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‘Big Shot’ Sees Online Integration Taking Off

Mar 5, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The sky’s the limit when it comes to product integration on the Internet.
For sponsor Southwest Airlines, production company Madison Road Entertainment staged a standup comedy tryout aboard a regularly scheduled flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas during its talent-search Web show “Big Shot Live.”
In the episode, which premiered Saturday, contestant Rick Logan got enough laughs to move on to become the opening act for Carrot Top at the Luxor in Las Vegas.
Integrating products into program content, once a novel concept, is all the rage, even on the Internet, where “Big Shot Live” gives an unknown a shot at showbiz glory every day.
The video player on the site runs content constantly, with regular commercials appearing between program segments. The site also has clickable banner ads.
Because it’s online, advertisers benefit from having extra information about who is watching, says Jak Severson, executive producer of “Big Shot Live” and a principal at Madison Road.
“The Internet has got the ability to really segment its viewership because we know who is on our site,” Mr. Severson said. “I can literally tell you everything about just about anybody who’s been watching ‘Big Shot Live’ because there’s so much more information known about the Internet user. We know that they are about 57% female, that half of the audience is under the age of 25 and 75% of the audience is under the age of 45.”
Traffic on the site is registering at about 1 million people a month, he said.
“It’s what those people are doing that’s amazing. They’re seeing anywhere between 10 and 17 pages, they’re spending 11-plus minutes on the site at a time. That’s a lot considering we’re only four weeks old,” he said.
People also are clicking through the ads on the site, he added.
“That’s the fun part of all of this, is actually when you see the effectiveness of this,” he said. Visitors to the site are “buying products, they’re signing up, they’re doing all sort of things that we’d never been able to measure before.”
The site has seven daily categories, including singers, dancers, models and comedians. Users can enter by uploading videos, or they can vote for their favorite contestants.
The producers pick one of the top five vote-getters once a week to come to Los Angeles to meet with one of the show’s agents. The chosen one also gets a shot at an assignment such as opening for Carrot Top, acting in a soap opera or modeling Oscar fashions.
The format created a natural opening to integrate an airline, and Madison Road reached out to Southwest.
“Since we’re flying people out every day, we needed a travel partner,” Mr. Severson said. “We really wanted a travel partner that reflected the tone of the show. No airline in the country does that better than Southwest.”
A Southwest plane is shown in the opening of every show.
But Mr. Severson said the airline wanted to be involved deeper in the show, which led to the on-air audition.
“It went off very well,” he said.
Coming up is another integration for shoe store DSW. One of the show’s agents, played by comedian Natasha Leggero, has a huge cache of shoes. A contestant must help her figure out which ones to send back. The bit works, in part, because Ms. Leggero is really something of a shoe fanatic.
“We don’t do integrations for integrations’ sake, we give a lot of thought to how the brand is going to be integrated,” Mr. Severson said.
He said the cost of doing integrated advertising on “Big Shot Live” is similar to what it would be on a top-tier cable network.
“You’ve got the obvious issues of delivering a new property that people are not yet familiar with,” he said. “And like any new show, advertisers tend to want to see it perform before they make their commitments to it. But we’ve had pretty good luck so far in getting really good brands attached to this and playing a nice role.”

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