Integration Sets A&E Deals Apart

Jul 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Product integration is becoming a big business at A&E, with advertisers’ products set to make appearances in the lives of real people featured in three of the network’s reality series.

This week, for example, one of the tattoo artists on A&E’s show “Inked” will get a new Dodge Caliber to replace his beloved but beat-up older Dodge. KFC and Pier 1 Imports also will be integrated into episodes of upcoming A&E shows.

As advertisers continue looking for more than 30-second commercials from television networks, Melinda McLaughlin, A&E’s senior VP of integrated sales and marketing, has been working overtime to give them what they want while retaining the authenticity of the programming.

Coming up with appropriate integration ideas is becoming what separates networks that advertisers think of as marketing partners from advertisers that are viewed as “just ad carriers,” Ms. McLaughlin said.

Many advertisers have special budgets for integration opportunities that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When advertisers sign on for integrations, they also buy bigger ad schedules and other promotional opportunities.

“All three of these were money we never would have gotten without the ideas,” Ms. McLaughlin said. “With more value, you get more money. These three advertisers understand that we create value propositions that deserve premiums, whether in pricing or in volume.”

With its reality shows, such as “Dog The Bounty Hunter,” “Inked” and the promise of upcoming “Driving Force” and “Sons of Hollywood,” A&E has lowered the median age of its viewers to below 40 and for the first time in years has become attractive to advertisers looking to reach a younger audience.

“A&E has become on the radar,” she said. “There are younger, hipper advertisers we’re talking to for the first time.”

“Inked,” which follows the staff at a Las Vegas tattoo parlor, has certainly helped draw new advertisers, Ms. McLaughlin said. “Dodge was very interested in the show if in fact we could wow them with an idea.”

Her staff discovered that one character, Dizzle, gets kidded about his old Dodge, leading to the idea of having the head of the tattoo parlor give him a sharp new ride. Dodge supplied the car and chipped in on souping it up and giving it a tattoo-art paint job.

“Dodge loved it. It’s a cool-looking, hot car,” she said.

Dodge also will be the sponsor of the show’s premiere episodes and get category exclusivity in them. The network will create special promos for the Caliber episode using footage from the show, and Dodge will be tagged on TV and print tune-in ads.

Ms. McLaughlin said it was tricky getting an advertiser into “Driving Force,” about hot-rod champion John Force and his race car-driving daughters, because auto racing is already heavily sponsored.

One open category was fast food. KFC had a budget for an integration and A&E went for it.

The show, appearing next week, is a double integration, with Mr. Force’s pit crew getting a KFC treat at the track and his family having chicken at home.

“KFC’s message was about bringing family together,” Ms. McLaughlin said. “The girls are obsessed with the biscuits.”

KFC will also get category exclusivity as sponsor of premier episodes of “Driving Force,” and the network will create spots promoting episodes with product placement. KFC will be tagged on some tune-in advertising.

Ms. McLaughlin said A&E has been talking to Pier 1, which hadn’t advertised on the channel, about its new show “Sons of Hollywood,” featuring offspring of Rod Stewart and Aaron Spelling.

About a week before the production company was set to furnish the house where the reality show would be based, Pier 1 opted to furnish the house. In one episode, the boys will plan a pool party and go to a Pier 1 store to decorate the patio.

A&E is putting together an online tour of the house, which will include links that will enable users to buy items shown on the show from Pier 1.

Pier 1 will sponsor the full season of “Sons of Hollywood.” The network will create spots to promote Pier 1 products used in the home and tagged tune-ins for the series premiere.

Ms. McLaughlin said A&E has become good at knowing how to push the envelope on product placement.

“People are realizing it can fall out of bed in the execution side. We just take enormous pride in every step of the way in making it as seamless as it can be with clients,” she said.