October 22, 2017

A bold move to displace TV advertising

Media is migrating to digital platforms, and that is a problem for traditional advertisers.

It’s no surprise that people hate the clutter, the hype, and the interruption of advertising. But what has surprised advertisers is the extent to which they will go to block, skip, and avoid them. Digital media gives them more ways to do that.

In the process, it has reset the standard of tolerance (and aversion) for advertising in all media, including television.

People can now skip over commercials in recorded programs on their DVRs. They can enjoy commercial-free programs on subscriptions services like Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and Hulu. Broadcasters and advertisers are feeling the pain.

And brand marketers face a dilemma: How do you connect with people who resent the intrusion of TV ads, who don’t trust ad messages, and who actively avoid them?

Some television executives are hoping to find the answer in another trend from the digital media world: sponsored content.

NBC has been the first to dip its toe in the water. In the past year it has featured extended program segments on The Voice, Blindspot, The Today Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers all sponsored by American Express. It is part of a strategy to win back viewers with fewer commercials.

“We see a great challenge, but also a great opportunity to reinvent what the advertising experience can look like in different shows and in different environments,” said Alison Tarrant, EVP for client partnerships at NBCUniversal.

This season Saturday Night Live is part of the NBC sponsored content experiment. It has cut its advertising load 30 percent and offered to partner with advertisers to fill some of the extra time with original branded content. It will be a gradual shift that will happen six times throughout the year on SNL.

Gradual is the operative word for networks flirting with sponsored content. All of these programs will continue to run commercials. Advertisers and TV programmers will have to be more innovative. Instead of reinventing the “advertising experience” they need to reinvent the viewer experience.

Stu Newmeyer may be the man who does it.

Innovative branding meets innovative programming

Newmeyer has a big idea that could blow the lid off of the concept of TV sponsored content. He is president of Variety Entertainment Group, the production company for The Stu and Laurie Variety Hour, which is airing soon on Pop TV. The program is a family-friendly classic variety show updated for today. And it is perfectly suited for branded content.

In fact, the show will have no commercials at all.

Instead it will feature sponsored segments Newmeyer calls SponsorMagic.  “Viewers will stay engaged with the sponsor’s message because it is integrated into the show’s entertainment,” he said. “Brand messages take the form of songs, comedy sketches, parodies and other programming that doesn’t interrupt viewers with a commercial.”

Newmeyer believes SponsorMagic is the future of brand-building on TV. Not only will brands associate themselves with the good feelings audiences get from the program, but they will have fresh messaging in each segment of each show, he says. Plus, brands will not bear the cost of producing a commercial, which can cost more than $300,000 for a 30-second spot.

Viewers will stay engaged with the sponsor’s message because it is integrated into the show’s entertainment.

SponsorMagic partners will also have the opportunity for reach well beyond the broadcast segments. They can reach the show’s audience through cobranding on its website and social media channels, as well as national PR promotions and non-theatrical screenings.

Newmeyer’s vision for sponsored content on TV could revolutionize how brands connect with viewers. TV advertising doesn’t work like it once did. Interrupting people to get their attention only creates negative feelings about your brand.

But quality engagement with branded entertainment earns their trust and favor.

Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev

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Check out the slides below to see how brand integrations will replace TV advertising on The Stu and Laurie Variety Hour coming soon to Pop TV.

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