In attempts to lure more advertisers, TV stations are turning to product integration — so-called “branded entertainment” — to attract local businesses that want to feature their products or services on the air without buying traditional spots. In addition, stations are experimenting with longform ads and promotional segments, some two-minutes long, others five minutes.
Walk past the Michelin store in Greenville, S.C., and you’ll see one indication of a growing trend among TV stations these days. WSPA has built a studio in the tire store for two talk shows — complete with a big picture window for waving fans.
The shows are not only one big “come on” for the store, but also for other local advertisers interested in getting their products or services on the air without buying traditional spots.
They are prime examples of branded entertainment, otherwise known as product integration. Local sales folk tell me that this form of promotion, along with long-form ads, are becoming much more prevalent. The reason is simple. It’s what advertisers want and it’s helping to bring in badly needed revenue.
Scene on 7, one of WSPA’s two shows from the tire store, airs at 7:30 p.m. And WSPA General Sales Manager Mike Krejci says between 10 and 20 percent of its content is infused with advertiser messaging.
“It was a way to help save jobs, because we were able to save on a large expense, syndicated product, and control our own destiny,” he says.
When Scene was created about a year ago, the CBS affiliate already had struck gold with its 10 a.m. Your Carolina talk show, now three years old. Carolina‘s segments are about 50-60 percent ad-placement-driven.
The station also does five-minute long-form advertising at the end of its noon news.
The revenue results vary, depending on the level of the promotion, explains Krejci. But as an example, he notes that if an advertiser pays to come on the set and be interviewed by Carolina‘s hosts, it will pay a premium of 250 to 500 percent over the cost of one 30-second spot on the show.
WJHL, in the Tri-Cities market of Virginia and Tennessee, offers a similar assortment of opportunities.
There are five-minute advertiser-driven segments at the end of its hour-long live talk show Daytime TriCities as well as live branded entertainment segments within it. And the CBS affiliate airs five-minute longform advertising segments at the end of its noon news.
“We do two-minute options as well,” says Leesa Wilcher, WJHL’s general sales manager and director of revenue, noting that clients on board include hair salons, grocery stores and hospitals. “It’s endless, the subjects we can address on the show, which is one of the reasons that advertisers love it.”
Daytime advertising packages with longform ads and promotional segments have generated “probably 30 percent” more revenue than those that haven’t had any. The longforms also provide WJHL “with an opportunity to make sure we have a good, solid week, in terms of the sell-off level. It builds our revenue,” Wilcher says.
Cox’s WSB Atlanta is also into longform ads. The ABC affiliate launched what it dubs “The Daily Two” advertising option this past spring.
It includes a two-minute segment at the end of the noon news and a two-minute segment just before 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. “Daily Two” has attracted clients that range from medical firms to “debt stoppers,” which try to get consumers out of financial difficulties, says John Friedman, WSB’s sales manager.
KRXI-KAME Reno, Nev., spin things slightly differently. They run regular ads on TV that tease longform ads on the stations’ Web site.
“It’s starting to become more commonplace,” says Amie Chapman, general sales manager for the stations. “It’s what’s making advertisers’ eyes light up.”
There are limits to what stations can do with these sorts of promotions, says WSB’s Friedman. Segments that are longer than two minutes might cause viewer fatigue and weaken the ratings, he says. But Krejci and Wilcher say they aren’t experiencing a ratings decline.
For their stations’ clients, the focus isn’t so much on ratings as it is on increased foot traffic and more sales. “There’s a lot of immediate gratification that the customers are getting for this,” Krecji says.
Spot Check is a bi-weekly column about TV station sales by Janet Stilson, a writer who specializes in the media business. If you have comments or ideas for future columns, contact her at 212-694-0126 or [email protected]