Altering History to Woo Ad Partners

Mar 16, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The History Channel has shot new footage for and re-edited episodes of its longest-running series, “Modern Marvels,” as part of a branded entertainment advertising deal with the communications technology company Cisco Systems.
History’s adding new segments to an existing show for a sponsor is a new wrinkle in the trend of marketers looking for ways to embed their messages into programming.
As part of a multifaceted package, the cable network has produced a three-minute mini-documentary for Cisco that will run along with a 30-second spot in a commercial pod during the shows. The mini-documentary will appear on History.com and Cisco.com.
Marina Lemas, manager of worldwide media, entertainment and sponsorship marketing for Cisco, said the company was looking for a way to tell customers about how its products affect them on a daily basis. It sent requests to about 20 of the networks it works with, and ended up working with half a dozen.
Working with Cisco and its agencies, including MindShare, the History Channel proposed incorporating the company into three “Modern Marvels” episodes dealing with coliseums, domed stadiums and baseball parks. Cisco provides technology to ballparks, including Cisco Field, the new home of the Oakland A’s baseball team.
“Cisco Field becomes a proof point for the way that technology is going to enhance your sporting experience and the way that you experience the world,” Ms. Lemas said.
“Modern Marvels” also offered Cisco the benefit of being a tried-and-true performer. This year, it has averaged 1.2 million total viewers in prime time, up 28% from 2007.
“It provided us with terrific flexibility to work with Cisco in really cherry-picking topics that allowed us to juxtapose the past, the present and the future,” said Amy Baker, senior VP of ad sales for History.
The network worked with the show’s producers to create new “Then and Now” segments for the show that feature executives from Cisco and the Oakland A’s.
Ms. Baker said the segments are seamlessly woven into the programs, updating them.
“To viewers, it will feel like it never aired before,” she said.
The re-cut episodes began airing over the weekend.
The mini-documentary follows a tech-savvy sports fan as he travels back in time, pointing out major advancements in live sports technology such as binoculars, live broadcasts, instant replay and giant video displays.
“Because it’s related to the theme of the show, it may keep viewers tuned in through the long commercial break,” Ms. Baker said. “We’re hoping this provides that to our viewers and allows them a reason to really stay and watch throughout the whole pod, so it doesn’t seem like a commercial necessarily.”
The deal also gives Cisco a branded open to the “Modern Marvels” episodes, logo placement during the show and branded tune-in spots to drive viewers to the episodes with the Cisco segments.
History covered the costs of shooting the new “Modern Marvels” segments and producing the mini-documentary.
History benefited from increased spending by Cisco across the network’s entire schedule, Ms. Lemas said. “I think it also sets the stage for a longer-term partnership. It becomes less of a one-off because you’re not just buying [rating] points.”


  1. Where can I see this, “Then and now” clip? Does anyone have a link?

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