someone’s experience and at the same time immersing them in your experience,” according to Zach Enterlin, the vice president of advertising and promotions for HBO. Ty Montague, the chief creative officer at WPP Group’s JWT and a many-time Campfire collaborator, says that an A.R.G.  is “a very cool new way to do marketing. Any time you can make the marketing literally an entertainment experience, you’re a step ahead.”

However, there has been controversy over the extreme realism that is vital to the A.R.G. campaign. The BloodCopy blog created problems for Gawker Media, a network of commercial blogs, when the Gawker advertising and HBO contrived to make BloodCopy appear to be Gawker editorial property rather than an advertorial. Gawker rep Gabriel Snyder wrote a rather scathing article discussing the foul-up, in which he proclaimed, “What’s advertising should be called advertising and what’s edit should be called edit. It hurts both to blur the distinction.” Likewise, some posts from visitors to the BloodCopy blog express outrage at the campaign’s deception while vowing never to tune into the show. Some equate HBO’s deceptive blog and ads with Columbia Broadcasting’s infamous radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds on Halloween, 1938 (the radio show played a series of phony news broadcasts as a way of telling Wells’ story of an alien invasion).

So which is it? Is an A.R.G. a fun and innovative way to advertise a product, or a deceptive method that violates that all-important, unspoken rule of advertising to always tell the truth? HBO defends their marketing and actions by stating that vampires are not real, so people shouldn’t take the ads at face value. “Considering that it’s clearly stated that a vampire is writing this blog, the faux aspect of it really isn’t hidden,” an HBO representative stated on the matter. Clearly, such an unusual form of advertising can create controversy and confusion among the target audience. But part of the experience of the A.R.G. is the confusion between the real and the fantastic, and controversy often helps to create hype, which is the point of advertising in the first place. So as long as you observe the proper ethics, why not have a little fun with your advertising while entertaining your audience as well?

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What is brand integration? For many, it traditionally meant product placement, which includes showing a brand name product in a feature film, television program, or other medium not typically thought of as an advertisement. Like many other marketing strategies, product integration has also evolved with all the changes in technology.

Advertisers have paid for placements as far back as the earliest days of film. Many of the placements that most cite as the biggest success stories, are Ray-Ban in “Risky Business” and Federal Express in the 2000 film “Cast Away.” These placements were thought up by writers or filmmakers and didn’t cost the brands any placement fees or promotional dollars.  And considered by far the most successful product integration of all time was Reese’s Pieces in the blockbuster classic “E.T.”


Beginning in 1998, with the arrival of TiVo, advertisers took note at the potential product integration brought to the table. Today, both the advertising and broadcasting industries are gearing themselves up to find innovative ways to maintain their economic status and raising new questions about the boundaries between entertainment, art and commercialism.

With changing technology, viewers are able to fast-forward or skip commercials shown throughout a program. So, advertisers are looking for ways to incorporate their products into shows viewed on many  forms of media, such as online at Hulu.com, TV.com, the TV Network’s Web site and iPods. Some of the most recent success stories have been Coke interaction on American Idol,” Sears on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Verizon on “30Rock,” as well as Apple and Sky Vodka on “Sex and the City.” The difference today is that writers and producers are not incorporating specific brands into shows and movies because they feel it will add more the story, but because TV networks have contracts with specific brands.

I recently had the chance to find out what it is like to be on the other side of product integration. I interviewed Whit Freise, producer-technical consultant, in charge of the product integration within the TNT series “Trust Me.” For “Trust Me, Friese was limited to the several brands that had already built a relationship with the TNT network by spending millions of dollars each year to advertise during their programs. By using those products, the network is able to maintain a strong bond between the brand and TNT, showing the brands they are valuable to the network. For “Trust Me”, they were contracted with brands, such as Dove, Buick, Rolling Rock and Starbucks. Not only did you see these brands heavily incorporated into the shows plot, but if you watched the show without any advanced technology on your TV, during the commercial breaks you also would see advertisements for those same products that were integrated into the show. Talk about GENIUS. Show the target audience your product in use, and then show them a commercial where they can purchase it!

Since the average person interprets what they view on television as reality, which is then perceived as true, advertisers are spending big bucks to get their products seamlessly woven into storylines and reality television. Placing them within the shows makes characters and their activities seem more real, and viewers see a product being used by their favorite characters. If you’re the brand being used, you’re one happy customer!

Today, mass media is all advertising, all the time, and the fear is it will create a generation of pessimistic viewers, who look at everything on the screen as an attempt to sell something. Although, according to John Eggerton of Broadcasting and Cable, the average viewer doesn’t necessarily notice product integration during their favorite programming. The only reason product integration is being scrutinized now is because it has become more noticeable with the rise of reality television. The lack of scripts and focus on “real world” situations easily lends itself to the integration of products and brand names. The question is, are networks integrating so much that it is annoyingly obvious? Are viewers going to find every technologically advanced way to avoid watching commercials because there are already so many in-your-face advertisements while watching a program?

When it comes to boundaries, Friese believes a network’s goal is to produce entertainment and make money. If a show can do both while using product integration rather than puffery, there are no boundaries being crossed. Product integration is not deceptive advertising; it’s a service to a brand. Brands are looking to get their products into shows. If a product fits into the show’s content seamlessly and is not forced, both parties benefit.

Respecting the audience is vital. Choosing brands that have the same value to both the show and its characters is essential. The network is responsible for what is done, said and/or used during their shows, and they have to be willing to take full responsibility if they are scrutinized. Shows are going to start focusing more on the values of a brand, rather than merely using props to fill a set and build a character. Friese used the example that a show may have integrated all Buick automobiles into a show, using each style of car to represent the different types of characters and/or situations. Producers may not linger on the car logo as long, but based on the story line, viewers will know what their favorite characters are driving. With this tactic, product integration is only going to continue to grow.

While product integration dates back to the very first days of both film and television, it has never before had the kind of revenue-generating potential for networks and studios that it has today, nor the potential to change the face of the entertainment industry. Brand integration not only gives brands starring roles in film and television but also attracts advertisers who are willing to spend millions of dollars to produce entertainment.

As an advertiser, I think product integration is a great idea for brands that have the money to invest. Watching a show with product integration gives the characters personality and allows viewers a chance relate to a program. Not to mention, a product can build frequency by having the product advertised before, during and after a program. Although, not all product integration is trying to sell something, some product integration just works best with the story line or character.

As a consumer, I notice product integration all the time. I often wonder if technology has evolved too much that advertisers are going too far to get their products noticed. Have viewers developed a negative view of the brand or the even the media because advertisers are bombarding programs before, during and after with their product’s information? Has product integration made the television viewing experience bad?

At the end of the day, a show still needs to be entertaining, or no one will watch.

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