Products Co-Star on Bravo

Apr 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Bravo will be announcing new programming this week and you can bet that products will be co-starring in many of those shows.
The network has become adept at integrating products into such series as “Top Chef,” “Top Design” and “Sheer Genius” as more sponsors look for ways other than 30-second commercials to market their goods.
The same is true for “Project Runway,” the subject of a lawsuit after its producer, The Weinstein Co., agreed to move the series later this year from Bravo to Lifetime, which coincidentally also announces its programming plan this week.
Bravo is planning to announce that it will air a second season of “Sheer Genius” and that key sponsor Nexxus will be returning. Also returning is host Jaclyn Smith. The show’s new judges are salon owner Kim Vo and Allure West Coast editor Kelly Atterton.
Nexxus will be integrated into the show by having its name on the hair salon at the center of the show. Nexxus will be featured in one of the series’ challenges and contestants will be using Nexxus products throughout the series.
Long-running sponsorships are not uncommon with Bravo shows. Clorox and Toyota have been integrated into “Top Chef” since its first season four years ago.
Why do brands stick with Bravo?
“They’re definitely better organized,” said Rob Donnell, president of Brand Arc, which handles entertainment marketing and brand integration for Toyota. “They’ve got a group dedicated to it, and they seem to know how to get it done. And I think the key is they’re probably working better with the producers of the show than anybody else because that’s where it really happens.”
Integrations within Bravo shows are among the top scorers in recall and brand improvement according to tracking done by IAG Research. For the week of March 31, “Top Chef” integrations for Food & Wine magazine, Clorox’s Glad food and trash bags, Whole Foods Markets and General Electric were among the top 10 most-recalled placements on television.
Rachel Mueller-Lust, executive VP of networks at IAG Research, said there are attributes that make integrations succeed.
“If the product is both mentioned and shown, that improves the likelihood the brand’s gong to be recalled,” Ms. Mueller-Lust said. “If the brand appears in more than one segment, or in more than one context, that helps too. Using the product as a prize also makes a product more memorable.”
If an advertiser buys a spot in the same show, that helps the recall of both the ad and the integration, she said.
Those things seem to happen at Bravo, Ms. Mueller-Lust said.
“They obviously have developed the kind of relationships that they need internally to be comfortable really highlighting the brand,” she said. “And it’s not hurting them at all. It’s really helping them. The viewers are still watching the shows and really seem to be fine with how they’re fitting products with the programs.”
Selling integrations on Bravo is the task of Kevin McAuliffe, VP of branded entertainment for NBC Cable. His six-person team has put together about 70 integrated deals for Bravo, USA Network and Sci Fi Channel and is adding newly acquired Oxygen to its work load.
Those integrations bring millions of dollars into Bravo and the other networks. Mr. McAuliffe declined to say more precisely how much business his group writes, or to say how much an integration costs.
“There isn’t a rate card,” he said. “Elements are valued in different ways from straight placement—see a product in a show—all the way through to a fully integrated storyline, which is the bulk of what we do.”
But Mr. McAuliffe insists that the secret to his success is not being pushy, especially with the people responsible for creating the shows.
“It’s creative first, deal flow second. If the idea’s not going to work, it’s not good for anybody to proceed down that path,” he said.
Discussions with sponsors sometimes start while shows are in development. When series are renewed, talks with incumbent sponsors are initiated. And the network’s programming staff and show producers are involved right away.
“We certainly get very familiar with the brand attributes these different brands are trying to get across and we’re very mindful when we come up with the creative,” said Frances Berwick, general manager of Bravo. “We probably speak to Kevin and his team multiple times a week, so it is a very collaborative relationship.”
Last year, when Clorox wanted to highlight its Kingsford Charcoal brand, Bravo came up with a barbecue challenge. This year, for the family of Clorox brands, a whole block party was staged.
The network will often reject sponsors who see a successful integration on the show and want to do the same thing.
“We had a successful Red Robin hamburger-related challenge in one season, and we’ve since had other competitive brands come to us sort of wanting something similar,” Ms. Berwick said. “We’re very aggressive at weeding those out. The challenges all have to be new. The ways these types of shows actually build audience is they are constantly surprising and you can never really guess what’s coming next. And nor can the contestants.”
Ms. Berwick benefits from the revenue that the integrations bring in.
“Some of it is used to enhance the production,” she said. “We were able to travel the show to Miami, we were able to travel the show to Chicago. And these are all things that make each cycle feel measurably different and I think, actually, it increases the appeal of the show.”
Going forward, Bravo is looking to integrate sponsors across a broader spectrum, including digital media, DVDs and consumer goods.
“It is that full sense of ownership that these brands often look for,” Ms. Berwick said. “And I think that the exciting thing that we’re seeing now is that they are going across all those platforms and all those brand extensions.”

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