August 23, 2017

How far can TV programs go with branded content?


Ad-wary TV viewers could get relief from an unlikely source – the advertisers they dislike.

Recent moves by networks and advertisers signal what may become the next evolution in TV commercials: sponsored content.

It’s an evolution that could also be a relief to brand marketers who have seen a steady decline in advertising effectiveness. Not coincidently, they have also seen a rise in the aversion to ads, and avoidance of advertising.

That puts them in a dilemma:

People hate advertising. They hate the interruptions, the pleas and ploys for their attention. They hate the irrelevant, product-focused hype. They hate the copious clutter of commercials.

And now people have ways to avoid them. They can skip over commercials in recorded programs on their DVRs. They can enjoy commercial-free programs on subscription services like Netflix, HBO, Amazon and Hulu. They are doing so in large enough numbers that broadcasters and advertisers are feeling the pain.

The dilemma for brand marketers is how to connect with people who resent the intrusiveness of ads, who don’t trust ads, and who don’t want to see ads.

Some see opportunity in 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 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 debuts this fall on Pop TV. The program is a family-friendly classic variety show updated for today. And it is perfectly suited for sponsored content.

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

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

Newmeyer believes Sponsor-MAGIC is the future of brand-building on TV. Not only will brands be able to 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.

Sponsor-MAGIC 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 brand sentiment.

But quality engagement will earn their favor and trust.


View the slides below to learn more about how Sponsor-MAGIC programming builds brand trust and likeability.