In Depth

Integrated Marketing: The Brand-New 60-Year-Old Idea

The 1947-48 TV season was a watershed time in TV history. In the spring of 1947 a major advertiser, Kraft, for the first time made a commitment to sponsor a weekly drama anthology—“Kraft Television Theatre” on NBC. Its success as a vehicle to get viewers to buy products was instantaneous and palpable—enough so that the show stayed on the air for the next 11½ years, week in and week out, without taking a summer hiatus. It also was a bellwether that showed ad agencies, networks and marketers that, yes indeed, the marriage of words to pictures—as opposed to the mind’s-eye medium that was radio—was going to work, and work well.

Back then the ad agencies produced the shows for their clients. In the case of “Kraft Television Theatre,” the agency was J. Walter Thompson.

For its first decade, most of TV, both programs and commercials, was broadcast live.
Furthermore, since the ad agencies owned the shows, most of the advertising was through integrated marketing and/or product placement. About two years after “Kraft Television Theatre” went on the air, Sylvester “Pat” Weaver was hired from the TV department at Young & Rubicam to run NBC. It took him about three more years, but he eventually got most advertisers to give up their sole sponsorship of programs. In doing so, the agencies stopped producing the shows.

Today, we’ve come full-circle, with more and more marketers demanding a more organic connection to viewers with integrated marketing and product placement.

In this special report, we’ve detailed those early days of TV advertising, and then engaged some of the best and the brightest in TV advertising today to assess where we are and where we’re going.

What was true back then is true today—that viewers pay attention to engaging programming and, if the spots are good, the advertising connected to that programming. Kraft, for instance, tried to get the best hourlong dramas on the air that it could. One of the finest of those shows, the dramatic play “Patterns,” was penned for the Kraft show by a young writer named Rod Serling. Not only was it a golden moment for the fledgling medium of TV, but it changed Mr. Serling’s life. “One minute after the show went off the air my phone started to ring,” Mr. Serling wrote some years later. “It has been ringing ever since.”

Although “Patterns” is about the cutthroat goings-on in big business, Mr. Serling later wrote that, in fact, he had never worked in a big business or corporate structure. The story he wrote is actually about power: “The patterns of which this piece speaks are behavior patterns of little human beings in a big world—lost in it, intimidated by it, and whose biggest job is to survive in it.”

TelevisionWeek columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Tom Shales writes about this landmark show in this special report.

If you want to read more about the beginnings of television advertising, we recommend Lawrence R. Samuel’s 2001 book “Brought to You By: Postwar Television Advertising and the American Dream.” We found it to be an invaluable help.

Finally, it’s clear that over the years there have been great commercials, along with some that aren’t so good.

In its Oct. 14, 1963, issue our sibling Crain Communications publication Advertising Age wrote about a contest a columnist at the Oregon Journal was conducting for the “Most Obnoxious TV Commercial.”

At the time of the writing, it appeared that the winner might be Anacin, which was airing commercials showing, for example, a man coming home from work and yelling at his family when they asked him an innocent question. A diagram then showed a hammer pounding in his head.

Wrote one reader to the Oregon paper, “In this case it seems they are trying deliberately to give the viewer a headache so he’ll buy Anacin.” Said another reader, “I would not buy a cure that was the cause of my headache and nervousness in the first place.” For those of us who remember the ad, those sentiments ring true.

As for the best TV commercial, many of us would be hard-pressed to think of one to beat the famous Apple Macintosh commercial from Chiat Day that ran during the Super Bowl in 1984.